Saturday, 19 December 2015

Benue South Re-run: In Benue, It Is So Far So Good

We read Emma Alozie’s article on page 19 in the Thursday, December 17th edition of Nigerian Pilot, titled ‘David Mark, Benue South re-run election and the way it may go’.

From the handling of the topic, it was obvious that either the writer 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 political campaign using scurrilous descriptions to sway a few unsuspecting voters to the side of the Peoples Democratic Party, 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 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 to be 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 the administration did not only meet an empty treasury, it actually met a deficit treasury.

Since his assumption of office, however, 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 and other debts which amounted to over N169 billion. That was the first challenge that confronted Governor Ortom and him 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, (with the monthly salary bill of the state at about N4 billion) and later applied for N69 billion to clear the backlog of salaries and pensions but the Federal Government only approved N28 billion as loan – 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 the assumption of office, Benue people have given the Governor a pat on the back for doing very well in his first six months. During the stakeholders forum in October attended by almost every prominent person in Benue, academics, top business people, politicians, representatives of labour and town unions, market associations etc, held at the Benue Peoples House, the people commended Governor Ortom for starting on a bright note and urged him to continue with the good work.

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 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 the strike.
-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 several months.

He also paid the minimum wage to primary school teachers in the state.

Promotion of peace between farmers and herdsmen as well as deepening 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.

Setting up of Judicial Commission of Inquiry into funds which accrued to state and how they were utilised between 2007 and 2015 as well as the Administrative Commission of Inquiry into the sale and lease of government property within the same period.

Collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA for the establishment of Benue State Information Technology Development Agency, BITDA

Partnership with the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology and the Rockefeller Foundation for the training of 1,500 unemployed youths from the 23 local government areas of the state on how to access online jobs.

The 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. –

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

The signing of MOU with Chinese, German and American investors on infrastructure.

The release of funds for construction and equipping of the laboratory at the Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev, and rehabilitation of Agric Training centres in Mbatie and Otobi.

Provision of funds for the 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 lifespan 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 the government of 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.

Mr. Akase is Special Assistant on Media to Governor Ortom.

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