Benue PDP disowns Shuluwa, thumbs down Governor Ortom’s administration

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Benue PDP Deputy-Chairman, Dr. Tsetim Ayargwer

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Benue State has disowned statements made by party elder statesman, Abu King Shuluwa while describing Governor Samuel Ortom’s administration as a colossal failure and the worse since 1976 when the state was created.

Chief Shuluwa had, a few days ago at the Benue Stakeholders Forum expressed satisfaction with the Ortom administration on behalf of the PDP stating that those who weren’t satisfied were not part of the “original PDP” in the state but the party refuted those statement saying they were the personal opinion of the elder statesman as he was not an official of the party either at the state or National level.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the PDP Deputy-Chairman in the state, Dr. Tsetim Ayargwer, also expressed concern over the incessant debts obtained by the state government, the appointments of DGSAs and Treasurers at the local governments, and the probe of former Governor, Gabriel Suswam. While reiterating their support for the probe, he also called on the Governor to extend the probe to former Governor George Akume in order to get a deeper insight into the matter.

Read full text of the press conference below:

TEXT OF A PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP), BENUE STATE CHAPTER AT THE PARTY’S STATE SECRETARIAT IN MAKURDI, IN REACTION TO STATEMENTS MADE BY SOME MEMBERS OF THE PARTY AND OTHER BURNING ISSUES.

Our attention has been drawn to statements reported to have been made by some members of our great party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), at a stakeholders meeting convened on Friday, 16th October, 2015 by the All Progressives Congress (APC) controlled Gov. Samuel Ortom administration in Benue State.

At the meeting which was held at the Government House, Makurdi, members of our party in attendance, including Chief Abu King Shuluwa, Senator Jacob Tilley-Gyado, Engr. Roseline Ada Chenge, and immediate past Deputy-Governor of the state, Chief Steven Lawani, reportedly made statements expressing support for the performance so far of the Ortom administration in the state.

And while ordinarily, the leadership of the PDP in the state might not deem it a thing of undue interest what members of the party do or say at any given time, providing such are in tandem with their lawful rights to free speech and association, the party’s leadership, however, has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that members’ conduct on the whole does not impugn and or denigrate in any way, directly or remotely, the hard-earned reputation and integrity of the party earned over sixteen years of providing quality political leadership for this state and Nigeria at large.

In this light, the leadership of the PDP in this state deems it necessary to correct a certain shade of misrepresentation conveyed by the reported remarks of an elder of our party, Chief Abu King Shuluwa, at that meeting, who was assumed to be speaking on the behalf of the PDP and who has been quoted in part as saying, “The PDP are very happy with you (Ortom). The original PDP that I represent are very happy with you for this 100 Days so far….anybody hiding under PDP to say bad things about this government is not a member of my PDP – the original PDP.”

In the first instance, Chief Abu King Shuluwa, though a respected elder of our party, is not a statutorily mandated official of the PDP at any level, from the kindred, the ward, the local government, up to the state and national hierarchy of the party, vested with the authority to make statements or take positions on the party’s behalf. Therefore, his statements at that meeting, in their entirety, are at best, his personal opinion and therefore, cannot and do not represent the views and or position of the PDP in Benue State regarding the performance of the APC controlled Ortom administration.

The official position of the PDP in Benue State, which is derived of glaring and verifiable facts on ground is that the Ortom administration remains a colossal failure and the worst, in terms of performance at this stage of its tenure, ever in the history of this state, with its rather cowardly predilection for blaming the PDP and the outgone Suswam administration for virtually everything that happens on a daily basis in this state.

