Benue gov sets up panels to probe ex-governor, Ortom

Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia, on Monday inaugurated two judicial commissions to probe the actions of his predecessor, Samuel Ortom.

During the inauguration of the judicial commission of inquiry at the old Banquet Hall of the Government House, Alia emphasized that the action was integral to his administration’s commitment to fostering accountability, transparency, and good governance in the state.

The two investigation panels consist of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry examining the income and expenditure of Benue State Government from May 29, 2015, to May 28, 2023, and another focusing on the sale/lease of government assets, companies, and markets (both state and local government owned), along with defunct companies from or prior to May 28, 2015, to May 28, 2023.

The two Commissions of Inquiry consist of 16 members with their chairmen drawn from South West and North East.

Retired Justice Taiwo Taiwo from the South West region, will chair the former commission, while Justice Appolos Idi, retired from Gombe in the North East, will preside over the latter commission.

The governor said,  “These commissions are not merely bureaucratic endeavours; they are our 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.

“The members of these commissions have been carefully chosen for their unassailable integrity and track record. I harbor no doubt that they will discharge their duties with utmost dedication and in accordance with the noble principles of public service, safeguarding the interests of our dear state.

“The future prosperity of Benue hinges on the prudent and judicious management of our resources. As we usher in a new era characterised by prioritising the welfare of our people, it is imperative and quite incumbent upon us to ensure that every Naira expended serves the collective interest and propels the growth and development of our state.

“The responsible stewardship of government resources bears a direct correlation to the well-being of our people. Adequate allocation to vital sectors such as the  economy, agriculture, education, security, healthcare, and infrastructure uplifts the standard of living, while any mismanagement jeopardizes our collective progress.”

The commissions have six months from the day of their first public sitting to submit their report but can be extended as this is permitted in writing.

The terms of reference are, among others, “to identify the income of the Benue State Government from 29 May, 2015 to 28 May, 2023.

“To look into the expenditure and utilization of the Benue State income from the 29th day of May, 2015 to the 28th day of May, 2023.

“Identify all the Benue State Bank accounts and examine the propriety or otherwise of the transactions in the accounts from 29th day of May, 2015 to the 28th day of May, 2023.

“To identify the Loans taken by Benue State Government from 29th may, 2015 to 28th may, 2023 and ascertain the appropriateness of the utilization, interest charge on the loans and the possible abuses thereof.

To identify the loan given out by the Benue State Government, the alleged waiver and the possible abuses thereof.

“To identify the special interventions including but not limited to the Bailout Funds, Paris Club Refunds received by the Benue State Government from 29th may, 2015 to 28th may, 2023 and the application thereof.

“To determine the internally generated revenue and the utilization of the same.

“Identify cases of misappropriation, abuse, misuse and diversion of the Benue State funds from 29th may, 2015 to 28th may, 2023.”

On sales of government properties and markets, the terms of reference include; “identify all Government properties/Companies/Markets that have been sold/leased since 29th May, 2015 to 28th May, 2023.

“Determine the status and correct value of such properties/Companies/Markets/ as at the time of sale/lease.

“Identify those who bought or took on lease such properties/Companies/Markets and in case of leases, determine what improvements have been made and the subsisting interest of the Government in the transaction.

“Determine the value of sale/lease and establish whether the transactions were in the interest of the Government and if due process was followed.

“Determine whether the terms of the lease agreement have been complied with.

“Generally, review all such transactions and advise the Government on the appropriate action in the interest of the people and good governance.

“Identify all the Benue State Companies that are moribund and advise the government on appropriate action to be taken.”

Last October, former Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has described as falsehood, the claim by his successor, Alia, that his administration inherited N359bn debt.

Alia had claimed that his administration inherited a debt of N359 billion and working assiduously to clear the debt.

“You will be shocked to hear that some people in the local government were owed for up to five years. The least we recorded were people who were owed up to four months,” Alia had said.

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