Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State governor Samuel Ortom has debunked the insinuation that he is against local government autonomy.
The governor, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Terver Akase, and made available to our correspondent, on Sunday said he is one of the governors who supported constitutional amendment granting local governments autonomy.
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“We wish to make it clear that Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, is not against local government autonomy as being reported in a section of the media.
“It should be recalled that Governor Ortom is one of the governors who supported constitutional amendment granting local governments autonomy. His stand prompted the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), to give him an award in Abuja last year.”
Akase noted that the headlines in some newspapers indicating that Governor Ortom is opposed to local government autonomy are, therefore, misleading and mischievous.
He recalled that the governor, in a recent interaction with newsmen in Makurdi, frowned at the statement credited to Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU), which tended to describe state governors as fraudsters who divert local government funds for personal use.
He said Governor Ortom had taken exception to such sweeping incriminating comments by NFIU which sought to indict all governors, and he demanded an apology.
Akase noted that Benue State under Governor Ortom was already practising local government autonomy as according to him, council chairmen in the state were directly responsible for the payment of workers’ salaries and general running of administration in their areas.
He explained that the decision to allow local governments to manage their affairs is a key element of Governor Ortom’s policy on transparency and accountability.
He added that in spite of limited resources, Governor Ortom has made genuine efforts to deepen democracy at the local government level by conducting elections to allow Benue people to choose their representatives at the third tier of government.
“The governor does not interfere with local government funds and therefore has no reason to oppose any move to grant full autonomy to the councils.
Governor Ortom will, however, not allow any agency of the government to go out of its constitutional mandate to create the impression that he tampers with council funds.
“The governor who believes in the rule of law wishes that the provisions of the Constitution of the country be applied as it relates to the three tiers of government,” Akase stated.