The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has rejected claims that he was against the granting of autonomy to local governments.
A statement by Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said that the governor was surprised at the allegation which he described as “a misrepresentation” of his reaction to a statement credited to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
“I have never interfered with local government funds; so, I have no reason to oppose any move to grant them full autonomy,” the statement quoted Ortom as saying.
It explained that the governor was only miffed at allegations by NFIU that state governors were fraudsters who divert local government funds for personal use.
“Ortom took exception to such sweeping incriminating comments by NFIU. He feels that it is wrong for the NFIU to indict all governors and insists that the governors deserve an apology,” the statement explained.
“I have never touched one kobo of local government funds, so it is an insult for NFIU to refer to all governors as corrupt. So they have to apologise to me,” the statement quoted Ortom as saying.
The statement noted that Ortom was among the few governors that supported the constitutional amendment that granted local governments autonomy in the country.
It also claimed that Ortom was already practising local government autonomy with respective local government chairmen directly responsible for the payment of workers’ salaries and general running of the councils.
“The decision to allow local governments to manage their affairs is a key element of Ortom’s policy on transparency and accountability,” the statement said.
It said that Ortom was making genuine efforts to deepen democracy at the third tier of governance by allowing the people to choose their representatives at the local government level.
“In spite of limited resources, Ortom has made genuine efforts to deepen democracy at the local government level by conducting elections to allow the people to choose their representatives at the third tier of government.
“GOrtom will, therefore, not allow any agency of government to go out of its constitutional mandate to create the impression that he tampers with council funds,” the statement declared.