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Benue News, Speeches
I am here today with members of my Government to say to all of you that the State deeply shares in your sorrow. We remember not only one moment of tragedy but 19 lives of great purpose and promise.
  1. This is the second mass burial we have the misfortune to organize in the last 5 months. On January 11, 2018, we had the mass funeral and burial of 73 of our patriots who were slaughtered in the 2018 New Year attacks by armed herdsmen in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State. We never expected another such day. But we were wrong. On 15th March, 2018, we held another mass funeral for 26 victims of herdsmen attack in Omusu, Okpokwu local government area of the state. From January1 to date, Benue is being attacked by herdsmen nearly every day not only in Guma and Logo but also in Ukum, Agatu, Okpokwu, Kwande, Gwer west, Gwer East and even Makurdi LGAs. At least 18 of our 23 LGAs have been attacked.
  2.         In the early hours of April 25, Rev. Father Joseph Gor, Rev. Father Felix Tyolaha and 17 other worshipers were again brutally killed by armed herdsmen at Quasi Parish Ukpor, Mbalom in Gwer East Local Government Area. They were in early morning prayers in the Church when they were gunned down.
  3. The Reverend Fathers are not farmers. They were not in the farm. The church where they were holding the mass has no grass. It is therefore curious why Reverend Fathers who do not have a farm and parishioners who were worshiping God would be killed by herdsmen in the Church. By so doing, the armed herdsmen have moved the narrative of the current crisis from search of grass to other obvious motives.
  4. On this very difficult day, in this difficult time for Benue and for Nigeria, it is important to ask our country: what kind of nation are we? What direction do we want to move to? Are we going forward or backward. Are we also in the 21st century? People are killing us. We know our killers, but they are neither questioned nor arrested. In two separate Press Conferences which were widely reported in the media   the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and   Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association   called on Fulani herders in all of West Africa and beyond to reject the state law on Ranching and to come into Benue to help them reclaim their land. They swore that, “more blood will flow in Benue” if the Ranching Law is not rescinded. We are continually being killed not because we do not know our killers. It is because we know our killers that we are being killed. Our concern is not with herdsmen militia, Libyans, Boko Haram, ISIS or any mercenary. Our concern is those who hire them, who bring them and show them the killing fields. The arrest and prosecution of Miyette Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association will be the beginning of elementary practice of justice for the 492 people so far killed in Benue by herdsmen.
  5. Our Ranching Law which prohibits open grazing is an instrument of development. It launches Nigeria into the 21st century where open grazing is extinct in many other countries of the world. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, India has 303million cattle, Brazil has 226m, China has100m, USA has 93m, European Union 89m, Argentina 53m and Australia 27m.   All these countries ranch their animals. Nigeria has only a little less than 20 million cattle which should be ranched.  Ranching provides an avenue for both crop farmers and those involved in animal husbandry to increase production using modern technology.
  6. Implementing Ranching policy in Nigeria has great positive implications on our food security. Both the National Economic Council (NEC) and Forum of 19 Northern Governors have already endorsed Ranching as the only sustainable solution to the current invasion by herdsmen. The idea of Ranching cattle in Nigeria cannot and should not be ignored. Those involved in the profitable cattle rearing business need to go beyond   endorsement to establishment of ranches.
  7. Ladies and Gentlemen, we cannot know how long we may have these avoidable trials, and pains. But we know God’s plan for us. Good plan with a future where herders and farmers will live in peace, where there will be no cattle rustling. A future where there will be freedom of worship and no ethnic or racial discrimination.
  8. God uses good people to do great things. The blood of good people like Rev. Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha and 17 others will not be in vain. Their death and burial may mark the beginning of the end of political instability and the killings across the nation. With their death, the whole nation, indeed the international community is now aware of this calamity. The Representative of His Grace, The Pope who is the Head of Catholic Church worldwide is here. The Catholic Church is widely known for championing justice, peace and equity around the world and will not turn its back on any incidence of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
  9. Benue State and especially Mbalom community was blessed to have such great Catholic Priests serving with us. They deeply loved the community and the community also loved them.
  10. Your Excellency the Vice President, My Lords, distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, please join me to commend the Catholic Church in Benue and indeed in Nigeria for their giant strides in social development. We commend them for providing good and quality education, outstanding health facilities and charity work across the state. Above all, the Catholic Church remains a loud voice for the voiceless, for the powerless, the downtrodden and the undisputed champion of crusaders for peace and Social Justice.
