By Pita Agbese
A few days ago, in response to a press release by Terver Akase, CPS to Gov. Ortom, announcing that Ortom was going to the United States of America to participate in two fora organized by a body known as the US-Benue Forum, I raised a number of questions imploring Akase to provide information on the trip and to tell Benue about the so-called US-Benue Forum. Akase has remained mute. His muteness has further fueled my earlier suspicion that Ortom’s trip was for Ortom and not for Benue. If it was a trip undertaken for Benue, as a matter of public probity, Akase would not even have to be asked for more information on the trip before doing so. I had expected that Monday, February 11 which was supposed to be when the first forum at Atlanta would be held, was going to see pictures of Ortom and other participants engaging in how to rescue Benue from the pits of poverty, underdevelopment and untold sufferings which Ortom’s wicked and inept leadership has imposed on the state. May be such pictures are still forthcoming. We are anxiously waiting.
So far, the only pictorial evidence of Ortom in America is not cheerful news. It is the same type of pictures that Ortom is so enamored of in Benue. Pictures of Ortom in publicity stunts with nothing to show for it. Pictures that have come to symbolize what Benue has dubbed, “Audio Achievements.” Meg Isong Abbagu, courtesy of Terver Akase, posted pictures of Ortom and some of the people who accompanied him to the US. It was a large delegation of Benue officials who accompanied Ortom to the USA. In one picture, Ortom was shown beaming with a wide grin and shaking hands with Glen Reed of the law firm, King and Spalding. Another picture showed Ortom and his entourage with Eben Amstrong, Director of Biomedical Training and Technical Services at Medshare.
What business does Benue have with King and Spalding? King and Spalding is a major US law firm with over 1165 lawyers on its payroll. Last year, each of its 160 equity partners saw a profit of over $3 million. This means that each of these partners walked away with more than 1 billion Naira in cool profit last year alone. I cannot think of anyone in Benue who made that much money legitimately in 2019. Was Ortom taking Benue business to this mega law firm with revenues last year alone of $1.34 billion (482 bilion Naira)? What this firm earned in 2019 dwarfed the total revenues earned by Benue since Ortom became the governor. If Ortom or Benue needed legal services in the US, why was any of the hundreds of law firms owned by Nigerians in the US not given the business? If Ortom or Benue needed the law services of King and Spalding, what exactly is the nature of those services? How much, if any, is Ortom or Benue paying for those services? The Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Benue State is part of Ortom’s delegation. Was he brought along because of whatever legal transactions Benue is or going to transact with King and Spalding?
Medshare is a 501 C not for profit organization whose business entails acquiring surplus medical equipment and supplies from US hospitals and donating these to hospitals in the third world. What it gives is given absolutely free with the proviso that the recipient pays the costs of shipping the medical equipment and supplies. Several Nigerian states have taken advantage of Medshare’s humanitarian services. As far as I know, Benue State has had the largest number of delegation to Medshare headquarters in Atlanta. The services of Medshare do not require so many people at its facility from the recipient country or entity. When Kaduna State took interest in free medical equipment and supplies from Medishare four years ago, it was just the then deputy governor, Arch. Barnabas Bala, and his personal assistant who visited Medshare facilities. There was no fanfare. It was simply a business transacted in the name of Kaduna State. Plateau, Kano and several other states have similarly visited Medshare without a large, noisy entourage as was the case with Benue. I guess under Ortom, Benue’s own has to be different. Noisily different. Nonetheless this was a task that the commissioner of health who accompanied Ortom to the US could have carried out all by himself. When an official higher than a health commissioner had been needed to inspect facilities at Medishare by other states of the Nigerian federation, deputy-governors had done so. But in Benue, it has to be Ortom.
As I noted above, recipients of Medishare’s donated equipment and supplies have to pay for the shipment. Has the Ortom administration made budgetary provisions to that effect? If so, how much has been budgeted? Will it still be worthwhile to receive the equipment and supplies if the shipment costs are taken into consideration? What did Ortom tell Medishare that he needed to receive? Was this based on medical requests by Benue hospitals? Is there accountability to ensure that equipment and supplies received from Medishare will not be charged at cost or even higher, by some clever bureaucrats?
Let Meg Isong Abbagu, courtesy of Terver Akase, regale us with more pictures of Ortom in America. We shall do our due diligence in critically interrogating the pictures to ensure that Ortom does not pull any wool over our collective eyes.