Bemgba Iortyom, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State, shares insights with JOHN CHARLES regarding the anticipated distribution of relief aid to vulnerable individuals within the state.
In response to the recent unveiling of relief packages by the Federal Government to mitigate the impact of subsidy removal, how did the Peoples Democratic Party in your state react?
The Peoples Democratic Party in Benue State lauds President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the relief measures extended by his administration to states nationwide. These measures aim to alleviate the hardships stemming from the withdrawal of petroleum product subsidies.
Do you believe these relief packages are sufficient to alleviate the challenges faced by Nigerians?
While recognizing that the relief packages won’t provide a long-term solution to the issues of poverty and the hardships experienced by Nigerians due to the subsidy removal and related policies of the Tinubu government, these measures can offer temporary relief if they are administered with transparency and sincerity by the respective state authorities. However, in Benue State, we express concerns about Governor Hyacinth Alia’s silence regarding the received package comprising food supplies and N5 billion. This package has been allocated to all 36 states in the federation.
Numerous state governments across the nation have already distributed these relief items, with some even augmenting the assistance using their own resources. Contrarily, Governor Alia of Benue State has remained silent on the matter.
Some pressing questions within the state include: Has Governor Alia received the allocated relief aid for Benue State? If so, how does he plan to allocate it? Who are the intended beneficiaries, and what can they expect?
The PDP urges Governor Hyacinth Alia to promptly address this matter and eliminate the current ambiguity and secrecy surrounding the relief aid. Prolonged silence and delay in distribution exacerbate the suffering of the intended recipients, adhering to the adage that delayed benefits equate to denied benefits. We further implore Governor Alia to resist pressure or temptations to politicize the distribution and ensure a transparent channeling of the aid to reach the suffering and vulnerable populace of Benue State—the very recipients these relief packages were intended for. These concerns raise significant apprehensions for our party.
The APC-led government in the state recently announced the receipt of N2 billion, stating that the funds would be appropriately managed. Is your party content with this response?
Indeed, this occurred after we raised concerns. However, the governor lacks the authority for such action due to his absence of a cabinet, and his financial approval limit as governor stands at a mere N50 million. It is puzzling that he discussed a sum of N2 billion as if he were the sole administrator of the state—without a cabinet, no meetings held, and no proposals submitted for assembly approval. We are perplexed as to the source of his authority.
We are acquainted with his history of making empty promises. He is known for running on empty pledges, with no notable legacy apart from these promises, even from his campaign days. He pledged to address issues like returning internally displaced persons to their homes in 100 days, clearing salary and pension arrears, and transforming Benue State into a paradise. The PDP is actively monitoring to prevent the governor from depleting our hard-earned public resources and undermining the achievements our party established. The PDP laid a substantial foundation in various sectors, including civil service and security.
It has become evident to the people of the state that, just days away from his 100th day in office, there is minimal progress. He asserted awarding contracts for 16 roads spanning 15 kilometers, amounting to a staggering N6 billion. Yet, this figure raises questions as to how he possesses such authority without a cabinet. After we applied pressure, he hastily submitted a list of commissioner nominees after the stipulated 60-day period. Despite the state House of Assembly confirming these nominees, he has yet to inaugurate them. Thus, he operates a government without a cabinet.
He recently appointed the Speaker of the state Assembly as head of a panel overseeing the state football club, Lobi Stars, reporting directly to him. This decision raises concerns about his understanding of governance. The PDP is actively committed to preventing the governor from leading the state down an irreversible path.
The APC-led government claims to have made substantial progress in restoring hope, including salary payments and procurement of fertilizers, within a brief period. How do you respond to this assertion?
What salaries is he actually disbursing? Upon assuming office, he claimed to have unveiled numerous ghost workers, resulting in over N1 billion in savings. However, we challenged him to provide the list of these ghost workers. The governor has seized control of the state’s machinery and blocked access to all state accounts. He exclusively handles withdrawals, but on what basis and under whose review?
He accuses the PDP of ruining the state, yet we challenge him to demonstrate his capabilities and disclose the state’s earnings from the Federation Account since his inauguration, as well as from internally generated revenue, Value Added Tax, stamp duties, and other revenue streams that the previous governor had initiated and were ready for access before his tenure ended—most of which the current governor has already accessed.
The governor pledged to pay salaries by the 25th of each month. Has he adhered to this commitment? Instances of arbitrary deductions and demotions of civil servants previously promoted by the previous administration have emerged.
However, the ruling party accuses the PDP of making unsubstantiated allegations. How do you respond to this accusation?
We urge them to investigate our claims. Our statements are grounded in facts rather than baseless allegations. Have they been able to counter any of our raised concerns? Not one.