Benue State Debt Dispute: Former Governor Ortom’s Aide Challenges Incumbent’s Claims

Benue State Debt Dispute: Former Governor Ortom’s Aide Challenges Incumbent’s Claims

A contentious issue has arisen in Benue State, as Terver Akase, media aide to former Governor Samuel Ortom, demands that the current governor, Hyacinth Alia, provide concrete evidence to substantiate his claim of a N359 billion debt left behind by his predecessor.

This development has ignited a public dispute over the state’s financial situation and accountability.

Governor Alia’s Claim of N359 Billion Debt

Governor Hyacinth Alia asserted that his administration inherited a colossal debt of N359 billion from the previous administration, comprising unpaid staff salaries, pensions, gratuities, and domestic liabilities.

He made this declaration after a meeting with President Bola Tinubu, affirming that his government is committed to gradually settling these debts.

Former Governor Ortom’s Aide Disputes the Claim

Terver Akase, responding to Governor Alia’s statement, issued a counterargument in a statement. He strongly refuted the claim and urged the incumbent governor to publicly provide verifiable evidence for his assertion.

Akase characterized Alia’s statement as false and a “deliberate stratagem to snooker the people.”

Discrepancies and Contradictory Statements

Akase highlighted discrepancies in the current government’s statements, pointing out that Governor Alia’s Chief Press Secretary, in June of the same year, had conveyed that Governor Ortom handed over a debt of N187.56 billion.

This amount, interestingly, aligns with the figures cited by the former governor when presenting his handover notes to his successor. The conflicting statements raise questions about the accuracy of the state’s debt figures.

Governor Ortom’s Debt Reduction Initiatives

In his defense, Terver Akase emphasized that Governor Ortom’s administration had taken proactive measures to negotiate debt reduction and relief.

This involved a Debt Swap Agreement between Benue State and the Federal Government, facilitated by the Nigerian Governors Forum.

The total debt swap for the state and local government councils amounted to N71.6 billion.

Additionally, expected inflows from accumulated stamp duties and refunds from the debt swap were set to significantly reduce the state’s debt, potentially lowering it to N45.2 billion.

Call for Transparency

Akase challenged the current administration to provide transparency by disclosing the federal allocations received from Abuja and the internal revenue generated during their tenure.

He also noted the absence of information regarding the state’s monthly wage bill.

In the midst of this dispute, the people of Benue State are left seeking clarity and accountability regarding the state’s financial situation.