SPEECH BY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM AT THE VALEDICTORY COURT SESSION IN HONOUR OF HON. JUSTICE IORHEMEN HWANDE, CHIEF JUDGE OF BENUE STATE, AT THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE, MAKURDI ON FRIDAY, 15TH DECEMBER, 2017
It is with gratitude to God that I seize this opportunity and privilege to welcome you all to this special valedictory court session.
2. As you are all aware, this great occasion has been organized to celebrate the exit of a great, humble, God fearing and erudite jurist, Honorable Justice Iorhemen Hwande, after an outstanding career in the Benue State judiciary.
3. Mr. Justice Hwande rose through the ranks with an impeccable service record to become Chief Judge of Benue State, a position in which he served the state for 11 years.
4. As Chief Judge he sustained the reputation of the Benue State judiciary as one of best in the country through sacrificial, honest and exemplary leadership which impacted positively down the line.
5. On a personal note, I am happy to state that we share a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and mutual respect for each other over the years. As Governor, this facilitated a cordial working relationship between the Executive and Judicial Arms of Government.
6. May I use this opportunity to appreciate him for his immense contributions to the development of the state through his strict adherence to the rule of law which also underscores one of the cardinal principles of our administration. We are also indebted to the entire judges and staff of the Benue State judiciary for braving all the odds to earn our respect and that of the entire country. May I reiterate our commitment to sustain our belief in the doctrine of the separation of powers and pledge not to interfere with the work of the judicial and legislative arms of government as we shall do all within our available resources to facilitate and enhance the work of the two.
7. As Mr. Justice Hwande retires from public service, I wish, on behalf of the people and Government of Benue State to congratulate him for leaving behind a worthy legacy of service in his chosen career where he stood out as an unbiased jurist.
8. It is on record that throughout his period as the Chief Judge of the State, he created a conducive environment for the Bench and the Bar to work harmoniously to serve the cause of justice. Under him, our people had faith in the Judiciary and we did not witness any major skirmish between key players in the temple of Justice.
9. It is to his credit that the Judiciary has grown from strength to strength with many Judges from the State gaining prominence and elevations to higher positions on the bench.
10. I am convinced that all the virtues of total commitment to service, hard work and service to humanity which he exhibited while in active service have impacted positively on the judiciary. We are convinced that he is leaving a Judicial system that will continue to improve itself for the good of the common man. Having given the best part of his life to serve God and the people through his career, Honorable Justice Iorhemen Hwande is retiring to a peaceful life. This is no mean achievement.
11. My lords, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the import of this valedictory court session is to give honour to whom honour is due. It is to encourage those coming behind him to emulate the footsteps of the gentlemen on whose behalf we are gathered here today. Above all, it is to remind those coming behind him that there is something greater than gold and silver – that is a good name.
12. It is worthy of note that while we are celebrating Justice Hwande today some of his colleagues in other States and at the Federal Judiciary are being tried for various allegations of financial impropriety. Others have already been dismissed from service and they have to live with all the pains and reality of their fate.
13. I pray God to continue to be with you, Justice Hwande, and may He continue to strengthen you and guide your every step in retirement.
14. Once again, I congratulate you on your retirement. To those you are leaving behind, I wish to pledge my commitment to continue to support and work in harmony with them without interfering in their activities.
15. Thank you all and may God continue to bless us and Benue State.
16. In God we Trust.
SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SAMUEL ORTOM, THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, AT THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2018 “RURAL TRANSFORMATION CONSOLIDATION BUDGET ” HOLDING AT THE BENUE STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY – 14TH DECEMBER, 2017.
It is with pleasure that I present to you, the Speaker, and members of the Benue State House of Assembly, the 2018 Budget Estimates, christened “Rural Transformation CONSOLIDATION BUDGET” for consideration and appropriation.
- The 2018 budget estimates that I present today for consideration and appropriation by this Honourable House is prepared based on our Blueprint, “Our Collective Vision for a New Benue”, the Ten Year Development Plan and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards to engender transparency, accountability and good governance as we move steadily in delivering the dividends of democracy to our people.
- The economy of the nation is showing signs of coming out of recession but as a State, we have continued to face economic challenges that have never been witnessed since 1999. The 2017 budget was affected by the economic recession and this impacted negatively on governance and service delivery.
- However, I remain hopeful and resolute that this difficult and challenging economic scenario will come to pass. Indeed it is almost over. We are at the door of a new economic boom. Now it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the fundamental essence of governance and the need to continue on the path of self-reliance with the resources that have been bestowed on the State.
- Mr. Speaker, and Honourable Members, since assumption of office, my administration recognised the need for us to change the narrative in order to fulfil our potentials. This recognition informed our agriculture policy that allows public servants to utilise one day in a week for food production activities. The intention was to redirect our energies and focus away from relying on Federation Account Allocation which has reduced by over 60% and for public servants and Benue indigenes to be guaranteed food security.
- We have also matched that intention with support by way of access to finance in partnership with development finance institutions like Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Industry (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture (BOA). But the attitude of our people towards agriculture and commercial activities need to change for us to also achieve the desired impact on the State Economy. In furtherance of this effort and to stimulate the attitudinal change, my administration entered into partnership with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) for skills training and empowerment of over five hundred youth with business start-up kits.
- Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, as an Agrarian State that is rightly christened as the “Food Basket of the Nation”, every effort of government must be focused at providing the enablers to attain and exceed that status. The required foundation for the State to achieve development with our comparative advantage is being laid. Industries with the capacity to provide the kind of employment required for our people are very few, commercial activities and other wealth creating opportunities are low. We were weak in infrastructure and lack policies that could protect us at a time like this.
- There are no shortcuts to economic development, adequate infrastructure and appropriate policies are required to increase commercial activities and stimulate economic growth and development. It is in this regard that I want to express my profound appreciation on behalf of the entire Benue People and indeed Nigerians for the show of leadership and courage when the need arose with the passage into law of the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017. The Law has become a model for the country. We have started implementation with provision of manpower and equipment. Worthy of mention here is also the Law for the appointment of traditional rulers which has since become operational and our traditional institution is now robust and comparable with other similar traditional institutions in the country.
Let me appreciate you Mr. Speaker and Members of the Benue State House of Assembly for your cooperation with me to usher in peace, security and good governance to the good people of Benue State.