On deeper scrutiny, it is can be seen that while the administration is indulging in this game of PDP and Suswam-blaming, it is desperately attempting to conceal from the people a fetid morass of maladministration and serial mismanagement of public funds which has so far prominently manifested in a number of instances, such as;

THE DEBT PROFILE AND BAILOUT SAGA:

It is on record that Gov. Ortom shortly on assumption of office had sent a request for approval to the state Assembly to obtain a bank loan to the tune of N10 billion for the specified purpose of offsetting the arrears of wages being owed workers in the state by the previous administration of Gabriel Suswam. N10 billion was received from a commercial bank with high interest rates and in addition, the sum of N2.7 billion was received from Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) proceeds, but the larger part of the monies, other than go to offset the salary arrears, was spent on servicing of political interests both within and outside the state.
Shortly afterwards, Gov. Ortom had forwarded a supplementary budget proposal to the state Assembly amounting to N13.9 billion which was approved and the sum of N5 billion was borrowed by the governor yet again for the purpose of settling workers wages arrears.

Recently, the Ortom administration received the sum of N28.5 billion borrowed from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as bailout funds intended primarily to offset salary arrears to workers in the state. For the state workers, the sum of N12.5 billion has been received, out of which N3.57 billion and N2.9 billion is for the months of May and June, 2015 respectively.

However, it is on record that the Ortom administration had earlier rendered expenditure report of the N10 billion loan it collected from a commercial bank to include payment of salaries for those same months of May and June, 2015, yet the same months are still captured in the bailout funds received, with the total sum for those two months being N6.47 billion.

Also, it is contradictory that the Ortom administration tendered requests to the CBN for bailout funds to offset wages to workers in the local government councils of the state and primary school teachers, yet on receipt of the sum of N15.5 billion for this purpose, the administration has opted to embark on what it terms a staff audit, deploying appointees of the administration to the various local government councils for this purpose, before it would pay the salary arrears, thereby calling to question its motives in this regard, and even raising doubts about the credibility of the figures tendered in the request for the bailout in the first instance.

During the same period, the administration has been receiving the statutory monthly allocation from the federation account, as well as gathering earnings from internally generated channels (IGR), which were the main sources of revenue which the PDP controlled Suswam administration used in running the state and judiciously paid workers wages up to the tail-end of its tenure of office when dwindling accruals from statutory sources forced it, like other states, to owe workers wages.

The issues which must be addressed by the APC led Ortom administration;

1. Where is the justification for the over N43 billion debt profile so far accumulated by the Ortom administration in just its 5 months of running the affairs of state, yet it has not been able to pay workers wages, both in arrears and currently running, while at the same time it has been receiving statutory monthly allocations from the federation account?

2. What does Gov. Ortom intend to do with the N6.5 billion captured in the bailout for the months of May and June, 2015, since those months were earlier claimed to have been paid by the administration?

3. What does the Ortom administration intend to do with the interests which would have accrued from the bailout funds deposited with commercial banks between when such funds were deposited and when they would have been withdrawn for payment to the workers?

4. How does the Ortom administration intend to manage the shortfalls or excesses, as the case might be, resulting from the ongoing staff audit at the local government councils, since it is not possible that at the end of the exercise, the workers wage bill would be the same with the figures received as bailout for this purpose?

5. What has the Ortom administration been doing with the statutory monthly revenues from the Federation Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) since its assumption of office?
6. What is the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile of the state as at current standing, and how can the Ortom administration account for its expenditure so far?

THE RECENT APPOINTMENTS OF DGSAs AND TREASURERS IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS OF THE STATE.

It is the statutory responsibility of the Local Government Service Commission in the state to recruit staff into the local government councils, to train and re-train those staff, post and appoint them to the various offices in the councils, discipline and promote them, as the case may be, as well as keep their service records.

The Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs on the other hand is by statutory mandate responsible for the financial regulation of the local government councils and political oversight in certain respects.

It is therefore, with utter consternation that we have watched the recent unfortunate charade of appointments of Directors General Services and Administration (DGSAs), Treasurers and cashiers into the 23 local government councils of the state and announced to the public by the Bureau for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state which has no such mandate under the law.

We wish to state without any shade of reservation that this development represents a most obnoxious throw-back into retrogression in the running and progress of the local government system in the state, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the painstaking reforms which the PDP controlled Suswam administration engineered in that tier of government in the state in the past eight years. During that period, merit and career stability was achieved by the deliberate expunging of politics as the determinant to career advancement, while continual self-improvement, performance and efficiency were institutionalised as core parameters for consideration in appointments.

