After a projection tour of Makurdi, Gboko, Otukpo and other communities in Benue Province, DAILY POST Managing Editor, Ali Adoyi engaged His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom in an exclusive interview on the success of his administration, particularly in the areas of security, infrastructure, workers’ salary and sundry issues.
In this interview, the Benue Governor takes our editor on a voyage of his administration’s success story, his challenges and other obstacles militating against his transformation agenda for the Province. According to the People’s Governor, despite those daunting challenges, the Province has recorded tremendous progress particularly in the area of security and infrastructure, an indication that no, ‘’challenge is insurmountable in one case there is the will.’’
According to Ortom, his people (Benue) must rest alive to bask the sweat of his administration in the area of infrastructure; the reason he has sacrificed so much in trying to secure them against all forms of incursion by suspected herdsmen and other criminal elements.
DAILY POST in the tour visited the Aper Aku Route in Gboko, the brand new Tor Tiv Palace, the reconstructed Aper Aku Lodge, Regime House in Makurdi, Armstrong Route in Otukpo, Awaji rural electrification projection in Konshisha LG, some authorities Secondary schools and LGEA primary schools, the Province Primary Health Aid Complex in Makurdi, the reconstructed Flame Service, the Bengis Complex, Isaac Shahu Route in Gboko, Prof. Matin Dent Route, Gboko, Capt. Downwardly’s Way, Gboko, Bridge on Ahmedu Bello Way, Gboko, over 300 capacity block for inmates in Makurdi, the Ochi’Idoma Location, BIPC Housing Estate, orphanage buildings, LGEA Primary School, Igede, the Benue Television Complex, new Deputy Gov’s business office, BENCEDI, Business office complex of the Province Governor, Bridge on River Guma, High Tribunal Complex, Gbeji-Afia Zaki-Biam Route, Mobile Barracks Welfare Quarters Route, Makurdi, Sen. Gabrial Suswan Route, Makurdi, Oshigbudu-Obagaji Route and others.
DAILY POST also revisited the Gbajimba Route that was under interpretation in 2018 when the organization visited for an inspection.
Que: I was in Otukpo, Gboko, some parts of Markudi and other communities, and I saw wonderful projects amid the challenges posed by COVID-19, insecurity and paucity of funds. How were you able to attain all that we saw?
Gov. Ortom: Good, I would say that it’s just our determination and so, I really want to appreciate God for the wisdom to grip the scarce resources and to create an impact in the sands of time. I’m grateful. Commitment also played a major role. I know it’s an additional duty for me to ensure that every single kobo that comes into the purse of authorities; that gets into the single treasury account is appropriated rightly. There are challenges, no dubiousness. I still have the job of pension, tip, and all that and fifty-fifty salaries beingness owed in arrears. Of class, this is what I inherited. When I came in, it was still there because of the shortage of funds – just as you said, the recession we had in 2016 orchestrated by the fuel and oil crisis led to a huge drawback and also in 2020, we had the COVID-19 setback. So every single stair we had taken is to ensure that we address these challenges whether salaries, pensions and tip and so the infrastructure because Benue Province is an agricultural province and we demand the people to be connected. We demand some basic things that the people demand in tell to back up them to live good. So wellness facilities in all our communities are also our precedence. We are working towards connecting them with good roads so that they can be motorable throughout the twelvemonth. We want to ensure that our schools, particularly the primary schools that were abandoned are fixed. This authorities believes that the primary, secondary and tertiary schools should degree upward to the measure. The tertiary schools should be real strong but the secondary schools should be stronger. The primary schools must be the strongest because that is the foundation of every tiddler. So whether you acquire it right at the primary school, so you have no job. We have been able to affect on the primary schools as over N20 billion has been expended in collaboration with the UBEC and we have marshalled all the allotment to UBEC. We have also handed money from the province authorities to back up the schools. So this is ongoing, so we appreciate the impact from our secondary and tertiary and primary schools. At a time, the Benue Province Academy were on strike and we were able to settle with them and since so, they have not gone on strike and we are at present paying them faithfully. We are not owing the Academy as we were able to fulfil our obligations. So what we are saying is that this depends on our determination and commitment to ensure we set something on the ground. In the example of the arrears of pension and tip, we have also taken a stair dorsum by introducing PENCOM law. We have already been able to invest upward to 1.3 billion Naira. Regime is paying 10 percent of the staff’s salary and the staff themselves contribute 8 percent. So this administration has found a permanent way of resolving this matter of pension and tip and in paying salaries. Because in one case we have plenty money paid into the pension account, we can ever regain a way of borrowing and paying dorsum. Since 2018, I have been able to pay all salaries of staff. It was of late we were starting to have some job because of the shortfall we are receiving. We have arrears, but the impression beingness created that Ortom doesn’t pay salaries is not true. These are lies from the pit of hell. They are not true and the impression beingness created that there is no single projection is mistaken. These are from enemies, from the opposition going circular to play downwards our achievements. Give thanks God you have gone circular and you have seen things for yourself. That is the whole thing.