- Accordingly, I want to appeal and encourage this Honourable House to continue on this path and together we shall overcome because of my strong belief that the protection that has been provided with the law combined with our efforts to open up the State will surely lead to the emergence of a vibrant agriculture sector with fully developed value chains in the very near future. Nigeria and the International Community is beginning to recognise this bold step as Benue has been chosen as a Pilot State for the Zero Hunger Initiative with technical support from IITA, AfDB, WFP, FAO, UNICEF and IFAD. Similar cooperation also exists with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
- These development cooperations have resulted in capacity building for over 15,500 cassava and rice farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), provision of improved breeds of goats; 3.2 metric tons of improved and certified seeds of soya bean, 6.2 metric tons of rice; 2.5 metric tons of maize as well as beniseed and cowpea per hectare; 12,519 cassava stems; supply of rice de-stoners for rice processors and 8,700 farmers have so far benefitted from the CBN Anchor Borrower’s Programme.
- On infrastructure, over 700 kilometers of highway is under construction across the State and an additional 150 rural projects comprised of 31 rural roads, 25 rural bridges and 75 electrification projects. Benue has been selected to benefit from the World Bank Rural Access and Mobility project where another 500 kilometers of rural road is expected to be constructed. When completed, the combined impact of these projects on our economy will be monumental and we would have succeeded in reducing the travel times across the State thus reducing the cost of doing business and improve the living standard of the people.
- Genuine and serious investors and developers with requisite technology and technical expertise are beginning to expedite action on their existing expressions of interest. We have now nearly concluded arrangements with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the establishment of the Biofuel Project at Agasha, Guma Local Government Area. This Project is expected to create over one million jobs with an initial investment in excess of One Hundred Billion Naira (N100,000,000,000.00). Similarly, the partnership for the establishment of 600,000 metric tons per annum cement factory at Igumale, Ado Local Government Area is at an advanced stage and the final batch of equipment were inspected during my last visit to China. But if the core investor fails to deliver the equipment by the end of this year we may be compelled to revisit the agreement on the factory. HEPC Global, a Netherland based company is partnering with the State Government in an Agro-Allied investment of €750 Million on a 40,000 hectares of land between Gwer West and Agatu Local Government Areas and will employ about one thousand people. Other existing non-performing government owned industries and commercial investments are being processed for privatisation.
- The House of Assembly will recall the approval granted to the State to participate in the Fiscal Sustainability Plan introduced by the Federal Government in 2016. We have continued with the implementation of the Plan with expectation of improvement in management of our resources and other associated benefits like closer collaboration and support from Development Partners. Going by our present pace, the 22 points Plan will be fully implemented by the end 2018.
- Similarly, we are also fully participating in the Social Investment Programme introduced by the Federal Government with substantial benefit to our people. The National Social Investments Programme is a flagship social intervention programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria targeting the poorest and most vulnerable population in the country and was launched in
August, 2015. The programme seeks to create a social safety net to lift as many people as possible above the poverty mark. Consequently, we are participating in the following programmes;
- The Conditional Cash Transfer Programme,CCT
- The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme,GEEP
- The NPOWER Programme
- The Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
15.0 Mr. Speaker, please permit to provide more insight on our participation in these programmes because of the importance to the State.
- THE CONDITIONAL CASH TRANSFER PROGRAMME
15.1 Under this Programme, the Federal Government seeks to provide direct cash of N5, 000 to 210 of the poorest and the most vulnerable persons in every council ward in Nigeria through a community based targeting approach. Thirty per cent of the Local government areas across Nigeria have been identified and selected for the first phase of the programme using the World Bank’s Poverty Ranking conducted in 2014 via a United Nations poverty index survey. In Benue State, 9 LGA’s have been selected to benefit from the pilot implementation of the programme, three per Senatorial district;
- Zone A – Ushongo, Vandeikya and Konshisha
- Zone B – Buruku, Guma and Gwer West
- Zone C – Ado, Ogbadibo and Oju
15.2 These LGA’s have since constituted community based targeting teams and have completed work on the identification of Poor and vulnerable households (PVHH) in the selected LGA’s. So far 13,888 persons have been identified through this targeting approach and have been uploaded on the National Social Register. Benue State is amongst the first 17 States selected for implementation of the programme and direct cash transfer is expected to commence before the end of the year.
- GOVERNMENT ENTERPRISE AND EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME (GEEP – MARKET MONI)
15.3 The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, GEEP or Market Moni as is popularly called is designed to provide small loans to market men and women engaged in petty trading and seeks to bridge a credit gap on the lowest arm of the open market space. Market Moni loans are collateral free and have a repayment period of six months in the first instance and three years subsequently for those whose loans will be ungraded from N50, 000 to N250, 000. The only requirement is membership of either a Rural Cooperative or Market Association with interest free loans of N50,000 each available to 30,000 beneficiaries in Benue State and aggregate value of about 1.5 Billion Naira.
15.4 The N-power Programme is a Youth Empowerment Programme designed to create 500,000 direct new jobs to persons between the ages of 18 and 35. These jobs span through the specific areas of Health, Education, Agriculture, Commerce and Technology with 350,000 of these jobs captured specifically under the titles of;
- N-Teach – for those trained and posted as volunteers to provide support in public primary schools as teachers or trainee teachers and community service educators within the LGA
- N-Agro – for those trained and posted to the agric development centers to provide extension services to our famers, and
- N-Health – for those posted to assist at primary health care centers within the Local government health establishments.
- N-Build is a technology based arm of the programme and seeks to recruit and train unskilled manpower for the construction industry.
15.5 Benue State placed fourth nationally with an initial enrolment of 9,740 beneficiaries. Successful participants in this programme have since been trained and posted to their places of primary assignment where they are presently rendering support services and are being paid N30,000.00 monthly bringing total pay out for this programme in Benue to about two hundred and nine-two million, two hundred thousand naira (N292,200,000.00) per month. Each of these volunteers have also only recently, been presented with a computer device to serve as teaching aid in their various areas of support. The second phase of this programme is about to be launched in the next few weeks and will provide an additional 150,000 jobs across the country. The applications from Benue so far stand at over 34,000 and places us number two, nationally.
