2023: Ortom’s unbeatable achievements and why he should represent Benue Northwest at the Senate

By Aare Abiodun Oluwarotimi, Lagos

As the 2023 general elections approach, Nigerian Concord Newspaper brings details of the achievements of the governor of Benue state, Chief Samuel Ortom, which qualify him to represent Benue Northwest at the National Assembly in next year. Excepts:

Between 2015 and 2017:

EDUCATION

1. 740 ongoing construction, renovation and other projects in primary schools in the 23 local government areas of the state following the release of N7.6 billion
2. Resolution of disputes with unions a few days after taking over and the resumption of Benue State University (BSU) from a prolonged strike.
3. Constitution of Visitation Panels for state-owned tertiary institutions and commencement of implementation of the BSU panel’s report as well as reconstitution of the Benue State University Council.
4. Increase of carrying capacity of the university from 4, 655 to 6, 000.
5. Obtained full accreditation for seven courses
6. Commencement of payment of salaries of BSU Technical School Staff after five years of non-payment of salaries
7. Re-training of 10,000 primary and 6000 secondary school teachers.

HEALTH/SDGs

1. Obtained Final accreditation for College of Health Sciences and Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH
2. Graduation of 152 medical doctors – first set comprised 40 doctors, the second 27, the third 44 with the fourth set 41 doctors.
3. Reconstruction of Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi as well as College of Health Technology, Agasha
4. Re-accreditation of Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi, admission of students and resumption of full academic activities
5. Establishment of Primary Health Care Board and constitution of its board.
6. The first state in the country to meet requirements for accessing the 2015 Round of MDGs/SDGs Conditional Grants in Nigeria
6. Payment of N1.2 billion counterpart funding to access a total of N2.4 billion for construction and equipment of Modern Primary Health Centers in 33 communities across the state through the MDGS-SDGS
7. The Governor was recognized and invited to address one of the side events at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly on SDGs in the state
10. Purchase of ambulances for health centres across the state
11. Provision of motorised boreholes and public toilets under SDGs and its partnership with DFID in parts of the state.
12. Construction of Skills Acquisition Centres in Apa-Agila, Ado; Makurdi and Gbajimba in Guma LGA
13. Construction of Orange Packaging Plant in Ushongo Town, Ushongo LGA

AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRIALISATION

1. Release of N500million for construction and equipping of laboratory at the Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev, and rehabilitation of Agric Training centres in Mbatie and Otobi.
2. Evolved a new policy for procurement of fertilizer at highly subsidised rate of 38% to Benue farmers.
3. Facilitation of N2 billion CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme agricultural loans for disbursement to Benue farmers.
4. Introduction of land clearing and dry season farming.
5. Signed MOU with Bank of Industry to give N2 billion loans to farmers at 5% interest rate in addition to N1 billion available facility from CBN for the same purpose
6. Commencement of work after signing of agreement with Torra KFT for the completion of the Wannune Tomato Factory which is aimed at creating hundreds of jobs for the people.
7. The same approach is being applied to other comatose state-owned industries.

WORKERS’ WELFARE

1. Immediate commencement of payment of full salaries at state and local Government levels after the workers had not received their wages for several months.
2. Implementation of 18,000 minimum wage for primary school teachers in the state
3. Payment of four months salary owed by the previous administration through the N28 billion bailout funds obtained from the Federal Government

ROADS AND OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE

Award of contract for the construction of six new roads in parts of the state as follows
1. Obagaji-Okokolo-Abian-Agagbe road 43km
2. Ikov-Utange-Mbagwaza-Mbagba-Lessel road with spur at Hiltom 55km
3. Otukpo Icho-Odudaje-Aondoana road 21km
4. Makurdi-Yogbo-Udei-Udei branch road 52.27km
5. Mobile Police Barracks – Yaikyo – Apir road 24km
6. Origbo – Imande – Akpur – Gbajimba road 40. 397km
The State Government had earlier mobilized contractors back to site for the completion of 10 abandoned road projects across the state. The affected roads are:
1. Zaki Biam – Afia – Gbeji road 46.52km
2. Taraku – Naka – Agagbe road 61km
3. Oju – Obussa – Utonkon road 52.00km
4. Otukpo – Utonkon – Igumale road 55.61km
5. Oshigbudu – Ogbaji road 10km
6. Igbor – Ikpa – Wannune road 36.732k
7. Vandeikya – Koti-Yough – Adikpo road 32.00km
8. Ge – Ikyobo – Agbeede – Amua – Anshagba road 37km
9. Tordonga – Zaki Biam with spur to Tsewuaze – Tiza – Shila road 45.14km
10. Daudu – Gbajimba road
– Released N300 million for the completion of Benue State House of Assembly complex
– Re roofing and rehabilitation of old Assembly complex
– Partnership with Cargopolis Consortium for the establishment of a cargo airport in the state
– Partnership with NNPC for the establishment of Ethanol project in the state.
– Ongoing work on 33 rural roads and electricity projects across the state.