Que: Permit’s mouth in relation to the Tor Tiv and the Och’ Idoma palaces. What inspired the projects? Many yesteryear leaders never thought of the projection.
Gov. Ortom: honest similar I said, it’s God’s wisdom and determination to execute what He directed us to do. As for the yesteryear leaders, I think it was an oversight. For me, the Tor Tiv palace is a symbol of the Tiv land, the Och’ Idoma’s palace is a symbol of the entire Idoma land. Whether you are from Europe, America or Asia, you should be proud that you belong to one of these ethnic nationalities in Benue Province. So it should be a befitting location. It’s a reflection of what the people have. I believe that in no distant time, looking at what you saw when you came in 2016 in Tor Tiv’s palace and so in Och’Idoma’s palace and what it is at present, I believe that by the grace of God, God is just trying to tell us that moving forward, we are laying a good foundation that will give befitting status to either Tiv or Idoma people. I recall before the commissioning of Tor Tiv’s palace, the Tor Tiv his majesty was very-very happy. I could read it on his face. I could consider it around him. He could dance. This is a new start for the Tiv land. And eventually, when we went to do the groundbreaking ceremony in the Och’Idoma’s palace, he was there and he was really excited. He came out in his total self and was excited. Everybody is connected to the palace of the Och’ Idoma or the Tor Tiv, whether Idoma or Tiv. I believe that what God has inspired us to do will go a long way in giving new faces to these 2 ethnic nationalities.
Que: People say your biggest achievement has been in the area of security; how were you able to do what you have done so far?
Gov. Ortom: In relation to this over again, I appreciate God, otherwise, I have been intimidated, I have been vilified, blackmailed and several other things. I signify good for our country Nigeria. I believe in Nigeria and that is why you consider me carrying the colours of Nigeria and the colours of major ethnic nationalities in Benue Province; the Tiv, Idoma, Egede and so the Nigerian flag. So I believe in Nigeria. United we stand up and divided we autumn. Our strength is in our unity in diversity. And I believe that our people should work together. But one thing that beholds on us is that I took the oath of business office holding the bible, the president took the oath of business office holding the Quran and so my understanding in relation to the symbol of holding the bible or the Quran is that we will ever say the truth. We will ever protect the structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is what I stand up for. We will ever scrap for fairness, fairness and justice. This is what we should stand up for and so I’m surprised that when I say things that can add together value, things that can transform this country and create it superior, people take offence against me and vilify me, they insult me, they say all kinds of things against me. The federal authorities has refused to assist me in terms of ensuring that we clear the arrears of pension and tip which I inherited. It wasn’t my fault. Aper Aku had arrears of salaries and tip, Akume had, Adasu had, Suswan had and I also have. I also inherited it. 70 billion arrears of pensions, salaries and tip. It is not a new thing. The federal authorities gave me N28 billion and I appropriated it and unfortunately, it was not plenty. Other people have been given to a greater extent, but the federal authorities, because of my stance in saying the truth, they have refused to give me back up. People came to me and say whether you displace to APC, we will back up you and I said I cannot sell my people out similar others are doing nowadays, I can’t sell my people, I remain committed with the people. They elected me, their hurting should be my pains and for whatever reasons with the number of people we have hither, whether you send them absent from their ancestral dry land and take over, where do you want them to go?
