The Paris Club Refund (Loan) comes in three tranches; the Benue State Government has received the first and second, but is yet to receive the third tranche. The fund is believed to be to the tune of N14.9 billion.
The N14.9 billion is not a fresh one, but a revalidation of the N69 billion loan that was approved in 2015, and out of the total amount, only N28 billion was released, according to TechEconomy findings
However, Benue State Government only made public the receipt and disbursement of the N12.7 billion first tranche and N6.4 billion second tranche of the Paris Club Refunds, respectively.
The condition to receive the Paris Club Refund includes that Benue Government just like other states, give priority to payment of workers’ salaries and staff-related arrears.
Recall the Paris Club loan over-deduction is a dispute between the federal and state governments between 1995 and 2002.
When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, he directed that the claims of over-deduction be reconciled formally and individually by the Debt Management Office (DMO).
As reconciliation was ongoing, the Finance Ministry announced that the country had regressed into recession (November 2016). This situation prompted President Buhari to approve half of the amounts claimed by states as a temporary measure to help them cushion the financial challenges.
Interestingly, on the 20th of September, 2018, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue confirmed the receipt of N14.9 billion, being the last tranche of the Paris Club refunds from the Federal Government to the state.
One week later, Terver Akase, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ortom, released a statement that the same funds have been recalled by the Federal Government.
Part of the statement reads: “Agents of such rumors should be told that the Benue State Ministry of Finance received withdrawal notification ( bank alert) the very minute the N14.9 billion was taken out of the state accounts by the Federal Government.
“So, anyone hoping to play games with the government and people of the state needs to come up with another gimmick.
“What we do know is that Benue’s N14.9 billion final tranche of the Paris Club refund is intact in the custody of the Federal Government and will soon be returned to the state,” Akase assured.
Although, there is speculation that the Buhari-led government was blocking the funds from being accessed by Governor Ortom on political grounds.
Ortom has been a strong critic of Buhari’s administration due to its failure to find a lasting solution to the problems of banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen crises, and other security challenges.
Reaction From the People of Benue People
Weekend, Benue People Of Conscience (B-POC), berated the Federal Government for allegedly blocking the Benue State Government from accessing the N41.39 billion loan.
In a statement by the Chairman of the group, John Orshio, and Secretary, Tersoo Iorbee, among others said “Ordinarily, we would not have made any comments, but the situation when it looks like the Federal Government is throwing spanners in the works of the political wheels of the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom and by extension, Benue State and its people, has reached an unprecedented level.
“In the event that the loan is approved, we are aware that Governor Samuel Ortom has put in place machinery that will ensure that all those being owed salaries and pensions are paid to reduce their hardship.
The group noted that other states also applied for the funds in 2015 to cushion the effect of the recession, “however, the Federal Government has blocked Benue from accessing it. Although states, including Kogi State, had received the balance of the bailout initially requested, Benue is yet to access it, for political reasons.
“We also understand that for political reasons, some highly placed persons in the state have backed the actions of the Federal Government, for their own selfish gains, thus further impoverishing the people of the state.
“B-POC is aware that the pull-Ortom-down syndrome is being engaged to discredit him before the people of the state. It is also a plot to ensure that Governor Ortom does not emerge, Senator of Benue North-West senatorial district, come 2023.”
While urging the Federal Government to release the funds to build the people’s confidence, the B-POC warned Benue sons “whose stock-in-trade is to pull down other politicians for pecuniary gains to desist from the act or risk facing the law of karma in the near future.
For the avoidance of doubt, we would like to inform the Federal Government that all monies of the state belong to the people, and as such, it should not be seen to extend favors to its favorites and exclude those perceived to be its enemies.”