<<< By Terver Akase >>>
”Despite these challenges, the governor has commenced the total renovation of the school of nursing in the state and also pursuing its accreditation. On road construction, the state government has awarded contract for eight roads to be constructed while it is at the level of completing the Achusa ring road started by the previous administration. The governor has also begun the Mobil-Barrack road and the Daudu Gbajimba road which are now at various stages of completion”
The above quote is taken from the This Day report of May 28, 2016 in reference to the performance of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom after his one year in office in which the newspaper claimed that the Governor had not performed well even after it admitted that there was paucity of funds.
While there is no gain reiterating that This Day either did not do its homework properly or simply relied on street gossip to do its report as there were lots of achievements recorded by the Ortom administration even at the time of the said report, there is every need to remind the newspaper that a verification of the numerous projects we publicized during democracy day celebrations is not too late. We made the same call soon after the publication but got no response from the authors of the report.
When a medium errs in its judgment, the noble thing to do is to carryout fresh investigation and correct the wrong impression created by its earlier report. In the case of This Day’s outing three months ago, the newspaper failed to inform its readers the yardstick it used to arrive at the rating of state governors. The scores of ‘very good, above average, good, below average and poor’, were simply splashed in the report without justification of how the authors of the script decided on who got which mark.
At the time This Day went to town with its rating of governors, Benue people were commending Governor Ortom for a rich scorecard after just one year of limited resources. Having waited three months for the newspaper to publish the yardstick it used in rating governors, it has become pertinent to state that the medium didn’t need to look far to see the following:
The Benue State Government under Governor Samuel Ortom raised N3.8 billion as counterpart funding with Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, for the construction and rehabilitation of 740 primary schools in the 23 local government areas of the State as well as arranged for the procurement and installation of 100 computers and portal construction in some of the primary and junior secondary schools in the State. Work on the schools is ongoing across the state.
The education sector enjoyed further boost with the training of 10,000 primary and 6,000 secondary school teachers. Geographical survey for the drilling of 100 boreholes in some of the schools has also been completed and work commenced.
The State Government has also concluded arrangements for the renovation and rehabilitation of 64 post-primary schools. Visitation panels for state-owned tertiary institutions have been constituted with the reconstitution of Benue State University Council which has facilitated full accreditation for seven programmes at a time at the university under Governor Ortom.
The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery as well as College of Technology Agasha which lost accreditation for three years have been reconstructed by the Ortom administration for reaccreditation.
At the time Governor Ortom assumed office, the Benue State University was also under lock and key as a result of a strike action by unions at the institution even as medical students who had stagnated at the College of Health Sciences for 12 years on account of non-accreditation were about to lose yet another year.
The Ortom administration swung into action, reopened the university and met all the accreditation requirements paving way for the graduation of three sets medical doctors so far.
In his efforts to address the high level of infrastructure decay in the state, Governor Ortom obtained a N10 billion infrastructure facility provided by the Federal Government with which he awarded contract for the construction of 24km Mobile Barracks – Adeke – Yaikyo road, and 40.4km Origbo – Imande-Akpo – Gbajimba road.
Governor Ortom also mobilized contractors back to site to complete 11 abandoned roads across the State as well as released N300 million for completion of New Benue State House of Assembly Complex.
Benue under the leadership of Governor Samuel Ortom has made history as the first State in the nation to meet requirements for accessing the 2015 round of Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals conditional grants in Nigeria by paying N1.2 billion counterpart funds. Most of the projects have been completed in various communities of the state.
The Ortom administration also paid N5.5 billion counterpart funds to local and international development partners and also signed MOUs with Chinese, German and American investors on infrastructure.
Determined to boost the economy of the State through agricultural driven industrialisation, Governor Ortom awarded contract for the construction and equipping of laboratories at Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev and also signed agreement with Torra KFT for completion and take over of Wannune Tomato Factory.
During his trip to China earlier this year, Governor Ortom finalized discussions with a core-investor for the completion and take-off of the Igumale Cement Factory.
Similar plans are on to revive Taraku Mills and other companies owned by the state.
The Ortom administration has subsidized fertilizer this farming season by 38% per bag. The gesture has enhanced availability of the commodity to farmers who hitherto had no hope of getting it.
The Governor also facilitated N2 billion CBN agricultural loan for disbursement to Benue farmers. To enhance its Return to Farm policy, the State Government declared every Friday work-free day for civil servants. The policy will be suspended on September 1 and likely make a return during the next harvest season.
In the area of security, Governor Ortom’s amnesty programme has continued to be a reference point at the national and international levels. Over 800 youths embraced the amnesty programme with more than 600 arms and ammunition surrendered. Even though some of the youths later returned to their old ways, the Ortom administration swiftly deployed the stick approach of the amnesty programme and it has been another success story so far.
Governor Ortom entered into collaboration with the Governors of Taraba and Nasarawa States and other critical stakeholders in the search for peace and security between Benue and those states.
When in spite of these efforts herdsmen invaded communities in Agatu and other local government areas of the state, the Governor made spirited efforts with the Presidency, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to bring the situation under control. The state and local governments procured 20 pickup vehicles for security surveillance while relief materials were also given to those displaced.
In water supply, Governor Ortom ensured the commencement of reticulation of the Greater Makurdi Water Works while water supply has been restored in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala with payment of N900 million to the contractor.
Under the Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA, 116 water projects have been executed in Tarka, Konshisha, Oju and Ogbadibo local government areas of the state.
Poised to reduce dependence on Federal Allocation, Governor Ortom has repositioned the state Board of Internal Revenue Service, BIRS with the constitution of a new board with introduction of Point of Sale (POS) which has increased the monthly internally generated revenue of the state from N250 million to N500 million.
The main challenge of the present administration in the state is that of inadequate funds which has led to irregular payment of workers’ salaries, and everyone knows that this is a national problem. But even at that, the Ortom administration has been able to pay workers up to March and April salaries will soon be paid.
In the last one year and three months, nearly 100 rural projects including electrification, roads and bridges have been carried out through the state Bureau of Rural Development and Cooperatives.
These are projects which can easily be verified by This Day and any other medium which seeks to retain its credibility. The era when performance ratings were made in editorial boardrooms has gone. We are in the era of change; the change that can be seen. The true assessors of the Governor’s performance are the people of the state who live in the communities where hundreds of projects being executed by the Ortom administration exist.
Akase is Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor.