Benue dismisses fraud allegations against Ortom
Laments revenue loss on title deeds
BENUE State Government has dismissed reports published in some sections of the media credited to the state PDP Publicity Secretary, Godwin Ayighe, which alleged that Governor Samuel Ortom gave a fraudulent salary arrears figure owed state and council workers to the Central Bank of Nigeria, which is to be collected as bailout.
Special Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua, who said Ayighe’s figures were mere fabrications intended to embarrass the Ortom administration and reduce its standing before the public, added that the PDP stalwart was over-stretching the boundaries of partisanship and urged members of the public to dismiss and disregard the allegations.
He explained that when Ortom’s administration set out in the purpose of securing the Federal Government’s approved Central Bank of Nigeria bailout, the state government made a submission of N69, 015,000,182.69. In a different development, the Special Adviser to Benue State Government on Bureau for Land and Survey, Prof. Jonathan Uaver has revealed that over seventy five percent of houses in Makurdi the state capital have no title deeds thereby denying government of the needed internal revenue.
According to Uaver, the Bureau is at present initiating the change of former governor Gabriel Suswam’s name from the Benue Geographical Information System (BENGIS) soft waves to that of Governor Samuel Ortom to enable him begin to sign Certificate of Occupancy for applicants; pointing out that plans are also at advance stage to review the land allocations made by the previous administration in Genabe settlement in Makurdi local government area to avert conflict with the inhabitants and the land allottees.
According to Agerzua, the breakdown was as follows: state government staff salary arrears, pensions and gratuities N29, 210,833,212.30; local government staff salaries, primary school teachers, pensions and gratuities all amounting to N39, 804,166,970.39.
Agerzua said only N28 billion has been approved for payment of state and local government salary arrears as follows: N12.5 billion for state government salary arrears and N15.5 billion for local government salary arrears.
The Media Adviser further explained that Governor Ortom’s submission was based on figures provided by staff of the Ministry of Finance all of who served in the previous administration and are therefore conversant with the correct figures, which are subject to verification by all concerned.
Governor Ortom’s aide said the former Governor neither disclosed any figures for salary arrears nor that of pensions at the state and local government levels; maintaining that it was such hazy nature of the state financial burden that necessitated Governor Ortom’s pledge at his inauguration that he would verify and disclose the figures involved which included unpaid salaries and allowances as well as retirement benefits.
Agerzua stressed that in normal circumstances, a joint transition committee set up by the outgoing and incoming administrations ought to have handled this matter, but the previous administration apparently frustrated efforts in that direction.