Rumbles In Benue State As Monumental Fraud Rocks State Ministry Of Information And Orientation
- Commissioner For Water Resources, Eng. Conrad Wergba Fingered
- Benue State Vacancy Slots Allegedly Given To Nasarawa State By Minister Of Information
Trouble is currently rearing its ugly heads among the entire citizens of Benue State over alleged shady deals that have become part of the daily activities of the present administration in the state.
Perhaps, many may not have been aware that the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), approved that its zonal station located in Gwagwalada, Abuja be removed for Makurdi, the capital of Benue State.
It is no doubt that the zonal station controls activities of the corporation in all the states in north central Nigeria as well as creating greatest benefits to the indigenes of the states, particularly as it affects unemployment in the zone, and of course, government on the other part “smile away as usual with the joy of more publicity”.
Unfortunately, the joy of many who heard of the development which was vigorously pursued by a renowned Benue Journalists, with FRCN was short lived as it was gathered by universalreporters.infothat Engineer Conrad Wergba, a serving Commissioner in the State Ministry of Water Resources then in charge of state Information and Orientation had collected money meant for the establishment of the office and then frustrated the entire process.
Consequently, the most disturbing circumstances is that the hope of the poor Journalists ready to explore the station finally gave up the struggle and returned to duty post after the Information Minister; Mr. Labaran Maku got wind of the development and diverted the zonal office to Lafia.
Information available to us reveals that as at the last count, the zonal office had recruited over 118 indigenes of Nasarawa state into its fold against the initial focus for the Benue state where office had been located in Makurdi as was intended.
But the fraud rages on. Those who are surprised about the unfolding events have not heard the latest.
Confirming this to our journalists, close source to the state who pleaded anonymity stated that precisely on June 26th 2012, another Journalist and indigene of Benue State working with Voice of Nigeria in a deliberate effort to contribute his quota to the development of the state wrote his organization (Voice of Nigeria) informing them that the government of Benue State was given out well furnished apartments to media houses interested in operating in the state.
In the said letter, the young man highlighted some points to convince his organization that an office apartment was allocated to him with accommodation to that effect. After sending the letter, he opened up discussions with the then Commissioner for Information, Engineer Conrad Wergba as well as the state governor.
Accordingly, few months later after that letter was sent, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Mallam Abubakar Jijiwa opened a formal channel of communication when he sent a letter to Benue State Governor, Rt. Hon. Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam. In his letter, the VON Director General indicated the interest of his organization to come and open its north central zonal office in Makurdi. He therefore requested assistance from the state for donation of an office.
Like that of Radio Nigeria, the zonal office of Vice of Nigeria controls activities of the organization in north central Nigeria.
However, records have shown that upon the receipt of the letter, His Excellency Governor Gabriel Suswam who had already been briefed about the benefit of the office especially in the aspect of employment of Benue youth as well as publicity of government activities quickly approved the sitting of the zonal office in Makurdi.
Apparently satisfied with the concern of the state government, the management of Voice of Nigeria hurriedly posted for the first time a correspondent to report and cover activities of the state in lieu of the partnership.
In line with administrative procedures, the governor immediately directed the then Commissioner of Information, Engineer Conrad Wergba to raise a memo so that an apartment could be acquired and furnished to the standard of Voice of Nigeria as an International Media Organization.
It was further gathered that Engineer Conrad Wergba between the months of August and September, 2012 sent several news items for broadcast on radio Benue stating the state government’s approval of the zonal office of Voice of Nigeria in Makurdi and the benefit of such office to the state.
In one of the memos, a memo was raised and the sum of N17million was approved to that effect and in January, 2013, the Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Omadachi Oklobia released the amount through a UBA Cheque in the name of Engineer Comrad Wergba as the Commissioner in the Ministry of Information.
Unfortunately, it is being alleged that the said amount which was supposed to serve a good purpose for the interest of the entire state turned out to be personal resources for Engineer Conrad Wergba as he hurriedly used the sum of N1.4 million to pay for the office complex at Badagry Street in High Level and then diverted the rest to complete his personal hotel building in Gboko.
It is gratifying to note that up till this moment as we communicate, the rent had commenced running since February 2013 without the office being furnished and handed over to Voice of Nigeria to be used for the purpose for which it was meant.
In addition, investigation has it that through the agents handling the office complex, the new Commissioner of the ministry has also paid a visit to the office site but returned to his office to discover that documents containing information on the office had developed wings.
In the meantime, the house agents of the said proposed VON office has confirmed that Conrad Wergba has directed them to let out the building and return the money to him. They said he paid the money to them through a cheque bearing his name and deliberately refused to be issued receipts and worst still he was still being awaited to enter into agreement with them. Their 10 % agency fee amounting to N140, 000.00 they said is yet to be paid to them by Wergba.
The height of the fraud was laid bare when officials of the state Ministry of Information informed that Engr. Comrad Wergba who till today has not gone to hand over officially to the new Commissioner also removed the file containing records of activities on the transactions concerning the zonal office of Voice of Nigeria before he left the office to his new place of posting. But he did not forget to return to the same ministry after his posting to collect overhead for the month of May leaving the new commissioner in lurches.
An official in the registry department told us reliably that Comrad Wergba replaced the new file on VON in August 2013 with an old file which was opened for the same organization during the administration of Senator George Akume as a governor. The source said a correction fluid was used to effect the change and this was confirmed.
It has become imperative to wake the state from slumber following recent disturbing news that 37 indigenes of Nasarawa state have again been employed by the Information Minister in Voice of Nigeria. Again, they would have been indigenes of Benue state which has the highest rate of unemployment had the office been furnished and handed over to the organization in the state.