SAVING COST OF GOVERNANCE

– Trimming of Government by reducing the number of Commissioners from 17 to 13 and advisers from 28 to 20. This is to cut the cost of governance.

JUDICIARY

1. Major intervention in the Judiciary
– ongoing renovation of Ministry of Justice Headquarters, Makurdi and renovation of Judges Quarters in Makurdi and Otukpo,
2. Appointment of President, Customary Court of Appeal, two Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal and One judge for the State high Court.
3. Reactivation of Payment of wardrobe allowances to government lawyers,
4. Inauguration of the Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy and granting of amnesty to over 100 convicts.

SECURITY

1. Introduction and prosecution of Amnesty Programme using carrot and stick approaches which led to the recovery and destruction of over 600 arms and light weapons, thousands of ammunition while over 900 youths embraced the amnesty and surrendered their weapons. The initiative has brought peace to various parts of the state.
2. Sustained effort for the promotion of peace between farmers and herdsmen as well as deepening inter-state peace building efforts with Taraba and Nasarawa States
3. Contacts with the Presidency, Chief of Army Staff and Inspector General of police with efforts to contain herder’s assaults in Agatu, Tarka, Makurdi, Logo, Buruku and Guma.
4. Rescue of people, especially children from kidnappers
5. Support for vigilante groups in the state to complement efforts of conventional security agencies

INTERNAL REVENUE GENERATION

1. Benue State Internal Revenue Service, BIRS, has been repositioned with the constitution of the new board and management
2. Proactive steps taken to boost the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR of the state by introducing the Point of Sale (POS) machines.

MEDIA/ICT

1. Collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA for the establishment of Benue State Information Technology Development Agency, BITDA and formulation of an ICT for the state.
2. Procurement and installation of new transmitters at Radio Benue and at Idekpa sub-station which has resumed transmission while reconstruction of Katsina-Ala station is ongoing.
3. Partnership with the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology and the Rockefeller Foundation for training of 1,500 unemployed youths from the 23 local government areas of the state on how to access online jobs.
4. Provision of land to the Nigerian Communication Commission for the establishment of Digital Institute in Benue State.

PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

1. Re-engagement with Development Partners, UN, UNHCR, UNFPA, World Bank, IFAD, USAID for the provision of Education, Health services etc.
2. Signing of MOU with Chinese, German and American investors on infrastructure.
3. Payment of over N5.5Billion counterpart fund to local and international development partners.

WATER SUPPLY

4. Released counterpart funds for 116 water and sanitation projects in Oju, Tarka, Konshisha and Ogbadigbo Local Government Areas under the Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA
5. Ensured the restoration of water supply in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala with the payment of over N1 billion to the contractors
6. Provision of three motorised boreholes and construction of drainages at Government Girls College, Makurdi.
7. Provision of boreholes for the people of Jaki village in Kwande and parts of Vandeikya local government areas.

Governor Samuel Ortom’s scorecard in Buruku local government:

Since inception of office by the Executive Governor of Benue State Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom.

Buruku Local Government has witnessed tremendous transformation in so many areas such as Road construction, electrification, building and renovation of primary schools across the 13 council wards of the Local Government.

This unparalleled feat has never been witnessed by any past administration since the creation of the Local Government in 1991. Some completed while others are still ongoing.
The summary is hereby presented below:

1. Abuku – Ortese Mbashian – Jingir – Uga – Aminde Electrification Project
2. Abuku- Ortese Mbashian Electrification Project Binev Completed
3. Abuku- Ortese Mbashian- Jingir Project Mbatirkyaa Completed
4. Abuku- Ortese Mbashian – Jingir – Uga Electrification Mbaikyongo Ongoing
5. Uga –Aminde Electrification Project Mbatirkyaa Ongoing
6. Replacement of 500 KVA Transformer in Buruku Township Mbaapen Completed

