Governor Samuel Ortom has reeled out his achievements as a governor of Benue State and termed it selfless service to Benue people.
Governor Ortom who delivered a 44 paragraphs speech on his mid-term scorecard, at Benue People's House, in Makurdi, the State capital on June 12, 2021, stated his achievements in the areas; Security, Agriculture, Education, Health, Infrastructure, Rural development, Water supply and the Environment, Information, Commerce and Industry, Science and Technology, Transparency and Accountability, Youth development and Sports, Addressing the salary and pensions challenges and IDPs and Humanitarian challenges.
On Security, according to Gov Ortom, Benue State under his watch has been providing vehicles, security gadgets and other logistics support to the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to enable them perform their duties efficiently. And that the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 is regarded as the most famous legislation initiated by the Executive Council during his time. He further stated that in spite of the resistance from Miyetti Allah groups, the Ranching Law is being faithfully enforced with over 400 people who have violated the legislation arrested and many of them already convicted.
He also opined that the entire country has today accepted the Ranching Alternative which he have been talking about since we assumed office in 2015. In February this year, the Northern States Governors' Forum banned open grazing and adopted ranching as the best method of animal husbandry. Just recently, the 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria also made a declaration in Asaba banning open grazing in the region. Recall that in his lecture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2019, he predicted that one day, Ranching will be embraced and celebrated in this country the same way June 12 is now being celebrated.
He however, commend the security agencies such as the Benue State Police Command, Department of State Services (DSS), Operation Whirl Stroke and the entire military, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, our Livestock Guards and other agencies involved in the task of guaranteeing peace in the state. According to him, many security personnel have lost their lives in the course of protecting our people. "My heartfelt condolences once again to their families and relations. They remain the heroes and heroines of the fight against crime and terrorism, and they will forever be in our hearts with fond memories".
In a bid to forestall the reoccurence of the incessant attacks in the State, the Governor said, "few weeks ago, Benue stakeholders met and gave this administration the mandate to activate and implement the Community Volunteer Guards Law enacted in 2000. We have already commenced the process of recruiting responsible people of fifty years and below into the Volunteer Guards also known as Vigilante. The duty of the Volunteer Guards is to support and complement conventional security agencies in defending their communities".
Agriculture is the main driver of the Benue economy, and the Governor staed that his administration has placed the sector on the priority list of development. It is for that reason that in five cropping seasons, the State government have given forty percent subsidy on fertilizer to Benue farmers. Last year, we acquired and sold fifty tractors at sixty percent subsidy to the farmers.
The Ortom led administration have built Agro Processing Factories in six local government areas under Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. In Collaboration with organizations such as International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, we have improved productivity in the state through training, demonstration and the use of improved seedlings. More civil servants have become farmers through our three-month scheme that makes Fridays work-free during planting and harvesting seasons. The Fertilizer Blending Plant has been revived, and now supplies part of the people’s fertilizer needs.
In the educational sector, the administration of governor Ortom in partnership with Universal Basic Education, UBEC, has executed over one thousand primary school projects across the state. Other projects completed in the education sector are the upgrade of facilities in the following schools: Government College Makurdi, Government Girls College, Makurdi, Government Girls Model Secondary School Aliade, Special School for Exceptional Children, Aliade among others. The State Scholarship Board is undergoing comprehensive renovation at a near completion stage. To make the learning environment conducive for the children of our state, this administration has procured thousands of customized seats and desks for primary schools.
Similarly, the Governor has approved the conversion of Alfred Akawe Torkula College of Advanced and Professional Studies, Makurdi, and Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev into Polytechnics as well as the engagement of additional academic staff at Benue State University, Makurdi and other tertiary institutions in the state. The State Executive Council recently approved the design and development of an e-learning and virtual education software and hardware for the Benue State E-Learning Centre. The programme, which is in partnership with Standtall Africa Initiative, includes donation of books with other instructional materials and the training of teachers.
While in the health sector, the State government have sustained the support and attention given to the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery Makurdi, as well as the School of Health Technology Agasha. The administration revived the affected health institutions to make them regain accreditation which they previously lost. The Benue State University College of Health Sciences has continued to graduate qualified doctors as a result of our intervention which led to the accreditation of the college.
He recently signed the law for Benue State Health Insurance Scheme which is to cover the formal and non-formal sectors. The scheme is one of his flagship programmes to provide healthcare to Benue people at all levels. In collaboration with Sustainable Development Goals, we have established and fully equipped forty-two health centres in different communities of the state. We have also established the Primary Health Care Board which is making significant impact on the people. We have equally supplied ambulances and other medical equipment to local governments in the state.
In infrastructure, the administration has executed numerous road projects in the three senatorial zones of the state. Only recently, prominent Nigerians, among them Governors of Enugu, Nasarawa, Sokoto and Rivers States accompanied him to Gboko to commission township roads and the state-of-the-art new Palace of the Tor Tiv. Among the roads commissioned were Aper Aku road, Professor Martin Dent road and Chief Isaac Shaahu road. We had earlier reconstructed Ahmadu Bello Way, JS Tarka Way and Captain Down’s Road in Gboko with drainages done for proper flow of water during rainfall. We equally constructed the Tse-Poor to Apir road and Igbor-Ikpa-Mbatyerev- Wannune road.
