By Ismaila Chafe
Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue says President Muhammadu Buhari deserves to stand for re-election in 2019 because he remains the only credible person with capacity to deliver up to 2023.
The governor stated this when he fielded questions from State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
According to him, as of now, there is no credible person capable of taking Nigeria out of its current challenges apart from President Buhari.
“I believe that what God brought him to achieve in this country he will definitely achieve it.
“Now we see him bouncing every day to the glory of God, we appreciate this and we look forward that God will help him to take us through 2015 to 2019 and then 2019 to 2023 – that is our prayer because for now there is no credible candidate as far as I know that has the capacity to take Nigeria out of where we are today.
“I believe that Mr President has the capacity,’’ he said.
The governor, who expressed delight over the current state of the President’s health, said he briefed him about the ecological problem in Benue and his major challenge of payment of workers’ salaries.
He noted that the inability of the state government to pay outstanding salaries to workers in the state was not deliberate.
Ortom also dismissed the insinuation that his administration diverted the bail out fund received by the state.
He said: “It is not deliberate and we have not diverted money whether bail out or Paris club anywhere, the records are there for anyone to scrutinize and see.
“The situation is that I inherited N69 billion arrears on pensions, gratuities and salaries.
“Then, over N70 billion contractual obligations and so it has been a huge burden on our finances and so Mr President too has promised to find ways that the state can also get support.’’
The governor noted that the state wage bill of N7.8 billion monthly was one of the highest in the country.
“We have said it specially when the leadership of the labour congress came and we dialogue and we have set up technical committees comprising technical team from labour congress and technical team from my government, they will look at it and review wage bill and ensure that leakages are eliminated, salary padding and ghost workers and all that.
“I want to assure you that we are going to prosecute anyone who is found culpable in the salary inflation.
“Honestly, N7.8 billion wage bill for Benue is out of place and there is no way we will continue in this manner.
“We have looked at the wage bill and compare with what people are collecting elsewhere in the country and we have done to an average of N4.5 billion that we just have to review it to that,’’ he added.
He disclosed that the average income for Benue both from federation account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) stood at slightly above N6 billion.
“So, if you are paying salaries alone, you have a deficit of N1.8 billion a month. It is impossible and we have security issues to tackle and several other things that government must run and so it becomes a big problem.’’