Our attention has been drawn to the report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, published in some of today’s national dailies regarding the disbursement of the bailout funds given to states by the Federal Government in which the anti-graft agency alleged that part of the funds have been misappropriated in Benue State.
It said, “In Benue State, the total debt accrued from staff salaries and emoluments amounted to N12,503,439,787. 48. The state received N12,503,439,787.48 as bailout fund and disbursed N10,852,536,702.96 with a balance of N1,650,903,084.52. Analysis of the documents submitted revealed a double payment of N37, 760, 000.00 in favour of the Office of the Deputy Governor. This double payment is presently being investigated, ” ICPC stated.
We would not have bothered to respond at this point since ICPC has also admitted that it is still carrying out investigation and will surely arrive at the truth of the matter, but for the sake of other Nigerians and Benue people in particular, it is important that we put the records straight.
It is true that the Benue State Government received the said amount from the Federal Government to clear the backlog of wages of workers of the state and the funds were judiciously appropriated for the purpose they were obtained. The quoted amount of N37,760,000.00 is the statutory sum paid monthly to Lobi Stars Football Club of Makurdi which is owned by the Benue State Government.
What the ICPC describes as “double payment in favour of the office of the Deputy Governor” was actually two months’ payment made to the football club through the office of the Deputy Governor as is usually the case over the years. The payment was for the months of March and April, 2015 as part of salaries owed officials and players of the team for which the bailout funds were sourced.
The Benue State Deputy Governor is the Chairman of Lobi Stars Football Club and his office where the bank account for Lobi Stars’ funds is domiciled, handles all matters affecting the club including payment of salaries and allowances.
We wish to reiterate that the bailout funds given to Benue State have been transparently handled and the State Government has repeatedly informed the people of the state that the over N1 billion balance after the payment of the backlog of workers’ salaries has not been diverted.
We acknowledge the role of the ICPC and other agencies in ensuring accountability in the polity and invite the commission to carryout further investigation to ascertain the veracity of our explanation.
The Ortom administration will continue to uphold transparency as its watchword in providing good governance for the people of Benue State.
Hon. Commissioner for Finance