By Terver Akase
The present government of Benue State yesterday took its plane of media trials against the immediate past Governor, Chief Samuel Ortom to a higher altitude when the Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba told journalists in Makurdi that the previous administration operated 600 bank accounts.
The assertion not only embodies the utmost degree of falsehood but also exposes the genuine motivations of the present state government, which are far from being characterized by honesty.
What precisely does the Alia administration hope to achieve with its sustained media attacks on the former Governor? No week passes without this government manufacturing tales against Chief Ortom. What has been lacking in all their outings is verity. None of their allegations against the former Governor comes with any driblet of truth and evidence.
The claim that the Ortom administration operated 600 accounts is as bizarre, outlandish and misleading as it sounds. They are only playing politics with the serious business of governance.
The present government officials ought to differentiate between Benue State government accounts and those of others. If you ask Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, NIBSS to give you accounts in Benue State, they will give you bank accounts bearing Benue’s name including those owned by cooperatives, student unions, associations, local bams and hospitals, among others.
When the Ortom administration decided to implement Treasury Single Account, TSA, the government carried out a NIBSS account search in 2017. The result revealed that there were 810 accounts since the inception of Benue State. These accounts were for the state and local governments, including government ministries, departments and agencies, hospitals, projects, and other programmes initiated by previous governments. Some of the accounts were dormant, others active but with little or zero balances.
The central accounts of government are domiciled in the Accountant General’s office. All the accounts run by ministers and agencies of government are operated by civil servants who are answerable to any government in power at the time. No Governor maintains a government account after he leaves office. This is why there is always a change of account signatories when a new government takes over.
To put the matter in clear perspective, the Alia administration should disaggregate the 600 accounts they claim Governor Ortom created. By this I mean they should tell the people who are the holders of the 600 accounts and what is contained in each of the accounts.
The persecution of the former Governor on pages of newspapers will not solve the issue.
Let me conclude by appealing to Governor Hyacinth Alia that his predecessor, Chief Samuel Ortom is available and accessible. If the Governor has anything that he needs clarification upon, the right thing to do is get across to the former Governor who is willing to offer answers and clarifications on the areas of need. His Excellency Alia is the Governor of all of us, and the Benue Project is for all its people to build.
As much as the former Governor does not want to engage in media battles with his successor, the persistent attacks against his person and the government he headed will leave him with no choice than to respond in equal measure.