- HOME GROWN SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME
15.6 Under this programme, the Federal Government is targeting to feed about 5.5 million pupils in public primary schools across the country and Benue State is billed to provide about 250,000 of this beneficiary base. However, we have doubled this number so far. Benue was amongst the first 13 States in implementation, having met all the co-responsibility commitments as prescribed by the Federal Government. The programme was flagged off on the 3rd of July, 2017 in Benue State with 3,865 Food Vendors across the 23 LGAs of the state to feed 447,215 as against the initial 240,827 pupils fed in the first and second tranches of disbursement by the National Home Grown School Feeding, Office of the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria Abuja.
PERFORMANCE OF THE APPROVED 2017 BUDGET
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, you will recall that the approved 2017 budget was prepared based on “Our Collective Vision for a New Benue” and the Benue State Development Plan with a pro rated aggregate revenue of One Hundred and Eighty-three Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty-eight Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty Thousand, Four Hundred and Ninety-nine Naira (N183,368,780,499.00) only. This was based on budget assumptions of $42.50 benchmark oil price and daily production estimate of 2.2 million barrels per day as established by the Federal Government. Out of this amount, a total sum of Seventy-Three Billion, Three Hundred and Ninety Million, Five Hundred and Thirty-three Thousand and Ninety-seven Naira (N73, 390,533,097.00) only was appropriated for recurrent expenditure representing 40.02% while One Hundred and Nine Billion, Nine Hundred and Seventy-eight Million, Two Hundred and Forty-seven Thousand, Four Hundred and Two Naira (N109, 978,247,402.00) only was appropriated for capital expenditure representing 59.98%. As you will observe in the details, the total sum of Fifty-nine Billion, Nine Hundred and Twenty Million, Thirty-eight Thousand, Two Hundred and Fifty-five Naira, Eighty-nine Kobo (N59, 920,038,255.89) only accrued to the State from all revenue sources as at October, 2017. This represents 32.68% of the approved revenue for the year and it is lower than the projected recurrent expenditure by 7.34%.
- A further breakdown of this inflow showed that Twenty-two Billion, Two Hundred and Thirty-two Million, Five Hundred and Seventy-three Thousand, Three Hundred and Fifty-seven Naira, Fifty-five Kobo (N22,232,573,357.55) only was realised as gross statutory allocation. This figure represents 42.11% and it is less than half of the projected Fifty-two Billion, Eight Hundred Million naira (N52,800,000,000.00) only approved in the 2017 budget as revenue from this source, thus indicating a below average performance for the approved 2017 budget. This low budget performance could also be seen in all the other revenue sources except VAT which recorded a slightly better performance with an inflow of Eight Billion, Forty-three Million, Three Hundred and Seventy-seven Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-three naira Eighty-eight kobo (N8,043,377,693.88) or 70.65% of the budgeted sum. The shortfalls translated into the inability of government to meet statutory obligations within the period under review.
- There was a provision for deficit financing of Thirty-five Billion (N35,000,000,000.00) in the approved 2017 budget however, only Six Billion, Ninety-nine Million, Two Hundred and Ninety-six Thousand, Five Hundred and Seven naira, Thirteen kobo (N6,099,296,507.13) was accessed during the period.
- Mr. Speaker, as stated earlier, the total expenditure projection for the 2017 budget was One Hundred and Eighty-three Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty-eight Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty Thousand, Four Hundred and Ninety-nine naira (N183,368,780,499.00) only which was allocated as follows:-
|A. RECURRENT EXPENDITURE N73,390,533,097.00|
|B. CAPITAL EXPENDITURE N109,978,247,402.00|
20.0 The implementation of the 2017 budget was greatly impacted by the continued recession in the country. Out of the above figure, the total recurrent expenditure as at October, 2017 was Thirty-Five Billion, Twenty-eight Million, Nine Hundred and Thirty Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty-three naira, Fifty-one kobo (N35, 028,930,983.51) only. While the sum of Eight Billion, One Hundred and Thirty-eight Million, Ninety-three Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty naira Eighty kobo (N8,138,093,980.80) only was expended on capital development and Seven Billion, One Hundred and Fifty-four Million, Seven Hundred and Sixty-seven Thousand, Nine Hundred and Seventeen naira Sixty-six kobo (N7,154,767,917.66) only was spent on debt service within the period. We also realized N5.9 billion as Internally Generated Revenue during the time.
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, although the approved 2017 budget made adequate provisions for the needs of the State, developments during the year has created the need for a supplementary budget. Accordingly, I have laid before the Honourable House, a supplementary request of Two Billion, Three Hundred and Twenty-nine Million, Six Hundred and Seventeen Thousand, Three Hundred and Eighty-nine Naira (N2,329,617,389.00) only for consideration and appropriation. The provision for this supplementary expenditure has been sourced from items in the approved 2017 budget, which we have carefully examined and concluded but cannot be executed in 2017 considering the time left and no process has yet commenced for utilisation of these provisions. Hence, the 2017 Budget aggregate expenditure will remain the same at the sum of One Hundred and Eighty-three Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty-eight Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty Thousand, Four Hundred and Ninety-nine naira (N183, 368,780,499.00) only.
22.0 We have continued to apply prudence to the utilisation of scarce funds within the year for provision of security for life and property, infrastructure while at same time meeting our debt obligations. We were however not able to clear outstanding salaries, gratuity and pensions due mainly to the drastic shortfall in revenue and the over bloated average monthly wage bill of N7.8b.
THE PROPOSED FISCAL YEAR 2018 BUDGET ESTIMATES
23.0 The proposed fiscal year 2018 Budget Estimate is driven by the desire of this administration to continue to provide security for life and property and create enabling business environment for businesses to thrive, sustain and consolidate rural transformation for improvement in our competitiveness and deepen agricultural production using the value chain concept in line with the blueprint, “Our Collective Vision for a New Benue” and the Ten Year Development Plan. Furthermore, Government shall ensure the implementation of programmes and policies that will improve the overall welfare and capacity of the public service within available resources while at the same time strengthening appropriate institutions for quality education and health service deliveries and provide social interventions for the vulnerable in our society. At least three science and technical schools will be established to train appropriate human resource. We will continue our efforts to provide rural access road and electrification while water supply and sanitation will also be prioritised. The on-going renovation of primary schools will be sustained and extended to cover more schools. The health sector will be given special attention especially at the primary health level. Every effort will be made to recruit more of our youths and women in the agriculture sector to promote the agriculture as business. Access to credit will be improved to support self-employment in agriculture. By January, 2018, we expect new efficiency in payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions as the Abounu-led committee must have completed work and the implementation of the reduction of the monthly wage bill from N7.8 billion to N4.5 billion will have commenced. The support of the House of Assembly in this direction will also be appreciated. We also expect our local governments to be ready to operate efficiently to add value to good governance in the state.
