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Monday, July 15, 2024

Peter Awunah: GOV ALIA, WHERE ARE BENUE’S BILLIONS GOING?

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After writing several times demanding for transparency and accountability from the Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia for one year, I decided to give a break to see if he would answer his father’s name by living up to his campaign promise to be transparent and accountable. I was wrong! Governor Alia has no word like transparency in his vocabulary!

My checks at the Federal Ministry of Finance showed that between May 2023 and May 2024, the Benue State Government under Alia received far more than N200 billion in federal allocations for state and local governments.

This unprecedented increase in allocations to the state is as a result of the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government. The money is in addition to the huge interventions made by our dear President Bola Tinubu to ameliorate the harsh economic situation in the country.

The All Progressives Congress, APC in Benue State recently issued a statement thanking President Tinubu for sending over N50 billion to Benue State in form of interventions outside the statutory federal allocations to the state. These funds, the party said included palliatives and various forms of assistance to enable the state combat insecurity.

Surprisingly, the man at the helm of affairs in the state, Governor Alia has not let anyone know what President Tinubu has done for the state. In fact, he takes credit for every single project that the President has done in Benue State. Even the buses that he used part of the palliatives to purchase for Benue Links, the state transport company, he branded them with his picture boldly at the rear windscreen.

Reports have it that Governor Alia is amassing amazing wealth and has bought palatial mansions in Abuja, Lagos, Europe and the United States. He is also said to be setting up his private construction company so that all government projects will be handled by the company.

Governor Alia’s only acclaimed achievement in one year is payment of salaries and pensions as if other states are not doing so. He receives almost four times what the previous government was receiving, so payment of wages shouldn’t be a problem to him. He is not paying overhead to Ministries, departments and agencies of government. Alia is also not paying counterpart funding through SUBEB, Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, health programmes and other projects.

What about local government funds? The 23 local governments receive nearly the same amount that the state government gets from the federation’s account, but governor Alia, a man who promised to grant full autonomy for local governments sits on the money and only gives peanuts to the councils for salaries. He sacked duly elected local government officials and installed his stooges through whom he has taken charge of the local government funds.

Alia is in the frontline of state governors who are battling the Tinubu administration at the Supreme Court to halt the plan to grant full autonomy to local governments. He wants to continue to be in control of the money meant for the local governments. No one dares question what he is doing with the funds.

Governor Alia allocates to himself N1.5 billion every month in the guise of security votes, yet he has not bought even one Keke not to mention patrol vehicles for the security agencies since he took over. The governor hardly has time to attend security council meetings. He asks his deputy Samuel Ode to preside over such meetings.

Sankera and other parts of Benue State are under the siege of insecurity. Fulani herders have taken over many communities in the state and have turned to landlords demanding money from the original owners of the land before they can assess their farms and bury their loved ones.

The once admired Food Basket of Nigeria is becoming empty as the farmers can no longer access their farms. The blood of innocent farmers slaughtered by terrorist herders is flowing in River Benue, yet, the governor is not worried. He is more concerned about chasing vainglory with the payment of salaries.

Governor Alia is grossly insensitive as far as the security of lives and property of Benue people is concerned. The camps housing internally displaced people are swelling; women and children are dying of starvation in the camps but the governor appears not perturbed. I understand that he has stopped the release of food items to the camps from the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA. Only interventions from donor agencies and civil society groups are now helping the IDPs to survive. What a show of wickedness!

Let me end this piece by once more asking Governor Alia to account for the over N250 billion that Benue State under him has received from the Federal Government within the last one year. It is the right of the people to know.
Benue State Government House is not a church parish!

Dr. Awunah writes from Durumi, Abuja.

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