Despite Huge Wage Arrears, Unpaid Pension, Ortom Approves Over N1bn for Vehicles Purchase, Other Projects

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Says It’s Recovered Over N300m from Arbitrary Bank Charges

By Amos Aar

DESPITE owing its civil servants, teachers and pensioners several months’ salaries and pension, the Benue State Government has announced its approval of one billion, seven million, four hundred thousand naira (N1,007,400,000) for the purchase of vehicles, furnishing of Government House Lodge and construction of township roads.

The government also announced the recovery of over three hundred million naira (N300,000,000) from arbitrary bank charges on the state government bond by an un-named commercial bank.

Benue State Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism, Hon. Mike Inalegwu, disclosed this Tuesday when he briefed journalists shortly after the State Executive Council (SEC) meeting at Government House, Makurdi.

“There was a government bond that was found before the advent of this administration and from investigation, they discovered that there are a lot of charges that were coming into it and the government wants to be prudent. So Council approved the [hiring of the] services of a forensic auditor who will recover whatever that they are charging the Government of Benue State arbitrarily.

“Luckily, we discovered it was true and the good news is that over N300 million was recovered from the charges the bank was taking from the money which was not approved by the Central Bank. Whatever they recovered for the state, the forensic auditor will take 15% out of it instead of paying them upfront,” Hon Inalegwu stated.

According to the commissioner, approval was also given for additional forty-three million naira (N43,000,000) to be used to furnish Government House Lodge in order to upgrade it with modern facilities.

Inalegwu added that council approved contract for the construction of a road at North Bank, a suburb of Makurdi, the state capital, from Holy Family Catholic Church to Okiki, at the cost of N151.2 million to improve security.

“Asphalt, not surface dressing, will be used and the quality will be like the one from Judges Quarters,” the commissioner said, adding that a memo was also received from the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs for Council Chairmen whose tenure expired on Tuesday, 21st June, 2022 to go with their official Hilux vehicles as a reward for meritorious service to the state.

To that end, the commissioner disclosed that the State Government is to purchase thirteen (13) more vehicles at the total cost of over six hundred and eighty-three million naira (N683.2 million) to replace the ones released to outgone government officers.

“Government needs vehicles. If you notice, there are no vehicles in so many organisations in Benue State today. The policy of monetisation is that when a government officer is in office, he pays a certain amount of money for the vehicle given to him and because of that release of vehicles to them as they are going, there is paucity of vehicles in the state and then the commissioners brought some memos that more Hilux and other vehicles need to be purchased. These are costly vehicles that will stand the test of time.

“Council also approved the purchase of 5 Mercedes Benz trucks at the cost of one hundred and thirty million naira (N130,000000). This one is from the Ministry of Water Resources and Environment.”

On the fine collected from violators of Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law, the commissioner said Council approved that 50% of the money be remitted to the state Ministry of Agriculture for the use of voluntary guards to boost their morale and make them effective while 50% of the fine be remitted to the state consolidated account.

The States Huge Unpaid Wages

Meanwhile the state is owing its workforce several months of unpaid wages. The categories of those owed include civil servants, primary and secondary school teachers as well as lecturers in the state’s tertiary institutions.

National Record gathered from a reliable source in the state’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism that serving civil servants in the payroll of the state government are being owed 7 months’ salaries, with five months hanging since 2017.

Also owed are members of the academic staff of the state’s tertiary institutions. Recently in May, the state government assured the lecturers of the state’s three polytechnics and two colleges of education who had been on strike for about four months to call off their industrial action, promising to pay them three months’ arrears as soon as they resume teaching.

The lecturers were being owed five months’ pay from 2017 and four months since they embarked on strike in February this year making it a total of nine months.

A polytechnic lecturer confided in National Record that when the strike was suspended, the government dithered in fulfilling its promise for over two weeks before it paid just one month over a week ago.

“As we speak, the government is still owing us eight months’ unpaid salaries. We received only one month out of the three the governor promised to pay as soon as we call off the strike,” the lecturer who pleaded anonymity told National Record.

While local government pensioners, as at the end of May 2022, are being owed 74 months of unpaid pension, their state counterparts are being owed for 35 months, a member of Aggrieved Pensioners, a group of activist pensioners which emerged in the face of piling unpaid pensions told National Record.

For serving employees of local governments in the state, it is 11 months of arrears, our correspondent gathered.

Primary school teachers in the state have 11 months of outstanding salaries with their secondary school counterparts being owed 7 months’ arrears.

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