NewsNigeriaPoliticsOrtom Challenges Alia to Show Proof He Inherited Ghost Schools, Workers

Former Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom has challenged Governor Hyacinth Alia to make public his claim that he inherited more ghost schools and workers in Benue State than real ones, describing the allegations as false.

A press statement signed by Terver Akase, Media Aide to the former Governor stated that it was untrue that the arrears of workers’ emoluments in the state was in the region of hundreds of billions.

Akase, who declared as false the allegations, challenged Governor Alia, to publish and make public the wages, ghost schools, income and debt inherited by the Alia led Government.

Citing the 2024 budget as an instance, Akase stated that going by what Governor Alia said in his 2024 budget speech, the allegations he made were a contradiction of his present allegations on the arrears owed workers in the state.

While insisting that the allegations were “weighty and unfounded”, the aide to the former Governor also stressed that despite the two recessions the nation experienced in 2016 and 2020, Ortom’s administration paid workers’ salaries, uninterrupted between January 2018 and the end of 2022.

Akase said, “We read an interview granted by the Governor of Benue State, Hyacinth Alia which was published in Vanguard newspaper titled ‘Father Alia’s shocking revelations: In Benue, we had more ghost schools, workers than real ones’.

“In the said interview, the Governor was quoted to have stated that the government of his predecessor, Chief Samuel Ortom left arrears of salaries running into hundreds of billions of naira; “I have not been able to offset the arrears. It is in hundreds of billions of naira, I cannot take care of that now…”

“Governor Alia was also quoted to have claimed that he inherited “more ghost schools than the existing functional schools”.

“We find the above statements not only false and misleading but also wonder why the Governor would embark on embellishments and shocking fabrications to sustain such a narrative, in continuation of his smear campaign against his predecessor.

“Interestingly, Governor Alia made the allegations without substantiating any of his claims with figures.”

Akase further observed that “It is simplistic to state that the present government inherited arrears of wages in hundreds of billions. The question is; what is the overall wage bill of the state if the arrears of workers’ emoluments run into hundreds of billions? Does Governor Alia want the people to believe that his predecessor did not pay salaries even for one month in eight years?

“It is on record that in his 2024 budget speech, Governor Alia said his government would spend the total of N56.4 billion for the year on personnel cost (salaries, pensions and gratuities).

“He also admitted in the same budget speech that in the 2024 fiscal year, “Personnel cost as a component of the recurrent cost is expected to increase by 17.1% as against the provisions made of the same votes in the Revised 2023 budget”, implying that his predecessor was also paying workers’ wages.

“It has to be emphasized that despite the two recessions Nigeria went into (2016 and 2020), the Ortom administration was able to pay salaries in an uninterrupted manner between January 2018 and the end of 2022.

“But even if we were to imagine that the Ortom administration didn’t pay wages for a whole year, the figure would never have run into hundreds of billions. So what really did Governor Alia hope to achieve with such a weighty but unfounded narrative?”

Akase added, “We challenge the Governor to make the following public:

The figures/total of arrears of salaries he inherited on May 29, 2023 with evidence/documents supporting such statistics; A list of the ghost schools that his government claims to have discovered and a list of the existing functional ones;

“Throw light on his statement that he has “saved close to N3 billion from ghost workers”. This clarification should specify the wage bill of the state at the moment, after ‘N3 billion has been saved from ghost workers’;

“The debt profile of the state between May 28, 2023 and March 31, 2024; Monthly allocations from the federation’s account that have accrued to the state since June 2023.

“Demand proof or retraction from the Debt Management Office (DMO), over their inclusion of Benue on the list of states which have incurred debts between June and December 2023.”

He further pointed out that “While we don’t want to comment on Governor Alia’s advertisement of Benue as the least developed state in the country, we make bold to state that Benue people are still acknowledging and appreciating the Ortom administration’s unprecedented record of constructing more kilometers of roads in Makurdi, Gboko, Otukpo, Vandeikya, Ukum, Agatu and other parts of the state.”

Uzoamaka Ikezue (Staff Reporter)

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