SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM ON THE OCCASION OF 2018 DEMOCRACY DAY CELEBRATION.
My beloved People of Benue State
Three years ago on this day, I took the oath of allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and oath of office as your Governor. That moment was made possible by God through the workers, artisans, farmers, youth, women and indeed all people of Benue who gave me and my Deputy the mandate to lead the State.
- In the last three years, we have worked assiduously to keep the contract we had with you; the promise I made to be the Governor of all and to govern with the fear of God. Though many challenges and giants have stood in our way to prevent us from delivering on the promises, as our anthem in the state says, ‘God will surely give us victory’ and indeed He has been giving us victory!
- I congratulate all the people of Benue State, especially Civil Servants for their understanding and endurance when regular payment of salaries was impossible in the State following economic recession across the country. We equally recognize the contributions of our spiritual fathers who have been praying for the State, and our traditional rulers for their royal support and counsel. I also congratulate our security agencies for thier courage and gallantry in the face of the current security in the State.
- Let me specially appreciate our leaders, Distinguished Senator, George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, and Hon. Speaker Terkimbi Ikyange, and members of the Federal and State Legislatures here, the State Chairman of our party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Abba Yaro and other members of the state working committee, who have been pillars of support for our democracy in the state.
- Despite the security and economic challenges that have confronted this administration, we have been able to fulfil many of our campaign promises to you the good people of our State.
- My dear people of Benue State, our desire today is neither to list the problems we inherited nor those we are currently faced with, but to tell you the efforts we have made to reposition the state.
- In Infrastructure, you will recall that on assumption of office, we mobilised contractors back to site to complete eleven road projects. Today, I can tell you that inspite of the limited resources available to us, we have completed some of the roads while others are at various stages of completion. In the next couple of days, I will be leading the State Executive Council to commission the completed roads. The new road contracts our administration awarded will also soon be completed as the economy continues to improve.
- Our administration has embarked on several other projects to make life meaningful to the people. These efforts include:
- The declaration of an amnesty program which ensured the retrieval of hundreds of weapons from criminals and their destruction in accordance with specifications of the United Nations in that regard.
- Provision of vehicles, gadgets and other logistic support to security agencies.
- Enactment of Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
- Award of contract for the rehabilitation, construction and furnishing of 740 Primary Schools in the 23 local government areas of the state. Over 400 of such projects have been completed.
- Training of 2691 Youth on Digital Marketing in collaboration with Google Nigeria.
- We now have graduated 152 doctors in four sets from the Benue State University Medical School
- Schools of Nursing and Midwifery Makurdi, as well as College of Health Technology, Agasha, have been renovated and accredited with resumption of academic activities after admission of Students.
- More than 40 Primary Health Care Centres have been built across the state by this administration.
- Procurement and supply of ambulances and essential drugs to Agatu, Gboko, Ohimini, Oju, Ushongo and Tarka LGAs.
WATER & SANITATION
- Over 800 water projects executed across the state
- Water and Sanitation facilities provided in 50 communities of the state.
- Facelift of many government institutions like House of Assembly Complex, Commissioners’ Quarters, Ministry of Justice, Government College Makurdi, Government Girls Secondary School and the Tor Tiv’s Temporary Residence.
- Additional units of Housing for workers at Owner Occupier Scheme in Makurdi.
- Payment of 38% subsidy on fertilizer in the past three years for farmers. .
- Concluded plans for Agricultural Mechanization with massive clearing of land.
- Agro Processing Factories in eight LGAs under SDGs
- Fertilizer Blending Plant revived.
- Approved purchase of 50 tractors through the CBN facility for distribution to the 23 LGAs.
COMMERCE & INDUSTRY
- Plastic Industry revived and expanded.
- Partnership with Bank of Industry and CBN to give loans at only 5% to Benue farmers and other industrialists. Our administration provided the Two Billion Naira counterpart fund for the project.
- Planned Privatization of moribund industries put on hold and indigenes advised to form teams and take advantage.
- International Development Agencies that left the state have returned. UNDP is working with us. IFAD is helping greatly in our Agricultural Sector. World Bank is with us. UNFPA, DFID, USAID, CRUDAN, Mercy Corps and several other bilateral and Multi-lateral agencies are back and working with the Benue State Government to support social and economic development of the state.
