From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi and Adetope Adekunle
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has accused his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, of being a kleptomania and a sleaze, advising him to face his prosecution and leave him alone to continue giving the state the much desired development and good governance.
Suswam had, in a chat with newsmen at the weekend, during the graduation ceremony of Sev-AV Foundation, his wife, Yemisi’s pet project, accused Ortom of salary padding, stressing that his successor’s claim that the wage bill of the state had risen to N7.8 billion was both ridiculous and funny.
The former governor, who disclosed that he handed a workforce of 19,000 to the present government, insisted that when he left office in May 2015, the wage bill of the state stood at N2.7 billion. He said it was the same figure Ortom used to pay salaries from June to September of that year before the figure started increasing.
“It is rather funny and absolutely ridiculous that the (Ortom) government would claim it is paying over N7.8 billion as wage bill. At the time I left office I paid N2.7 billion. I have the document of what this government paid from June to September 2015, and it is not different from what I paid.
“So, at the time they started talking about N7.8 billion, which is rather too ridiculous, there is something fundamentally wrong with that. They are creating a wrong impression and we will publish the figure I paid during my eight years in office. If anything was added, it should have been from December of that year,” Suswam said.
Suswam, who also accused Ortom of failure to differentiate between salaries of workers and overhead, said: “Let us know how much they are paying as overhead, salaries of local government which is a different tier of government. You cannot jumble their salaries with those of core civil servants. They should come out and tell us because I have evidence of what I paid and what is paid now.”
In a swift reaction, Ortom, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua yesterday, accused Suswam of being envious of his rising profile, especially on enactment and implementation of the anti-open grazing law which he could not do during his time.
Ortom, who said he had been working and not giving excuses since assuming office, averred that under this administration, insecurity in the state had been reduced through the amnesty programme, during which a lot of weapons were seized and destroyed openly in government house, according to the United Nation’s (UN) instructions.
The governor further accused his predecessor of employing a lot of people at the twilight of his administration and left without paying them. He said Suswam collected over N400 million as arrears for overheads two days to the end of his administration.
“I read on Facebook that he said he will publish the documents about the wage bill, so let him do that. Let him bring them. He does not have the monopoly of documents. We are waiting for the documents. People in custody of the documents are still in office. Suswam is being prosecuted for being a kleptomania and sleaze,” Ortom said.
Meanwhile, Ortom has assured the Christian community in the state of his administration’s unalloyed supports, particularly for genuine course, at all times.
He spoke yesterday at St Joseph’s Parish, Akpehe, Makurdi, during a thanksgiving service held for him by the parishioners, during which he made financial contribution towards the completion of the parish adoration centre.
The governor stated that he would include the construction of the Akpehe-Iorhom Road in the contract for the construction of township roads in Makurdi as well as provide an electricity transformer for the area.