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Benue arraigns SIP officials for alleged N226m fraud

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Benue Government yesterday arraigned the immediate past focal person of the Social Investment Programme.<br />PHOTO: PIXABAY

The Benue Government yesterday arraigned the immediate past focal person of the Social Investment Programme in the state, Terhide Utaan, and the accountant, Suakor Nicholas, before a Makurdi High Court for alleged misappropriation of N226 million.

When charge sheet was read by the prosecuting counsel, Douglas T. Pepe, it was discovered that it was only the first accused person, Utaan, that was in court, as the second defendant, Suakor, was nowhere to be found to take plea for the seven-count charge, as he was alleged to be invading service.

The prosecution claimed that the duo intentionally and criminally diverted various sums of money amounting to N195, 689, 980) meant for food vendors among others, an offence punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code Law of Benue State.

He had alleged: “The accused persons between 23/11/2016 and 19/04/2018 at the offices of the Benue State Social Investment Programme, Makurdi agree to do an illegal act to wit, convert or divert funds meant for use of the Benue State Social Investment Programme to personal use and same act was done in pursuance of the agreement, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code Law of Benue (State).”

The lawyer further claimed: “Conrad Terhide Utaan and Suakor Nicholas sometimes on or about 23/11/2016, 15/12/2016, 20/12/2016 or 06/03/2017, at Makurdi within the jurisdiction of the court, forged or caused to be forged receipts, invoices and payment lists with the signatures thereon, purporting same to be authentic documents justifying expenditures amounting to N30,169,080.00, and used the said documents to retire said fictitious expenditures, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 365 read together with Section 367 of the Penal Code Law of Benue State.”

But Utaan’s attorney, Innocent Daagba, told the court that he would assist the bailiff to serve the second accused.

The presiding judge, Justice Theresa Igoche, thereafter adjourned the case till today for further mention.

However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) has denied media reports quoting its acting chairman to have alleged corruption in the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP).

A statement yesterday by the agency’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, regretted the situation, claiming that it was calculated to “incite Vice President Yemi Osinbajo against the person of the chairman of the EFCC.”

It said the reports were a “mischievous twist of the goodwill message presented by Mr. Uwujaren on corruption and peacebuilding in conflict communities.”

According to the anti-graft body, in the presentation in Kaduna, its “spokesperson observed that the agency had received complaints in some zones regarding the social investment programmes, citing an example in Gombe where the commission investigated a case in the Anchor Borrower’s Scheme in which sand was bagged and passed off as fertiliser.”


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