7. Electrification of Achigbe in Mbaya- Mbaya Completed
8. Construction of Abuku- Ortese Jingir – Uga –Tyogbenda and spur from Jingir to Wombo
9. Construction of Abuku- Ortese Mbashian Road Binev Ongoing
10. Construction of Abuku- Ortese Mbashian Jingir Road Mbaatirkyaa Ongoing
11. Construction of Abuku- Ortese Mbashian Jingir Uga Road Mbakyongo Ongoing
12. Construction of Abuku- Ortese Mbashian Jingir Uga Tyogbenda Road Mbaikyongo Ongoing
13. Construction of Abuku- Ortese Mbashian Jingir and Spur from Jingir to Wombo Binev Ongoing
14. Contract is awarded for the electrification of Abakwa – Tofi- Ajohol Electricity projects Mbaade Ongoing
15. Contract is awarded for the electrification of Ugbema Electrical Project Mbaakura Ongoing
16. Anvambe-Ako electrical project was awarded and completed by the past administration but payment was made by the present administration – Mbaatirkyaa Completed
17. LGEA Kaior New Building Mbaya – Completed
18. LGEA Wado Renovationof No class rooms Mbaya Completed
19. LGEA Ayughtse, New Building Mbaapen completed
20. LGEA Tomahar Renovation of New class rooms Mbaapen Completed
21. LGEA Yarkwan, New Building Binev Completed
22. LGEA Nyor Renovation of 3 No class rooms – Binev Completed
23. Mbagbaam Renovation of 3 No class rooms office and store Binev Completed
24. LGEA Tse- Igba 2 No Classroom and store – Binev Completed
25. LGEA Gbanyam -Renovation of 3 No class rooms, office and store – Binev Completed
26. LGEA Ushwa New Building – Mbatirkyaa Completed
28. LGEA Vongu New Building – Mbaatirkyaa Completed
29. LGEA Gwahemba New Building Mbaatirkyaa Completed
30. NKST Aminde Renovation of 3 No class rooms – Mbatirkyaa Completed
31. LGEA Anyiase Renovation of 3 No classrooms – Mbaatirkyaa Completed
32. NKST Iordye Renovation of 2 No classrooms, Offices and Stores – Etulo Completed
33. LGEA Ugulube Renovation of 3 No classrooms office – Etulo Completed
34. St. John’s Anglican Primary School Surma- New Building Mbaade Completed
35. LGEA Sende- Renovation of 4 No class rooms and Office – Mbaade Completed
36. NKST Angir-Nongov- Renovation of 2 No class rooms – Mbaade Completed
37. LGEA Tofi- Renovation of 4 No classrooms – Mbaade Completed
38. RCM Ker- New Building Mbaazagee Completed
39. RCM Ker- Renovation of 3 No classrooms, office and store Mbaazagee Completed
40. NKST Aiohol- Renovation of 3 No classrooms office and store Mbaazagee Completed
41. LGEA Akume – Renovation of 2 No classrooms Mbaityough Completed
42. LGEA Garagbohul – New building Shorov Completed
43. NKST Tyowanye – Renovation of 2 Nos classrooms, office and store Shorov Completed
44. NKST Awange- New Building Mbayaka Completed
45. LGEA Orahii Renovation of 3 No classrooms – Mbakyaan Completed
46. LGEA Akunya – Renovation of 3 No classrooms- Mbaikyongo Completed
47. Construction of Mkar- Agbenor- Ashibi- Zua- Ortese Ugee road Mbatyough Ongoing
48. Construction of Mkovur- Anvambe- Awange- Anshav- Vongu- Uga road——Mbakyaan/Mbatirkyaa/ Mbaikyongo – Ongoing
49. Construction of Abwa-Anongul Agbecha Road in Mbaakura and Mbaazager council wards – Ongoing
50. Electrification of Anongul- Agbecha-Bako – Nyamatsor -villages in Mbaazagee- Ongoing
51. Upgrading of Electrification of Abwa village – Mbaakura cw – Completed
[

Between 2018 and 2022:

Benue state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, recently listed all his achievements within the first two years of his second term in office.

Speaking at a well-attended press briefing where he listed his mid term scorecard, Governor Ortom promised the people of the state that no amount of intimidation will force his administration to repeal the existing Anti Open Grazing Law.

His words: “Let me remind those who think that sustained attacks on Benue people will force us to repeal the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law that they are making a mistake. This law has come to stay and no amount of intimidation can make us to repeal it. Instead, we will soon amend the law in order to increase the penalties against offenders”

Below are the achievements of the governor within the last two years as rolled out during the press briefing which was held at the Benue People’s House in Makurdi today:

SECURITY:

Benue State under my 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. The Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 is regarded as the most famous legislation initiated by the Executive Council during our time. 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. The entire country has today accepted the Ranching Alternative which I 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 my lecture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2019, I predicted that one day, Ranching will be embraced and celebrated in this country the same way June 12 is now being celebrated.

I must commend our 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. 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.

A 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. We have cried enough. We will cry no more!

