From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State has asked the State Governor, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia to account to the people how his administration has expended the N44 billion grant he collected from the Federal Government from August, 2023 to this year 2024.

The party, in a statement by the Publicity Secretary, Chief Bemgba Iortyom, said the N44 billion it is asking Governor Alia to account for was outside the monthly allocation that has accrued to the state since he assumed office.

He observed that the Benue State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), at a press conference on Sunday, alleged that Governor Alia had at different times received from the FG, the sums of N5 billion as post-subsidy removal fund; N9 billion as Infrastructure Fund, and N30 billion, as Sub-national Intervention Fund.

Responding, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Alia, Tersoo Kula described the allegations as another lie from enemies of progress to distract his boss.

While the PDP described the revelation as shocking, it wondered  why the state government would collect about N44 billion without disclosing that it had received such an amount, noting that it took pressure on the part of the PDP, before Governor Alia, opened up on funds released to the state, as palliative for the removal of subsidy. The statement read: “The PDP in Benue State calls on Governor Hyacinth Alia to account for how he expended N44 billion special intervention grants received from the Federal Government (FG), between August 2023 to this year, 2024.

“At a press briefing to pass a vote of confidence on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Makurdi last night, the State Chapter of the APC, revealed that Governor Alia has received from the FG, variously the sums of N5 billion as post-subsidy removal fund; N9 billion as Infrastructure Fund, and N30 billion Sub-national Intervention Fund, collectively amounting to N44 billion.

“It must be noted that the said interventions of N44 billion are outside the monthly federal allocations which have also increased by about 70% since the removal of fuel subsidy in May last year.”

“PDP finds this revelation shocking as there has been no disclosure from the governor of receipt of such funds, with the exception of the post subsidy removal (palliatives) fund which, after much pressure from our end, he had accepted having received in part N2 billion, and thereafter had kept sealed lips over the outstanding N3 billion.

“If there was a N9 billion infrastructure fund and a N30 billion Sub-national intervention fund, the people of Benue State are only getting to know about it from the APC statement, and this by all standards of transparency and accountability is unacceptable.

“PDP is saddened that this non disclosure of N44 billion federal intervention grants by Governor Alia reinforces his policy of concealment and disregard for due process and the rule of law which underpin a style of governance that is in character a sole administratorship.

“We recall that on several occasions, our great party (PDP), has urged the governor to give account of contracts awarded for projects without recourse to due process and extant financial guidelines and regulations, or disclosure of costs for such projects.

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“It is our position that Governor Alia should come clean and disclose how he has expended the N44 billion special grants, as to do otherwise will be to thicken further the cloud of suspicions hovering over his administration, particularly against the backdrop of the N20 billion scandal rocking the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs right under his watch”, the party said.

Kula, the governor’s spokesman, in a statement said, “reports have emerged from a nocturnal family dinner held at Kilometre 4 by a few APC stakeholders and christened as the State Executive Committee meeting of APC which was later renamed a state congress.

“The meeting which came in the phase of a ban on political gatherings, fell short of all requirements for a party meeting of such magnitude, where the party has a sitting governor who is their leader and must be part of the agenda for the meeting.

“In the said report, speakers after speakers were quoted to have, in their news found impudent berated His Excellency, Gov. Hyacinth Iormem Alia in all possible demeaning words, accusing him of mismanaging a ghost sum of 44 billion naira given to Benue state, aside federal allocations hence, the need to throw light on this false information.

“It is sad that this set 1999 party stakeholders  are so used to Benue state government funds to an extent that once they are denied access, they can go to any length to bring down any serving governor. If not for mischief purposes, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio who recently made the spurious allegation that state governors were given 30 billion each has since apologized to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Oyo State Governor has equally cleared the air that nothing of sort ever happened.

“But in an attempt to give Governor Alia a bad name so as to hang him, the stakeholders who are fully aware of these facts still went public repeating the same lie.”

Kula who said Governor Alia has never hidden any funds released to his administration explained that “When the 2 billion, out of the 5 billion palliatives support was given to Benue, His Excellency was among the first governors to announce receipt of the money; he went ahead and gave an expenditure account, covering the purchase of new buses at Benue Links and fertilizer to farmers.

“It is worrisome that this group of stakeholders have stood in the way of Benue progress for a long time, preferring party politics to governance such that once elections are over, they would distract the winners until they are frustrated to leave the party and pave way for them to start feasting on new aspirants.

“Despite these series of distractions and unfounded allegations, the Alia administration has a pact, first with the Benue masses who happily voted him to power and the administration is doing its best to fulfil the yearnings of the people who are daily, passing vote of confidence in the the governor and his government.

“By holding a political meeting against a state order in the Makurdi residence of Sen. George Akume who is himself a former governor, the SGF has again exposed himself as one who is beating the drums of war for the stakeholders to have an affront on the governor; this is highly unpatriotic and condemnable.

“Benue PDP in a hurry to partner with this mischief has also written her own epistle, relying on the stakeholders’ report to demand and account of the imaginary 44 billion naira from the Alia administration but the government is not deterred by such antics.

“Governor Alia has a renewable mandate of four full years and he has set the machinery in place to leave Benue better and greater than he met it. Those distracting the governor are the true enemies of the state and the masses would place them correctly at the right time,” he said