At present, we had a population of less than N40 million in the 50s. Nowadays in Nigeria we have over 200 million people, so those places that people can go and farm and do other things are no to a greater extent there. So for me, I remain committed to the service of my people. Similar I maintain saying, the insecurity at present is no longer just in Benue Province, it is all over the country and whether the president wants this job to goal, it will finish, and the daytime the presidency wants insecurity to goal in Nigeria, everybody will be happy. They have the capacity, they have demonstrated it in the south-east, they have demonstrated it in the south-west and they are demonstrating it right at present as I am talking to you in Zamfara, Katsina and all that. My dot is why is it that these Fulanis that are coming hither can’t be stopped? They are not fifty-fifty Nigerians, yet there are Nigerians Fulanis. They are coming from Republic of Mali and Niger and they are not hiding it. They say it. Most of them that are arrested hither speak French, they cannot speak Hausa or Fulfide and so it is a matter of the authorities deciding that ‘seem, we must halt this.’ But it is clear to me at present and that is why I said that the body linguistic communication of the current presidency is that they are happy with what is happening. They stopped IPOB in the Southeast, and branded them, terrorists. Whether I were to assess what was happening in the Southeast and the Southwest, what the Fulanis are doing hither is worse. The weapons they have are to a greater extent than what they have in the southeast and southwest. I don’t back up all those secessionist agitations by those individuals. I don’t back up it, but the truth is that we should ensure fairness and fairness. We should ensure justice for all. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. So why are we separating other people as whether they are slaves? And so you convey Fulani from exterior to come up and terrorize your country and you allow them? The president himself accepted that these ones that are terrorizing us are not Nigerians. So why are you allowing them? Why have they refused to brand them as terrorists? Why have they refused to ban them? Why have they encouraged Miyetti Allah to be killing our people? Fifty-fifty as I mouth to you, most of our places hither in Benue are under their line; when the farmers go there, they kill them. We have over 1.5 million IDPs and so you want me to maintain quiet as a leader? I am not against Fulani people. President Shehu Shagari was president of this country and nobody in this dry land ever said anything against anybody. He was fair and ensured justice and fairness; so everybody was happy. Hither, we had several appointments under him. President Yar’Adua; when he came, he was the president of Nigeria and listened to everybody. But this one that the presidency is doing, will create him seem similar he is the president for Fulani. That is the whole thing because they are committing to a greater extent atrocities and they cannot be dealt with. You know that to a greater extent than 100 security men have lost their lives because the weapons that these people usage are superior to fifty-fifty what our security men are using. No adequate funding and all that. Hither we are struggling to pay salaries and we have to assay to back up them. At present, it is limited and that is the truth. The war machine, police force, civil defence, DSS, and others demand additional back up. But when they said we should not mouth, I don’t understand what that is as this is democracy. I am not against whatsoever Fulani man but I am against impunity and lawlessness. Hither our law prohibiting open grazing allows everybody, Fulanis, Hausa, Igbo and all that do legal business. Hither we don’t have devout issues. Hither in Benue Province, people are unloosen but when you want to impose religion on us, we say no. I can’t allow Christianity to be imposed on Muslims and I don’t want Islam to be imposed on Christians or pagans. Hither, everybody is unloosen. This is a democracy, liberty of speech, liberty of organization, liberty of facial expression is what I stand up for. And that is all, and whether the presidency decides that it will do the right thing, everybody will be happy.
Que: On the VAT arguing, what is your place?
Gov. Ortom: I am somebody who believes in the regulation of law and due physical process. The matter is already in tribunal and whatever the choice of the tribunal, is what I will do. I know that hither, I don’t have businesses and it wouldn’t favour me, but we have to work tough. It may be something that will assist us. You know it is said that ‘necessity and challenges are the mothers of conception.’ So in one case we know that the sort of money we acquire from Abuja will not be plenty to take tending of some basic things, we have to devise other ways. I understand it will impact us whether that happens, but I want to leave of absence that to the judiciary. One time they come up out with a verdict, we have no selection. I’m happy that my colleagues from Rivers and Lagos States have taken to pursue it legally and it should be everybody’s right instead of beingness lawless. Instead of fighting to do the things that will convey anarchy and all that, you go to the law tribunal and in one case they take a choice, you have it the way it is. So whichever way it goes, it’s fine. I’m not against VAT collection but honestly, people who will collect VAT should usage it. The whole thing should be localized; which is okay.
Que: Whatever final words:
Gov. Ortom: I will say it’s good. God will assist us. All these things they are doing; the daytime of reckoning is coming. I can assure you. All these injustices; all the things that I have suffered on behalf of my people; the daytime of reckoning will come up for all these blackmailers who have come up out at present to cause confusion in Benue Province. The same people had benefited immensely from our people who voted them, but they are at present turning our province into IDPs camps. God will jurist us. And because they want to be National Chairman, they want to remain as Ministers, they do press conferences, they insult the people and walk on their graves and across their dead bodies. The daytime of reckoning is coming. Take in my words! I serve the living God.
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