In Benue, It Is So Far So Good

By Terver Akase

We read in Thursday December 17th's edition of Nigerian Pilot by Emma Alozie titled 'David Mark, Benue South re-run election and the way it may go', in which the writer whose handling of the topic was obvious that either he has been poorly briefed by the sponsor of the script or he simply did not research well into his subject. In other words, Alozie appeared very much like an author on a philippic political campaign using scurrilous descriptions to sway a few unsuspecting voters to the side of PDP in the coming Benue South senatorial re-run election.

To correct the wrong impression created by the writer, we wish to state that majority of the people of Benue are very impressed with the development measures so far employed by the Ortom administration. The people have no regret whatsoever for voting the APC government and if any election is conducted tomorrow, APC is sure of coasting home to victory in Benue State.

Governor Ortom has refused to be weighed down by the numerous challenges he faced following the booby traps the immediate past administration set for him. One of the traps which Alozie may not be aware of is that this administration did not only meet an empty treasury, it actually met a deficit treasury.

Since his assumption of office, Governor Samuel Ortom has taken numerous proactive steps to redirect the Benue ship away from economic doom where its last captain PDP had steered it to, with a huge backlog of workers' salaries and pensions which amounted to N69 billion. That was the first challenge that confronted Governor Ortom and he with his team immediately swung into action to source for the funds to clear the backlog of wages and pensions.

Contrary to Alozie's claim, the Benue State Government has not borrowed N55.55 billion. The Ortom administration took a N10 billion loan to pay salaries of May and June and later applied for N69 billion to clear the backlog of salaries and pensions but the Federal Government only approved N28 billion as bailout - N15.5 billion for arrears of local government staff salaries and N12.5 billion for salaries owed workers of the state government.

Perhaps Alozie needs to be told that considering the very difficult situation Governor Ortom found himself in on assumption of office, Benue people have given the Governor a pat on the back for doing very well in his first six months. So yes, if Alozie uses Ortom's performance as a yardstick for the election of APC's senatorial candidate, Comrade Daniel Onjeh, a brilliant and intelligent man with the qualities to lead his people creditably at the highest level, let the drums of victory begin to sound because the good people of Benue South senatorial district will overwhelmingly vote for their son Comrade Dan Onjeh in the coming election.

We invite our friend Alozie to take a quick look at some of the things the Ortom administration has done in six months despite the daunting challenges it has faced within the same period:

- Trimming of Government size from the previous 17 Commissioners to 13 and advisers from 28 to 18. This is to reduce the cost of governance, a significant departure from the prevalence of waste witnessed during the last dispensation.

- Resolution of disputes with unions a few days after taking over and the resumption of Benue State University (BSU) from shrine.

-Payment of accreditation requirements of College of Health Sciences and BSU Teaching Hospital leading to granting of accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria after 12 years.

- Rehabilitation of School of Nursing and Midwifery for re-accreditation.

- Immediate commencement of payment of full salaries at state and local Government levels after the workers had not received their wages for a period of 4 months at the state level and 5 months at the local government level.

- Promotion of peace between farmers and herdsmen as well as deepening of inter-state peace building efforts.

- Introduction and prosecution of Amnesty Programme which led to the recovery of over 400 arms, thousands of ammunition while over 700 youths embraced the amnesty and surrendered their weapons. The initiative has brought peace to various parts of the state.

- Collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA. For Establishment of Benue State Information Technology Development Agency, BITDA

- Training of 1,500 unemployed youths from the 23 local government areas of the state on how to start online jobs in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology and Rockefeller Foundation.

- Introduction of Point of Sale (POS) machines for the collection of taxes and elimination of manual taxation in the state with effect from January next year. This is in line with the present administration's blueprint which one of the pillars is Good Governance and Revenue Security.

By this initiative, the Ortom administration will ensure that revenue generation does not only increase tremendously in Benue but also that leakages are plugged and the people's money secured, diversion prevented and funds channeled only for the provision of good governance which in this case implies the provision of infrastructure such as good roads, good schools, health institutions etc.Tax payers will be confident that their money is going directly into the coffers of the state and can proudly demand commensurate service delivery from government.

- Re-engagement with Development Partners, UN, UNHCR,UNFPA, World Bank, IFAD,USAID for the provision of Education, Health services etc.

- Signing of MOU with Chinese, German and American investors on infrastructure.

- Release of funds for construction and equipping of College of Agriculture and rehabilitation of Agric training Centres in Mbatie and Otobi.

- Electrification of Jato-Daula and a settlement in Gwer LGA.

- Release of funds for renovation of courts and judges quarters.

- Allocation of funds for payment of counterpart funds.

- Allocation of funds for completion of Assembly complex.

- Provision of funds for restoration of water supply in Otobi and Katsina/Ala local government areas.

- Resumption of construction on Daudu Gbajimba road.

- Procurement of new transmitters for Radio Benue.
- Payment of N20 million compensation for AIT to establish radio and television stations in the state to boost information dissemination.

The above are some of the things the Ortom administration has done in the past six months. By every standard, for an administration which life span is 4 years, these six months efforts no doubt lay a solid foundation aimed at taking Benue to an enviable development height.

It was the same verdict Benue stakeholders passed when they met recently in Makurdi, the state capital. The stakeholders were all agreed that the APC administration led by Governor Samuel Ortom has started so well and should be supported to do more for the people.

Benue voters are happy with Governor Ortom and other APC leaders in the state. The people demonstrated this support during the last elections and promised to do so again now and in the future. The people know and rightly too, that change has come and their confidence in government has been restored.

The party's candidate Comrade Daniel Onjeh will emerge victorious in the coming Zone C senatorial election because the people of the zone have confidence in his ability as a credible contestant with the credentials to competently represent them. Onjeh's victory will also come because his party APC has so far done very well amid challenges both at the federal and state levels and thus affirmed the confidence and trust of the people.

Terver Akase is the Senior Special Assistant, Media to the Benue State Governor

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