Our attention has been drawn to a report credited to the defeated Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in last year’s polls in Benue State, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, that Governor Samuel Ortom was mortgaging the future of the state by obtaining loans.
The report appeared on page eight of The Authority newspaper of Sunday, March 27, 2016.
A similar report had been published on page 39 of Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
While we appreciate the concern of the defeated governorship candidate for the affairs of the state, even if for political reasons, we find his conclusions partisan, mischievous and untenable.
If his comments were patriotic, he should have offered suggestions on what ought to be done or what he would have done differently if he were a governor who inherited a deficit treasury with huge salary arrears and other financial burdens as well as the machinery of government to run, the context in which Governor Ortom assumed office.
At his inauguration last year, the morale of the public service in the state was at its lowest ebb as a result of five months of unpaid salaries.
This state of affairs necessitated the Ortom administration to obtain a N10 billion facility to pay May and June salaries, ensure take off of the government and meet other critical obligations.
These included payment for accreditation requirements of the College of Health Sciences at the Benue State University where the pioneer students had spent 12 years for a six-year course because the previous administration did not care about their plight.
From available records uncovered by the Elizabeth Kpojime Commission of Inquiry, there were more than enough funds available for the previous regime to have cleared the arrears if it were its priority.
That it left office without paying the arrears made it imperative for the state government to utilize the window offered by the Federal Government through the Central Banks of Nigeria to states with salary arrears.
Consequently, the N28 billion now referred to as the bailout was obtained for the payment of the salary arrears at the state and local government levels.
The need to pay counterpart funding in order to access more funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and other development partners who were leaving the state in their numbers made the state government to obtain a N5.5 billion facility.
With the loan N3.8 billion was paid to UBEC and an equal amount accessed bringing the total amount to N7.6 billion made available for investment into primary schools in the state. Tenders for projects in hundreds of primary schools have already been advertised.
N1.2 billion of the amount has been paid for projects of Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs and a total of N2.4 obtained leading to the flag off conditional grant scheme projects in the education, health, water and sanitation sectors in the 23 local governments across the state.
The balance has been invested in the Benue State Rural Water and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA, International Fund for Agriculture Development, IFAD, FADAMA, I, 2, and 3 as well as other programs.
When these investments manifest fully all shall acknowledge and testify that they have added value to the development and progress of the state.
The receipt of the N10 billion infrastructure loan granted by the Federal Governor to all states has enabled the mobilization to site of several contractors that had abandoned road projects in the state and the flag-off of new road construction projects.
Governor Ortom has made his commitment to zero tolerance for corruption already known even as he assured that he would not take any kickback from the contractors so that job quality and delivery time would not be compromised as had happened in the previous era.
His commitment to prudent management of the lean resources of the state and cutting down the cost of governance as reflected in the size of his government, transparency and accountability are also apparent.
Perhaps Prince Tarzoor thought the state was still in the immediate past era when loans and bonds were diverted into private pockets are revealed by the Kpojime Commission.
In the current era, all appropriated monies are utilized for the purposes for which they are meant and the people of the state are bound to get the greatest value on the investments.
Governor Ortom was compelled by circumstances to take the loans which he is judiciously deploying to improving the quality of lives in the state and continues to assure that no kobo will be diverted into private pockets or misused.
It is therefore unfortunate that beneficiaries of the old order which brought the state to the brink would turn round to blame someone who has risen up to the challenges of the moment.
They put the state in its current predicament and hope that it would ever remain static in that condition, if not get worse.
The electorate rightly read the situation and rejected them. We urge that they continue to be kept where they belong- the inglorious past, and their comments ignored.
Special Adviser, Media and ICT.