Within Makurdi metropolis , he has constructed several new roads and opened up layouts. These include the Customary Court road now known as Senator Gabriel Suswam road, Mobile Barracks-Welfare Quarters road, Terwase Agbadu-Yaikyo road and Federal High Court road North Bank Makurdi. We have also constructed and commissioned Imande-Akpu-Origbo-Gbajimba road, while work is progressing on Taraku - Naka road. Work is also progressing on Daudu-Gbajimba road as well as Abuku-Jingir-Tyogbenda-Wombo road, Ortom stated.
In Benue North Senatorial District, we commissioned the 47-kilometer Zaki-Biam-Gbeji-Afia road among numerous other projects in the area. The construction of Ge-Ikyobo-Agbeede-Anshagha road is also ongoing. "We commissioned different township roads in Otukpo and other parts of Benue South Senatorial District including Armstrong Avenue, Commercial road and Och'Idoma Way, while work is progressing on Abounu Way to VIP Guest House Otukpo. You are aware that we have awarded contract for the construction of a befitting Palace in Otukpo for the Och’Idoma and work has already commenced on the project.
"Still in Benue South, we have constructed the Agatu-Oshigbudu-Obagaji road which before now made the movement of the people of that part of the state quite challenging. I recently inspected the progress of work on Otukpo-Icho-Odudaje-Aondona road and I am optimistic that the project and that of Igumale-Agila road will soon be completed. Other infrastructure we have provided in the last two years are the completion of a new office complex for the Deputy Governor, renovation of Aper Aku Guest House and the main Administrative Block here at Benue Peoples House.
"Also within this period, we have constructed 17 flats of two bedrooms in both Phase One and Two of Owner-Occupier Housing Estates through the office of the Head of Service. The Construction of a Community Market has also commenced at Phase One of the Estate. To ensure a conducive working environment for civil servants, we have provided water at the State Secretariat for the first time since it was commissioned in 1989. In the area of workers training, I approved the training of one thousand staff by the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON. It is also the first time that such a large number of staff will be trained within a specified period. The exercise will no doubt enhance service delivery in the state", stated in the speech.
Ortom led administration has executed numerous rural access roads. Some of the road projects recently constructed are Ortese-Mkar- Ashibi-Ortese-Uger, Agbeede-Mhambe-Adyorough-Korinya-Branch Atser road, Gbajimba-Tse-Ortom-Upev to the Nasarawa Border. We have also completed over sixty electricity projects while several others are ongoing, in rural development.
The State government Partnered with International Development agencies, and has provided over one thousand motorized and hand pump water schemes in various Benue communities, while the reticulation of water from the Greater Makurdi Water Works has commenced and some parts of the state capital are already enjoying water supply. Under environmental sanitation, we revived refuse clearing vehicles at Benue State Environmental Sanitation Authority, BENSESA and the agency is now living up to expectations of the people.
Under commerce and industry, the State Government, in partnership with Bank of Industry and CBN, has set aside Two Billion Naira as loans at only five percent interest rate for Benue farmers and other industrialists. The Ortom led administration has constructed gigantic Skills Acquisition Centres in Gbajimba, Guma local government area, Apa- Agila in Ado and Makurdi. At our initiative, the state sponsored the training of youths in the acquisition of several skills by the Industrial Training Fund and acquired starter kits for five hundred beneficiaries.
In Science and Technology, he inaugurated the Benue State Information and Communications Technology, ICT Council in the state. The Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology in collaboration with some Benue young inventors, successfully fabricated Disinfection Tunnels, digital hand washing machines, sanitizer dispensers and ventilators to aid in the fight against COVID-19.
Ortom signed into law the Fiscal Responsibility Act. We have also set up the Public Procurement and Debt Management Offices, and a law to amend the Internal Revenue Administration Law. These followed the introduction of Treasury Single Account and the use of Point of Sale (POS) machines to track all government transactions, which has strengthened transparency and accountability in the State
No doubt, salary and pensons have been most challenging in the State. According to Ortom, some of those who attack me often cite the payment of salaries and pensions; but what they fail to realize is that Benue State pays the highest salaries in the whole of Northern Nigeria and is the third highest paying state in the entire country just below Lagos and Rivers State. The statistics are there for such critics to see. Despite the huge wage bill that we have had to grapple with, since January 2018, we have been paying regular salaries of workers. We are also committed to clearing the arrears of 2017 when the economy of the country went into a recession.
Addressing the challenge, he stated that with the collaboration of the Benue State House of Assembly, we have domesticated the Pension Commission Law. This is to address the prolonged problem of pensioners and retirees in the state. Having given assent to the law, I proceeded to inaugurate the Chairman and members of the Commission with a charge on them to quickly swing into action and bring an end to the problem of pensions and gratuities in the state. Already, our state has made appreciable progress in the contributory pensions scheme and we are optimistic that the challenge of pensions and gratuity will soon become a thing of the past in Benue State.
He further stated that other steps the State government have taken within the last two years include the introduction of Benue Geographic Information Service (BENGIS) which has phased out the analogue system of land administration and management. And that BENGIS will ensure not only effective utilization of land and its resources but also enhance town planning and eliminate the duplication of titles that often end in disputes.
Ortom pledged to respect and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and avowed that in spite of our challenges especially insecurity instigated by Fulani herdsmen invasion, he has recorded numerous achievements in Security, Agriculture, Education, Health, Infrastructure and several other sectors.
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