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How I Intend To Enact A Prosperous Benue – Jime


NOW IS THE TIME



BEING THE TEXT OF AN ADDRESS BY THE ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) 2019 BENUE GOVERNORSHIP CANDIDATE, RT. HON. EMMANUEL LYAMBEE JIME, TO THE GOOD PEOPLE OF BENUE STATE, ON INSIGHTS OF OUR DEVELOPMENT AGENDA AT THE APC RETREAT, IN MAKURDI, THIS 18TH DAY OF DECEMBER, 2018


It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the gubernatorial retreat of our great party, the All Progressives Congress in Benue state. I would begin by thanking you all for accepting to be part of the history, which begins today.


By your presence here alone, you have joined the list of progressive minded sons, daughters and friends of Benue committed to a new chapter in the affairs of the State. To put it more directly, your decision to join me here this afternoon already marks you out as heroes and heroines keen on changing the disheartening political landscape of Benue for our generation and those yet unborn.
Our dear state was once the envy of its neighbours and the country as a whole; it was the pride of our people. A state blessed beyond measure with dark, abundant fertile lands, traversed by fresh, flowing water of rivers, one of which it is named after. It was an oasis in the savannah with abundant human resources, had and still has unquestionable potentials and holds a sound promise to our prosperity. 


So blessed our state was that it was tipped to feed the nation and be the major hub for export to neighbouring countries and beyond.


Sadly, years on, our slogan as the “food basket of the nation” has become a mirage. The optimism that greeted its creation in 1976 has fizzled out into the sad reality of underdevelopment, poverty, insecurity and a loss of pride. The last three and half years in particular, have been the highpoint of this numbing retrogression.


It will be needless and even heartbreaking to narrate every backward step taken during the period the incumbent administration has held sway. We are all witnesses to how the efforts of past administrations have been undone by a mix of lack of preparation, cluelessness, and corruption and dismal performance never before experienced in Benue.


We are daily subjected to the pain and debilitating effects of mis-governance shoved our way by a governor who in 2015, swore under oath to discharge his duties to the best of his abilities. Unfortunately, he has turned around to trample on our dreams and those of our unborn generations. 


The likes of J.S. Tarkas, the J.C. Obandes, the Wantaregh Paul Unongos, the Amb. Edwin Ogbus and others gave their all to realize the creation of this state. What they never expected was a day when Benue would become a monument to failed governance, where the welfare of its hard-working people is relegated to the background for the greed of the one saddled with its leadership. 


With the highest debt profile in our history, the welfare of civil servants is at its lowest ebb, infrastructure in rapid decay, insecurity and other monumental failures too numerous and painful to mention, it’s fair to say, Benue State has hit rock bottom. But it has to be rescued unfailingly. 


It is against this backdrop that I, Barrister Emmanuel Jime, offer myself and canvas for your support to fill the gap in leadership vacuum in Benue state to put it on a path back to greatness. I have come at this crucial moment in our history, to join hands with you the people to rebuild the ruins of Benue state and fulfil the potentials of the state and desire of our founding fathers
I have come with a very strong conviction, stronger than I have ever had before. I believe in our people and the power of our ideas to find enduring solutions to the problems that bedevil us since time immemorial and even more today. Besides my convictions, I have gathered some education and experience over the years, which have equipped me even more to serve Benue people better than ever. As your Governor with judicial, legislative and administrative touches, these would bear sound testimony on our governance.


What is more, I am equally being assisted by a man who needs no introduction, Dr Samuel Ode. He exudes the hunger for knowledge and self-improvement which have made him a thoroughbred administrator. Despite the daunting scale of work ahead, Sam has put himself forward to help with the task of getting our state back on the path to greatness. 


We share the vision that the wheels of Benue, grounded to a halt these past few years, can resume spinning towards development yet again. He is a brother and friend who has offered his services at the very highest levels to our dear state and country.


I owe him a debt of gratitude for agreeing to run with me in this race and offer my assurances to the people of Benue that, the 2019 Jime/Ode ticket is one equipped with the vision, skills and tools to reverse the degeneration which has become the lot of Benue. Our tag team is balanced and with your support, is ready to surmount any challenge that may arise.


