Benue gov clears indicted top official of N3.1bn fraud

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has directed that a former Managing Director of Benue Investment and Property Company Limited, Mrs. Bridget Sheidu, indicted by a probe panel of diverting over N3.1bn to her private pocket be pardoned.

ortomThis was disclosed by the state Commissioner for Information and Culture, Mr. Odeh Ageh, while briefing journalists at the Government House, Makurdi on Thursday.

Ageh in company with the Adviser to Governor Ortom on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua, said Sheidu had been cleared of the indictment arguing, “even the Supreme Court reverses such cases” when the need arose.

The Justice Margaret Kpojime-led investigative panel that probed the eight-year tenure of former Governor Gabriel Suswam had indicted 52 persons including Sheidu who was said to be culpable of complicity in the diversion of over N3.1bn.

But the governor on Thursday directed that the former Managing Director of BIPC be pardoned.

A witness who represented Elixir Securities that testified before the panel,  Mr. Victor Aluiyi, had said that the sums of N1bn and N3.1bn were paid into the accounts of BIPC and a Zenith Bank account whose owner he did not know.

The state was said to have lost over N15bn to uncertainties in the stock market when its shares in Dangote Cement Company, Gboko, were sold between July and November 2014 at the cost of N9.4bn.

He said the order for the payments were made by a former Finance Commissioner in the state, Mr. Omadachi Oklobia, through an e-mail message and added that when the value of the shares went down from N25bn to N9.4bn, the BIPC gave Elixir approval to manage the state’s portfolio so as to reduce risks.

The government’s verdict on the White Paper released by the report of the panel indicted 51 aides of Suswam amongst which were Sheidu and 10 corporate bodies who were to cough out N107, 609, 321, 106bn considered as looted money back to the coffers of the state government.

The White Paper also recommended that the names of the affected persons be forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission where they would be made to refund the money and also barred from contesting political office for life.

Reacting to her clearance by the state government, Shiedu told journalists that she had not withdrawn her case of wrongful indictment by the panel from the court, adding that she did not solicit for the pardon and insisted that the circumstances surrounding her case were shrouded in the witch hunt.