Today, May 29th, 2018, the administration of Dr. Samuel Ortom, the 5th democratically elected Governor of Benue State attained 3 years in office. The past three years have been very eventful. Governance of a State calls for courageous responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of the people and developmental challenges, coupled with innovation, consensus building and wide consultation by the Executive Governor. This administration came into office at amidst challenges ranging from months of salaries arrears at both the local government and state levels, fiscal deficit, dwindling revenue, some uncompleted rural roads, electricity and water projects, over-bloated wage bill, political violence amongst other factors that posed formidable obstacles to the smooth take-off of government.
Having assumed office with a clear mandate and vision to turn around the fortunes of Benue State for the better by initiating policies aimed at placing the state on a sustainable path of development, the Samuel Ortom administration hit the ground running. Three years after and with the support and understanding of the people and other stakeholders, the Ortom administration has been able to make record some significant achievements. This administration came into office with a developmental blueprint tagged ‘Our Collective Vision for Benue ’. This vision is based on the priority programmes which include Good Governance and Revenue Security; Agriculture-Driven Industrialization; Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-Based Education and Health Services; Investments in Critical Infrastructure; and Gender, Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
The administration has taken steps since inception to drastically reduce the cost of governance. This informed by Ortom led administration that we need to free funds to be channeled towards critical infrastructure and development of human capacity to stimulate economic growth and development. This administration believes in providing solutions to developmental challenges by being innovative and courageous while rallying the political will to take tough decisions which we feel are in the best interest of the people who willingly gave us their mandate to serve them.
By May, 2015, the number of illegally acquired arms in circulation in our state was alarming. This necessitated the Institution of a highly successful amnesty programme which mopped these illegal arms and other ammunitions from repentant criminals. The criminals who renounced criminality were subsequently granted pardon in line with the rule of law. Many of these were subsequently trained in vocational skills and re-integrated into the society.
Education is one of Governor Ortom’s key focus as this sector is central to our long term vision. This informs why the administration embarked on massive overhauling of public primary schools through SUBEB after raising N3.8 billion as counterpart funding which generated an additional N7.6 billion. These funds were invested into construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation and equipping of 740 primary schools across the three Senatorial Zones of Benue. Training and capacity building of public teachers was also instituted. Within the same period, the administration also worked hard to re-gain accreditation of the programme of College of Health Sciences of the Benue State University paving the way for the graduation of over 170 medical doctors to date. The School of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi also received Government’s attention as it was revamped and equipped with vital equipment leading to the restoration of the schools accreditation. We believe that Government is a continuum, in that vein, the administration has mobilized contractors back to abandoned road construction sites with many of those roads completed while Over 800 water projects have been executed across the state and water supply has been restored to some parts of Benue State.
Our administration has embarked on several other projects to make life meaningful to the people. More than 40 Primary Health Care Centres have been built across the state by this administration, Procurement and supply of ambulances and essential drugs to Agatu, Gboko, Ohimini, Oju, Ushongo and Tarka LGAs, Water and Sanitation facilities provided in 50 communities of the state, Training of 2691 Youth on Digital Marketing in collaboration with Google Nigeria.
Payment of 38% subsidy on agriculture in the past three years for farmers, Agricultural Mechanization with massive clearing of land, Agro Processing Factories in eight LGAs under SDGs, Fertilizer Blending Plant revived, Plastic Industry revived and expanded.
International Development Agencies that left the state have returned. UNDP is working with us. IFAD is helping greatly in our Agricultural Sector. World Bank is with us. UNFPA, DFID, USAID, CRUDAN, Mercy Corps and several other bilateral and Multi-lateral agencies are back and working with the Benue State Government to support social and economic development of the state.
We have provided opportunities for Skills Acquisition and Income Generation activities facilitated by agencies of government like Sustainable Development Initiatives that have Skills on wheels Programme in addition to three Entrepreneurship Development Centres in Ado, Guma and Makurdi.
As part of the Government’s efforts in stimulating the economy, the State Government has collaborated with the CBN for the release of N2 billion Anchor Borrowers Loan to boost agriculture and agro-business in Benue as well as partnering with the Bank of Industry leading to the launching of N2billion Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) development fund to boost the entrepreneurial potentials and support cottage industries in Benue State amongst other initiatives such as ongoing works at the Cement production plant in Igumale, the tomato processing industry in Tarka Local Government Area as well as signing of several MOUs with investors desirous of investing in industry and agricultural sectors leveraging on the State’s comparative advantage in agriculture. In this sector, supply of highly subsidized fertilizers to our farmers have been one of the government’s key intervention to boost food production as well as initiatives aimed at promoting mechanized and dry season farming.
The inherited over-bloated wage-bill of the State and Local Government Areas necessitated this administration in embarking on several biometric exercises and staff verification which resulted into the significant reduction of ghost workers and other anomalies from the wage bill. Today, this has made it possible for us to regularly pay civil servants salaries from January 2018 while funds are being sourced to offset inherited arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities of retired civil servants.
In a bid to put a stop to the incessant incidences of herders and farmers clashes occasioned by encroachment of cattle into farmland, this administration in a courageous move introduced the Prohibition of Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Bill which as subsequently passed into Law by the Benue State House of Assembly. This law is in line with global best practices with huge agricultural potentials. This Legislation is a direct response to the request of the people of Benue State and was subsequently actualized by the Governor and the Honorable Members of the State Assembly.
We wish to use this opportunity to restate the commitment of the State Government to the implementation of this Law which is meant to accommodate the needs of both farmers and law abiding livestock farmers. This law is not targeted at any particular ethnic group or religious enclave but it is simply an innovative means of developing livestock and farming activities in an atmosphere of peace, security and mutual respect. The ongoing opposition to this law by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Associations and their sympathizers and sponsors would not make the State Government to repeal the law but would rather strengthened its resolve to stand by the law and by our people. The administration has continued to receive encouragement from well-meaning individuals, organisations and other interest groups for enacting the anti-open grazing law which has become a model for other states to adopt.
The attacks on some communities in Benue since January this year has sadly resulted into the death of over 495 people to date. The crises instigated by enemies of progress hiding under the guise of struggle for grazing land has also created a huge humanitarian situation for the State Government with over 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons IDPs spread across eight camps in Benue State being catered for by the State Government. We also appreciate the federal government in its plans to reconstruct destroyed homes by this invaders and also the renewed security deployment to deal with these militant herdsmen and restore the IDPs back to their homes, farms and businesses. We hope the recently launched Operation Whirl Stroke would finally put an end to these invasion of our land by herdsmen who have stated at several fora of their intention to take over the Benue Valley, despite this opposition, the Samuel Ortom administration would never surrender our peoples’ land to invaders with predetermined motives.
As we celebrate the third anniversary of this administration, the Governor Samuel Ortom government remains focused on delivering dividends of democracy and wishes to assure the good people of Benue State that the administration would never for any reason abandon the cause of advancing their interests and would never succumb to any form of intimidation or opposition to a lawful means of safeguarding our people. We appreciate the security agencies for their work in Benue State and would continue to partner with and support them in their assignment in restoring peace and security.
The government is convinced that with the measures being put in place, our state would soon enjoy peace and security. The government’s policies in education, health, agriculture, economy, rural development amongst other critical sectors is already yielding dividends while we urge our people to be patient as it takes time to fully actualize a development agenda especially with dwindling funds and other competing needs.
God bless Benue State while we should continue to prayer for Governor Samuel Ortom as he gradually put measures in place for economic and social prosperity anchored on social justice and the fear of God.
…in God we trust
Lawrence Onoja Jnr
Hon. Commissioner for Information and Orientation