Benue probe panels and Suswam’s administration



By Terfa Abul

AFTER a successful handover of the reins of power to his successor on
May 29, 2015, after eight years of service to his state, Gabriel
Suswam, the immediate past governor of Benue State, has opted for a low
profile. He has made only one public appearance since leaving office.
That was August 14, 2015 at the
funeral of his close political
associate, the late Hon. Atoza Ihindan, who was cut down by yet unknown
political assassins. Suswam has equally avoided public comments in the
media preferring to maintain a dignified silence evenonmatters of
state,some of them pertaining to his performance in office as governor.
Those who know Suswam very well can attest to the fact that he is a man
of the people, who loves company and public appearances as much as he
loves engaging the media on issues. Why has the former governor chosen
to maintain studied silence when his tenure is being put on the scale by
the new administration? The answer may not farfetched. As former
governor, Suswam sees himself as a statesman who should carefully weigh
his comments on public matters so as not to unduly overheat the polity
thereby constitute a distraction to those charged with the
responsibility to provide leadership at this point in time.
Although Suswam has maintained his quiet stance on issues, it appears
the new administration in Benue State is still not comfortable with his
silence and seeming inactivity and would want to drag him to the ring
for a political bout. The many probes launched against Suswam speak
volumes in this regard.
At the last count, there were about five probe committees launched with
fanfare by the Orton-led government against the Suswam administration.
The first was personnel audit of all workers on the state payroll. This
probe was ordered by the new administration few days after assumption of
office. The objective was ostensibly to check the state’s payroll to
fish out ghost workers and possibly reduce the wage bill. That appeared
on the surface an objective exercise. But, the real reason for the
exercise was to identify those employed by the Suswam administration in
its last two years in office for retrenchment. In pursuit of this veiled
political agenda therefore, the new administration did not wait for a
report of the audit, it went ahead and removed from the payroll, all
those employed by the Suswam administration since 2013, when it had two
clear years to the end of its tenure.This obvious politica lwitchhunt
has sent nearly 1000 staff off jobs. The “offence” of this people is
that    they were employed by Suswam, even though due process was
followed in making the appointments.
The second probe of the Suswam government was carried out by the
Transition Committee. The committee headed by Chief Mike Iordye, who
incidentally served for six and half years out of Suswam’s 8-year tenure
as Head of Service. The Transition committee which was supposed to
receive hand over notes, study and sum- marise same for the new
administration, turned into a probe committee as it traversed the state
visiting projects sites. It summoned dozens of civil servants and other
pri- vate persons to appear and testify before it. The Commit- tee
submitted a report with spurious findings on the debts left behind by
the Suswam administration.
Not satisfied with the Transition Committee, the new administration
inaugurated two judicial commissions of inquiry, all in one day. The
first was to investigate and determine all revenues which accrued to the
state since June 2007 when Suswam assumed office to May 2015 when he
left office. The Panel headed by Justice Marga- ret Kpojime has six
months to determine how such revenues were applied, the contracts
awarded, who awarded the contracts, the status of the various jobs, and
whether there was value for money in the transactions, to identify any
case of malfeasance and recommend appropriate measures for consideration
of the government.
The other probe panel is mandated to verify all government assets. The
committee headed by Mr. Moses Atagher, a Lawyer and former Acting
Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank, has the mandate to
determine all assets of the state, landed property, vehicles, shares,
equipment, factories, etc, their location, whether such assets were
under lease arrangement, to determine the identity of    the persons
behind the lease, the terms of the lease, whether there have been
improvements on the property, etc.
All these probe panels have since commenced sitting in Makurdi, the
state capital. The target from all indications is to get at Suswam,
destroy his political base, perhaps ruin his reputation, cast his
administration in the worst light.    Although the administration in the
state has denied that it was out to witch-hunt, the series of probe and
mandate given the probe panels points directly to the desperation to
nail Suswam by all means.
Unfortunately for the administration, the Suswam bashing has so far
proved counter-productive as the achievements of his administration
which is under is ready to confront the present actors on the political
stage where ever they go.
Take a look at the numerous infrastructural projects executed by Suswam.
Most of the streets in Makurdi, Gboko, Otukpo and Katsina-Ala were
tarred during his tenure. Over 1000km roads were built linking each of
the 23    Local Government headquarters in the state. Most of the roads
were completed and commissioned, some were at different stages of
completion. The rural communities got a fair deal as over 150
communities benefitted from rural electricity projects. The Benue State
University particularly benefitted from several projects including a new
Faculty of Law complex, convocation square, lecture theatres, faculty
offices among others. The University Teaching Hospital was completed and
accreditation of the School of Medical Sciences achieved to enable
Medi- cal students graduate from the University.
The Suswam administration completed three major water projects in
Makurdi, Otukpo and Katsina-Ala to provide potable water to the
populace. The administration constructed an ultra-modern Government
House with offices, Logde, banquet hall and Guest    Houses. The
facilities are    being    enjoyed by the new helmsmen.
Suswam’s ill-luck is that his party, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP)
lost at the polls in the last general election. The on-going political
malevolent guised in judicial probe panels is a direct byproduct of the
outcome of the hotly contested elections.
The inclusion of those who previously served the state and were involved
in the very activities now under probe exposes the desperation to craft
reasons for Suswam’s political subjugation within the realms of Benue
politics. But, how far will political vendetta go under the guise of
Judicial probes?
The former governor is confident he will come out clean from the probes.
He is sure of his record of activities and has stated that he would
subject himself to the probe.

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