- We have provided opportunities for Skills Acquisition and Income Generation activities facilitated by agencies of government like Sustainable Development Initiatives and the Industrial Training Fund in addition to three Entrepreneuship Development Centres in Ado, Guma and Makurdi.
- Ladies and gentlemen, Traditional rulers are now apolitical, and involvement of any traditional ruler at all levels in politics is prohibited and sanction awaits offenders. Our Royal fathers are now more committed to their ascribed roles as fathers of the state and custodians of our culture and tradition.
- We initiated an executive bill that led to the amended Chieftaincy Law that has been used in the appointment of Traditional Rulers across Benue state. We supervised the free and fair appointment and installation of the Tiv Paramount Ruler, The Tor Tiv, as well as First and Third class Chiefs across the state. We have received loud applause from Benue citizens for the peaceful and most transparent appointment of traditional rulers. It is no more peddling of influence or use of money but Benue communities now choose their own traditional leaders.
- Our relations with labour and unions has changed for good. We have not taken workers and their union leaders for granted. They are given all relevant information on activities of government including full knowledge of funds that come in and how they are disbursed. Transparency has its own rewards including the Labour peace we now enjoy in the state. Let me commend the workers of Benue and the Labour Unions for their understanding and sacrifices for the future of our children.
TACKLING SALARY CHALLENGES
- I promised you in my New Year message that from January this year, we will commence regular payment of workers salaries at all levels. I’m happy to state that we have kept that promise and are committed to continuing with the salary payment as and when due. Challenges of ommissions and other irregularities in this regard are also being addressed.
- Our administration has remained committed to its core values which are anchored on the fear of God which explained our objective of dedicating the state to God. These include transparency, accountability, fairness, justice, humility, selflessness, discipline, integrity, integration, forgiveness, reconciliation, restitution, peace and unity. We believe that these values make change possible and development inevitable.
- As you are aware, one of the biggest challenges this administration has faced is the threat to security caused by the invasion of our land and killing of hundreds of our people by armed herdsmen militia. Between January and this month, armed herdsmen have killed 495 people in Benue State.
– There are 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in eight camps covering Guma, Logo and Makurdi local government areas.
– There are over 500,000 displaced people staying with relatives or in uncompleted buildings
– In the IPDs camps, there are 80,000 children of school age
– There are 2,442 pregnant women and 2,766 nursing mothers also in the IDP camps.
- These statistics as scary as they stand as facts staring this country in the face. We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands. The challenge now is how to get the displaced persons back to their homes. The situation is also a major threat to food security as we are already in another cropping season. In addition, the education of the future generation is also under threat due to the destruction of educational facilities. This situation is also affecting maternal and child health as most of the primary healthcare centres in the affected places have been destroyed by the rampaging herdsmen.
- I must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for responding to the call of Benue people to upgrade Exercise Ayem Akpatuma to a full operation. The recent launch of Operation Whirl Stroke in the state has already begun to show positive signs. We are hopeful that the operation can actually help in ending the wanton killing of our people and destruction of property.
- As a government, we have done everything lawfully possible to ensure that peace returns to all parts of the state and I can assure you that we will not relent.
- We enacted the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 to curb the herdsmen and farmers crisis. The legislation has been applauded locally and internationally as the best solution to the killings and globally recognised way of animal husbandry.
- I have challenged anyone who has an alternative solution to the crisis better than what we have done in Benue to bring forward such an alternative.
- I must reaffirm that the Ranching Law has come to stay. We expect all stakeholders especially security agencies to help the state to implement the law as it for the good of all, irrespective of region, ethincity, culture and religion.
- Once again, I call on all well-meaning people of the State to join hands with us in our efforts to make Benue State greater.
- Finally, I wish to restate my resolve to serve Benue people with all my heart. I know that the remaining period of our time in office will be greater than the years past. I am convinced that with God, we are able to go up and take Benue State from North to South, though the giants may be on the way to hinder, God will surely give us victory. We only need to move to the righteous side with God.
- Thank you and God bless.
- In God we trust.