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, our reforms in the civil service are on course with the expectation for a robust and well trained civil service at the end of the exercise. Similar reform is also on-going in land administration to improve on tax. In this regard, we have given tax holiday to allow citizens secure their certificates of occupancy. We will continue to support law enforcement agencies to ensure peace, law and order. Our youth and indeed other citizens will be encourage to engage in agriculture as a business with incentives like provision inputs and credit facility at concessionary interest rates.
ASSUMPTIONS OF THE PROPOSED 2018 BUDGET ESTIMATES
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the 2018 Budget Estimate is based on the assumption that:
- the revenue sharing formula would improve with respect to the Statutory Allocation and Value Added Tax (VAT)
- there would be continued institutional strengthening of internally generated revenue collection in the State in collaboration with the Local Government Councils
- there would be a total blockage of all leakages in internal revenue generation by MDAs and remitting of same into Government Treasury Single Account
- there would be continuation of the financial management reforms embarked upon with the implementation of the Fiscal Sustainability Plan
- the political and economic climate of Nigeria and particularly of Benue State shall remain stable during fiscal year 2018
- the exchange rate of the naira ($305.00) will also remain stable and the benchmark of oil price ($45.00) as proposed by the Federal Government is attained and sustained
- Herdsmen and Farmers and other communal clashes are eliminated.
2018 BUDGET REVENUE ESTIMATES
- After noting the above assumptions and taking into consideration, the 2017 revenue performance, a total sum of One Hundred and Seventy-eight Billion, Three Hundred and Seventy-seven Million, Eight Hundred and Eleven Thousand, Six Hundred and Eight Naira (N178, 377,811,608.00) only is now proposed for approval as estimated aggregate revenue from all sources in fiscal year 2018. Although we were only able to realise 32.68% of the total approved revenue for 2017 as at September, 2017, we have proposed this figure for 2018 bearing in mind the compelling need to make adequate provisions for the productive sector of the economy, consolidate the on-going rural transformation and the following underling considerations:-
- i) the relative peace in the Niger Delta coupled with the stability in the price of crude oil and the exchange rate of the naira are expected to have positive impact on our accruals from Federation Account
- ii) we have introduced key reforms in our financial management and currently, the Fiscal Sustainability Plan is being implemented with in-built mechanism for improvement in revenue generation and improvements in prudent management of resources
iii) we have renewed our commitment with our development partners and expect a robust relationship within the year 2018
- iv) we are also consolidating our accounting systems with the sustained implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS)
- v) Revenue from PAYE is expected to rise because of the robust mechanism being put in place for collection
With the above objectives, assumptions and expectations, the inflow from the various sources of revenue for the proposed 2018 budget estimate is as follows:-
Table II: Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Revenue Estimates
|SOURCE OF REVENUE||AMOUNT (N)|
|State Statutory Allocation||46,998,550,000.00|
|Value Added Tax (VAT)||10,000,000,000.00|
|Excess Crude Oil||2,000,000,000.00|
|Foreign Exchange Gain||4,790,380,807.00|
|Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Commercial||5,299,291,750.00|
|Revenue from Institutions and Boards||13,648,587,083.00|
|Domestic Aid and Grants||11,906,600,000.00|
|Foreign Aid and Grants||9,713,357,765.00|
|Domestic/Foreign Loans/Deficit Financing||40,000,000,000.00|
|Extra Ordinary Items||786,058,000.00|
2018 BUDGET EXPENDITURE PROJECTION
- The proposed aggregate expenditure of Benue State Government in fiscal year 2018 is One Hundred and Seventy-eight Billion, Three Hundred and Seventy-seven Million, Eight Hundred and Eleven Thousand, Six Hundred and Eight Naira (N178,377,811,608.00) only.
- From this figure, a total sum of Seventy-seven Billion, Seven Hundred and Sixty-one Million, Seventy-two Thousand, and Six Hundred and Sixteen Naira (N77,761,072,616.00) only is projected as recurrent expenditure in 2018 representing 44%. Out of this figure, Fifty-one Billion, fifteen Million, Two Hundred and Fifty-seven Thousand, Twenty-six naira (N51,015,257,026.00) is projected as personnel expenditure representing 29% while Twenty-six Billion, Seven Hundred and Forty-five Million, Eight Hundred and Fifteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety-one naira (N26,305,815,591.00) representing 15% is for overhead expenditure.
- The capital expenditure for fiscal year 2018 is One Hundred Billion, Six Hundred and sixteen Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty-eight Thousand, Nine Hundred and Ninety-one naira (N100,616,738,991.00.00) only representing 56% of the total expenditure.
2018 BUDGET ESTIMATES SECTORAL ALLOCATION
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, we are proposing for this year an allocation of Twenty-five Billion, Two Hundred and Twenty-eight Million, Two Hundred and Forty-six Thousand, Nine Hundred and Seventy-eight Naira (N25,228,246,978.00) only representing 14.14% to administration while the economic, Law and Justice and Social Sectors are allocated Eighty-seven Billion, Five Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Four Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Two Hundred and Ninety-two Naira (N87,587,490,292.00) only representing 49.10%; Three Billion, Three Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Nine Hundred and Twenty-seven Naira (N3,387,187,927.00) representing 1.90% and Sixty-two Billion, One Hundred and Seventy-four Million, Eight Hundred and Eighty-six Thousand, Four Hundred and Eleven Naira (N62,174,886,411.00) only representing 34.86% respectively.
THE CHALLENGES OF FISCAL YEAR 2018 BUDGET
- The following are the anticipated challenges of the 2018 Budget.
- a) ensuring adequate revenue inflows in the face of dwindling federation account receipts to fund the budget
- b) sustainable payment of wages to all legitimate categories of public servants and pensioners
- c) payment of cost of running government
- d) funding of all capital projects and meeting Government contractual obligations
- e) payments of all outstanding debts
- f) cost of controlling unexpected herdsmen and communal crises.