IDPs AND THE HUMANITARIAN CHALLENGE

The security threat from armed herdsmen, bandits and other criminals in our communities which has resulted in wanton killings and the displacement of people in large numbers across the state. Today, Benue State has over one million IDPs with many of them living in the camps we have set up and others staying with their relations. The situation has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the state. Our administration has been spending huge sums of money to cater for the Internally displaced persons. Let me commend the good spirited individuals, corporate organizations and civil society groups for their support which has complemented government’s efforts in giving care to the affected persons. My desire is to ensure that the IDPs return to their ancestral homes. Most of them are farmers, and the longer they stay in the camps, the more food production is affected. We hope that the Federal Government will also fulfill its promise to assist Benue and other states in the North Central which have been badly affected by the attacks to resettle the victims.

AGRICULTURE

13. Agriculture is the main driver of the Benue economy, and our administration has placed the sector on the priority list of development. It is for that reason that in five cropping seasons, we 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.

14. We 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.

EDUCATION

15. In the education sector, our administration, 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.

16.I similarly 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.

HEALTH

17. In the health sector, we have sustained the support and attention given to the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery Makurdi, as well as the School of Health Technology Agasha. You are aware that our 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.

18. I 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 our 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.

19. We need not overemphasize our efforts in containing COVID-19. The devastating impact of the pandemic led to a global lockdown which for the most parts of last year crippled the economies of countries and states forcing us in Benue to also downsize our budget to be able to cope with realities of the time. I must once again commend the Deputy Governor and the entire COVID-19 State Action Committee for working tirelessly to prevent the spread of the virus.

20. We have already commenced the process for the establishment of Infectious Diseases Centre under the School of Health Sciences, Benue State University. The Centre will open a new vista in our fight against deadly diseases such as COVID-19.

INFRASTRUCTURE

21. In infrastructure, this 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 me 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.

22. Within Makurdi the state capital, we have 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.

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. 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.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT

28. Our 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.

29. In line with our commitment to touching the lives of those in need, this administration has put smiles on the faces of orphans at the Mama Abayol Orphanage Home Makurdi. Within the period under review, the facility has been turned around with both new infrastructure and total rehabilitation of existing structures. The orphanage now has a clinic, laundry, library, common room, hostels, well-furnished dining, a playground, a computer room and a standby generator.

30. To ensure improved security at the State Industrial Layout in Makurdi, we have refurbished the Police Outpost and the Benue State Fire Service at the Industrial Layout Sub-station Makurdi. It is worthy of note that the layout also serves as the North Central Industrial Park. Both facilities have been completed and are now offering services to the public.

WATER SUPPLY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

31. In Partnership with International Development agencies, the State Government 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.

INFORMATION

32. Our administration has established Benue State Television which is now a digital television and is set to compete favorably with others in the country and even beyond. The television station which is providing employment opportunities to Benue youths is already projecting the image of the state and telling the Benue story.

COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY

33. 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.

34. Similarly, this 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.

35. Our sustained efforts at providing the enabling environment have attracted foreign investors who are building Ethanol and Starch Industries at Tyo-Mu near Makurdi, Katsina Ala and Zaki Biam in Ukum local government areas respectively. When completed, the companies will positively impact on the economy of the state and provide thousands of jobs for the youths.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

36. Only recently, I inaugurated the Benue State Information and Communications Technology, ICT Council in the state. I need not emphasize the pivotal role ICT is playing in all human affairs in the world today. 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.

37. The Ministry also produced Hand Sanitizers in collaboration with National Research Institute for Chemical Technology Zaria, as part of efforts to contain COVID-19 in Benue State. Our administration has also concluded arrangements for the take off of the Centre for the Industrialization of Benue through a hybrid gas field electrical generating plant.

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

38. In our transparency and accountability drive, I 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.

ADDRESSING THE SALARY/PENSIONS CHALLENGE

39. 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.

40. 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.

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND SPORTS

41. In our determination to give the youths direction and a sense of belonging, we responded swiftly to the EndSARS protests of last year by holding a three-day Youth Summit which brought together young people from the 23 local government areas of Benue State to brainstorm on the best ways the issues affecting them could be addressed. The communique issued at the end of the Youth Summit had very useful recommendations. Last month, the Steering Committee of the Summit met with the State Executive Council to consider the recommendations for possible implementation.

42. This administration has also sustained the financial support and other logistics given to Lobi Stars Football Club and sports associations in the state as part of our deliberate policy to engage the youths in sporting activities and other gainful ventures.

43. Other steps we 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. 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.

44.Our mandate is selfless service to Benue people and we are committed to it.

Attachment