Our stewardship would be centred on five key areas namely; Security, Agriculture, Education, Healthcare and Infrastructure. Although, a more exhaustive document containing our entire plan will be released in a couple of days for your perusal and consumption, suffice to briefly highlight some points under these five priority areas.


SECURITY
The security of lives and property is first and topmost on my plans, because security is not only sensitive, but one of the most basic responsibilities of any government. Benue state has been plagued with several security challenges, both from internal and external aggressors. Key amongst them are the issue of herdsmen militia invasion of communities, deaths arising from same, displacements of indigenous populations and wanton destructions of homesteads and farmlands; the unrests in areas across the state, especially in the Katsina Ala/Ukum/Logo axis. 


My one promise to Benue people is that I will never play politics with your lives and those of our children. Security matters will be given the outmost seriousness it deserves, with a constant demand on security agencies to ensure continuous protection of lives and property across the nooks and crannies of the state.


May I use this opportunity to again condole with the families of all those who lost loved ones and have their living conditions disrupted by marauding herdsmen and their agents.
They should know that I feel their pain and will join to seek justice for all their losses. Beyond that, our administration will ensure all IDPs are safely returned to their homes with adequate security and improved living conditions.


The Open-Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law will be given topmost priority. We will work towards a transition from open grazing of livestock and its attendant problems, to ranching and its enormous potential to create an economy for the state. This we will achieve through dispassionate advocacy with all stakeholders including farmers, herders, civil society organizations and the three tiers of government to ensure a smooth and rancour-free implementation of the law.


ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
For three years running, the economic prosperity of our people has suffered neglect under the current administration. The result is widespread hunger, poverty and misery. I intend to change this negative narrative using agriculture largely. 


Benue state is a rich agricultural region with fertile lands and temperate weather conditions favourable for cultivation of food and cash crops like yams, potatoes, cassava, soybean, guinea corn, rice, beniseed, among numerous species of fruits and vegetables.


However, presently, little or no form of processing takes place to add value to the agricultural produce resulting in a huge amount of post-harvest losses; and loss of income by farmers which creates a disincentive to increased agricultural production. By this, the entire larger economy is short-changed; and a vicious cycle of poverty set in motion.


The aim of our administration will be to reverse this trend by ensuring that farmers have access to interest-free loans, mechanized farm implements and inputs such as improved seedlings, fertilizer and pesticides. We will also create an enabling environment for development of cottage industries through situation of industrial parks which will lower startup and production costs for owners of agro-enterprises to thrive, especially those owned by young entrepreneurs. This will create jobs for our teeming youths.


EDUCATION 
Public primary schools are such a big priority for me. We believe that every child in Benue deserves to be given a solid foundation. This in itself is priceless, which is why I believe basic education should be free and compulsory and in line with the manifesto of our great party, under my administration. 


The challenge of primary school education in Benue state is not just that of infrastructure, the needs go beyond giving directives for two blocks of classrooms to be built at the nearest primary school at a whim. Again, I promise to give primary education the seriousness it deserves, which entails adequate consideration of welfare and training needs, to increase the productivity and capacity of teachers. 


This for me is very important because teachers’ owed salaries for months are not motivated to provide quality service. It is same for teachers who are not given adequate exposure to modern methods of teaching through training courses. This will be a top priority of the APC government under my watch. 


HEALTHCARE 
The health system in Benue state is in comatose, which is yearning for massive improvements. Our plan is to revamp primary health care in the state to ensure our people access quality and affordable healthcare delivery services in rural communities. 


To achieve this, we plan to establish a state health insurance scheme. This will enable civil servants and their families to enjoy healthcare at minimal cost and with out-of-pocket expenses.
Under this scheme, we will ensure free treatment of basic ailments for the elderly and children under the age of five, and also free antenatal care and child-delivery services for pregnant women throughout the state. This will begin with the state-owned teaching hospital and selected general hospitals across the state. If Nasarawa and Gombe states, which were created after Benue, can do it, we too can rebuild our state.