- In-order to mitigate these challenges, a Strategy Committee on Revenue, Development Cooperation and Agriculture value chains to be Chaired by His Excellency, the Executive Governor and to hold meeting monthly will be institutionalised beginning January, 2018 to address policy issues regarding generation and remittance of revenue, agriculture value chain and development cooperation in the State. Similarly, because of the fact that the revenue estimates were submitted by MDAs based on their capacities, adequate support and compliance measures shall be put in place beginning January, 2018 to track and ensure remittance of all collected revenues in line with agreed milestones and sanctions will be applied where appropriate. Also, all existing consultancy and service contract for revenue generation will be reviewed with the aim to ensure value for money.
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I believe that the task of developing the State is collective and I will continue to act and promote cordial relationship between all the arms of government for the State to achieve development. I therefore seek the continued cooperation and support of the Benue State House of Assembly in making development possible for our people.
- It is on this note that I now place before the Honourable House, the Benue State Government Budget Estimates for fiscal year 2018 with an aggregate expenditure projection of One Hundred and Seventy-eight Billion, Three Hundred and Seventy-seven Million, Eight Hundred and Eleven Thousand, Six Hundred and Eight Naira (N178, 377,811,608.00) only to the Glory of God Almighty and benefit of our people.
- Thank you for your attention.
- In God we trust.
ADDRESS OF BENUE STATE GOVERNOR, SAMUEL ORTOM, AT THE THIRD STAKEHOLDERS’ MEETING HELD ON MONDAY, 13TH FEBRUARY, 2017, AT THE PEOPLES HOUSE, MAKURDI.
We thank God and the good people of Benue State for the privilege they have given to us to welcome you all to this event. Today’s occasion is another opportunity for us to interact with you most distinguished sons and daughters of the State. You are the major stakeholders in the Benue project.
2. Gathered here is the cream of the Benue community that cuts across political, religious and ethnic divides. The ties that bind us are more than those which divide. We are all members of one large Benue family. May I therefore, welcome you all to our family meeting.
3. My Deputy, Engineer Benson Abounu and I, deeply appreciate the people of the state that provided us the opportunity to serve them.
4. Let me appreciate you for responding swiftly to the invitation that you may have received at short notice.
5. You may recall that during our inauguration we pledged to constitute a participatory government in which citizens will have their say and way. We promised to promote the growth and development of our state in accordance with the democratic principles of due consultation and inclusive participation.
6. This meeting which is the third since our assumption of office has been expanded and it is organized to demonstrate our commitment to fulfilling that pledge. We will continue to hold Town Hall meetings in each LGA so as to interact closely with our people and receive feedback which will add value to good governance.
7. You may recall that we also promised to make full disclosure about our state of affairs at all times and from the beginning we committed ourselves to sustaining what was right and boldly correcting what was wrong.
8. Ours is the first administration since the creation of Benue State that met a deficit treasury on assumption of office. The situation we met on ground was that of total collapse of governance and public institutions resulting in unprecedented hardship on the people even as salaries, gratuities and pensions had not been paid for months while public institutions including the Benue State University and College of Health Sciences were on strike.
9. Things were virtually at a standstill. For take-off we had to secure N10billion facility to pay two-month’ salary, and meet critical obligations. We also sought and obtained permission from the House of Assembly to secure another N5.5 billion to pay counterpart funding for development projects with partners so as to retain them in the state. We are pleased to inform you that we accessed that facility and have deployed it to match with funds from local and international partners. The Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, provided N3.8 billion and with our payment of an equal amount we accessed N7.6 billion which we have invested into 740 projects in the primary school sector across the state. Similarly, we paid N1.2 billion to the Millennium Development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals MDGs/SDGs and accessed N2.4 billion. With this we are positively affecting the lives of millions in the health, education, economic as well as water and sanitation sectors across the state.
10. At the inception of our administration we also embarked on a debt verification exercise. We obtained initial preliminary figures of N90 billion which the Ministry of Finance gave us. The transition committee turned in a figure of over N130 billion after its painstaking exercise but stated that the amount was not exhaustive as it did not get access into some aspects of the state and local government financial profiles. As the state government updated its records during compilation of figures for the Federal Government bailout, the amount increased N169 billion, yet revelations continue to crop up. Out of this amount, over N69 billion was owed state and local government workers as salaries, pensions and gratuities.
11. In the course of investigations, questionable transactions involving billions in state government shares in several companies, and businesses generally have been brought to light. The need to get to the root of all these, especially as the people demanded to know why the state had been brought to its knees necessitated the setting up commissions of inquiry. The most far reaching of this has been the Justice Elizabeth Kpojime Commission. Its report indicted 52 persons including the former Governor Gabriel Suswam for looting N107 billion from the coffers of the state and a further investigation of N44 billion. The Commission’s white paper has been forwarded to anti-corruption agencies and the police who have commenced the prosecution of some of the key actors.
12. In the circumstances in which we found ourselves at the inception of our administration we found it impracticable to accept thousands of new recruits into the state civil service with no source of funds to pay their salaries. There was also the case of hurried creation of new first class stools in flagrant abuse of due process. There was no better option than to put these decisions on hold. While the economic recession has not permitted us to review recruitment into the civil service, circumstances dictated an amendment of the Chieftaincy Law. The development has paved way for the selection of first and third class traditional rulers in the Tiv speaking area while the exercise is ongoing in the Idoma speaking area.
13. Meanwhile, verification exercises are currently being carried out to ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of wage bills that are close to N8 billion at the state and local government levels. The current figures at both levels seem bloated and therefore, unacceptable. My predecessor also drew attention to this challenge when he stated in an interview in the Leadership newspaper of Thursday, 2nd February, 2015, that the monthly wage bill of the state at both levels was more than N7 billion. At the time he spoke the minimum wage for teachers had not been implemented and he also did not reckon with commitments to pensions and overheads. Ours is one of the highest wage bills in the country and with each passing day it is becoming more obvious with dwindling resources that payment of salaries has become a major challenge. We believe that as stakeholders in the Benue project you might assist us to find the way forward. One obvious way is to collectively and carefully review salaries in mutually acceptable way that government can pay and also execute projects for the good of all. Last year, I promised to clear all salary arrears by December based on the hope that the Federal Government would pay completely the London and Paris Club refunds of $181 million due to the State after the previous administration had received about $24 million. However, with the payment of only a quarter of the money we were able to liquidate the arrears for only two months at both levels. We believe that we shall move to clear the outstanding from the balance left.
