ADDRESS BY THE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, SAMUEL ORTOM, AT THE OPENING OF THE RETREAT FOR MEMBERS OF THE STATE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL – 22nd TO 25TH JULY, 2015.
I address you today as a colleague in the governance of our State. Any of you could have been Governor because you are all eminently qualified to hold the position. That God put me here to preside over the affairs of our State with you as a team gives me the confidence that we will succeed and Benue will be a better place. So I speak to you as a team player who feels the urgency of the moment, the urgency to address the pressing needs of Benue people. The urgency of now!
Let me congratulate you on your appointments as members of the State Executive council. I expect this to be a humbling moment for you. That only a few of you were chosen out of about five million people of the state is testimony to the confidence the people have in you. It also implies that the expectations of the people on you will be high, because as they say, to whom much is given, much is expected.
So I ask you to join me in working long hours — nights and weekends, if necessary – to serve our dear state. I have no doubt that as good men and women of this State, from the Great hills of Kwande to the beautiful savannah of Ogbadibo, from the peaceful settlements of Ado to the fertile lands of Ukum, we will rally together in this cause to justify the trust our people have in us. These are the people to whom we owe allegiance and are answerable to.
This therefore means that in everything we do or say as government officials, we must always remember that we are only custodians/trustees of the people’s mandate and that the actual owners of the mandate – the good people of Benue are watching us. We cannot afford to fail the people.
This government will therefore have zero tolerance for corruption. It will no longer be business as usual in our actions as a government. Anyone who is found wanting in his or her capacity as a government official will be shown the way out.
Accordingly, each and every one of you will be required to sign a Code of Ethics that demonstrates clear commitment to these principles.
It is important for you to remember the charge I gave you yesterday that although you have emerged from various quarters through our collective decision your total loyalty must be to the Governor and his administration.
You must always remember that our administration which is anchored on the fear of God has pledged to entrench core values which include transparency, accountability, justice, fairness, selflessness, humility, discipline, forgiveness, reconciliation, integration, peace and unity which shall make development inevitable. You have joined the ranks of ambassadors and agents of the change the people voted for
As key officials of this administration, you must see yourselves as revenue drivers for the State in meeting our set target. Our goal is to implement our Blueprint ‘Our Collective Vision for a New Benue’. Many of you who are now in the Executive Council were with us in drafting this strategy. You have also heard our campaigns promises to the people about our vision and mission. The blueprint will be the main document to drive our vision. All ministries should ensure the use of the document carefully deriving the state plans from the five key sectors as stated in my address to you at the swearing in.
Every Ministry, Department or Agency is therefore a potential revenue source in the achievement of these promises and goals of the blueprint. You are to ensure that all revenue generated through government activities and transactions are remitted into the State account. No ministry or agency of government will be allowed to spend funds it generates without alignment to the Benue people’s needs and approval of the State Executive Council. We must be prudent in handling the meagre resources of the State.
As a Government, we cannot afford the luxury of failure. We choose to face the stress of success. We were not elected as lords but as servants of the people. We are here to serve Benue not to be served by the State.
The commissioners, Special Advisers and all other appointees were not chosen simply to make up the numbers. It was for the real task of governance. The input you make and the advice you give will determine the quality of service we will render to our people. Each time you make a decision, remember that your decision can make or mar the future of Benue State. The future beckons on us to bring economic freedom and opportunity to the Benue men and women.
We met a deficit treasury on assumption of office, but we have moved quickly to address the monumental issue of non-payment of salaries. We have commenced the payment of salaries and Benue workers are smiling again. In our resolve to reduce the cost of governance, we cut down the number of ministries from 17 to 13 and the number of special advisers from 28 to 18. These measures will no doubt save costs and impact positively on the economy of our State.
That this retreat is being held here in the Benue People’s House instead of exotic locations like the Obudu Cattle Ranch Resort is not by accident. It is a deliberate decision to further reduce the cost of governance. I expect that you will benefit from the retreat even as it holds here in the Benue Peoples House.
As you assume your various offices and roles as top government officials of this Administration, I call on all of you to be cost conscious. If there is a project we can do for one naira, let’s do it for one naira and not two naira. I will not hesitate to reject memos which seek to plunge the state into bankruptcy.
