INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, SAMUEL ORTOM AT THE FIRST SESSION OF THE EIGHT ASSEMBLY OF BENUE STATE LEGISLATURE ON FRIDAY, 5TH JUNE 2015.
It is with great humility and thanks to the Almighty God that I stand before you this day in the capacity of the Governor of our dear state, to address this august Assembly, being the very first session of the eight Assembly of Benue State. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 ” that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” On my own, I could not have made it. I therefore give God all the glory for making this possible. It is my earnest prayer that the Almighty God will give me the grace not to fail Him and the people of Benue State.
- Again, if I am not to fail the state, the Benue State House of Assembly should be an anchor in the development trajectory of our administration. It is not in error that the framers of the Nigerian Constitution made the Legislature the first arm of government. In my heart therefore, I have placed the House of Assembly as the first among the three equal arms of our State Government as already enunciated by the Constitution.
- We have just come out of one of the most keenly contested elections in our nation’s history. Some people’s ego might have been bruised, and this is the time for healing. Therefore, anything that will work in favour of healing the bruises arising from the hot electioneering campaigns, should be done now. For those who have lost the election, this is not an end. Rather, I encourage them to brace up for the future. The losers should take it with the spirit of sportsmanship because participation in its self is an achievement.
- The position of our dear State on the national economic ladder is not anything to smile about. For instance, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2012 Report, Benue State ranked as the eight poorest State in Nigeria, by 2013, the 15th on the national economic ladder using the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) approach. This is not acceptable given the resources endowment of our state – human and natural, which ought to translate to greatness. Benue State is acclaimed the “Food Basket of the Nation” because of it’s huge agricultural potentials. Our state has some of Nigeria’s most fertile soils, coupled with one of the longest stretches of river systems in the country. Of the 34,059 square kilometers of landmass in the state, 23,000 square kilometers or 67.52% is available for food and tree crop cultivation all year round. Our state is endowed with an enviable array of industrial raw materials in the form of solid minerals, including limestone, gypsum, kaolin, natural gas, salt, petroleum oil, lead, zinc, barytes, clay, coal, and gemstones.
- How do we translate these potentials to real wealth? This we can do by bringing bills and policy suggestions that will transform our combined human and natural resources to an industrial based economy. For instance, our agriculture needs urgent transformation from its rudimentary practices to a commercial level, which will set the stage for an agriculturally-driven industrialization. The abundant mineral deposits in the state should be tapped. We need inputs from all and sundry to be able to do this.
- On the critical infrastructure deficit in the State, my starting point, to say the least, is to say that it is shameful that people who are living by the river bank cannot access portable water for domestic and industrial use. This is more so that people who are living in desert regions have water to drink. Pipe reticulation to link the Greater Makurdi Water Works with various homes all over Makurdi metropolis and environs shall be tackled as a matter of urgent priority. In addition to this, we shall upgrade existing water works in our major urban centers such as Otukpo, Gboko and Katsina-Ala, among others. To address other areas of infrastructural needs, we need high impact legislations from this House and policy inputs from all and sundry. This we shall do by looking closely at the five major policy thrusts of my administration, which include good governance and revenue security; agriculture-driven industrialization; Science, Technology, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) – based education and Health Services; Investment in critical infrastructure; promoting gender equality and empowering women, youth, sports and persons with disabilities.
- We have already disclosed to the people of the state that we met a situation worse than an empty treasury. As such the times require that we look outside the box to tackle challenges which include unpaid salaries, allowances, retirement benefits, bonds as well as commitments to contractors and others which have created a huge debt burden which is yet to be ascertained.
To engender development we are committed to providing an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and boost our economy. The objective of the public private partnership is to create massive jobs, wealth and opportunities for our people. These we hope to achieve through industrialization, micro, small and medium scale enterprises, trading and commercial activities as well as the attraction of investment into the state. May I reiterate my commitment to govern with the fear of God. This shall translate to core values which include transparency, accountability, selflessness, fairness, justice, equity, honesty, discipline, integration, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace which shall make development inevitable. Our administration also has zero tolerance for corruption and as such any official, no matter how highly placed who is found wanting shall be sanctioned.
- I am the servant of the State. You may wish to recall that just a week ago, I renamed the Government House, Makurdi, as the “Benue People’s House.” This is to reflect the public policy approach of our administration to throw the doors of government wide open to all well-meaning Benue citizens and Nigerians alike to help us run the administration. We shall soon undertake a situation analysis of where we stand – our assets and liabilities, so as to help us fashion out the right strategies for progress.
- For the Benue State House of Assembly to perform optimally, I have taken note of the need to give top priority to the constant training and retraining of legislators and staff of the legislature. This will be backed by the provision of a hospitable working environment including conducive and comfortable offices and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) platforms. As we prepare to have good and functional offices, it is human beings that do the work. I am aware that the Benue State House of Assembly is among the few in the nation that is yet to have a Service Commission. You need a House of Assembly Service Commission which will give the legislature the opportunity to recruit, promote and discipline its own workforce. This way, you can be guaranteed of a repository of a disciplined, committed, loyal and professional workforce that will champion the success of this arm of government. On this note, I invite the House to a constant and constructive engagement and dialogue with the executive arm of our Government, which I head, and the Judicial Arm so that we can realize our set objectives.
- Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, whether we like it or not, the society has already set watch on us, to judge our performance or failure. The judgment that you are awaiting at the end of the four years for which we have been given the mandate to champion the course of development in our State begins now. I therefore urge everyone of you to eschew ethnic or sectional sentiments, as well as political cleavages and considerations in order to be able to deliver our people out of the pangs of poverty, ignorance, disease and underdevelopment. The other political parties which you did not belong to, are not your enemy. Neither is the other ethnic group your problem. Our common enemy, the enemy of the common Benue person is poverty, ignorance and disease. I am therefore set to fight this battle, but I cannot do it alone. I invite you to come, so that we can fight this battle together.
- I know that we cannot fight the battle on our own strength or by our own sense of judgment because the Bible says in Zechariah 4:6, “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Let us therefore put our trust in God, and submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is more so because the Bible says in Psalm 125:1 “they that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.”
- We look forward to a successful election of your leadership and pledge to work with whoever you choose for the common good of our people.
- Once again, Honourable Members-elect of the eight Benue State House of Assembly, accept my hearty congratulations.
- May God help us all.
In God we trust.
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