Fidelity bank banner Bayelsa State banner
Of Plateau State, Lalong and his critics, By Emmanuel Ado

By News Express on 09/03/2018

Share on facebook Yahoo mail icon Gmail icon Share on Google+

Views: 1,699

•Governor Lalong
•Governor Lalong

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” – Author Unknown

The major challenge facing Mr Simon Lalong, the embattled Governor of Plateau State, is that he has allowed others to tell his story, since he appears not keen; or those he has entrusted with the responsibility lack the capacity or are unwilling to tell his story for him. There is a near consensus that Lalong’s information machinery, is “in a deep slumber”. And, when it eventually wakes up, assuming it ever does, the contest (2019 elections) would have been lost or won. Malcom X was right when he said: “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty, and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power.” It is that firing power of the media that Governor Lalong presently lacks. 

Lalong’s ‘report card’ issued by the formidable opposition looks so horrible that a repeat is even out of question. The emboldened opposition has, in fact, recommended Lalong’s immediate withdrawal from the 2019 race, even before its commencement. But the reality is that Simon Lalong’s administration hasn’t been as terrible as the opposition has portrayed it. The twin problems that have conspired against Lalong, are the huge expectations that, most unfortunately, hasn’t been helped by the poor economic situation and the ‘foreign’ political platform – the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party of the “Muslim invaders” – that he ran, and governs on. 

 De-constructing Lalong: Assessing him should be based on how he has fared on the various policy fronts, and not meaningless initiatives. Lalong came into office totally boxed in; had little or no room to manoeuvre. The immediate past governor, Jonah David Jang’s administration effectively crippled him with the outstanding liability of over N110 billion owed commercial banks, at very scandalous interest rates; besides contractual liabilities of over N105 billion. Lalong’s nightmare was further compounded by the drastic drop in the monthly allocation, from N4 billion to about N1.7 billion, about 57.5 per cent drop in revenue, due to the economic downturn. To further compound an already bad situation, Jang left Lalong five months backlog of unpaid salaries of civil servants, 10 months at the local government areas, and a pension arrears of 11 months. 

But for the intervention of the Debt Management Office (DMO), and Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), which restructured the loans into long-term facilities, notorious Shylock commercial banks would have auctioned Plateau State to any willing buyer to recover their money, which was ballooning by the day, due to outrageous interest rates. Thankfully, states have been banned from borrowing from commercial banks. Plateau State paid a very heavy price for this ‘favour’, as its high indebtedness meant it couldn’t borrow to fund any project. So, like most states, Plateau was on a perpetual federal lifeline (bailout), to tackle the arrears. Moving forward, the Federal Government issued a 22-point guideline to states to help address very fundamental issues: poor internally generated revenue, the issue of ‘ghost’ workers, etc. Effectively, this meant no real physical projects in the first two years of the Lalong administration. 

It is a miracle how the government has surmounted the challenge of paying the civil servants, considering that it receives about N1.5 billion monthly, as against a monthly wage bill of N2 billion, leaving absolutely nothing for project execution. Governor Jang obviously was not a welfarist concerned with regular payment of salary. And in retaliation, the service embarked on at least eight strikes, an average of one in the eight years he was governor, with some strikes lasting as long as five months. In fact, the civil servants were on strike when Jang handed over. 

Governors are elected to proffer solutions. And these are the critical areas to asses Lalong. The big question remains: How can Plateau State meet its obligations to its civil servants and deliver service to the generality of its people? How prepared is the state for life after bailout? Given that Plateau is a civil service state which economy is mainly driven by the injection of nearly N2 billion salary monthly, if this amount is withheld for whatever reason, the multiplier effect or consequences can better be imagined. The effect will ricochet on landlords, public schools, social life and, even on security. Private sector is virtually non-existent, due to the war of attrition that lasted more than a decade. 

Repositioning of the Plateau Investment and Property Development Company, Jos, which was closed down, is key to the revitalisation of the economy of the state. Equally important is the revival of industries that were ‘murdered’ by politicians. For example, revival of the Bokkos Fertiliser Blending Plant, through a public-private-partnership (PPP) with Bejafta Ltd. The factory which was closed down in 2003 today produces fertiliser that can't meet the demand of farmers. That gives some hope. Same as the revival of the Highland Bottling Company, Barikin Ladi, which was closed since 1997, through a PPP with Hummer Drinks Ltd. The company currently produces table water and employs more than 100 staff directly. The staff strength will increase when the production lines of juices and carbonated drinks come on stream. Lalong should fast track the process of reviving Jos International Breweries Ltd (JIB), makers of the famous Rock Lager beer, which was the largest employer of labour after government. The factory was closed in 2010, during Jang’s government. It will be great if the target of 2018/2019 is met. The economic possibilities of JIB are immeasurable. Tenders for rebuilding of the burnt Jos International Market was recently opened. Indications are that after 16 years, the market would finally be rebuilt. The completion of the Inland Container Depot at Heipang, will further boost the economy of the state and drastically improve the internally generated revenue of the state, and the capacity of government to execute projects. 

