BORROWING TO PAY SALARY: ORTOM MUST RAISE GOVERNANCE ANTE, PLEASE

imageBy James Ibechi
Dateline: Makurdi on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, we’re told, just got the approval of the state lawmakers to borrow N10billion from FMBN.

Ostensibly, the buck is to enable the new governor pay the unpaid salaries of government staff that were inherited from the former governor, Gabriel Suswam.

Part of the money would also go into attending to other pressing state matters.

The rest story is just the elucidation of the kernel of the news, being the N10billion loan approval for the new helmsman in the state, to help him offset the salary arrears bequeathed to him by Suwam, who has now become what some observers describe as “fugitive”, since the eve of the inauguration of the new APC-led government.

Before the governor sought the approval of the Assembly for the money, most observers always knew that the euphoria that greeted the paradigm shift or change of government in Nigeria and particularly Benue state, was going to be ephemeral, when the reality of the burden of debt that Suswam was leaving on Ortom’s shoulder is finally dawned on the new pilot of our state’s affairs.

As at last count and according to the latest release from the Debt Management Office, the State Government’s debt, courtesy Suswam, stood at over N92billion.

And barely a little above fortnight into his four-year tenure, Ortom has just added N10billion into the state’s debt profile, raising a dark cloud over the future of the state.

The cloud is suggestive of a bleak prospect.

As Ortom confronts the heavy yokes of the debt burdens for him to bear — the salary arrears, abandoned projects, etc — he will have to also contend with the high expectations of the people who had swallowed his campaign promises hook, line and sinker to elect him.

I am not a prophet of doom, but the stark reality starring on all our faces including the new governor’s is that now after the euphoria of his election, Ortom must begin to ponder if the struggle to get so far was actually worth it.

For, in the fullness of time, some of the campaign promises may turn to mirage and the hopes of the voters turn forlorn, as it has become crystal clear that he has to live in a bondage of heavy debts accumulated by the scoundrel Suswam.

While it is pertinent to say that Ortom is not the only governor facing the debt burden, neither is the salary arrears problem peculiar to our state, my sensibility is however seriously touched — or is it only me that is thinking the way I do — that one has to get a loan to pay a debt? Is it sensible?

We are talking about a state whose only mainstay is the paltry funds from the Federation Account.

But we have yam and other cash crops, which if attention is given to the development of agro allied industry over the years, we would by now have other sources of revenue to shore up funds from, whenever the state faces economic hardship as the case is presently. But that is not the case.

You are borrowing to pay debt and it is not as if you are investing the loan in a money-yielding venture. What kind of thinking is this any way? Is it how the state will continue to exist or live on borrowing? What future does such a state hold for its living indigenes and the generations unborn?

Seriously, Ortom has got to innovate or abdicate. He must up the ante of governance in the state. Cutting workers’ salaries as a measure like his dullard predecessor did, is no solution to the state financial and economic quagmire.

But internally generated revenue must be explored as one avenue of alternative source for more income. Also, agro allied industry up scaling is another.

Besides the foregoing, I have sixteen other recommendations to make to propel Benue out of the scaffold stranglehold of poverty that Suswam has plunged the state into, but I am not going to give it out free of charge. Find my contact below.
James Ibechi, ejeibec@gmail.com, 08076896824

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