Ortom’s 100 days of 'extravagance'

By Editor on 14/09/2015

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre may be scoring some reasonable marks and equally getting the nod of the masses who have already started enjoying the fruits of some reforms. But the story in Benue State, another APC outpost, is obviously different.

It has been observed that the Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom has already depicted a posture typically of a leader who has lost touch with the suffering of the ordinary people since coming into power and has rather chosen a life of affluence at the detriment of even the state's workforce.

When he took over from his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, Ortom told the world that the four months arrears of salaries left for his government to attend to was N12billion only.

He approaching the Assembly for a request to take a loan. He had convinced the people's representatives that the facility was to cater for the salary arrears. Approval of N10billion was eventually given.

But the snag now is that not many seem to understand the road the governor is travelling anymore. Ortom, seems to have deviated from the promises he made to the people. Even with what is seen as an improved subvention from the federation account, the state is still beset with unpaid salary arrears. Why then would the state still be bugged down by this ugly situation?


In fact, the worry began when no sooner the governor accessed the loan than he told the state that about N3.7billion would be used to pay just one month’s salary, whilst N3.5billion would be reserved to start off government.
A chieftain of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and a former lawmaker in the state, Lawrence Oguche, who had at that time disagreed with the governor’s story, raising questions of the sincerity of the pronounced wage bill, had accused him manipulating figures to lay a solid foundation for unimaginable corruption. His position, which he challenged the governor disprove came the way of what he called a simple arithmetic, which went thus: "If the governor had said four months equals N12billion, why is he talking about spending N3.7bn only for one month? If that is multiplied by four, would he still have the N12billion he confirmed himself?"

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The Government House

Then came another curious action. Just a few weeks after the dust was yet to settle on the loan saga, the governor went to the House again, this time with another request for a supplementary budget of N13.9billion, which he explained was to be used to run his government.

However, what raised more eyebrows was not that the request was coming at such a short notice, but some clearly outlandish content in the document. Very prominent among them were the provisions for N1billion for “Extra Ordinary Items,” N1billion for “Service Wide Capital,” N500million for “Welfare Packages/Service Wide Vote,” N500 Million for “Miscellaneous Expenses General.”

In a state complaining of paucity of funds, and with his constant outcry, not a few are having tremendous difficulty in situating where such strange expenditures find their place, especially when the governor has also made it a daily mantra that his government would not brook any sort of wastage or corruption. Curiouser still was that fact that the same N1billion for “Extra Ordinary Items,” was already contained in the General sub-head.

What then is going on in the Food Basket of the Nation? Is Ortom, who had promised the state during his campaigns, and stressed so at his inauguration that he would run a lean government with a lean and prudent budgetary policy digressing?

Incidentally, the N1billion Service Wide Capital, allocated under the Ministry of Finance, was rejected by the past (7th) Assembly when tabled before it by the past administration, which had slated the provision to be used for a whole fiscal year. The House had thrown the strange provision out of the window on the ground that the Ministry of Finance could not satisfactorily justify the need for such a huge allocation.

Those who are already suggesting that a different sheriff had come to the state, with a penchant for wanton display of extravagance and the exotic, seem to have ample reasons to stress their position. First, they look at what they see as exotic and highly expensive cars the governor is purchasing for the use of government functionaries. Why should local government caretaker committee chairman, who have only six months tenure be given top-of-the-line Toyota Camry cars worth, according to official figures, N7.5 million each?

They wonder what services these council bosses would render to their individual domains and the state at large to be able to offset the N7.5million in within six months in order to go with the cars, in line with the monitisation policy of government.

Again, other categories of the administration's functionaries like Commissioners and Special Advisers are no less lavishly favoured as none of them drives cars with a unit cost of less than N17.7billion. The story is the same with members of the state Assembly.

However, this concern, seems not to cut any ice with Orton if the response of his spokesman, Tahav Agerzua, is anything to go by. He had riposted to critics that his boss did no wrong, arguing “so, because there is no money, do they expect the chairmen to be trekking to work?”

Ortom, also pooh-poohed the complaint about his using N75.8m to renovate the Government House lodge reconstructed by Suswam that was commissioned less than five years ago, which some people describe as a state of the art edifice.

Agerzua, had at a time in July, while dismissing the eyebrows raised by critics, that his boss was still living in his private house two months after inauguration, explained that the renovation was necessary because of the age of the building. “You know a structure constructed about five years ago needs to be renovated. I can assure you that as soon as this is completed the governor will move in," he had said.

Incidentally, this added very little in dissuading the mounting criticisms. In fact some of the critics directly led to the allegation that the money for the so-called renovation was simply being set aside to be embezzled for there was nothing so begging for repairs at the lodge to warrant the "outrageous amount."

One of them, Mr. Nat Apir, sees “these torrent of extravagance” as inimical to the lean resources of the state, including a social critic. He wonders why in a state where civil servants are still been owed over six months salaries, a government would be "so insensitive" and be resorting to such flamboyant and "reckless squandermania."

Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alh. Abubakar Tsav, who is no less appalled by the situation, even came out with his own solution. Hear him: "I am suggesting that if President Buhari wants to fight corruption in this country, sincerely, honestly and he wants us to believe in it, he should set an eye on Benue State, because we have started very, very badly." 




Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on September, 14 2015

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