INFRASTRUCTURE 
Our social and economic infrastructure deficits in Benue State is huge. It is imminently threatening any chance of our economic revival in the nearest future. A prolonged absence of long-term strategic planning, poor short-term economic decision making, and a weak institutional framework are some of the factors responsible for our infrastructural plight. 


In the face of dwindling resources, we must explore co-financing, partial concessions, “Design-Build-Finance-Operate & Maintain” as well as several other contracting routes. This means, we must draw private entity investment and competences in delivering massive Infrastructure and Service, PPPs in the key sectors of Water supply, Waste management, Transportation, Healthcare, Housing, Energy and Tourism and so forth.


Besides the aforementioned five key areas, our immediate action plan upon entry shall include, but not restricted to the following pertinent issues:

We will revisit the wage bill and pension issues, to get a real sustainable wage bill, as well as correct the abnormality in the way pension fund has been managed in Benue state. The pension fund is a monthly deduction from workers’ pay, and a revolving fund net of the monthly wage bill that should be managed separately. We might consider a retirement benefit bureau/department with trustees that will oversee the management of pension as a social security fund.


We will look into reforming BIRS and transforming the IGR sector with a view of achieving a closer integration of the informal sector with the formal sector, not only to improve the transparent management and administration of tax but also to expand our capacity to mobilise domestic resource in meeting public finance obligations. We will eliminate issues of double taxation, improve wealth distribution and promote measures that encourage start-up entrepreneurs.
Improve the image of Benue as a favourable destination for local and foreign direct investment and an attractive partner for international development cooperation. This will enable Benue state leverage on numerous multilateral social empowerment programmes from the World Bank and African Development Bank that go to selected states that show the seriousness and readiness to collaborate with international agencies working to reduce poverty and environmental issues for example.


We shall approach health for all by developing a database on the health status of Benue citizens for medium and long-term planning. For example, the complications from diabetes that result in amputations have a devastating effect on families and the productivity of the state. Our public healthcare policy will follow such pragmatic steps to plug Benue into global health improvement programmes by making a case for Benue state. As part of healthcare for all, we shall establish Accident trauma and emergency outposts across the three zones.


We will tackle the acute youth unemployment by improving skills and the performance index of N-Power intervention programme and tie sequestered funds such as the ecological funds to job apprenticeship programmes that provide young people with the opportunity to become employable. Incentives will be put in place for contractors on all medium and large-scale projects to employ skilled workers from a database by the state. In this way, we can monitor concrete figures on jobs created. 


We shall engage in massive urban regeneration to improve the quality and ambience of our major cities in Zones A, B & C through joined-up approach in programming. This will improve health social services and improved quality of cities as cosmopolitan centres with good sanitation and well laid-out pavements for small business ventures.


We will invite public memorandum and input from our pool of experts in formulating a long-term policy position that provide a framework in securing our farmland and response to farmer /herders conflict.


CONCLUSION
We intend to take our messages and plans for the state to every household and public space to get our peoples buy-in. We are not under any illusion that those who have brought Benue to its knees will stand back and watch us liberate our people from the grip of poverty. We expect them to heckle and throw spanners every step of the way. 


They will splash mud and make attempts to intimidate us. But we have a simple message, The Jime/ Ode train has left the station and there is no stopping it. Our eyes are firmly on the ball and we intend to keep our engagement and messages to the people clean and real. We will stick with the issues and state our solutions. Name calling, and falsehoods will not be a part of our campaigns.


Our plan for Benue will not be driven by Emanuel Jime and Sam Ode alone. It can’t be driven only by our leader Senator Akume or by the political class only. It will require your collective support and participation. 


Everyone interested in a better Benue needs to be on board and join hands to rejuvenate the state by the judicious utilization of our commonwealth of ideas and resources. This is a task that requires all the urgency we can muster. 


If you are from Benue or in Benue and are appalled by the rot that now defines our situation, NOW IS THE TIME to begin the process of shaping our future. NOW IS THE TIME to reclaim our state.

NOW, INDEED, IS THE TIME!
Thank you all and God Bless
Long Live, APC
Long Live, Benue State
Long Live, Nigeria.

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