A Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria under the aegis of Integrity Group has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately look into the books of the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) where it alleged that the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Tony Ijoho and other top government functionaries have drawn over N100million illegally from the tax Board.
The group in a petition signed by Oduma R. Oduma, Director ,Strategy and Operations and submitted to the EFCC and obtained by this medium urged the Commission to carryout independent investigation into the matter with a view to bringing the culprits to book.
It also accused the chairman of the Board, Mr Terzungwe Atser of violating administrative procedures so as to perpetrate financial corruption regretted at a time when salaries, pensions and gratuities are been owed for upward of a year in the state.
“In the course of our duties as the conscience of the society, we have uncovered a number of suspicious transactions in the Benue state Board of Internal Revenue particularly in 2018 as evidenced in the fund transfers as mentioned here under.
“That credible information obtained during our investigation at Board of Internal Revenue reveals that on November 22, 2018 ,the sum of thirty seven million naira was transferred to a firm TT Igba & co.
“That the owner of the above TT Igba & co is curiously the head of the legal firm of the secretary to the state government, prof Tony Ijohor.
“That we have established that the secretary to the state government is using his cronies to launder money meant for public development in conspiracy with the chairman of Board of internal revenue.
“That the board of internal revenue transferred the sum of nine million naira to A.S Atomba and co , also wire the sum of four million seven hundred thousand naira and another four million naira to same account for no jobs done.
“That the Board of Internal revenue transferred the multiple sums of money to the IORYINA & co , a firm owned by the state attorney general and commissioner for justice. This is pure abuse of office and we urge you to review this transactions and the circumstances surrounding them.
“The chairman of board of internal revenue has embarked on purchase of motorcycles for field officers without due process as well as inflated the cost of each machine. This is gross abuse of office and corruption, we urge you to review this transaction as well.
- That we have credible information that the secretary to the state government, Prof Tony Ijohor has used his authority to collect the Benue state government liaison Office in Lagos state on lease for commercial purposes.
“That investigation at Corporate Affairs Commission reveals that prof Tony Ijohor changed the names of some directors of his company just to get a business with the Benue investment property company limited (BIPC) which manages Benue government investments”, the group alleged.
It further urged the EFCC to invite the officers indicted by its petition to explain their roles in the laundering of public funds.
All attempts to get the response of the chairman of BIRS and the Secretary to the State Government to get their views failed as they neither responded to calls put to his known phone numbers.
“The Civil Society upon receipt of a petition set out to investigate and tracked the transfer of monies totaling over one hundred million Naira (N100) into the account of some firms which are curiously linked to top government functionaries. One of the firms, TT Igba & Co is headed by a lawyer who is curiously head of Chamber belonging to the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Tony Ijohoh (SAN). The Board of Internal Revenue on the 22 November 2018 transferred the sum of thirty seven million Naira only (N37M) to the firm for no job done. These monies are allegedly shared with the chairman of the “board headed by Mr Terzungwe Atser.
“The civil society notes that it is curious for a principal partner in Prof Tony Ijohoh (SAN) Chambers who is the Secretary to the Benue state government to be doing business with the board of internal revenue. This is abuse of office and against the ethics of legal practice in whatever guise. TT Igba is the head of chamber in Tony Ijohoh law office. We have written to the chairman of the board for clarification on the circumstances and the business relationship of the Board and the TT Igba & Co. accordingly. We await the Board’s response and shall petition the relevant security agencies and the legal practitioners and privileges committee (LPPC) as well as the Nigerian Bar Association if we find the relationship and particularly the transfer of money inappropriate.
The group also alleged that it has uncovered another illegal transactions in another agency of the same Benue state government, the Benue Investment Property Company Limited (BIPC) running into tens of millions linked to a firm were Prof Tony Ijohoh (SAN) has interest.
“ Investigation also reveals that the SSG has interest in the takeover of the Benue State liaison office in Lagos state which is warehoused under the BIPC. This is sheer abuse of office by the secretary to the Benue state government and against standard practice. We have evidence to this effect too.
“We are also aware of the board of internal revenue illegal funds transfer to IORYINA & Co. running to tens of millions of Naira. This said company is curiously linked to the current Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Benue State, Hon Michael Gusah. It is therefore left to be seen why the Benue state government top officials are abusing their offices by using their influence to get government patronage for corrupt enrichment and to conduct illegal transactions at the expense of the poor masses of Benue.
“We have also tracked the transfer of the sum of another (nine million) Naira, another four million seven hundred thousand Naira, another four million five hundred thousand Naira to AS Atomba and Co. This are all curious transactions and questionable by every indication and calls for further inquiry into the relationship of the board and the firms.”, the group added.
All attempts to get the response of the chairman of BIRS failed as he would not respond to calls put to his known phone number.