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N7 Billion Scam Rocks Benue State

September 22, 2016

An investigation by Punch Newspaper revealed that Benue State Universal Basic Education Board Chairman Philip Tachin awarded the multi-million naira contracts to cronies and friends without going through tenders and due process.

The Benue State Universal Basic Education Board, under the chairmanship of Dr. Philip Tachin, has allegedly awarded contracts worth N7bn without due process.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the board chairman, in conjunction with key officials of the board, had awarded the multi-million naira contracts to cronies and friends without going through tenders and due process.

It was also gathered that in the last three months, they hurriedly awarded contracts worth the amount mainly to politicians, their friends and associates without going through the necessary processes.

According to investigations, it was alleged that in the awards of these contracts, 70 per cent was paid upfront  while 30 per cent was for kick-back after the projects had been inflated  above the norm.

“Though they are doing everything possible to cover the illegal and shady deal but many people who are aware of what is going on are not happy with the whole deal. This is despite the zero tolerance of Governor Ortom-led administration for corruption”, a source said.

Another source said the whole thing was being covered. He said, “They are doing everything secretly so that the governor may not know because if he knows, they are in big trouble.”

Meanwhile, two cashiers of the SUBEB, Paul Mella (Cashier 2) and Jacob Agera (Cashier 1) have been arrested by the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, Abuja, for hoarding financial information concerning the board.

When contacted, the SUBEB Chairman, Tachin, said the two financial officers of the board were actually arrested and taken to Abuja for questioning.

He said, “The police officers from Abuja came and requested for the documents to be made available and then they left. I told the cashiers to go to the bank and get the statement of account but they told me that the account is dormant. For the umpteenth time, I instructed them to make the documents available and they failed to co-operate. So, yesterday (on Tuesday), some police officers stormed the board and arrested them. For me, I do not have anything to hide. I will not shield anyone who is involved in any fraudulent act.’’

According to him, the award of contracts for renovation of over 700 primary schools in the state was done based on due process. He  debunked insinuations that it was awarded for political patronage, insisting that it followed due process.

However, there were allegations that close to 732 contract jobs for the renovation of schools, supply of furniture, books and the building of new school structures under the SUBEB were hurriedly handed over to certain well placed and faceless persons, especially politicians without due process.

A source disclosed to our correspondent that “members of the board got between five and seven per cent of jobs while other jobs were shared among cronies and political associates.”

At the SUBEB state office in Makurdi, not many persons and highly placed officials were willing to volunteer information.

However, one source who claimed to have secured one of the jobs countered the allegation, insisting instead that “due process was followed to the latter and Certificates of No Objection was issued by the Due Process Department.

‘’Only qualified contractors with reputable track records and with the lowest bids were selected and I want to tell you that some contractors have already been mobilised to site”, the source said.

But another contractor, who bid for a contract job and was not given, said, ‘’What this man is saying is not true.  As for me, I met all the conditions stipulated by the board and I bid, yet I was not selected and those who did not bid for any job at all were awarded jobs. So, I don’t know the criteria the chairman and his board used.”

Our correspondent was however told that at the SUBEB office, 90 per cent of those who finally ‘got’ the jobs did not bid for it.

But Tachin told our correspondent that “over 200 contractors applied for the contract and the board’s Due Process Committee scrutinised them thoroughly before they were given the contracts.”

He said that very competent companies were awarded up to three or five projects, based on their tract records.

He said, “So, it is not fraud when a single company gets more than two jobs at a time.”

Meanwhile, a group of individuals in Benue State under the aegis of ‘Democracy Watchers’ have called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to urgently carry out investigation into the shoddy manner the Chairman, SUBEB, Dr. Philip Tachin, awarded contracts worth over N7bn for the construction/renovation of over seven hundred primary schools in the state.

The Spokesperson for the group, Dr. Omale Odanchi, in a press conference in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, on Wednesday alleged lack of transparency and due process in the contract’s deal. He said that majority of the jobs were donated to party cronies in bulk, who in turn were selling the jobs to business men “on highest bidding ratio.”