A revelation by the Benue State Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba, has exposed the financial mismanagement of the previous administration led by ex-Governor Ortom.
Oglegba disclosed that the former government operated 600 accounts, most of which were hidden from the current administration. He made this statement on Tuesday, during a visit by members of the State Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) at his office in Makurdi.
He said that Governor Hyacinth Alia, who assumed office in May, was only shown 25 accounts by the outgoing officials, but later discovered over 600 accounts through the Nigerian Inter Bank System. He added that this prompted the governor to freeze all government accounts in order to streamline them and ensure transparency and accountability.
“When we came in, we asked for the accounts and bank statements and we were presented with about 25 bank accounts. A causal look at the Nigerian Inter Bank System showed that Benue Government had more than 600 accounts.
“So the Governor needed to freeze those accounts to know exactly what was happening,” he said.
Oglegba while commenting on the state debts profile, insisted that the Alia government inherited over N359billion debts which included that of the Local Government Arrears.
He said, “The debts owed by the state itself was in excess of N200bn. This includes local and foreign debts. However, the LGAs also have their own debts, unpaid salaries, pensions, gratuities and local contractors that made up the other N150bn.
“So the Alia administration has no reason to lie about the state debts. We will be doing ourselves a great disservice if we say we own monies that we do not own. When we need loans for example who will give us?”
Ortom, who exited office in May this year, had denied leaving a debt of N359 billion.
Reacting to the allegation, the former governor, who spoke through his media aide, Terver Akase, had said the allegation was a mischief levelled against him and his eight years’ administration.
“The present government of Benue State is selling a narrative to unsuspecting people of the state that they inherited N359 billion as debt from the previous government led by Chief Ortom. This narrative is not only false but is also a deliberate stratagem to snooker the people. Governor Ortom was explicit in his handover speech that though the debt situation of the State Government at the time of his exit from office might appear to be on the high side (N187.56 billion).”