Transparency and accountability were among commitments which Samuel Ortom made to the people of Benue State while campaigning to be Governor. These have formed the basis upon which his administration has sought to engage with the public about its activities. The objectives include to provide information to the electorate on how their mandate is being utilized as well as generate feedback for further necessary action.
Where it has been perceived that government action is being misunderstood or misconstrued there is need for clarification. This is the case with Governor Ortom’s recent signing of Memoranda of Understanding with some Chinese firms, his disclosure of the debt profile of the state and cancellation of the recent recruitment exercise.
It could be recalled that before his inauguration two Chinese firms had invited Ortom and sponsored his trip to the Peoples Republic of China.
The purpose of the visit was to commence discussion with Chinese businessmen and women towards establishing partnerships for the development of Benue state.
While on the trip the Governor-elect visited four provinces and Beijing.
His schedule during the seven day trip included visits to agro and coal power plants as well as water treatment, airport, road construction, dredging, and irrigation facilities in the regions.
The signing of the memoranda is a follow up to the visit.
But the signed documents are not contracts but rather an indication of areas where the two parties can engage further.
They also do not preclude other firms from also seeking to invest in the same or similar areas mentioned.
It is after this exploratory and preliminary stage that the parties reach agreements which are drafted by experts and subjected to due process leading to the award of contracts.
As to funding we may recall that Governor Ortom had promised that his administration would provide a conducive environment for the private sector to thrive.
Projects under the administration could be realized either through the Public Private Partnership, PPP, or the Build Operate and Transfer, BOT.
Governor Ortom also pledged to attract investment into the state from within and outside the country.
Many of the areas covered by the memoranda particularly coal power plant and sugar cane plantation fall into the investment portfolio.
Although the concerns raised have been noted and appreciated most of them do not apply at this stage.
We believe that the fortunes of the state would improve and we shall stand on more sure ground to fulfill our campaign promises.
Meanwhile we have set the ball rolling.
With regard to the N90 billion preliminary debt profile of the state, the figure we have emanated from a compilation of the State Ministry of Finance.
This includes N50 billion commitments on ongoing contracts, N18 billion for contracts on which certificates have been issued, N12 billion for salary arrears owed workers and about N10 billion for bonds and other bank loans.
A more comprehensive debt profile of the state shall be announced when the necessary processes of compilation have been completed.
It is on account of the burden listed above that the cancellation of the recruitment exercise into the civil service was announced.
The priority of government at the moment is to clear salary arrears, allowances and retirement benefits before taking on further financial responsibilities arising from new recruitments.
We appeal for understanding and support on this note.
The cancellation affected recruitment exercises carried out from January, 2015.
However, in cases where it is absolutely necessary on account of extreme need, waivers might be granted upon the Governor’s scrutiny and approval.
Governor Ortom wishes to remind the people of the state that his strategies for massive job, wealth and opportunities creation would include industrialisation, small, micro, and medium scale enterprises coupled with commercial and trading activities as well as attraction of investment into the state.
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