By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY – SEVEN officials of Esan North East local government area of Edo state have been quizzed been by the Benin Zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegation of corrupt practices as they were alleged to have connived with the council chairman, Augustine Okoibhole to defraud the council.
Vanguard gathered that the Head of Department, Works, of the council was first invited last Wednesday but was released by the anti-graft agency when the allegation of corruption could not be traced to him.
The other seven were said to have been invited after that and some of them granted bail on Friday while a very senior civil servant of the council Vanguard gathered would also be quizzed later this week.
The people arrested and quizzed were said to be officials in the cash office, Exco recording department, procurement office, health department, revenue, and works departments.
Vanguard reliably gathered that the personnel invited from the procurement office, a female was immediately granted bail by the commission because she was barely two months old in the council.
When contacted, the spokesperson, Wilson Oseghale who said he was on leave said “We invite people from everywhere all the time for interrogation and we always make public anybody who is with us. We invite people from all sectors all the time”
It was gathered that the council officials were invited based on a petition against the council chairman who was accused of involvement in corrupt practices to enrich himself at the detriment of the welfare of the people of the local government area, abuse of office and others.
It would be recalled that nine councillors from wards 1,2,3,6,7,8,9,20 and 11 had recently petitioned Governor Godwin Obaseki accusing the chairman of financial recklessness and that he operates multiple accounts in the name of the council as against a single account policy of the state and federal government.
They alleged that the chairman has not been able to account for a N13,348,000 remitted to the account of the council by the revenue verification committee just as they alleged that the sum of N144,000,000 realised as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the past 16 months has not been accounted for.
The aggrieved councillors also claimed that the chairman has not been able to account for the N116,350,894 Paris Club refund .
But reacting to the allegations yesterday, Okoibhole said “The new NFIU (Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit) directive gives us room to operate three accounts and that is what we are doing, we are operating three accounts”
On not being able account for IGR, he said “We have been paying salaries, we are not owing workers salaries, I have done many projects, I have build a livestock market I have done drainages all these monies did not come from my personal pocket what we have done is even far more than N144 million naira. My wage bill on monthly base is over N30m and for the last 25 months, I have paid salaries, I have debts that we are owing on rented properties and several other spendings.
On Paris Club refund he said acted as directed by the state governor to pay salary arrears “we were owing eight months and now we are owing only two and half months which means I have paid five and a half months.”