By Tor, Shiekuma Felix
On 28th day of May, Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam, the immediate past governor of Benue state, loathly handed over state instruments to his successor, Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom. This transpired in the out-gone Governor’s office in government house, Makurdi after an official tour of the new Governor’s Lodge. It was done in
accordance with the provisions of the supreme legal book of the nation.
During Governor Ortom’s inaugural speech on the following day (swearing-in day), he promised the well meaning and dying-to-know Benue people to unveil the financial status of the state as soon the handover notes would be subjected to thorough scrutiny. This was more so because his predecessor did not accurately assert the true weight of the state purse.
Meanwhile, Governor Suswam was spotted jetting out of the country on the D-day; his wife, Yemisi Suswam, had gone a day to his departure. This is the first time in the history of Benue State that a new government would be enthroned in the absence of the forerunner. The feeling of impending doom might have formed part of his trip to United Kingdom, because Benue workers were on alert to make a fool out of him. Apart from this, his phobia for entering self-excavated holes forced him out of the state.
Subsequently, Suswam wrote on his official facebook page that he embarked on a leave to United Kingdom. I have struggled so much to understand his meaning of “leave” but my efforts could not yield result. How can an escapee embark on a leave? His retort was crafty and feeble.
However, after close exploration, Governor Ortom explicitly stated that Benue state strongbox is only saturated with air ─ empty. This was pronounced during the inauguration ceremony of the principal state executive officers. The debt profile of the state surged to N90 Billion in the last 8 years of Suswam-led administration.
Barely three days ago, Tahav Agerzua, media and publicity adviser to the governor through the State Ministry of Finance added that the preliminary figures from the ministry further showed another debt burden of N70 Billion with more being expected as investigations continued. This is terrible!
What did he use the money for? Benue workers and pensioners are not paid hitherto, and state awarded projects are still at the embryo stage. He was always spotted embarking on baseless junkets to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore (where beautiful ladies abound) in search of foreign investors, but no single investor had ever visited Benue during his reign. May be this is one among the ways he profligated the money.
If he’s opportuned to clarify how the debt came about, he might attribute it to dwindling economy arising from slim federal allocation as a result of fall in price of oil in the international market. But what of the revenues accrued to the state from traditional sources? Under his administration, internally generated revenue witnessed an unprecedented increase.
I am fully convinced that Benue people did not benefit single kobo from the debt. The civilian dictator personally embezzled the money and invested in building perishable kingdoms on earth. Moreover, during his arbitrary governance average Benue men/women continued to be poorer and hopeless.
With this debt, and going by the ugly infrastructural development in the State, consider not covering up an accredited thief before Economic Financial Crime Commission. If you choose the other way round you will lose the confidence Benue people have bestowed on you, and it will be tantamount to treason.
A land lord who drops out of sight a criminal can never deny allegations of being a criminal. If you claimed to be anti-corruption agent, don’t cover up a looter because, Benue people will definitely accuse you of adding kerosene to an already burning fire.
Ortom should remember that his showy campaign manifesto is still ringing in our minds; and it is quite impossible to run a development-centered and smooth administration with high profile debts. Whether there is money or not, Benue people will hold him accountable to his promises in the near future. So he should better explore ways of recovering our money from the latest absconder.
The Benue people reposed their costly trust in him because they believed his transparency alone is capable of dealing with people who capsized our economy by way of embezzlement. So, if he rather covers up a congenital rip-off artist, his hard earned trust will be reclaimed.
Many are speculating that Suswam seems to be hiding under Ortom’s secured umbrella -immunity clause, that is why he is so lackadaisical at taking radical approaches in dealing with him, but I lack information to subscribe to these contemplations. However, there is truth in every rumour.
For instance, the newly inaugurated governor of River State, Nyesome Wike, has set an investigative panel to probe his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi; the result of the panel will then be handed over to anti-graft agency, if its reveals that Amaechi embezzled from the state handbag. To me, this is a bold state step to help rejuvenate our highly battered democracy; and a warning signal to leaders who are intending to loot from their respective state strongbox.
Coming here in Benue state, what is governor Ortom doing to retrieve this mammoth amount of stolen money from the deserter? He should not only be informing us the debt profile of the state: how to reclaim the misappropriated money should also be communicated. The president had recently communicated how he intended to recover looted money. I therefore urge Ortom to follow the footsteps of his big boss. If he, however choose to do cover up for Suswam, that will amount to betrayal of trust and highest form of treachery.
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crises, maintain their neutrality”. – Dante Alighieri
TOR, SHIEKUMA FELIX can be reached on email@example.com