On the issue of security, when I declared amnesty for all those who have arms, I meant every word of that declaration. Let’s build on the success so far recorded by the disarmament. Violence has no place in Benue. Let me use this opportunity to advise traditional rulers, community leaders, parents and guardians to control their wards and warn them to desist from violent acts. Our government will not condone violence of any kind and perpetrators will be brought to book. Our State has no place for armed robbery, assassinations, kidnapping and cultism. As the history of Benue itself shows, we are not a violent people and we shall work to keep Benue peaceful. There is no alternative to peace.
Benue cannot be an abattoir of human blood under my watch. We will resist violence with all constitutional measures. I once more call on those still keeping arms to turn in such weapons and benefit from the amnesty our government has granted. We will soon organise a security summit with our neighbouring states to discuss ways of resolving lingering security concerns.
On intra-government relations, the state executive arm of government under me will ensure a harmonious relationship with the Legislature and the Judiciary. Let me reiterate that I will not interfere in neither the affairs of the legislature nor the judiciary. The intention of our administration is to allow every arm of government to function independently.
OUR VISION AND MISSION
The vision and mission of this administration is anchored on a Five Point strategy. These five strategies are:
(a) Good Governance and revenue security
(b) Agricultural driven Industrialization,
(c) Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, STEAM, Based Education and Health services
(d) Investments in Critical Infrastructures and
(e) Gender, Women, Youth, Sports, and people with disabilities
- GOOD GOVERNANCE AND REVENUE SECURITY:
We shall create the enabling environment for participatory governance and ensure revenue security by upgrading the Benue State Internal Revenue Service, BIRS. The Civil service will be reformed and we will create jobs so as to put our youths back to work. We will reorganize the pension office to implement participatory pension scheme and we will address the problem of pensioners at both state and local government levels. We will reduce cost of Governance through e-governance.
We will organize Town Hall Meetings at least quarterly to keep our constituents adequately informed of government policies and programs and receive feedback from them. Community policing system will be established to strengthen security and complement the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. Our Government will be committed to promoting participation by men, women and youth as a key cornerstone of good governance. We will ensure that Civil servants enjoy their salaries and other entitlements as the labourer deserves his wages.
- AGRICULTURE DRIVEN INDUSTRIALIZATION:
This will be the centre piece of our economic policy. The Chinese or similar economic model of development will be adopted and made specific to Benue State. This model places emphasis on pooling together Small and Medium Enterprises within a locality to share innovative facilities, ideas and production resources in a closer business network in order to reduce costs. Agriculture driven industrialization is based on leveraging on our rich agriculture by setting up small processing units to process the available agricultural produce for value addition. The core objective of this initiative will be to drive industrialization, enhance food security, create massive jobs, provide employment, reduce poverty, and enhance the economic growth of the state. This will involve stimulation of agricultural growth through modernization, diversification, genetic upgrade, disease control and commercialization of agriculture in the state.
We shall facilitate the establishment of organized markets for agricultural produce and products across the State. We shall create an enabling environment for the growth of agro-based micro, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) along the value chain. We shall revive schools of agriculture and train critical human resources to fill the skills gaps and enhance agricultural production. We will introduce Schools’ Agriculture program. Our plan is to establish Agricultural Credit Financing Schemes (ACFS) in the state similar to the Federal Government’s Growth Enhancement Support (GES) program to enhance agricultural output.
We will undertake the re-organization of moribund state-owned industries and privatize them to invigorate production activities. We will establish new industries both in agriculture and solid mineral sectors through public private sector partnerships (PPP). We will support provision of Credit Guarantee Services to facilitate access to capital by SMEs.
We will stimulate trade and investment by creating an Investment Promotion Agency to promote and facilitate investment inflow and exports. A One-Stop Investment Centre will be set up for ease of doing business in the state. In partnership with strategic investors, we will establish a Bank to make international financial transactions easier for our people.
A solid rural development policy will also be pursued by providing the basic amenities required to improve the quality of life of our rural dwellers. An integrated rural development plan will be designed to address present rural settlement patterns which are poorly linked with no infrastructure. I see a new Benue where there will be participatory clustering of villages and elimination of thatched roofs.
3. CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE:
We will seek for investment in grid and off grid power solutions with focus on coal, hydro, solar, recycled waste and geo-thermal power generation to increase electricity supply in the state.
We will revitalize and build capacity for road, water, and air transportation.
We shall construct several roads each year and also embark on modernization of local government headquarters.
By the grace of God we will provide the people of Benue with a civil airport in Makurdi.
Reticulation of water is planned in all the major urban areas in Benue (Makurdi, Gboko, Otukpo, and Katsina-Ala) to ensure access to water in all homes. We will expand bandwidth and invest in highspeed internet broadband access to facilitate e-governance.
We have plans for mass housing layouts in Makurdi and a housing layout in each main town in Benue. We will fast track process of doing business in the state particularly that of obtaining Certificates of Occupancy within one month from application. We will develop tourism and hospitality industry, establish wild life parks, museums and make Benue attractive to tourists.
- STEAM-Based Education and Health
The mission of our Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-based education is to make education in our state strong at the tertiary level, stronger at the secondary level, and strongest at the Primary level. We will overhaul our educational delivery system to ensure that Benue becomes the centre of educational excellence in Nigeria. Mathematics is to be made the centre-piece of our science education.
Entrepreneurial education will be introduced in our schools. Teachers will be given their pride of place and there will be training, re-training, and re-orientation of teachers at all levels. The shortfall in staff strength in the Benue educational system will be adequately addressed. A loan scheme for professional educational development among Benue indigenes will be introduced. Beside scholarships, a student loan scheme for financing education will also be introduced. The capacity of Benue State University and other tertiary institutions will be expanded through the provision of more facilities to support the admission of more students.
Health is wealth and as such we will take this sector with all the seriousness it deserves by first conducting a needs assessment of all government general and other hospitals and fill the gaps.
We will continue to support the prevention and treatment of HIV/ AIDS. We will address issues of maternal morbidity and mortality, as well as infant and child mortality.
Bi-annual deworming of primary school children will be introduced. The welfare of health staff will be addressed along with continuous education and refresher courses.
Incentives for rural posting of health staff will be initiated. We will revive and ensure the reaccreditation of the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Makurdi. Existing private schools of nursing and health technology will be supported. Health education will be reinvigorated in the state and we shall establish and equip a trauma and other specialized centres in Makurdi.
We shall promote lifestyle and wellbeing issues amongst our citizens, targeting obesity, conspicuous consumption of alcohol and tobacco and healthy living through dieting and exercises. A comprehensive health insurance scheme for all persons living and working in State will be promoted.
- GENDER, WOMEN, YOUTH, SPORTS, AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
In line with global best practices, we will mainstream gender in all our projects and programs. We will have more women in decision making positions. More business ventures will be established by women with support from government and the private sector. Our industrial policy will be anchored on youth employment and sports development will be another veritable platform for engaging this virile segment of society. Our sports policy will be targeted at identifying talents right at the grassroots and grooming them to compete at all levels in the sector with the specific aim of raising professionals of international stature. We shall implement a deliberate policy of empowering the physically challenged among us by harnessing areas in which they have comparative and competitive advantages and grooming them through support and training.
I do not want to be remembered as the Governor who built personal empires, or diverted public funds, or extended dominion over the economy of the State.
May I enjoin all appointees to familiarize themselves with the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and our blueprint which are our guideposts in achieving our five point agenda as listed above.
I want to be the Governor that facilitated the education of young Benue children to be able to hold their own in any field of human endeavour.
I want to be the Governor who helped to feed the hungry and helped the jobless to find jobs.
I want to be the Governor who helped the poor to find a meal, the workers to receive their wages and the retirees to get their pension.
I want to be the Governor who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and women, and who promoted love among the people of different ethnic groups, regions and political parties.
I want to be the Governor who helped the Benue youth to abandon violence, surrender his weapon and be rehabilitated.
I want to be the Governor who served with the fear of God.
That is the kind of Governor I want to be, and I believe that you have the capacity to help me achieve the objective.
In God We Trust.
Thank you and May God bless you all.
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