From: Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has disclosed that one of those indicted by the Justice Elizabeth Kpojime Commission of Inquiry has refunded N370 million.
The Governor, who made the disclosure at the weekend, also stated that N4.5 billion bond proceeds that was diverted by the previous administration has also been recovered and would be channeled into the purpose for which it was meant.
While noting that he inherited a monthly wage bill of up to N8.2 billion including pensions and overheads without the minimum wage for primary school teachers, the Governor explained that with the various screening exercises, his administration was able to reduce the state wage bill to N7.8 billion even with the payment of minimum wage for the teachers.
Ortom, who maintained that at the moment, he needed about N40 billion to clear all arrears of salaries being owed all categories of workers on the payroll of the State Government, maintained that if he was able to recover the N107 billion looted from the coffers of the state, he would be able to pay the arrears and have surplus for infrastructural development.
The Governor also revealed that in spite of the current economic difficulties he ensured that all staff of the state government get paid at least once in two months stated that it was necessary to make the clarification because of the erroneous impression being created in some quarters that he had not paid salaries for upwards of 10 months at a stretch.
He said he kept to his agreement with labour leaders that as a result of insufficient funds, the federal allocation of two months would be combined to pay one month’s complete salary for workers, stating that it was the accumulation of the unpaid months that have given the wrong impression.
He assured that following his declaration of a state of emergency on salary payment, his concentration would be on clearing the salary arrears and also taking measures to reduce the monthly wage bill.
On moribund industries in the state, he said the government was willing to give them to core investors who prove their capacity to turn around the fortunes of the companies for the better without demanding payment on any of them.
The Governor directed the Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment to take over the payment of salaries of security staff at Taraku Mills and ensure that arrears of their salaries were also paid so that they could safeguard the equipment at the factory.