  11. We are determined to stand for truth and justice:
–  Though armed herdsmen have killed over 492 of our people since January 1, 2018, –  Though many of our homes, schools, and health centres are destroyed. –  Though we have over 180,000 of our people in 8 IDP Camps and over 500,000 displaced people living with relatives or uncompleted buildings –  80,000 of our children of school age are now in IDP camps with no education, –  Though we have 2,442 of our pregnant women and 2,766 nursing mothers in IDP Camps. All these because of armed herdsmen attacks and invasion.  We are determined to keep on crying until justice comes. The night is long, very long but we are now at dawn, and morning will soon be here.
  1. The Rev. Fathers dedicated their lives to love, justice and spiritual service to fellow human beings. They died actively doing just that. The 17 worshipers died along with their beloved Priests. It is pain to us but we know, that they are now in a better place where there will be no ethnic cleansing. They are all in a place of comfort where armed herders will never kill them.
  2. Our people are being tested again, but as we mourn, our detractors should know this: we have unbroken spirit and have remained committed to our faith in Christ  and in our mission to evolve a peaceful Agricultural community through the Ranching Law.We appeal to our people not to take laws into their hands, for vengeance belongs to God and two wrongs do not make a right.
  3. I want to commend the President of Nigeria and the Federal government for the recent deployment of troops and security agents to Benue. We hope that they will drive away the killer-herdsmen to allow our people leave IDP camps to their homes. Permit me to one again welcome our father and leader, the Vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN. We have mantrouples but our father is not tired of us. He has not abandoned us. Only last week he was here to visit with us and brought message of comfort and hope for men, women and children and he personally visited them in IDP camps. We deeply appreciate you sir for beefing up security here, and indeed for the assurances you gave the people. Above all we appreciate you for identifying with us at this very difficult time. We commend security agencies for their sacrifice to give us peace. May God console the families of those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
  4. Finally, your excellences, my Lords, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let us all admit that we are in excruciating pains, and the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of the great loss.
But we will carry on: –  Because we have to, – and because our loved ones would want us to, –  and because it is In God we Trust, –  and God never fails. Thank you. God bless you. FUNERAL ORATION BY THE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, SAMUEL ORTOM, AT THE  MASS BURIAL OF TWO CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND 17 OTHERS, KILLED BY ARMED HERDSMEN AT MBALOM, GWER EAST LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, BENUE STATE HELD AT SESUGH MARIA PILGRIMAGE CENTRE, AYATI  ON 22ND MAY, 2018 PROTOCOL
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Benue News, Speeches
TEXT OF STATEWIDE BROADCAST TO BENUE PEOPLE BY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM, ON THE INVASION OF FULANI HERDSMEN AND MASS FUNERAL FOR VICTIMS, ON WEDNESDAY, 10TH JANUARY, 2017.
My dear compatriots,
It is with a heavy heart that I address you this evening.
2.      We had looked forward to starting a new year with renewed hopes and aspirations when our land was invaded by merciless and mindless Fulani herdsmen. The delight of these people to murder in cold blood is as chilling as it is unimaginable. Their targets for annihilation include pregnant women, children of all ages, youths and the elderly be they men or women.
3.      From the beginning of the year to this day we have lost more than 73 people to these murderers with several others missing while many who sustained various degrees of injuries are receiving treatment. This figure does not include our security operatives who have also fallen at the hands of these enemies of peace. It does not even include those already buried in their communities.  Some of these gallant patriots who survived gun and machete attacks are receiving medical attention.
4.      Our hearts go out in sympathy with all families who lost loved ones, orphans who lost parents and bread winners, parents who lost children, as well as wives and husbands who lost their beloved spouses. We pray for God’s comfort at this difficult time of grief and pray that His judgement will be swift in response to the spilled blood which cries to Him day and night.
5.      For several years these attackers have turned our beautiful and endowed land into their killing fields. The main reason has been clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers. These attacks have been intensified with alarming devastation since 2011. The report of a survey conducted by the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state stated that in 2014 alone 10 of the 23 local government areas of the state lost hundreds of lives and incurred loses of over N95 billion. Since then more devastating attacks of wider coverage have taken place with the most devastating taking place in Agatu last year. So far, 13 of the 23 council areas of the state have been affected in these well planned and executed attacks on churches, schools, hospitals, markets, as well as private houses in addition to farms, foodstuff and all signs of progress in the affected communities.
6.      It was from this background that the people of the state desperately sought for a lasting solution and God gave us the inspiration to draw from the experience of other countries with expertise in livestock farming and animal husbandry. As a popularly elected government which is sensitive to the aspirations of our people, we crafted the law to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches. This law was enacted in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which empowers states to make laws for the welfare of their people. The major objective of the law is to ensure permanent peace between farmers and herdsmen as it makes provisions to ensure the interests of all the parties.  The law was not made against any particular group but was aimed at regulating livestock activities to eliminate friction usually generated when animals graze openly and stray into farms.
