By Amos Aar
EX-GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Sunday presented handover notes with a debt profile of N187 billion to his successor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, at Government House, Makurdi.
Briefing his successor on the income, expenditure, debt profile and pension within his 8-year administration, the now former governor said, the total income which accrued to Benue State in the tenure of his administration from all sources, including statutory income, value added tax, internally generated revenue, grants, refunds and loans was seven hundred and thirty-four point nine billion naira (N734.9 bn) as at April 30, 2023.
According to him, the total expenditure on recurrent wages being salaries, pensions, loans services, refund/remittances and the cost of running Government amounted to seven hundred and thirty-five point six billion naira (N735.6bn) as at April 30, 2023.
Ortom said the total indebtedness of Benue State as at the time of handover was one hundred and eighty-seven point five billion naira (N187.5bn) which according to him was inclusive of pensions, salary arrears, loans, bonds and outstanding contractual obligations.
“The total indebtedness of the Benue State Government at this time of the exit of my administration from office is N187.56bn. This is inclusive of salary and pension arrears, loans and bonds as well as outstanding contractual obligations,” he stated.
Ortom however said, his administration had taken proactive steps to ensure debt reduction. The efforts, he said included debt swap between Benue State Government and the federal government.
“The total debt swap for Benue State and local government councils N71.6 billion are the backlog of accumulated stamp duties as well as an expected inflow of N48 billion.
He added that there was a refund from debt swap with the federal government to the tune of N22.9 billion, totaling N70.9 billion.
He said the debt profile was therefore brought down to N45.2 billion.
Ortom also pointed out the issue of pension arrears as the major challenge of his administration just as the past administrations. But he said his administration had domesticated the federal government’s reforms in pension through Benue State pension law, 2019 which introduced the contributory pension scheme.
“The Government and workers contribute 10 percent and 8 percent respectively of the total monthly wages of workers which is then, saved in the retirement savings account of each worker enrolled in the scheme in four custodian banks; UBA, Access Bank, Zenith Bank and First Bank. Workers will just step into their retirement savings when they retire from service.
“Already, over N8 billion has been saved under the contributory pension scheme”, Ortom disclosed.
Governor Ortom said, although he had handed over the notes to Rev. Fr Hyacinth Alia, on May 28, 2023, he remained the executive Governor until the latter will be sworn in on Monday, May 29, 203.
Responding, the Governor-Elect, Rev. Fr Hyacinth Alia who spoke very briefly, appreciated his predecessor for his service to fatherland and for presenting the handover notes to him.
“I thank His Excellency for his efforts in service to fatherland, our state, and I thank him for the handover he just made.
“I thank each of you for witnessing this event”, Alia responded.