ADDRESS BY THE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, SAMUEL ORTOM, ON THE OCCASION OF THE INAUGURATION OF CARETAKER COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN OF THE 23 LGAs OF BENUE STATE, AND SPECIAL ADVISER ON SECURITY, AT THE BANQUET HALL, BENUE PEOPLE’S HOUSE, MAKURDI ON 6TH JULY, 2015.
It is my pleasure to welcome you formally to this important state function of the inauguration of caretaker committee chairmen for the 23 local government areas in Benue State, as well as the Special Adviser on Security. The fact that most of those being inaugurated have been saddled with leadership roles at the grassroots level where majority of our people live underscores the crucial nature of the assignment.
- I congratulate all of you that have been carefully selected to run the third tier of government and in whose honour we are gathered here. Your appointments have followed elaborate consultations with various stakeholders particularly our party caucuses at various levels across the state with confirmation by the House of Assembly. You are therefore consensus candidates of the people. I wish to urge those who had expectations to make the list but were unable not to be disappointed. The scriptures state that one cannot receive anything except given from above. As we march forward other opportunities will emerge for us to further engage more of our people in leadership positions. With this realization, I appeal those qualified but not yet appointed to team up with those who have been selected even as I urge them to carry others along in the discharge of their duties.
- Let me emphasize that leadership at all levels, particularly at the grassroots, comes with very many challenges. As caretaker chairmen you must relate and respond to your peculiar environments and experiences with the realization that as a party, our development agenda is aligned with the aspirations of the electorate so as to continue to elicit their cooperation and partnership. You must therefore, place the people at the center of all your actions and activities.
- 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 are the frontline ambassadors and agents of the change the people voted for. As such your conduct must be exemplary. Besides, our administration has zero tolerance for corruption. To us public office is an opportunity to serve and not that for amassing wealth. Those who desire to make money are encouraged to get into the private sector where they can do business. No one in the public service should dare to convert funds meant for the execution of projects for the peoples welfare into personal gain as such will be met with dire consequences. In our administration, if you chop public money; the money will chop you. You must also shun acts of flamboyance, be frugal and sensitive to public perception and commit public funds only to the advancement of public good.
- Let me warn that the era in which chairmen and council members abandoned their people at the grassroots and relocated to the state capital or other towns outside their local government areas is gone. All Chairmen must reside in their local government headquarters and if for any reason they have to travel outside their areas of jurisdiction they must obtain permission from the appropriate authority.
- As you are aware, the allocations to the states and local governments have continued to dwindle. This makes it imperative for us to look inwards to raise funds with which to deliver democracy dividends to our people. Unfortunately most operators of the local government system consider Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of local governments as the personal resources or ‘okro’ of the Chairmen. Regard that era as also gone. The internally generated revenue which you must beef up, like all public funds, must be properly accounted for. You are not under any obligation to share money with party chieftains no matter their positions in the community or government. A mechanism to monitor the application of monthly accruals and internally generated revenue will commence action immediately. An assessment shall be conducted and the council that will be best performing in terms of development projects, revenue generation, accountability and transparency as well as good governance shall be rewarded.
- Our administration will respect the local government Institution and ensure that funds meant for them are not only delivered but also used for the development of the areas. Under my watch and with my experience as a former local government chairman, we are determined to return local governments to their glorious days as centers of development. We shall carry out reforms in the system and as soon as the financial fortunes of the state improve, conduct local government elections. Furthermore, the reforms will strengthen the system, plug financial leakages especially padded wage bills, restore discipline and effectively ensure that local governments deliver on their mandate of rural development and transformation. The menace of ghost workers must be eliminated. Very soon, a staff verification exercise will be carried out in this direction and the cooperation of all in the system will be appreciated.
- It is not a coincidence that I will also be swearing in the Special Adviser on Security at this ceremony. This underscores the fact that security ranks among the topmost priorities of our administration. You are all aware that armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism and communal violence have assumed frightening dimensions in the state. You must brace up to tackle these challenges in your various areas at once. Insecurity is not just a threat to our very survival in the present but also to our future as no investor can engage in an insecure environment. We invite you to be on the same page with us as we use the carrot and stick approach together with dialogue with all concerned parties to reduce crime as well as the incessant herders and farmers’ conflicts to the barest minimum.
- You have not been appointed to visit vengeance on your enemies or political opponents but rather given an opportunity to win them over through good governance. Do not divide our people along partisan or clannish lines, but do find ways to unite them to work together for the good of the councils, the State and Nigeria as a whole. Let me reiterate that we will reward hard work and commitment but will not hesitate to drop those who refuse to follow due process and the rule of law which are the watchwords of our administration.
- After this inauguration, you are expected to get back home and inaugurate the other committee members. Let me point out that you are not sole administrators, so, I charge you to work together with the other members of the committee as a team in order to attain your goals for the people.
- I charge the Directors of Administration and General Services, the entire management and all other staff to support the caretaker committees to succeed. To family members, friends and well wishers, please shun the temptation of putting those sworn in under undue pressure to satisfy selfish interests instead of those of the public. Above all, I assure you all of the state government’s support at all times.
- I pray that may the Good Lord grant you wisdom and sound health as you embark on this serious journey of offering service to our people.
- Let me commend the State House of Assembly for treating your confirmation with dispatch.
In God We Trust.
- Thank you and God bless.
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