Alia in trouble over inconsistent Benue’s debt profile

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

An Aide to the immediate past governor of Benue state, Chief Samuel Ortom PhD today accused the present governor of the state, Father Hyacinth Alia of being economical with the truth over the debt profile of the state.

The Aide, Tyodoo Livinus who reacted in a personal statement said that Governor Alia is contradicting himself about Benue’s debt profile. He wondered how he arrived at the N359 billion debt he claimed he inherited from his predecessor, Chief Samuel Ortom.

Recall that immediately Alia assumed duties as governor, he said in the media that he inherited N187.56 billion debt as handed over to him by Chieftain k Ortom.

The Aide wondered how anyone should believe whatever Alia says about his predecessor again with the two conflicting debt profiles he is parading

The statement reads:

I read some newspaper reports which quoted the Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia as claiming that his administration inherited N359 billion as debt from the previous government. The reports said Governor Alia was speaking in Makurdi during an interdenominational church service to commemorate Nigeria’s 63rd independence anniversary.

But how can we believe governor Alia’s latest statement when he is the same person who told us in June, 2023 that Ortom handed N187.56 billion to him as debt, which was the same amount the former Governor mentioned while presenting handover notes to him on May 28, 2023?

Curiously, Governor Alia has not disclosed to us how much his government has received from Abuja as federal allocation and how much he has made from internal revenue in the last five months?

I suspect that Gov. Alia is singing a lullaby to the ears of the Benue people to lure us to sleep so we won’t ask questions about his style of leadership.

But if Governor Alia wants us to believe him, let him publicly prove that his predecessor Chief Samuel Ortom handed over N359 debt to him as he claimed.

Sometime in June, barely a few weeks after he assumed office, Governor Alia raised a similar alarm, (even though he didn’t inflate the debt profile then), I remember reading Ortom’s response in which the former Governor listed the efforts that his administration made to reduce the indebtedness of Benue state.

I recall reading Ortom stating that though the debt situation of the Benue State Government before he left office stood at N187.56 billion, his administration had earlier taken proactive steps to negotiate and ensure significant debt reliefs leading to Debt Swap Between Benue State and Federal Government, as facilitated by the Nigerian Governors Forum. The then Governor said the Debt Swap for State and Local Government Councils in the state stood at N71.6 billion at the time he was leaving office.

His Excellency Ortom went further to say that the income Benue State was expecting at the time he was leaving office were: (a) Backlog of accumulated Stamp Duties – N48 billion, (b) Refund from Debt Swap with Federal Government – N22.95 billion. Total = N70.95 billion. With the negotiated debt swap and the expected inflows discounted, the State was poised to attain a major debt reduction, bringing down its debt profile to N45.2 billion.

Ortom also stated that owing to the efforts of his administration, Benue State as at May 29, 2023, had outstanding approvals awaiting disbursement from the Federal Government including the balance of bailout – N41 billion and a N20 billion Central Bank of Nigeria facility. At the same time, the Benue State government was expecting N9 as refund on withdrawals for subsidy and SURE-P.
I gathered that the Alia administration has already received the N9 billion SURE-P funds which the Ortom administration fought hard to get for the state.

I am a witness to the fact that the Ortom administration also initiated a lasting solution to the problem of pensions by domesticating the Federal Government reforms in pension administration through the Benue State Pension Law, 2019 which introduced the Contributory Pension Scheme.

Records at the Benue State Pension Commission show that the Ortom administration met most of the requirements for full implementation status of the Contributory Pension Scheme. At the time Governor Ortom was exiting office, over N8 billion had been saved under the Scheme and Benue State was on the threshold of meeting the conditions for benefitting from the Contributory Pension Scheme including access to long-term loans and bonds for development projects or defraying existing pension liabilities.

I, like other concerned Benue people, expect the Alia administration to desist from distorting facts just to castigate Chief Ortom. His Excellency Rev Fr. Alia and his team should be telling Benue people about the efforts they are making to address the challenges of development.

Governor Ortom also inherited assets and liabilities. It was the same during Suswam, Akume and Adasu’s times.

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