Posted by Odimegwu Onwumere | 5 January 2016 | 3,233 times
“When we came in, we met a mismanaged and comatose economy characterised by deficit treasury and high debt profile, huge arrears of salaries and retirement benefits, dwindling income from the Federation Account, falling oil prices, volatile exchange rate and high unemployment.”
That was the touching statement from Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on December 31, 2015, while presenting this year’s budget to the people of Benue State at the state’s House of Assembly.
He expressed his values and aspirations to the people; unlike the ordeal he said that he encountered from the budget of the government that he succeeded which was half way into realisation. Regarding that, the governor on assumption of office projected to the House and got approval for a complementary budget only to enable his government attend to urgent needs of governance.
Today, the people could see that Ortom’s 2016 budget is not just a collection of numbers. The governor was of the view that since he inherited a “general sense of hopelessness and inability” from the government he succeeded, he would do everything possible to restore confidence in the people about government, by making sure that the very basic necessities of life as enshrined in the Constitution, are given the people and the visitors of the state alike, who turned out en masse during the 2015 governorship election and voted for him.
It is evidence that when the governor started in office, he made sure that two-month salary was paid. Critics had thought that the governor was in for frivolities, but that singular act has seen to many people in the state who were in for trouble by possessing illegal firearms embracing the amnesty programme of the governor. While counting, it has become obvious that about 800 possessors of illegal weapons have surrendered for peace in the state. Different types of weapons and thousands of ammunitions have been surrendered.
It is essential to say that the governor is one that has phobia for recession. Against that backdrop, he knew that the civil service is the backbone of most families and of the economy, therefore he obligated that the civil service does not spiral downwards with months of accumulated money. He had talked to the Honourable House and the House granted approval to enable the government key into the funding issues provided by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) specifically for payment of salaries.
In the words of the governor, the CBN approved only part of the state’s N69 billion application which the government made to clear salary, gratuity and pension arrears and released N12, 503,000,000.00 and N15, 509,000,000.00 for only salary arrears for state and local government civil servants respectively. These releases have since been accessed and payments of arrears of salaries to state civil servants has been completed at the state level while that of the local government is 85% completed, the governor had said.
It is part of the governor’s move to create a conducive environment in the state that those who had embraced the amnesty programme were to see themselves taken to a psychoanalysis programme that includes a return to school, skills acquisition and integration into intelligence gathering network, the authorities had said. The sum of N250 million had been budgeted in 2016 for the programme which could be subject for review as time progresses.
Ortom who has been perceived as a diehard peace maker had made sure that the squabbles that were the everyday case with farmers and herders were curtailed. There is confidence for those who want to further their education to do so, as the governor moved to restructure the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi. There is turnaround maintenance at all levels in the state with the preparation to defeat the nursing school’s lost glory since three years now, by making sure that it is reaccredited.
Those at Assembly could see the completion of the Complex is on-going. There is provision for counterpart funding obligations; taps are running again in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala. It is all development in the Ortom’s administration. School of Nursing and Midwifery is about to be completed while work is on-going on the Daudu-Gbajimba road and Yam Flour Mill at Katsina-Ala while the process of handing over the Wannune Tomato and Mango Processing Plant to a core investor is at an advanced stage, the authorities had enlightened.
Governor Ortom’s budget is for the future of the people for the creation of jobs, education and hope. While presenting the 2016 budget for consideration and appropriation to the Benue State House of Assembly, Ortom who is an unflinching believer in Jehovah relished with ecstasy by giving Jehovah the glory, honour and adoration for the opportunity given him by the electorates to serve the state as governor.
The governor was of the belief that Benue State must be redeemed in all aspects with positivity since there is a Benue to save and should not be allowed to sink with one single source of income for its development. He would not like a situation where the state goes over a financial oblivion; he wants the state be enlivened with much strength and peace without borrowing the entire money for the development of the state.
Building trust, confidence and credibility between the government and the people of Benue State are Ortom’s keyword because the All Progressives Congress (APC) has come to the state, not to chant ‘change’ as a mantra, but to make sure that it is experienced in all aspects of developmental endeavours in the state.
One characteristic that stands Ortom out is that he is civil. A thorough review of the budget, the outcome is that he is enmeshed in discipline and confidence. Transparency, accountability, justice, fairness, integrity, discipline, selflessness, integration, forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation are his bylines.
To any corrupt individual or group, Benue State is not the place to practice, according to the governor, because his administration has zero tolerance for corruption. Ortom has clattered it the umpteenth time that he would not be at peace with anybody or group caught diverting public funds. To him, the person would be sanctioned with the appropriate measures as enshrined in the laws of Nigeria and the constituted laws decreed in Benue State.
The governor does not see himself to achieve much without the support of other tiers of government in the state – the legislature and the judiciary. He has given hope to the people of the state and their visitors alike by creating a conducive environment for business devoid of rancour and skirmishes. There is hope for the private sector.
Governor Samuel Ortom has demonstrated with the 2016 budget the desire to make tough choices and soft landing for the welfare of Benue State. He has demanded for a more efficient, effective government. His budget calls for more hands on the desk to tackle poverty in the state. His gear up to fight corruption and put the state on the track of sanity, his government instituted commissions of inquiry to discover income and expenditure from June, 2007 to the end of May, 2015.
The good-natured and hardworking Senior Special Assistant, Media, to the governor who hails from Agbeede, Konshisha Local Government Area, Mr. Terver Akase, recently said that his principal would stop at nothing to fulfill his electioneering campaign promises to the electorates of which the governor has shown in his budget.
There’s the Justice Kpojime Commission of Inquiry that was set up as a fact finding Commission aimed at making sure that all the people accused of pilfering the state’s coffer in one way or another are heard from and if found guilty later, the commonwealth of the Benue people they stashed away would be returned and appropriate measures taken to avert reoccurrence of their dastardly act.
However, the governor had said that the projected aggregate expenditure for fiscal year 2016 is N133,394,092,610.00 only. This figure represents a marginal decrease over 2015 approved budget of 1.48%, he had opined.
He added, saying that this fiscal year 2016, his government is proposing a total of N65,961,996,470.00 only as recurrent expenditure. This figure represents 49.45% of the total budget estimates for 2016, he had enthused.
•Odimegwu Onwumere, a Media Consultant, writes from Rivers State. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org). Tel: +2348057778358. Photo shows Governor Ortom.
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