Benue State Governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, has said that his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, left a debt burden of N90 billion for his administration, contrary to the ex-governor’s claim of N9.3bn debt.
The Governor made the disclosure at an interactive session with newsmen in the state capital, Makurdi, on Saturday.
Ortom gave the breakdown of the debt as N12 billion for salary arrears; N18 billion for outstanding contract payments; N1.6 billion for overdrafts and N50 billion for ongoing contract obligations.
The Governor said: “The state Ministry of Finance reported that the N9.3 billion debt that the former governor disclosed to the public, was the balance of the N18 billion bond he collected.
“The state is owing salary arrears of N12 billion, contracts that are ready for payment N18 billion, overdrafts N1.6 billion, ongoing contracts N50 billion, totaling N90 billion.
Ortom also disclosed that he took a N10 billion bond on assumption of office in order to pay salaries, and for the take-off of the new administration, including all the three arms of government.
He said that the bond was also for the renovation of the state government house and to secure accreditation for the Benue State University Medical School, where students had spent 12 years without graduating.
Ortom said he received N1.7 billion statutory allocation and N500 million from the value added tax account, noting that the wage bill of the state kept on increasing.
He said that he had paid civil servants’ salaries for May, while June will be paid after a staff audit.
The governor, who is a journalist and former publisher of the The Oracle Newspaper, said his administration would always welcome superior arguments and constructive criticisms.
He stressed that he would reverse any of his decisions provided that a superior argument was put forward.
“Please do not run me or my government down. You are free to criticize my actions, but please be constructive in your arguments.
“If I fail history will be told that a journalist has failed and this will be a big minus to our pen profession.
“I am your governor, advise me and pray for me for the success of this administration because it will be said that when journalists come to power, they don’t perform,’’ he said.