Blaming Suswam Can Never Absolve Governor Ortom Of Accountability
Let me begin this piece by stating very clearly that Benue people, at least majority of them including myself rejected former Governor, Gabriel Suswam in the last general elections. All that he represented was rejected including Hon. Terhemen Tarzoor whom he handpicked to be his successor.
The people had endured what, at that time, was the worse handling of the state by a Governor. Suswam simply ran the state into the ground with impunity. Amongst other acts of mismanagement of state funds, perhaps Suswam’s greatest undoing was the issue of non-payment of salaries because the state’s economy revolves around salaries despite an agrarian status, a lack of it was definitely unacceptable.
The people voted massively for Governor Ortom because they wanted to deviate from the path of Suswam to one who said he could lead them in another direction. The attached picture was taken on April 11, 2015, when people queued up in the rain to vote for Governor Ortom and probably stayed overnight to protect it. The results of that election were instructive – the people established that Suswam was wrong and wanted someone who will right those wrongs.
Having inherited a long trail of problems from his predecessor, it was understandable that Governor Ortom would grumble once or twice but little did we expect that it will take centre stage of his administration and almost obscure it.
It is surprising and sickening that almost two years into Governor Ortom’s administration, blaming Suswam is now a major strategy of governance in Benue state and whilst we can tolerate the nuisance of this strategy, it’s peddlers and constant animosity with “the opposition” and concerned ordinary members of the public alike, it is pertinent to note that the continual blaming of Suswam cannot absolve Governor Ortom from his responsibilities.
There are serious unanswered questions concerning the monies received by the government in the name of Paris and London clubs debt refund. These questions have been put forward without any answers from the government whose media aides respond to every trivial banter from the opposition on social media with multiple press releases.
Whilst the questions are still hanging, the Government is attempting to bombard the media with allegations that former Governor, Gabriel Suswam collected and mismanaged $24 million as debt refunds from the Paris Club during his tenure and how the government intends to probe it.
It is unfortunate that the government thinks that blaming and accusing Suswam of his mismanagement absolves the present administration of accountability to the people. We, the ordinary apolitical people would say, “thank you very much for exposing the nefarious ways of the former Governor but we are still interested in knowing what is happening with our commonwealth now.”
If a Pastor preaches the same sermon at every church service, it is because the congregation has not changed, so permit me to ask the same questions I’ve been asking in the last three days without an answer.
A. In a press conference two weeks ago, the state Commissioner of Finance, Mr David Olofu said the following about the 25% of $181 million that was being expected by the state government as debt refunds from the Paris and London clubs.
“I was informed by relevant authorities that the CBN and Federal Ministry of Finance are using N305 to a dollar. If you do the conversion based on that, you’ll be getting between N13 – 14 billion. That is what we are expecting.”
However, the governor announced that the state only received N12.7billion which is N1 billion short of what the commissioner announced.
The questions thus: At what exchange rate did the state government sell 25% of $181 million to arrive at the sum of N12.7 billion?
B. While explaining the sharing formula for the funds, the Governor said, 50% was going to the state, 45% to local government with 5% remaining.
Although we have had two versions from the government explaining what the 5% is meant for; one saying its was deducted from source as consultation fees and another saying it was for the “running of government”, the people deserve to know: What is the 5% actually meant for?
C. Why have we been unable to know for sure what the true wage bill of the state and local government is? Why has it been increasing steadily despite an embargo on employment in the last year? Why have we been reluctant to discover and flush out ghost workers for over a year when we have the wherewithal, both financial and human resources to do so?
Inasmuch as we appreciate the quest of this government in recovering the monies allegedly looted by the past administration of Gabriel Suswam, we also demand responses to these current issues, after all “a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush”.