14. Towards the end of 2015 we received bailout funds for payment of salary arrears at both the local government levels. We accessed N15.5 billion for payment of teachers and local government salary arrears and N12.5 for state government workers. Unfortunately, these much awaited funds have not been able to clear all salary arrears. Moreover, both arrears of local and state government pensions and gratuities were not been covered by the funds. We however, express profound gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for the initiative which we believe ameliorated the plight of workers at the time the arrears were cleared. At the state level with prudent management we were able to save N1.6 billion which we injected back into the system while at local government level it was N1.4 billion which is still in account as a result of a garnishee order.
15. The federal government also gave states a N10 billion infrastructure facility and we ploughed the money into massive road construction, rural electrification and other vital projects. Consequently, contractors were called back to site on 10 abandoned roads while we awarded contracts for the construction of two major new roads besides rural ones.
16. In order to beef up our internally generated revenue profile we have also constituted the board of the Benue State Internal Revenue Service, BIRS, and appointed a substantive chairman. The initiative is to reenergize the organization and reposition it to deliver on its mandate. In the face of continuous dwindling of the federal allocation to the state with attendant challenges including difficulties in paying salaries and providing critical infrastructure the need to look inwards has become imperative. However, efforts in this direction have met stiff resistance from tax payers making us to propose a review of the Revenue Law.
17. Our administration has remained committed to its core values which are anchored on the fear of God which explained our objective of dedicating the state to God last year. These include transparency, accountability, fairness, justice, humility, selflessness, discipline, integrity, integration, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and unity. We believe that these values make development inevitable. However, for complete forgiveness and reconciliation to take place, restitution has to take place.
18. We have continued to emphasize zero tolerance for corruption and have warned that government officials who divert public funds into personal use will be punished. We have continued to reiterate that our philosophy emphasizes that public office remains an opportunity to offer quality service to the people. Those who intend to make money are being encouraged to get into the private sector to do business for which we are creating an enabling environment.
19. The security of lives and property continues to remain our topmost priority which explains our huge investment in the sector. We have deepened our engagement with our neighbors in Nasarawa and Taraba States and have been able to secure an accord between the Fulani and Agatu people. We have continued to fund the presence of the conventional security agencies in several flashpoints across the state and have set up committees at various levels to sustain peace. While the carrot approach of our amnesty program elapsed, the stick approach has continued to yield bountiful dividends as the war against crime in the state has recorded great successes. The United Nations and other agencies assisted us in the destruction of over 600 weapons seized in the course of the amnesty last year. We believe that in the very near future the gang leader, Mr. Terwase Akwaza, alias Ghana will be apprehended and prosecuted. There is every need for all stakeholders to partner with us in this all important fight.
20. Let me inform this distinguished audience that in spite of our numerous challenges we have recorded the following milestones in the various sectors in line with our five point agenda and blueprint:
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. Renovation of some secondary schools and recruitment of Math’s teachers to strengthen science
3. Resolution of disputes with unions a few days after taking over and the resumption of Benue State University (BSU) from a prolonged strike.
4. 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.
5. Increase of carrying capacity of the university from 4, 655 to 6, 000.
6. Obtained full accreditation for seven courses
7. Commencement of payment of salaries of BSU Technical School Staff after five years of non-payment of salaries
8. Re-training of 10,000 primary and 6000 secondary school teachers.
9. Plans are underway to return mission and private schools to their proprietors.
10. Establishment of Benue Peoples Education Project (BEPEP) to raise funds for development of education in the State.
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
7. 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
8. 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
9. Purchase of ambulances for health centres across the state
10. Provision of motorized boreholes and public toilets under SDGs and its partnership with DFID in parts of the state.
11. Construction of Skills Acquisition Centres in Apa-Agila, Ado; Makurdi and Gbajimba in Guma LGA
12. Construction of Orange Packaging Plant in Ushongo Town, Ushongo LGA
AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRIALISATION
- Ongoing construction and equipping of laboratory at the Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev, and rehabilitation of Agric Training centres in Mbatie and Otobi.
- Evolved a new policy for procurement of fertilizer at highly subsidised rate of 38% to Benue farmers.
- Facilitation of N2 billion CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme agricultural loans for disbursement to Benue farmers.
- Introduction of land clearing and dry season farming.
- 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
- 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.
- The same approach is being applied to other comatose state-owned industries.
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 Hiitom 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 the new 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.
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.
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
ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY
1. Setting up of Judicial Commission of Inquiry into funds which accrued to Benue state and how they were utilized between 2007 and 2015
2. Setting up the Administrative Commission of Inquiry into the sale and lease of government property within the same period.
3. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry submitted its report recently and indicted 52 individuals and 10 corporate bodies who are to refund over N107 billion to the coffers of the state and further investigate the misappropriation of N44 billion.
4. A white paper was issued on the Justice Kpojime Commission’s report and implementation is in progress.
5. Introduction of Treasury Single Account, TSA, at the local government level
6. Inclusion of labour unions like NLC, TUC and NUT for the first time, as part of the joint account committee.
7. Introduction of town hall meetings and constant radio programs
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.
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.
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.
1. 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
2. Ensured the restoration of water supply in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala with the payment of over N1 billion to the contractors
3. Provision of three motorized boreholes and construction of drainages at Government Girls College, Makurdi.
4. Provision of boreholes for the people of Jaki village in Kwande and parts of Vandeikya local government areas.
WOMEN, YOUTHS, SPORTS AND THE DISABLED
– Reinvigoration of the Benue State Rehabilitation Centre, Apir and provision of vehicles and other support.
– Takeover of schools for the disabled hitherto owned by some local governments in the state
– Support for private initiatives for old people’s homes
– Rejuvenation of Lobi Stars Football Club
– Care for widows and orphans through support programs of the Eunice Spring of Life Foundation.
21. The above list is not exhaustive and we have directed Ministries, Departments and Agencies to brief the press on their achievements since the inception of our administration. It would not have been possible to accomplish the foregoing without the support and patience of the good people of Benue State. We appreciate and cherish the confidence you continue to repose in us.
