In a startling revelation, the Benue State Government has alleged that Governor Hyacinth Alia inherited a staggering number of over 600 bank accounts from the immediate past administration. This eyebrow-raising disclosure was made by the state’s Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba, during a visit by the state Correspondents’ Chapel in Makurdi on Thursday, October 19.
Oglegba explained that Governor Alia had solid reasons for freezing all government accounts upon assuming office. Firstly, it was crucial to comprehend the financial landscape left by the previous administration. Secondly, the transition team had been presented with information on only 25 government accounts operated by the State Government. However, further scrutiny through the Nigerian Inter Bank System revealed a jaw-dropping 600 accounts.
“When we came in, we asked for the accounts and bank statements, and we were presented with about 25 bank accounts,” Oglegba stated. “A casual look at the Nigerian Inter Bank System showed that Benue Government has more than 600 accounts. So the governor needed to freeze those accounts to know exactly what was happening.”
Additionally, the ongoing auditing process has significantly reduced the state’s wage bill. Oglegba noted that this audit was still ongoing, and new figures would be released upon completion.
Addressing the issue of the state’s debt profile, Oglegba disclosed that Benue State Government owed over N359 billion, which included the debts of Local Government Areas. He clarified that the state government’s debt exceeded N200 billion, while the remaining N150 billion consisted of debts owed by Local Government Areas, unpaid salaries, pensions, gratuities, and local contractors.
Oglegba emphasized that the Alia administration had no reason to misrepresent the state’s debts, as it could adversely impact their ability to secure future loans. The commissioner also revealed discrepancies in the number of pupils and teachers, as indicated in the handing over notes from the previous administration, which suggested an improbable one-to-one ratio.
Despite the financial challenges, Oglegba commended the Alia administration for its achievements within the five months since taking office. These accomplishments included the construction of 16 township roads in the State Capital, street lighting, State Assembly Complex rehabilitation and remodeling, and State Secretariat renovation. He also highlighted that the State Government had paid five months’ salaries in the last four months and settled all government project contractors without borrowing.
Oglegba urged members of the Correspondents’ Chapel to maintain objectivity and balance in their reporting, emphasizing the government’s reliance on their support for success.
The Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Mr. Emmanuel Antswen, assured the commissioner of their commitment to supporting and promoting government policies, strengthening their partnership for the greater good.