The Benue State government has accused the immediate past administration of former Governor Samuel Ortom of operating more than 600 bank accounts for the state but only releasing 25 to his successor, Father Hyacinth Alia.
Speaking when the State Correspondents’ Chapel members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) paid him a visit at his office in Makurdi, on Tuesday, the Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba, said this was why Governor Hyacinth Alia froze all government accounts on assumption of office.
The finance commissioner said the governor was shown only 25 accounts when he took over office but information at the Nigerian Inter Bank System, however, showed that the state had over 600 accounts.
“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 were in excess of N200billion. 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 N150billion.
“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 N359billion.
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).”