Perhaps, owing to the non-qualification of the local government bureau to handle such an exercise, it is unfortunate to see that unsuitable and unqualified persons have been appointed into offices which require competent and suitably trained hands to man them, so as to ensure the continued smooth running of that very vital tier of government.

Questions begging for answers here include;

1. Why was the Bureau for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs given the responsibility to carry out such a sensitive exercise as the appointments of DGSAs and Treasurers into the local government councils, while it is the statutory responsibility of the Local Government Service Commission in the state?

2. What were the parameters used in arriving at the appointments so made?

ON THE ISSUE OF PROBES IN THE STATE AND AT THE EFCC:

We are aware that the Ortom administration has initiated series of probes in the state and there has been forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) petition targeted to call to account the stewardship of the immediate past PDP controlled administration of Rt. Hon. Gabriel Torwua Suswam.

We like to strongly affirm here that as a party, we ascribe to the principles and do support the demands for probity, transparency and accountability as enshrined in the laws of our country, and it is our belief that such ought to be the basis and essence for any probe exercise, be it against both elected and appointed public office holders, on the platform of our party and on other platforms too.

We therefore, state unequivocally that the probe exercises, both here in the state and at the EFCC, must necessarily cover all periods which need to be probed for the exercise to be deep and far-reaching enough to yield any meaningful and worthwhile results, and in this light, it becomes impossible to seriously probe the Suswam administration without probing the administration of his predecessor, George Akume, considering the circumstances which surrounded the transition of power between the two administrations.

The alibi given by Gov. Samuel Ortom for his running away from probing the Akume administration and limiting his probe activities to only the Suswam administration is not tenable since his mandate as governor of the state empowers him to take responsibility for both the assets and liabilities of the state, regardless of their age, including those inherited from the old Benue-Plateau State from where Benue State was created. This then means that everything that is deemed to have gone wrong in the state, right from the day it was created, must be the concern of the Ortom administration, and he would necessarily have to address such without fear or favour.

Just as the EFCC has accepted to look into the stewardship of the Akume administration in its dealing with the petition before it against Rt. Hon. Suswam, so also must Ortom summon the courage and accept the responsibility to do the needful by extending his probe drag-net to cover the tenure of administration of his god-father, George Akume as governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.

To make the probe exercise selective and limited is to vitiate its fundamental objectives and reduce it to a mere smoke-screen and at worst a witch-hunting tool in the hand of the ruling administration, and in this wise, we urge the APC controlled government of both Benue State and Nigeria to resist the temptation to use the sacred instrumentality of probe to settle political scores as doing so would only serve to stymie the growth and progress achieved by the PDP in sixteen years of its control of political power in the country.

In our estimation, the Ortom administration is yet to establish as much as a basic direction in which to steer the ship of Benue State, and at the same time, the administration has shown glaring evidence of being profligate with scarce state funds, a tendency which has already earned it the unenviable distinction of being the most extravagant administration in the history of BenueState to date.

It is our conclusion that the Ortom administration is fast squandering the gains of 16 years of PDP controlled political leadership of Benue State during which time huge advancements were made in the human and socio-structural development of the state.
It is therefore, our call that Gov. Ortom should deploy less of his time, resources and energies on complaining and blaming the PDP and Suswam for his failures, and instead concentrate more on seeking solutions to the increasingly mounting challenges of providing political leadership to the people of Benue State.

Benue people have already been exposed to effective and functional political leadership under the reign of the PDP, as such providing political leadership to them in this present dispensation will require much more than subterfuge, pretense and demagoguery. Providing political leadership for the people of Benue State is quite a challenging responsibility which must not be trifled with in the manner the APC controlled Ortom administration is currently doing.

Long Live People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

Long Live Benue State

Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Signed:

Dr. Tsetim Ayargwer
State Deputy-Chairman (PDP).

Hon. Bem Dzoho
State Secretary (PDP).

Hon. Godwin Ayihe
State Publicity Secretary (PDP).

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