It will be uncharitable to write off or down-play, the industrial peace that prevails on the plateau, especially the resolution of the strike embarked upon by NLC, Judicial Staff Union, and Joint Unions of Plateau State Tertiary Institutions, which commenced in December 2014. Nor the payment of Law School arrears for 2013/2014 and other scholarship arrears that piled up from the Jang administration, including the regular payment of scholarship allowances to Plateau State students in tertiary institutions. Equally commendable is resumption of academic activities at the Plateau State University, Bokkos, closed down in 2007 and the accreditation of its courses. That the university finally held its first convocation 13 years after it opened its doors to students, is worthy of a carnival celebration. 

While total peace is difficult, in fact, a mirage, the efforts to change the narrative from a violent people to peace-loving people, through the State Peace Building Agency (PPBA), totally dedicated to conflict prevention and peace-building, is bearing results. The agency must continue engaging with relevant state and non-state actors across the state and beyond, with a view to building on and, indeed, sustaining the peace that has returned to the state. The few skirmishes in October 2017 were not enough to write off the efforts of the agency. The Lalong policy of inclusiveness, where all citizens are treated as stakeholders in the Plateau State project, has made him enemies, but it is the way to go. He must, however, go beyond the appointments of few elites, as criteria for measuring or ensuring peace. The restoration of peace can’t be called a hoax. The image of the state, that was negative, has definitely improved, compared to what it was between 2009 and 2014. Plateau State needs peace and justice to thrive. How can tourists or investors come, when the only functioning industry is violence. That the crises have remained largely isolated means Lalong’s strategy is working, as the state hasn’t witnessed the usual reprisal and counter-reprisals.

Lalong needs his critics, including yours truly, to keep him on his toes. That’s the beauty of democracy.

•Emmanuel Ado is a Kaduna-based journalist. He can be reached via mayad497@yahoo.com

Source News Express

Posted 09/03/2018 1:56:16 PM

 

Share on facebook Yahoo mail icon Gmail icon Share on Google+


 

CLASSIFIED ADS

 

You may also like...
Britain warns against trips to Niger Delta

FG tasked on National Conference Report •Ex-UN Rep...

Ijaw youths vow to fish out killers of...

Lagos to enlist 2 million residents in fight...

Ghana’s Electoral Commission, President Mahama Campaign dismiss opposition’s...

Oil price hits 5-year low, records fastest crash...

Cannibal justifies action, says: I ate man in...

APC lied, we didn’t sack 28,000 workers: Bayelsa...

Nigeria still not a nation, says Anglican Church...

Teenage girl found dead in hotel freezer

Army to court-martial 2 Major Generals

Nigeria begins to explore green alternative for food...

 

Latest News PDP National Convention: Party leaders disagree over venue Labour set for nationwide strike over minimum wage Osun Election: Protesters storm INEC Office, as PDP heads to court Court orders APC to conduct fresh election within 30 days Modric ends Ronaldo-Messi Era, wins FIFA Best Player of the Year Award Security operatives swoop ‘on PDP leaders in Osogbo’ Evil son kills father to inherit millions of dollars Troops rescue 73 Boko Haram hostages Bayelsa receives N24.16bn Paris Club refunds, slams Lokpobiri over N800bn debt claim Okowa inaugurated to chair PDP Convention Planning, receives award today in New York FRSC screens 300,000 applicants for 4,000 jobs I have no regrets, says kidnapper after arrest

 

Most Read NUDE PHOTO OF OMOTOLA JALADE-EKEINDE surfaces online (396,969 views) Nigerian female sex addict opens up, says ‘I like it with both men and women’ (376,988 views) Shameless Genevieve Nnaji exposes breasts in public (308,823 views) Finally named: The full list of friends of Nigerian female sex addict who prowled Facebook (250,812 views) OLUMBA OLUMBA OBU (the one who called himself God) IS DEAD (232,512 views) Igbo scholar disgraces Femi Fani-Kayode •Demolishes claims on Igbo/Yoruba history with facts and figures (221,752 views) Breaking News: POPULAR REVEREND CONVERTS TO ISLAM in Kaduna (Nigeria) (200,270 views) OBJ’s son reported dead in Lagos plane crash •Names of more victims emerge (181,796 views) My wasted years in Olumba Olumba Obu’s Evil Brotherhood (165,926 views) THE FINAL DISGRACE: Igbo scholar unleashes more facts about Igbo/Yoruba history, finishes off Femi Fani-Kayode with second article (163,496 views) Lagos plane crash: Journalist releases victims’ names (158,283 views) Gunmen kill ASP, 2 other police officers in vain bid to kidnap Rivers PDP chieftain (147,002 views)

 

Categories Advertorials (3) African Press Organisation (81) Art & Literature (63) Business & Economy (3,627) Business Verdict (52) Columnists (933) Complaints & Requests (94) Enterprise & Opportunities (207) Entertainment (547) Features (653) Global Business Monitor (301) International (2,432) Interview (165) Live Commentary (28) Love Matters (144) News (39,118) Opinion (1,111) Pidgin (11) Politics (6,740) Religion (873) Sports (1,706) Stock Watch (34) AMA & Al Jazeera Global Update

 

CBN banner

Firstmobile banner

 

 

NEWS EXPRESS TV

Anthony Joshua vs Alexander Povetkin: Highlights

 

APO Group Partner

 

 

CLASSIFIED ADS

GOCOP Accredited Member

GOCOP Accredited member

 

 

Africa Media Agency and Al Jazeera

Advertisement