EFCC arrests Depot Manager, carts away exhibits in Gombe Fertilizer Depot raid

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A team of heavily-armed EFCC operatives in a convoy of unmarked vehicles, have stormed the Gombe State fertilizer Depot situated along Gombe-Dukku road, in the early hours of Monday morning, ordering the closure of the only entrance gate, practically taking everyone within the premises hostage.
An eyewitness described how the intimidating team of stone-faced looking operatives, comprising armed to the teeth red-eyed mobile Police officers and plain clothes stern-looking detectives, in a commando-style fashion, stormed the premises forcing the security personnel and guards at the gate to make way for them, after which they ordered the gates shut, locked and ordered the guards not to allow anyone in or out while they carry out their search.
After positioning the armed officers in strategic locations across the premises, threatening everyone with their guns, according to the witness, the plain clothes men first combed the entire premises, taking pictures of every living soul in sight, locating the stores one after the other, then began ransacking the contents of the various stores in a thorough fashion.
Twenty-nine minutes later, their search over, the detectives ordered the suspension of all fertilizer off-loading and uploading of all kinds of commodities (which has hitherto been going on, prior to their arrival) suspended and all the stores shut and locked. The officers then ordered some materials removed and loaded on to their vehicles as evidence from a store said to be operated by the State Ministry of Education.
It was reliably learnt that the store from which the evidence was removed, being operated by the Gombe State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) is used for storing an assortment of relief materials, in form of donations both from within and outside the country worth millions of naira, meant for internally-displaced persons (IDPs) currently taking shelter in the State.
Our investigations revealed that the EFCC, acting on intelligence, have reason to believe that some of the materials meant to be freely distributed to the IDP’s are now illegally on sale in the market, and therefore, have stormed the premises with the object of retrieving evidence to that effect and taking the administrators and all other persons connected with the matter into custody for further investigations and subsequent indictment for corruption.
Further investigations also revealed that the EFCC officials also received information that fertilizer products and pesticides, subsidised by the state government for public use, were allegedly illegally being sold in the markets by state ministry of agriculture officials.
Allocations of the items (whose validity is long overdue, as the rainy season is fast nearing it’s end) to the various beneficiaries such as civil servants, local farmers and other various interest groups have been withheld by the agricultural ministry.
To this end, according to eyewitnesses, along with carting away a considerable amount of material evidence, the Depot Manager, Alhaji Lamido and one other stores officer, Mohammadu Tongo, all from the agricultural ministry were arrested and taken away, while other officers who had fled the premises prior to the arrival of the EFCC team are declared wanted. At the end of the detectives’ operation, and after all staff and visitors were allowed out, armed police officers were stationed behind at the Depot with orders to await the arrival of the suspects and get them arrested.
Throughout Monday, the depot remained shut and under lock and key while the armed officers guarded the premises, while the arrested persons remained in EFCC custody.
Nobody was available for comments at the EFCC zonal headquarters office in Gombe.
However, when contacted in his office, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Dahiru Buba Biri dismissed all the allegations made in respect of illegal dealings in fertiliser and pesticide as false and unfounded. Alhaji Biri denied any knowledge of any official of the ministry illegally smuggling out any product for sale.
On the allegation of the product being loaded out of the depot and distributed to markets as people have been complaining since the official commissioning of the government fertilizer sales in the State, Hon. Dahiru explained that although the depot is owned by his ministry, it contained more storage facilities than his ministry actually needs. So, some stores were leased out to private fertilizer companies which are using them to store their products, off-loading and uploading and distributing to their customers all year round.
However, the Commissioner admitted that the initial distribution process has suffered a setback as a result of delay in supply of especially Urea, from their contractors due to a hitch encountered as a result of due process in financial clearance for payments to the contractors.
Hon. Biri also disclosed that he was currently meeting with members of the state committee on procurement and distribution of fertilizer to work out the distribution modality following which issuance of allocation to all and sundry will begin in earnest.

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