22. Last year, our development blueprint, “Our Collective Vision For A New Benue” was unveiled so that all of you can make inputs into its transformation into a viable working document. We expect that you have your copies and have domesticated the document for our collective good. We don’t have monopoly of wisdom which informs our resolve to always bow to superior reasoning and ideas.
23. May we also inform you that we have produced a 10-year development plan in accordance with the manifesto of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, as well as our blueprint.
24. We appreciate the role of all major stakeholders including the Speaker and members of the State House of Assembly and the Chief Judge, the President, Customary Court of Appeal as well as all judges and staff of the judiciary. Our appreciation also goes to members of the national assembly, you the major stakeholders, traditional rulers, spiritual fathers and all other leaders in the state for their support and contributions to the development of the state.
25. As your Governor, I wish to reiterate my commitment to work hard and to do so with the fear of God. Let me assure all of you that I remain the Governor of all Benue citizens. I am governor for the rich and poor, rural and urban dwellers, men and women, students and workers, market women and traders, young and old. As long as you are a citizen of Benue I will work hard to ensure your safety, security and welfare irrespective of your political and religious affiliation.
26. We thank you all for coming. As we depart I wish you all journey mercies.
27. Thank you and God bless.
28. In God we trust.
GOVERNOR ORTOM’S DEDICATION PRAYER
Heavenly Father, the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we bow in worship to you for bringing us to this day. You created the heavens and earth and made us to dwell in the land of Benue State for your praise and glory. It has also pleased you to make me Samuel Ortom governor of Benue State to do justice and righteousness so that the people may rejoice and fulfill their destiny as individuals and as a corporate people.
3. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness because righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
4. O LORD God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, please incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear, open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words that I speak in your presence before these witnesses and also hear the prayers of your servants and people.
5. Heavenly Father, you put in my heart on January 1st 2016 to dedicate Benue State to you so that You can fulfill your eternal plans that you purposed for us before the world was made. Your Word clearly says that:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2nd Chronicles 7 vs. 14.
6. In obedience to your prompting, we have sought your face during the last fourteen (14) days and prayed and turned from our wicked ways. Therefore humbly hear us from heaven, forgive our sins and heal Benue State.
7. Once again I identify with all the acts of wickedness perpetrated by all the former leaders as well as the followers that have offended your righteous laws. I aggregate all the transgressions of idolatry, ancestor worship, bloodshed, occultism and all evil which we have already repented of and ask that the precious blood of Jesus Christ, our redeemer and great High priest will avail to cleanse us and the entire Benue State of their guilt and sanction. Please LORD let the fountain of the Blood of Jesus Christ be open over Benue State in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Heavenly Father, having forgiven our sins we ask that You will heal and restore Benue State to the original purpose and mandate that you intended for her. However LORD, so that we never return to the evil of the past, I wish to dedicate Benue State to you as an everlasting possession. Your Word clearly states that: “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” Psalm 24 vs. 1.
9. Therefore Benue State is the LORD’s and all its fullness including the men, women, boys, girls, children, fathers, ministers, elders, lands, rivers, trees, hills, mountains, agricultural resources, mineral resources, villages, towns, local governments, ministries, departments, agencies, legislature, judiciary, security agencies, industries, executive council, including I Samuel Ortom as governor.
10. On this 30th Day of May in the year 2016, I Samuel Ortom, the one whom You O LORD by sovereign grace and election has made governor and leader over this land of Benue State, do dedicate this Land and all its fullness to You the only true God. Henceforth Benue State shall be called the possession of the Most High God! Oh Lord of Israel, as a people we surrender to you. We have come back today because there is no God like you in Heaven above or on earth below. The Lord, the Compassionate, Merciful and Gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, praise be to the Lord, the God of Benue from everlasting to everlasting, Amen.
11. O LORD, we also seek to enter into a covenant with You. Your Word declares that you are a God that keeps covenants for thousands of generations.
12. We also as the people of Benue State represented here by myself Governor Samuel Ortom, Priests, and Elders from the entire State seek to enter into a perpetual covenant with you the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the only true God, Elohim. Please receive us as your people afresh and use us for your glory as you intended from the very beginning.
13. All other negative covenants that our fathers, and other leaders may have entered into in error or even deliberately contrary to Your will and purpose now stand nullified in the name and by the power in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
14. Heavenly Father let a New Benue State arise in accordance with this your divine timing. We pledge to continue to walk with you in righteousness and justice so that your glory shall be revealed in and from Benue State for all flesh to see.
15. Thank you Oh God of mercy for you are slow in anger and abundance in love. Thank you for your deliverance, and for healing. May your name be exalted and be praise for ever and ever. Amen.
His Excellency Samuel Ortom,
The Executive Governor of Benue State, Nigeria
Dated this 30th day of May, 2016
One year ago in this very arena, I was sworn in as the fifth Civilian Governor of Benue State. In accepting my mandate I made solemn declarations to the good people of Benue state. I had pledged to govern with the fear of God translating to core values of transparency, accountability, fairness, justice, humility, selflessness, disciple, integrity, integration, forgiveness and reconciliation which shall engender peace and unity as well as make development inevitable.
2. I also clearly stated that our vision for change will not be realized by chance. It would require focus, determination and boldness. I had promised to unveil and disclose a huge debt burden which the last administration left behind in forms of external and internal loans, unpaid salaries and allowances as well as retirement benefits. We have verified and found that the last administration left behind a total debt burden of over N169 billion.
3. I had told you that the major policy thrust of my administration would be:
i. Good governance and revenue security;
ii. Agricultural-Driven Industrialization;
iii. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-Based Education and Health Services;
iv. Investment in critical infrastructure; and
v. Promoting gender equality and empowering women, youth, sports, and persons with disabilities.
4. I also spoke about the need to contain terror, thuggrey and introduce amnesty and reintegration of unlawful armed youth who would surrender.
5. I had clearly known that the road would be rough and tough with giants on the way to hinder, but the God I trust will surely give us victory.
6. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, after one year of walk and work with you, let me publicly declare that the Lord has been good. He has blessed us and given us more reasons to trust in Him not only now but, as long as I live. I have found favour in God, I can run a good race with Him, stay on course for a strong finish. I have also benefited a great deal from the favour and kind cooperation of my dear wife Dr. Eunice Erdoo Ortomand family in this one year and I know she will go all along with me to the end. Let me acknowledge my Deputy Engr. Benson Abounu, and our leader Distinguished Senator George Akume for their services, advice and profound commitment to this project during one year of our young administration. I cherish the kind cooperation of the Hon. Speaker, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange and Honourable members of the Benue state House of assembly as well as the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Iorhemen Hwande and members of the judiciary. Let me also salute other leaders, and especially Distinguished Senator Barnabas Gemade and other Benue state members in the National Assembly,Chief Audu Ogbe, the Hon Minister of Agriculture deserves special mentioning because of every support and encouragement he gives. I salute our indefatigable APC state chairman, Comrade Abba Yaro, members of his EXCO and entire membership of our great party, APC for their inputs and determination to ensure good governance in our state. I commend the great people of Benue state who massively voted for me for their resilience in keeping faith with the change agenda. We will never let you down until a new Benue of our dream is realized.
7. The last one year was busy and fulfilling and a year of uncommon achievements in service delivery. Together with my cabinet, we have carefully focused on my campaign promises, making every effort to translate my blueprint to reality. All I have achieved in 12 months is a result of collective effort and is beyond the expectation of those who laid booby traps for us. Now we can clearly see the hand of God in the governance of this state.
8. In good governance, I have kept faith with the people of Benue. I have refused to be distracted. I have remained focused and prudent in the use and application of scare resources. I have maintained a slim but effective government reducing ministries and commissioners from 17 to 13 and Special Advisers from 30 to 20. Ministries and agencies of government have been carefully restructured to eliminate waste. We have implemented amnesty programme which is hailed at home and abroad and acknowledged by United Nations as a desirable model for peace in Africa. An achievement which has become a subject of envy in some quarters.
9. The Benue State Internal Revenue Services (BIRS) has been restructured for effectiveness and the law setting up BIRS is being reviewed to eliminate anti-people and harsh provisions. This restructuring has resulted in some improvement in our IGR from N250 million to about N500 million monthly.
10. We have set up various panels and commissions including visitation panels to the Benue State University and other tertiary institutions in the State. This has helped us and is helping us to appreciate their challenges in order to appropriately address them. The Justice Kpojime and Assets Verification Commissions have submitted reports, and a white paper has been issued. The Kpojime Commission found that N107 billion was crudely misappropriated by the last administration and every effort is being made by the state government and the EFCC to recover the money so that we can invest in our development programs.
11. In collaboration with the Federal Government, we have accessed soft loans popularly known as bailout to pay salary arrears of civil servants that could not be paid by the last administration. Both State and Local government arrears have been cleared. We have also obtained infrastructure facility to deal with challenges of urban, rural and State roads. Let me pause and commend our President Muhammadu Buhari for his great concern and support given to our state to stay afloat. With the facility we now have recalled contractors back to 12 Roads in the 3 senatorial zones that were abandoned by the last administration. We have also awarded contracts for three new roads including Origbo-Imande – Akpu – Gbajimba road and contractors have been mobilized to site.
12. Our achievements in the area of education, health and agriculture in the last one year are known to many of you. We now have graduated 40 doctors at BSU Medical School, a feat that could not be accomplished in 12 years. Our School of Nursing and Midwifery are re-positioned and may soon receive accreditation to start admitting students again.
13. We have improved in the provision of Social Services. Water now runs in Katsina-Ala and Otukpo and soon other major towns and State capital will have adequate water supply. An abridged list of our achievements in all sectors is being circulated and there are enough copies for all.
14. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the atmosphere in the Benue Peoples House when we took over has not just being warm, but indeed very hot. Government was and is being faced with avalanche of challenges. Some of these were deliberately created by the last administration to make governance difficult, if not impossible.
15. We entered a dark, cloudy and unholy place where wickedness and impunity reigned. The spirits of opposition and disobedience to God hovered around the seat of government. We have sanitized the place and made it calm and have subjected it to the counsel of Almighty God with noble men at the gates! Nothing can enter these gates unless they bow to almighty, my God and your God.
16. I have deeply reflected on the challenges facing Benue state. I have asked myself: How can we pay salaries of N4 billion each month when we receive just about N2 billion per month? The last administration collected an average of N5billion each month from the Federation account. How can we clear the arrears of salaries and pensions? How can we deal with corruption and corrupt officers? How can we resurrect our moribund industries? How can we make our schools come back to live and provide good education to our children? How can we overcome poverty, ignorance and disease? How can we regrow and reinvigorate our civil service? How can we deal with the serious issue of unemployment? How can we serve our farmers from invasion by the Fulani herdsmen? Why should my security staff, Denen Igbana, be murdered? How can we keep our towns clean? How can we deal with ethnicity and nepotism compromising our capacity and productivity? Why should impunity thrive in the land? How can we unite the sharply divided political class and political leaders in the state?
17. And above all, how can we deal with Sin in our land? Benue is involved with sins of wickedness, slander, disobedience, heavy involvement in occult, jealousy, pride, violence, disunity, immorality, shedding of innocent blood, robbery, kidnapping, corruption, arrogance, drunkenness and other vile practices that have polluted the State and brought us to where we are now.
18. When God opened my eyes to see the sins of Benue. I was greatly distressed. I then decided that it was better to bring all these before God. God has compassion over all he has created. God showed me an example of the State of Israel that was destroyed because of Sin, and how he sent his servant Nehemiah to reconstruct the collapsing walls. Then God said to me: If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.
19. As your Governor and Leader, God has made me to realize the problem of Benue and its people. We have abandoned God. We have gone after other gods. We have abandoned the truth of his words. We have abandoned his path and are all eager to embrace evil ways.
20. As Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem so do I call on all sons and daughters to return to God. I had declared 14 days of prayer and fasting from May 16 to May 29 for Benue and all who live here: the Clergy and laity, government officials, legislators, judiciary, men, civil servants, women, youth, children, protestants, Catholics and Moslems, private sector and all segment of Benue society had opportunity to confess before the Lord and obtain forgiveness. During the 14 days of praying and fasting, we cried to God. We asked forgiveness. God say if my people confess their sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
21. In obedience to God, I, Samuel Ortom as the Governor of Benue State, this day, 30th May, 2016, do hereby lead all sons and daughters of Benue State including those in diaspora back to God. We all return to God today and now with great humility and trembling. We all today dedicate ourselves to God because only God can forgive our sins and also heal our land.
22. Finally, let me call on representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ in Benue State to join me here for prayer of dedication.