Abdul Oroh, Edo state commissioner for commerce and industry, has denied that he embezzled a N1 billion loan approved for a group, Libya Returnees Association, by the state government.
The association had allegedly accused Oroh, who was then the commissioner in charge of the agriculture and natural resources ministry, of diverting the fund in connivance with some powerful people in the government to share the money with 360 farmers.
But in a press statement he issued on Thursday, Oroh denied that any fund was ever released to the association in the first instance.
“My attention has been drawn to series of statements issued by one Solomon Okoduwa purportedly on behalf of Libya Returnees Association, who are indigenes of Edo state.
“Okoduwa claimed that the Edo state government approved and released one billion naira to the association for an agricultural project and that the money was embezzled by me, then the commissioner for agriculture and natural resources, Edo state. This is not true, no kobo was approved for such project by the state government.
“When the Libya returnees were evacuated to Maiduguri in 2012 from Libya, the state government directed that they be brought to Benin City. As part of its duty of care to its people, the state government ordered that the returnees were to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society by the ministry of women affairs and social development.
“The ministry then approached the ministry of agriculture and natural resources to train them on modern farming skills to enable them become self reliant. No funds were released for this initiative. However, I directed that they be trained by the Edo state ADP experts without any funding,” Oroh said in the statement.
The commissioner further explained that after the training, the group approached the state government for financial support to start their farms, but that no fund was approved for the project.
He said “Okoduwa and his cohorts” who he referred to as “street urchins,” have been spreading false and malicious statements that he embezzled N1 billion loan released to them by the state government.
“The allegations that the state government released one billion naira, which never happened, is not only callous, mischievous, senseless, irritating, vexatious, it is a calculated attempt to smear my hard earned reputation.”
According to Oroh, Okoduwa and members of his group whom he accused of inundating him with series of requests and frivolous demands that he could not meet up with, have buffeted and laid siege to his office several times and even interrupted a live programme he featured in on AIT, “with this falsehood.”
“I have on several occasions, refuted these lies but he persisted. At a point, the Director of State Security Service (DSS) in Edo state intervened and warned them to desist from this unwholesome act after Okoduwa besieged my office with thugs. The next day, he came to my office to apologise,” Oroh said, adding that he was surprised that the same Okoduwa has come up with another round of baselesss and unfounded accusations.
But responding to the commissioner’s statement, Solomon Okoduwa said the money in question was the N1 billion counterpart funding World Bank loan.
He alleged that following series of protests to Oroh’s office, the then State Director of the DSS, Bello Bakori, intervened and that during the meeting, it was discovered that “the money was shared by 360 farmers. We got the information from a Permanent Secretary and two Directors from the ministry.
“Bakori promised that he will reach the government and then he will get back to us, but he never did.”