- I’m ready to defend myself
- That report is false and malicious, Uji says
A probe committee set up by the Benue state government to investigate the state of Affairs of the State’s Teaching Service Board, TSB, has indicted the Immediate past Executive Secretary of the Board, Associate Prof. Wilfred Terlumun Uji and recommended that he should refund the sum of N195 Million he allegedly embezzled between 2017-2020
Submitting the report of the committee to Governor Samuel Ortom on Tuesdy in the New Banquet Hall of Government House Makurdi, chairman of the committee Dr. Sarwuan Tarnongu explained that the amount of N195 Million alleged to have been swindled away by Uji covered illegal withdrawal of funds from the treasury of the board deposited in three commercial banks and from the cooperative society of the board during the period between 2017 and April of 2020.
Dr Sarwuan who is also the Special Adviser to the Governor on Basic Education further disclosed that the committee found a series of statutory and non-statutory deductions from Secondary Schools across the state during Uji’s tenure.
He made it known that during the probe, the committee invited the Executive Secretary three times to appear before it to defend himself but he declined
Tarnongo said, “as the committee began it’s sitting, we sent invitations to the former Executive Secretary three times but he refused to honour the invitations.
“In the course of our work, we discovered that under the former Executive Secretary the Board operated three bank accounts contrary to the provisions of the Treasury Single Account. He was in the practice of asking the accountant of the board to withdraw cash and hand over to him.
“The committee discovered the sum of N195, 760, 862.09 being money mismanaged from the cooperative society of the board and other deductions during the period under review.”
Responding to fthe Tarnongo-led committee’s report, Governor Samuel Ortom said government appointees or former appointees of government will be doing disservice to themselves if they refuse to honour an invitation by a probe committee to clarify issues, saying silence means consent and so whatever report the committee comes up with, will be accepted as true.
“We do not want to arbitrarily accuse people of wrongdoings, that is why we set up committees because we must ensure due process, equity, fairness and justice. I believe in the Rule of Law so I see no reason why an appointee will do otherwise,” Ortom said.
The Governor handed the report to the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar and directed him to present a memo to the State Executive Council for necessary action to be taken after scrutiny.
In his reaction to the report of the probe committee, the immediate past TBS Secretary, Associate Prof. Wilfred Terlumun Uji who spoke in a chat with the state Correspondent of TheSKY Newspaper, Amos Aar, expressed his readiness to defend himself even with his sweat, tears, blood or whatever it takes and described the report as false, malicious and a calculated attempt by the Benue state Government to defame his integrity and humiliate his personality.
Uji observed that The Committee was not properly constituted along the principles of fairness, equity and justice, saying almost all the members were friends of the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar, who were contracted to do a hatchet job to justify that nothing meaningful was achieved under his watch, in terms of development.
He also debunked the Committee’s report which alleged that 700 million naira was realized at the Board during his tenure and recommended that he should refund over 195 million naira allegedly mismanaged. He claimed that in his near four-year tenure, what accrued to the Board in all levies and miscellaneous was about 140 million naira and challenged the committee to prove it’s allegations with evidence.
Associate Prof. Uji’s words:
I am aware of a world press release by the Ministry of Education Committee on Investigation of the near four year tenure of the immediate past Executive Secretary of the Teaching Service Board, Associate Professor Uji, Wilfred Terlumun.
The committee led by Dr. Tarnongu, Special Adviser to the Benue State Government on Basic Education conceived and purported deliberate falsehood and mischief, just to malign the character and integrity of the past Executive Secretary, Associate Professor Uji. I have the following to observe about the report, though some aspects will be contested in the court of law, when we get an officially signed copy of the report:
The Committee alleged that 700 million naira was realized at the Board during my tenure and that I should refund over 195 million naira mismanaged. Let me state categorically that in my near four year tenure, what came to the Board in all levies and miscellaneous was about 140 million naira. This purported figure of 700 million is a fallacious concoction, plotted to malign my hard earned reputation. I challenge the Committee to present detail of their findings through documents and evidence that such monies came to the Board, through any of its accounts or by the Executive Secretary under my tenure. This is a clear fallacy.
The Committee was not properly constituted along the principles of fairness, equity and justice. Almost all the members were cronies of the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar, who were contracted to do a hatchet job to justify that nothing meaningful was achieved under the Uji tenure, in terms of development. Uji, as Executive Secretary challenged the activities of the Ministry under Prof. Ityavyar, through documented letters to stakeholders including the House of Assembly Committee on Education, Office of the Head of Service, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, among others.
The Committee without a proper formal heading as appeared on the letter addressed to the past Executive Secretary failed in granting fair hearing. In the headless letter of May 6th, 2020 (which by way had no fixed address), the Committee did not specify allegations for which the Executive Secretary, even when he wrote back, requesting for what he was accused of to be stated for his appearance in what the letter refers to as “interview.” This basic right was infringed on.
The report of the committee was lopsided and doctored to achieve one objective; an indictment by the Committee that refused to hear from Asso. Prof. Uji.
Statutory Deductions of the Board including Sports Levy, Workshop Levies and Quality Control levies and the issue of Deductions at source, were practices that existed for almost 30 years before the immediate past Executive Secretary assumed office in December 2016. Note that under the current Executive Secretary, these deductions have continued in spite of the directive that it be stopped by the Ministry of Education. It is a deliberate witch-hunt to isolate Associate Prof. Uji for a media scandal and blackmail.
