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Benue to pay allowances of LG appointees, elected officials before end of tenure

Kenneth Atavti and Sunday Ogli, Makurdi

SPECIAL Adviser to the Benue State Governor, Bereau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Ken Achabo, has disclosed that allowances of appointees and elected officials at the local government areas in the state would be paid before the expiration of their tenure.

Answering questions during a one-hour Radio Benue Weekly Personality Programme monitored in Makurdi on Sunday, Hon. Achabo said the Chairmen, Vice Chairman, Secretaries, Supervisors, Legislators and most importantly the Advisers to the Chairmen have cumulative allowances including furniture and severance of about Four Hundred and Ninety-Five Million Naira (N495,000,000.00) respectively.

He pointed out that already, the Bureau had commenced full payments in six local governments including; Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Obi, Ado and Otukpo, with the hope to pay ten more local government areas this month, and would continue to pay even when they have left their offices.

The Special Adviser particularly thanked His Excellency Dr. Samuel Ortom for taking the welfare of Benue people and workers very paramount in line with his administration’s policy as exemplified in the payment of allowances of serving and past Councilors that were owed huge sums by the previous administrations, stressing that the welfare of Civil Servants is paramount to the administration as local government workers get their salaries before any other institution in Benue State.

He said almost immediately the Bureau gets allocation from the Federal Government and where there are cases of omissions, the affected workers collect double salaries in the next month, stressing, “whenever there is a delay in payments, it means there is a delay from the Federal Government.”

On the implementation of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) guidelines where the 36 States Governors took the Federal Government to Court over the administration of the funds accruing to local governments in the country, the Special Adviser explained that the constitution is explicit on the matter, as the guideline states that when money hits the Joint Accounts Allocation Committee, JAAC accounts, at the JAAC levels, it should be decided on how the money would be expended, it should go straight to the Local Governments Accounts and of course, with the approval of JAAC, the Bureau have been following the guidelines to the latter according to JAAC laws.

Reacting to the allegations by a member of NULGE in Osun State that Local Government Chairmen were always coerced to do the other way round when allocations are received by their state Government, the Bureau Chief said in Benue the case is different, as the JAAC composition, according to him, includes a representative of the BIRS, a representative of the Accountant General of the State, a representative of the Accountant General of the Local Government, a representative of the Local Government Commission, a representative of SUBEB, the 23 Local Government Chairmen, the 23 Treasurers, portraying the wisdom of Samuel Ortom to show accountability and how money is bey spent with all the unions as members of JAAC.

“We have the NULGE representative as member of JAAC, the representative of NUT as a member of JAAC, the representative of the Pensioners as a member of JAAC and even though Councilors are not supposed to perform Executive functions, His Excellency directed that the Chairman of Councilors whose primary duties are legislative functions attends JAAC.

“The essence of all these people been in attendance is for transparency and it is at that level that we agree on how these moneys are expended to assist agencies as well as execute projects in the state with the lean resources that we get from the Federal Government,” Achabo further stated.

On the pally between primary school teachers and SUBEB over the series of omissions and non-payment of salaries, the Special Adviser explained that prior to now, teachers had no issues with their payments but through efforts to implement their recent promotion which had been stagnated for over 16, “we tried to push out ghost workers and those who had retired or deceased but were still collecting salaries hence, we embarked on a thorough check to cleanse the sector before the financial implementation and if peradventure there are any arrears the affected persons would get their salaries.

“We want to make sure we are paying genuine workers, and if you know you are a genuine teacher and you are not paid, you can come forward and you will be reinstated and paid.”

Hon. Achabo however, expressed disappointment over the illegal employment of teachers/workers in the local governments by certain individuals for personal gains without authorizations saying, with the recent unveilings from the exercise at SUBEB, anyone found culpable of the illegal practices will be used to show example to others.

Talking about the welfare of Benue Pensioners, he reiterated that from the local government sector, every month the sum of Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N450,000,000.00) is set aside for payment of pensions and gratuities, even though the JAAC law says pensioners should earn 15% of the entire sum that comes into JAAC from the Federation account.

He added, “most times we get N3.5b and we are paying them N450m, which is majorly above what they should have earned but we put it static at that every month…if previous administrations had domesticated the PENCOM law just like the Federal Government did, by now the state would not have been talking about pensions/pensioners.

Apart from paying the N450m every month, His Excellency sent the bill to the State House of Assembly where the PENCOM Law was domesticated and the local governments have saved up to N5b, believing that by the time we reach the threshold as required by PENCOM, certain money will be given to us to clear the past.”

Hon. Achabo further stated that from 2011-2015, retirees were not captured, it is only when His Excellency came in that retirees from that period 2011-2015, and also those from 2015-2021 were all included for payment.

“Based on the lack of resources, the Bureau have set aside N450m on the request of pensioners from N100m, N300m, to N450m; hopefully by the end of this administration they would have surmounted the challenges, most likely, it is even the next government that would have almost zero problems on pensions but everybody should remember that this thing was started by Governor Ortom.”

On the coronation of the new Och’ Idoma V, HRM Pst. Dr. John Elaigwu Abutu, the Special Adviser pointed out that all arrangements are in place for the grand occasion in June, where he said a committee will be set up which will in turn suggest a suitable date to be approved by the Governor.

He intimated that a world class edifice nearing completion is currently been constructed for the paramount ruler in a manner that all activities relating to his kingdom would fittingly be carried out in the palace.

Commenting on the recent Local Government, State and National Primary Elections conducted by the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP in the country, Hon. Achabo hailed the party for fielding credible candidates to run against candidates of the worst performed administration of the All progressives Congress, APC, noting that within the last seven years of APC misrule from 2015 to date, Nigerians no longer feel secured in their homes, they cannot drive safely on the roads, for insurance, from Abuja to Kaduna, Abuja to Niger, among others, they have low purchasing power, more bad roads, deteriorating hospitals and other facilities, going through worsening security situation in Gwer West, Agatu and Guma local government areas of Benue State, a similar situation in Plateau, Kaduna and other states of the federation.

When asked about the contest for Benue North-West Senatorial zone by Governor Samuel Ortom and his chances of winning the elections, Hon. Achabo swiftly answered by saying “He is Nyamkyme”, an animal to be feared, “stressing there is no vacancy as far as the Benue North-West is concerned.”

He commended Sen. Orke Jev for not indicating interest to compete with the Governor but withdrew and threw his weight and support behind him even as he said “Gov. Orom’s senatorial bid is a settled matter. The people of Zone B need Ortom to go there and speak the truth not just for Zone B but Benue State at large.”

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