From Msurshima Andrew, Makurdi
A group called Benue Youth Forum has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to, as a matter of urgency, commence prosecution of the former state government of the state, Senator George Akume, over alleged misappropriation of funds to the tune of N4.5 billion during his tenure.
Recall that the Benue State Government had written the EFCC, asking the antigraft agency to investigate the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume over financial impropriety amounting to more than N4,556,899,632.9 billion when he served as Governor.
According to the letter, the financial fraud ranged from misappropriation of public funds, approvals above limit, abuse of office and public trust, sale of 33,440,818 units of shares at the Benue Investment and Property Company, BIPC, valued at billions of naira without recourse to due process.
The group which spoke through its President, Terrence Kuanum during a press conference in Makurdi, on Thursday, commended Governor Samuel Ortom for standing with the people of Benue, once again, to recover what rightfully belongs to them, especially at this time of dwindling funds from the federation account
“We received with relief, the news that the Benue State Government, after a thorough audit, has taken steps to seek justice by inviting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the looted funds of the State Government during Senator George Akume’a tenure as Governor.
“In 1999 when Akume became Governor, the Naira was exchanging with the Dollar at N21.89 only. Imagine the value of N4.5 billion at that time and what impact such a large amount of money would have had on the Benue economy now, if it had not been diverted by the Akume administration.
“State funds are public funds that belong to all of us and any one who presides over our public funds should be willing to be accountable for his actions.
The group lamented the damage corruption has done to the economy of the country saying “when criminal acts such as the one the Akume administration is being accused of are allowed to go unpunished, the society suffers the dire consequences.
“When Akume was willfully accusing Governor Ortom the other day, he thought that we had forgotten all about the financial atrocities he committed during his time. Now is that time of reckoning we warned him about. He who comes to the table of equity must come with clean hands,” he added.
The group advised the Benue State Government to take the matter further to the courts and not limit it to EFCC investigation saying the matter is a very serious corporate malfeasance against Benue State which must be redressed.
“We also want to warn that we will not accept anything short of justice on this matter. We won’t also accept plea bargain or a political solution of any kind. Akume has insulted Benue people for too long. Let him have his day in court to prove his innocence.”
The group urged the EFCC to immediately swing into action and get to the root of the matter so that justice will be done to the people of Benue State, bearing in mind that no one is above the law.
While assuring the people of the State that it will stop at nothing to ensure that justice is served in the case,the president said, “Consequently, we hereby give EFCC a 14-day ultimatum with effect from today Thursday November 2nd, 2012, to invite Senator George Akume for questioning and thereafter commence his prosecution; otherwise, we youths of Benue State will occupy the Commission’s premises and demand for justice.
“We support Governor Samuel Ortom and his administration and will support any just cause his administration initiates to enhance the development of our state.
Benue is the only state we have as our heritage. We will therefore not allow saboteurs to get away with their acts of treachery, corruption and impunity,” the group said.