The past Executive Secretary did not at anytime unilaterally, without critical stakeholders like ANCOPSS AND ASUSS embarked on Statutory Deductions. Even miscellaneous deductions were directed by consensus decisions of the stakeholders. None of these deductions went into personal benefit of Associate Professor Uji. The Ministry should provide proof (if there is), that monies were paid into my personal account or converted into assets or property or monies were giving to me by hand from Principals of schools.
On the issue of salary padding, through deaths and retirements or the non implementation of deleting such Ghost Workers on the payroll, I will like to state the following:
Under my tenure, personnel cost to the tune of over 600 million was factored in the Office of the Bureau for Salaries and Pensions and the Office of the Accountant General of the State.
It was not the responsibility of the Office of the Executive Secretary to prepare salaries or pay wages or carryout the systematic deletion of deaths and retirees. These are responsibilities of the Office of Salaries and Pensions with the nominal input of the Head of Account of the Board.
In 2018, the past Executive Secretary and the Head of Account of the Board led a delegation to the Executive Governor. One of the items for discourse was salary padding. The Governor based on the submissions directed the Accountant General of Benue State and one Mr. Mani to do a follow up, in which nothing was found. This was in addition to two screening Committees set up by the state government.
In several reports to the Ministry, Benue State House of Assembly and the Iyorchia Ayu led Transition Committee; I raised fundamental issues on the state of the Board which included salary padding, deductions at source, as well as the need to restructure the Board.
The Committee’s report ignored the basic fact that the Board as stipulated by law did not receive any funding or grants from the Government of Benue State, Federal Government or international donors in my near four years. If there is any funding by the state, Ministry or international donors under my tenure, I demand such evidence with bank statements. What existed was a zero funding of the Board. Depending largely on fractions of Internally Generated Revenue.
There were no imprest funds or overheads giving to the Uji tenure, whereas Directors in the Ministry of Education got overheads to run their offices monthly. In the Law establishing the Board, the Executive is responsible for the day to day running of the institutions which requires overheads, imprests and direct funding from the government.
The Ministry of Education mandated Gamint to collect school fee in all secondary schools. A negligible portion was left for the Board. Internally Generated Revenue through the school fee regime, a fraction of it was collected as Statutory Levies to run the Board under my tenure.
Let us assume that during the Uji tenure, as the committee alleged, the Board received a total of 700 million naira, which is factual lie, and mismanaged about 195 million naira which is far above all levies put together, this still falls far short of adequately funding a parastatal like the Teaching Service Board. I will challenge the Committee to provide evidence either from Government grants or Internally Generated Revenue, based on bank statements, that the Board received this kind of money or that cooperatives societies or those doing businesses with the Board paid such monies into the accounts of the Board.
Did the Committee look at the past audit reports as well as budget reports under Associate Prof. Uji, to justify the income and expenditure profile spending of the Board? In the last submission in February, 2020 to the Benue State House of Assembly Committee on Education, we presented the income and expenditure analysis of the Board to the point of my resignation. How the Committee did fabricated the figures they have presented above? This is deliberate falsehood.
The past Executive Secretary did not sign any contract with any company or consortium. If there is any evidence in such respect, such a consortium should forward evidence. Instead, a Consortium like Jack Moses owned by Bem Gbe, the Treasurer of the Peoples Democratic Party was directed to supply portraits and flags by the Ministry but did not supply. Also, Gamint Consortium after been paid 4 million naira by the Board to provide basic ICT facilities violated the terms of agreement, in which the Board nullified the understanding.
All cheques were signed by the Executive Secretary in line with approved projects documented in the cash book. The actual withdrawal of money as well as payments for projects was carried out by the Head of Accounts and the Cashier of the Board. There is no evidence to show that approved monies handled by these two officers who were not used for projects were either returned back to the coffers of the Board or paid into the personal account of the Executive Secretary.
In the audit report of 2018/2019, the report indicted the Cashier of the Board, Mr. Francis Agbadu and some Directors for refusal to retire amounts given to them for projects in the tune of about 70 million naira. Mr. Agbadu, who the Committee depended mostly on his testimony, was rewarded with an appointment as Head of Accounts even though the most Junior Staff in the Finance Department.
I regret to have accepted to serve under Governor Ortom as an Executive Secretary, knowing well that academia of professorial cadre do not accept such appointments. For the sake of national service, I did oblige. Since my disengagement, I have noticed several abnormalities concerning rules of engagement and disengagement of public servants.
The Governor failed to have told me that there were allegations against my conduct in office, and the government was going to follow due process to make sure that justice was done. Firstly, the Government ought to have suspended me or refused my disengagement until specific charges were brought against me to defend my public image. If found indicted, I would have been removed from office and perhaps charge before an anti-graft agency. If exonerated, then I could have probably been reinstated, all these processes were not followed. Rather:
Prof, Dennis Ityavyar, Honourable Commisioner of Education in a world press conference indicted me of a fraud of over a billion naira. Funny enough, the Committee has come up with about 195 million naira. This is a serious contradiction and proves the confusion in the Ortom administration.I
A Committee has come out to indict me of over 195 million naira without hearing from me or even a legal proceyss. This is nothing short of jungle justice under a feudal system, operated by feudal lords like Ityavyar and Tarnongu.
I am ready to defend myself, whatever it takes; sweat, tears or blood. This is a calculated attempt by the government of Benue State to humiliate me, defame my integrity and abuse my personality. My children and posterity will judge Governor Ortom, Nyamkyume of Ndzorov of the Nongov Extraction of Tiv Nation. God also will judge!”, Uji said.