LAST week, Benue State Government raised an alarm over a missing sum of N4bn from the coffers of the state.
THE money, according to the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase, was part of the N14.9 billion Paris Club refund.
AKASE, who alluded federal government’s hand in the missing money said that the development might be a ploy to punish the state because of the on-going row between Aso Rock and the people of Benue State.
HE WENT further to say that even if the federal government wanted to recover any money they gave the state, it would have been decent, fair, equitable and democratic to seek the consent of the state before carrying out the action.
THE government spokesman described the act as a ploy to sell a dummy to the state. He insisted that the aim of the perpetrators was to secretly take the money away and turn round to accuse the governor of embezzling it. He however warned those hatching such plan to have a rethink because, according to him, the state will not touch the money unless it is complete.
“WE ARE aware of the rumour about a certain N4 billion disappearing from the N14.9 billion final tranche of the Paris Club refund to Benue State which the federal government later recalled from the state bank account.
“WE HOPE that the rumour remains a mere rumour. Nothing must happen to the N14.9 billion the federal government recalled from Benue State accounts.
“IF THIS is a ploy to sell a dummy to the people and later take away the said amount, those selling the dummy had better changed tactics, for their game plan has already failed because we will accept nothing less than the N14.9 billion back to the state account.
He explained that Benue State’s Ministry of Finance received the withdrawal notification of the said sum the very minute the money was taken out of the state accounts by the federal government.
AKASE however, emphasized that the government and people of Benue State are of the firm belief that Benue’s N14.9 billion of the Paris Club refund which is intact in the custody of the federal government will soon be returned to the state.
A PERTINENT issue in the unfolding drama is the moral justification for the federal government to withdraw money belonging to a state without the consent of such state’s government. The worrisome aspect of the imbroglio is that the federal government has kept mute over the matter, weeks after the allegation was made. Does the silence mean consent? Is another question begging for an answer.
IN AS much as we are not holding brief for Benue State Government, we believe that a statement from the federal government either accepting or denying the allegation would have done the matter a lot of good.
IN A democratic setting such as ours, actions such as making withdrawals from a state government’s account by an outside party is supposed to be result of a mutual agreement between the parties. Both the federal and state governments derive their powers from the constitution which gave them autonomy over the finances accruable to them.
LEGAL practitioners, such as Eddy Nwankwo say that : “Issues such as the one between Benue State and the federal government should not have arisen if the federal government had followed due process.
“THEY should have sought the consent of the Benue State Government before taking such action. You cannot pounce on the money belonging to another person simply because he or she owes you. You must follow the constitutional means of debt recovery to recover your money”, he stated.
IT IS no longer news that the federal government and Benue State Government have not been on the best of terms since the massacre of some citizens of the state by herdsmen. The defection of Governor Ortom from the ruling APC to PDP worsened the already bad situation.
WE URGE that the sour relationship between the governor and the federal government should not be allowed to affect nation’s actions towards her citizens. Politics should not becloud proper reasoning here. Benue State has citizens that belong to other political parties and even non politicians. Allowing the relationship with the central government to determine how the people should be treated is undemocratic. Should Akase’s comments be true, Benue people deserve better treatment. The money in question belongs to Benue people, young and old, big and small, PDP and non PDP members; the consequence its absence will definitely affect innocent citizens of the state.
THE cold war between the state and federal government will not augur well for the country’s democracy, especially with the approach of the 2019 general elections.