By Simon Hwande
Penultimate week the news that became rave in Benue State and the nation indeed was the information that the state’s debt profile amounted to 90 Billion instead of the 9 billion Naira earlier quoted by Suswam in his handover notes.
This news has become an item of propaganda and discourse with many chastising the outgone governor with serious show of sympathy for the present state governor. This sympathy whether right or wrong, is a matter for another discourse. This is even as it is no longer news that Gabriel Suswam may have squandered the state’s resources as claimed, however it will only be wise if we get issues right and set the records straight to clear all misconceptions that may arise from this bogus figure of 90 Billion Naira.
Loans are meant to be paid and are also certainly a burden on the state’s purse and will affect the running of the government in the long run, be that as it may, it will only be proper that the right loan position of the state br understood.
In his declaration of the state’s debt position, Governor Samuel Ortom listed the debts as N50 billion for ongoing contracts, N18 billion for certified ones, N12 billion for salary arrears and about ten billion for bonds and bank loans.
The breakdown of the debts as presented above will also not be questioned or contested however the import of such loan subheads is the real reason for this discourse.
Prior to the swearing-in of the new administration and through out the campaign era, there was serious demonisation of the Suswam administration for owing salaries and pensions, little mind was given to the fact that there was a general global crunch with a huge debt accumulation by many states.
It rather vindicating today to realise that Gabriel Suswam was not the architect of the state’s financial situation As about 17 states have been revealed to be owing salaries with Osun state on the top of the list having over six months in the same league with Benue. It will be so unfair to demonise the previous administration on this basis. It may be corrupt and irresponsible but let’s remember when it rains, all homesteads are affected.
As analysed by the governor himself, majority of the loans which amount to a huge sum as 50 billion Naira would be morally wrong to be categorised as a loan since it is accrued to contracts that are actually in progress and thus technically nobody owes anyone 50 million Naira as till such a project is completed the contractor lacks the locus standi to demand payment.
The inclusion of bonds which was estimated to about ten billion Naira, smacks more of some form of mild mischief as a peek into the debt history of the state it will be revealed that the state has prior to Suswam’s administration been indebted via loans and were inherited by Suswam on inception. Even as the state may owe that much let the administration be honest enough to show which of these bonds were acquired during Suswam’s era and those which were not accrued by him.
For every relationship and structure a solid foundation is essential, which is why it is essential that this administration starts with a concrete foundation built on trust and fairness by first and foremost coming out clear on this and other issues.
It is on this previous premise that I here wish to enjoin this government which has been dutifully voted and supported by the masses that the Ortom administration is enjoined to shift fro the customary blame game and embark on a confidence building campaign by making known the buffers set to forestall such reoocurent indebtedness alongside an economic progress plan as a divergent from our known norm of business as usual to the expected change.
Even as it generally perceived that the administration is too early to achieve certain gains however as it is believed in the African parlance that a left handed child starts from birth thus it is never too early to prove his mettle.
Finally it is also an acclaimed saying that nobody is totally bad, there is certainly an iota of goodness in such a person. It is in this vein that it will only be proper that in our chastity of Suswam’s era and policies there should be a meticulous look at such policies as he also made some giant moves and laid solid foundation policies which should be built upon.