By David Mzer
The Justice Elizabeth Kpojime led Judicial Commission of inquiry into the management of funds the Accrued to the Benue state Government from the 29th of may,2007- 29th of may,2015 from 27 sources has submitted it's report, the Government has also demonstrated it's strong will to fight corruption by drafting a white paper.
My Area of interest today is how the #14,215,202,475.87 that Accrued to Benue state as SURE-P funds from 2012-2014, out of which #7,743,731,873.59 was the state component and #6,474,191,797.84 was the local Government component.
These funds were by law required to be managed through a well structured state implementation Committee(SIC) and channeled specifically to Thematic Areas of critical infrastructure and youth Empowerment,unemployment and community services through a rigorous disbursement procedure.
Regrettably,the Benue state Government implementation committee(SIC) was only inaugurated on the 24th of February,2014,at the prompting of the Benue state House of Assembly queries,when the funds had been almost misappropriated.
For Example,the commission found out that, out of the state component,only #1,236,318,000.00 was expanded by the state implementation committee of the scheme for the purpose intended.
The Balance of #6,507,413,873.59 diverted (and in most case withdrawn cash) and spent on questionable purposes on the approval of the Governor, Dr.Gabriel Suswam, his finance commissioner,Hon.Omadachi Oklobia,the permanent secretary ministry of finance, Mrs Ruth Ijir and the Accountant-General,Mr Joseph Kpakpa, under the guise of local and foreign travels,local Government election,payroll biometric registration,weddings, constitution amendment,Bar Association meetings,Lobi stars,Security surveillance, purchase of vehicles for commissioners and state Assembly members,Sallah gifts for the Governor, diesel for the Government lodge,celebration of Benue woman for 2013,Government house overhead,Christmas and New year celebration,Annual golf tournament,voters Registration, and "Additional cost of running government" .
Most of these funds transferred to various MDAs,especially the ministry of finance and Government House, were withdrawn wholly in cash and from the Bank and taken to the Governor, Gabriel Suswam,or his finance Commissioner,Hon.Omadachi Oklobia.
The inhuman Actions of Dr.Gabriel Suswam and Hon.Omadachi Oklobia, led to the non-payment of SURE-P participants in Benue state for several months. Some of them were widows,students and unemployed youths. Nobody could explain why SURE- P participants in Benue were not paid,despite the release of the funds to the state.
While i was going through this report,a couple of questions kept coming to me,i am compelled to satisfy my curiosity by asking the following:
1. Why was the Benue state implementation committee inaugurated on the 24th of February,2014, after the funds had been spent?
2. Why were SURE-P participants not paid for over four months when we had a balance of #6,507,413,873.59 from the #7,743,731,873.59 which was the state component of the SURE-P funds?
3. Why were SURE-P funds spent under the guise of local and foreign travels,weddings, constitution amendment,Bar Association meetings,Security surveillance, Sallah gifts for the Governor, diesel for the Government lodge,celebration of Benue woman for 2013,Christmas and New year celebration,Annual golf tournament, etc. While those the money was meant for were made to work and go home hungry?
4. When does Dr.Gabriel Suswam,Hon. Omadachi Oklobia and their conspirators intend to return the balance of #6,507,413,873.59,so that SURE-P participants can be paid what they denied them?
5.Instead of holding these people to answer the above questions,why have some people taken it upon themselves to defend those that plunged us into the quagmire we have found ourselves in?
While i wait for the answers to the above questions, we must realise that, for the people of Benue to move forward, we must correct the wrongs of the past. Correcting the wrongs of the past must begin with the return of what was denied the people. Only after then can we Barnish the sad memory of the immediate past administration.