Our attention has been drawn to media reports that the administration of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has borrowed over N50 billion in less than six months.
The reports have been published on several platforms including Daily Trust and Sunday Tribune newspapers of Sunday, 25th October, 2015.
These reports have tended to erroneously portray the administration as embarking on a borrowing spree which is not the case.
Some of them stated that the state government would be borrowing for the fourth time within the period mentioned.
This is also not true.
To put the records straight the Ortom administration borrowed N10 billion to pay two months’ salaries and ensure take-off of government, and has accessed N28 billion Federal Government bailout for states with arrears of salaries.
This brings the total amount so far borrowed to N38 billion.
The N5.5 billion facility which the House of Assembly approved for payment of counterpart funds has not been accessed.
The recent approval which the state executive council gave that Special Intervention Funding Frameworks for Development of Critical Infrastructure from the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria should be explored is also undergoing the necessary process.
If the state meets the stipulated criteria it would access N10 billion like 28 other states.
Part of the criteria is approval by the State House of Assembly which is yet to deliberate on the matter.
It should be noted that apart from the N10 billion which was first borrowed and the N5.5 billion approved by the House for counterpart funding which is yet to be accessed the bailout recently received and the N10 billion special critical infrastructure intervention funding for which the executive council gave approval last week are Federal Government’s financial initiatives for states.
Having found itself in a tight corner Benue State has no choice but to tag along with both the Federal Government and majority of other states in the country.
The Ortom administration, just like several others across the country, has resorted to these loans to pay for liabilities incurred by the last administration since government is a continuous process.
But it is ironical that those who created the problem in the first place have embarked on sustained propaganda to stigmatize those committed to finding solutions to the man-made challenges occasioned by the previous administration’s profligacy.
The ultimate imperative under the situation is to beef up internally generated revenue to meet government’s financial obligations and the Ortom administration has taken measures along that line with the appointment of a substantive Chairman for the Benue State Internal Revenue Service, BIRS, and constitution of its board.
Loopholes and conduit pipes are also being blocked even as transparency and accountability have been introduced.
Governor Ortom has assured of zero tolerance for corruption and has committed himself to also managing the resources of the state judiciously.