Myself and the Deputy Governor, some months we were not paid – SUSWAM

Posted: August 24, 2012 in BENUE, political, Uncategorized
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Benue state Governor Gabriel Suswam spoke with journalists in Otukpo  on issues of salaries been owed workers by the state government, order by the House of Assembly for the information commissioner to resign from office, defrauding of state by special assistant to the president of Public Affairs  and the dust raised by the N13billion bond among others. atiterkula was there. Excerpts.

 

It appears the state is broke. What is the exact position of the account and finances of the state? Is there any cause for alarm?

The finances of all the states in the country are predicated on the federation account and once there is problem with the federation account, there is problem in all the states and is not just Benue. First they are delayed. Today you are reading in the papers that the President himself has said that salaries must be paid immediately. It means that when they go for federation account and come back, there is delay for money to come into the state account. Benue state does not owe any person. The problem that happened which is a minimal problem that we are doing is to carry out biometric data screening in order to sort out the issue of staffing of Benue state civil service. That biometric, when it started the process, I and the deputy governor, we have had situations where they will omit our salaries. It is not because there is no money. So if the people are experiencing that, we do not owe any person.

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In SUBEB, there was a judgment in the month of July which did not started with us. Just N29million and the judge went and delivered a judgment that the whole account should be garnished but before the judgment something happened. The previous administration I think dismissed teachers who were not of Benue state origin and that has been going on before I became governor. So we are responding to these matters but I think the commissioner said something that is resolvable.

 Recently the Benue state House of Assembly ordered one of your commissioners, information to be precise, to resign from his executive position. What is your take on the matter?

There is no conflict at all. But you see the House became very sensitive to some of the things the commissioner said. I was also to some extent concerned because I expected that I would have gotten the facts when the House said government was owing salaries of nine months. You know that if you even owe salaries in Benue for just a month, it is not something that would be in the realm of speculation, it will be everywhere. So we do not owe salaries. The message rather created some problems. But like I said, myself and the deputy governor, some months we were paid and some months we were not paid but we are in the process of sorting out  because in entering the data, if any person’s appear twice the computer will reject it and then you will not be paid. So that was the problem but like I said, it is common knowledge that the country is going through some financial problems and we are not saying Benue is exceptional. One thing I do is that salary is the first priority; once money comes from the federal allocation we must pay salaries first before paying any other thing. So I don’t joke with that and so I don’t think the House and the executive are into any problem. Even, if they were into any problems that we can sit down and resolve. So we have no issues that should be of any serious concern.

 

There is report that the Personal Assistant to the president on Public Affairs Dr. Doyin Okupe allegedly came into Benue and defrauded the state of N635.7m on projects contract but it seems your government has not said anything. Why?

This is because the person, who gave the contract I think, was in one of the newspapers few days ago. Senator Akume’s Special assistant on media issued out a press statement to that regard and I wasn’t involved in it and that is why I am waiting. In the press statement it said that they gave a contract and there was an issue and so am waiting for them until it get to us to know. The S.A made the statement on behalf of senator Akume so it is their problem and I believe that senator Akume would be in a better position to address that problem. And I also agree that people must have read what S.A to senator Akume wrote, she said that the problem arose with them and they were handling it. And you know that I didn’t have handover note and I have told the media severally. No handover was given to me.

Recently, it was said that you booted out the Chairman of the Benue state Inland Revenue Service (BIRS), Mr. Andrew Ayabam while others said he was on leave. But it is obvious that he has not been in office for quite some time. Don’t you think there would be decline in the revenue generation of the state?

He is on but there are so many speculations about whether he is sacked or he is on leave but he gave a letter that he wanted to go on leave. So he is on leave. But you know that the revenue board has recently been constituted which you know there was no board. There was not supposed to be a technical committee but a board. All of that we are in the process of doing it and when he comes back from leave, all of these, the board would have been properly constituted and the technical committee would have also been properly put in place. There is no cause for alarm. But Benue state is not such that generate much revenue and in reporting revenue, there are three components. You have the PAYE which is captured as revenue because it is in and out. And when he (Ayabam) was reporting that they were generating N1billion, it was not that they were generating that from BIRS. About eighty percent of it was PAYE. There was nothing like N1b that was generated. Like they said certain amount of money is taken from salaries and it goes back into payment of salaries. So when you are reporting what you generate as revenue you capture that on the part of revenue and not on the part of expenditure. I think most people understand that but they believed that Benue was generating N1billion as revenue. The component of BIRS, the component of PAYE and that which is generated within the ministry of finance arising from contracts and their percentages.

You have kept mute on the issue of N13billion bond which you collected from the bank for development of projects. It was not also captured in the 2012 budget break down. What is happening?

There is no way you will utilize the bond other than the purpose it was meant for because when you apply for a bond, it attached specific projects and the bond is incorporated between the SEC and the state and so, you don’t expend money on your own. They are about three banks that are involved and they monitor where the money goes. For instance if I want to build a house and I have taken a bond, I would say that that the house cost this much and we shall put the contract and the money on it. So there is no cause for alarm that we tempered with bond money. It is impossibility.  

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