Former Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has refuted the allegation by the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Planning, Michael Oglegba, that his administration operated 600 bank accounts.
He said the claim was false and misleading and challenged the current government to provide evidence for it.
According to a statement issued by his Media Aide, Terver Akase, Ortom said the accusation was part of a sustained media campaign against him by the Alia administration.
He said the present government was playing politics and persecuting him unfairly.
He explained that when his administration decided to implement the Treasury Single Account policy in 2017, it carried out a search of all bank accounts bearing Benue’s name through the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System. The result showed that there were 810 accounts since the inception of Benue State, but not all of them belonged to the state government.
He said some of the accounts were owned by cooperatives, student unions, associations, local banks and hospitals, among others. He added that some of the accounts were dormant, others active but with little or zero balances.
He further stated that the central accounts of government were domiciled in the Accountant General’s office and that all the accounts run by ministers and agencies of government were operated by civil servants who were answerable to any government in power at the time. He said no governor maintained a government account after he left office.
He therefore urged the Alia administration to disaggregate the 600 accounts they claimed he created and tell the people who were the holders of the accounts and what was contained in each of them.
He also advised the present government to focus on delivering good governance to the people of Benue State, rather than engaging in media trials and witch-hunts.
The statement was issued on Wednesday in response to a press briefing by the Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba, on Tuesday in Makurdi.
Oglegba had told journalists that the previous administration operated 600 bank accounts but availed the present administration only 25 of them. He said this was why Alia froze the state government’s bank accounts since taking over the leadership of the state.
He said: “When we came in, we asked for the accounts and bank statements and we were presented with about 25 bank accounts. A casual look at the Nigerian Inter-Bank System showed that the Benue Government has more than 600 accounts. So the Governor needed to freeze those accounts to know exactly what was happening.”