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Monday, May 27, 2024

We will accompany Ortom to face Alia’s probe panels

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As a pro-democracy organization which aims to ensure that government provides good governance for the people, we are concerned and worried that Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State is fast losing focus and is currently on a mission of vendetta, hate and self distraction, contrary to his promise to serve the people.

Alia is the first elected Governor in the history of the state to go on a brazen assets recovery spree against a predecessor. Benue had never before heard of any Assets Recovery Committee until Governor Alia emerged. He set up a large committee of vengeful individuals who harassed his predecessor Samuel Ortom on daily basis and invaded an automobile shop in Makurdi in a Gestapo style carting away vehicles belonging to different private people.

As if that was not enough, Governor Alia in February this year, inaugurated two commissions of inquiry to investigate the previous administration. According to him, the essence of the panels is to know how the resources that accrued to the state under Governor Ortom were managed.

In what may be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the Benue Judicial family, Governor Alia selected two justices from outside the state to head the two panels which are vested with separate mandates to probe into the assets and finances of the state during the era of the Ortom.

Governor Alia claimed that his decision to probe former Governor Ortom was his “response to the earnest desires and hopes of the good people of Benue, who are rightfully critical stakeholders and owners of our dear state and its resources.” But that is a fat lie. Benue people have not asked Alia to probe Ortom. The people voted for him to fulfill the many promises he made to them, not to go after political opponents.

Benue people couldn’t have asked Governor Alia to probe a man who stood for them and sacrificed his personal comfort and political career to resist the conspiracy of injustice coordinated by the Buhari administration and Fulani pastoralists.

Ortom put his state first and damned the consequences by dumping the ruling party APC for the opposition party PDP all in the interest of his people. Ortom was denied numerous privileges by the federal government and he was made to suffer a lot of injustices. He became the first Nigerian governor whose security votes were probed by the federal government. Yet, he refused to bow to the intimidation and arm twisting to betray his people. He was denied access to the Presidential Villa and treated as persona non grata; but Ortom stood tall, unafraid and dogged.

Security which is the primary responsibility of government which Ortom made his priority does not matter to Governor Alia. He has allowed Fulani herdsmen to be strolling the length and width of the state with their cattle and attacking defenseless people any time they want. Alia is more interested in chasing shadows in the name of assets recovery and probes.

Alia’s government in only 10 months old but has already been fingered in several financial misdeeds resulting in two major petitions sent against it to EFCC and other anti corruption bodies by civil society organizations. He is accused of mismanaging over N66 billion in just under six months of his administration.

A governor who is running the state like a personal property lacks the moral high ground to embark on the investigation of others.

Federal allocations have increased by nearly 70% since June 2023 at both state and local government levels, yet, Governor Alia has not provided any information regarding how much his government is receiving and what is being spent. He often criticized his predecessor on the issue of state wage bill, but has kept sealed lips on the wage bill since he took over. No one knows anything about the state internally generated revenue (IGR).

Governor Alia has been deducting huge sums from the state treasury in the name of security votes without applying the funds for the use they are meant for.

a) The internally displaced people are still languishing in IDP camps and governor Alia who promised to return them to their ancestral homes has not bothered to even visit them. He has also stopped releasing money for their feeding. As far as he is concerned, those ones don’t exist.

b) Alia received N5 billion and many trucks of grains from the Federal Government as palliatives and has failed to give account of the funds and materials.

c) He has not cleared arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities as he promised and recently said he won’t pay the arrears any time soon.

d) The first thing he did in office was to sack workers and reverse the promotion of others including permanent secretaries.

e) Alia promised to grant local government autonomy but ended up sacking legitimately elected council officials and is now fully in charge of the billions coming from Abuja for the local governments.

We find it necessary to let Alia realize a few important things:

He has set a dangerous precedent of recovering assets and going after his opponents like criminals so he should expect that when he leaves office, he will also be probed and his assets in Makurdi, Abuja and other cities in Nigeria be confiscated. He will also be investigated and prosecuted.

Alia is the first civilian governor to introduce sole administratorship in the governance of the state. Only he knows what is in the accounts of the state and only he withdraws from the state accounts whenever he wants. He makes payments directly and signs contracts personally without due process.

Alia has increased the Governors approval limit by 400% from N50 million to N250 million. This means that he doesn’t need the approval of the State Executive Council to award a contract of N1 billion at once. He awarded contract for the construction of 16 township roads at over N6 billion before the constitution of the State Executive Council without any advertisement for tender and no competitive bidding. These and many other reckless acts may provide good grounds for probe.

Lastly, someone close to Governor Alia should let him know that we Defenders of Democracy will accompany former Governor Ortom when he appears before the panel. We want to be witnesses to the trial of an innocent and selfless man.

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