7.      The executive bill that eventually became this law went through due process with attendant public hearings at several locations in the state. This gave various stakeholders ample opportunity to make their required input before it was passed into law. By virtue of the constitutional powers conferred on me as the Governor of the state I gave my assent on 22nd May, 2017.
8.      On Tuesday, 30th May, 2017, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore held a press conference in Abuja which its National President Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, and National Secretary-General, Alhassan Salleh addressed. They stated publicly in very clear and unambiguous terms that the Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ crises in Benue State was “A STRUGGLE FOR THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE BENUE VALLEY.” They claimed that their ancestors arrived the valley before the present occupants. The two leaders threatened and vowed to mobilize herdsmen across the globe to invade the state and resist the law. This development was widely reported by the national and international media the very day and subsequently.
9.      The government and people of the state interpreted this clear handwriting on the wall as an open declaration of war on Benue State. The State Executive Council resolved that the matter must be reported to the Presidency with all urgency. As Governor I wrote a petition on the threats to President Muhammadu Buhari and other security chiefs in the country. These included the Inspector General of Police, the National Security Adviser, the Department of State Security, and relevant authorities calling for the arrest and prosecution of the Fulani leaders for making inciting threats capable of undermining the security of our state. We drew attention to the fact that from antecedents, coupled with the deadly reputation of the militia at their disposal, the Fulanis do not make empty threats. The State House of Assembly, leaders of socio-cultural organizations and other individuals and groups wrote similar petitions to the aforementioned authorities and also called for the arrest of those who made the threats. The national and international media reported these cries for help and calls for action to forestall the invasion of the state. But no action was taken.
10.    Our people would not have been massacred.  It would have been prevented.  Meanwhile, the state government delayed the implementation of the law until 1st November, 2017 so as to give a grace period for those who needed permits for the establishment of ranches to obtain them. However, no Fulani herdsmen or woman applied for the permit. Rather than make attempts to comply with the law their leaders continued to engage in more threats to resist the implementation. They also went to court to challenge the legitimacy of the law and the matter is still pending.
11.    On New Year Day, 2018 the Miyetti Allah leaders fulfilled their threats and started the invasion simultaneously in several parts of Guma and Logo local government areas. They invaded the camp of Livestock Guards charged with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with law at Tomatar, Shaghev Council ward of Guma in the dead of the night and unleashed a slaughter spree.  According to survivors, the attackers, after dealing with the guards knocked on the doors of villagers and killed those they found indoors as well as those they found on their way as they retreated. The dead bore the characteristics of Fulani militia brutality – slit throats, deep cuts from machetes on the head, chest and back of the neck with some of their private parts removed. It was well planned and clinically executed with specific targets.
12.    We took the decision to collectively mourn for those killed in the current attacks and also accord them mass state funeral to underscore the fact that their blood was spilled after a formal declaration of war on Benue State. Our sons and daughters, children, pregnant wives, fathers and mothers are victims of impunity and deliberately organized pogrom against our people. For six months we warned, we cried for help, we saw danger and sought protection from the security agencies of our land – but no one came to rescue them.
13.    We wish to draw the attention of the national and international communities to the fact that Benue State has come under a deliberate, well planned and well-funded siege. What has started in Guma and Logo is a grim statement of the evil and devastating plan against the state. Benue people MUST realize that these are not normal, ordinary times. We are under siege and the earlier we realize this the better.
14.    Our invaders do not care which political party we belong to, they don’t care where we worship.  They do not care about our age and gender.  All they care is to annihilate us, to obliterate us from the Benue Valley so that their cattle can graze and drink freely from the rivers in the state. An attack on one should be an attack on all. Pieces of the puzzle that featured Kwande, Katsina-Ala, Ukum, Gboko, Buruku, Tarka, Makurdi, Gwer, Gwer West, Otukpo, Okpokwu, Oju, and Agatu have completely fallen in place with Guma and Logo. We must bury our ethnic, political and religious differences to tackle this unprecedented challenge that may swallow us all. History beckons and we must rise to the challenge which our forefathers confronted and surmounted.
15.    The questions to answer are:  how could four year old Terkimbi who was slaughtered, rustle even just a single calf?  How could pregnant Sarah, rustle a herd of cattle?  How could 76 year old Pa. Iortimbir who could not walk without support, rustle cattle?  Why are these killers removing the private parts of defenseless women and children they slaughter? From these questions one can see that the claim that the attacks were reprisal for rustled cattle is baseless.
16.    What is happening in Benue State should be a lesson to all. The problem is surely not in our law. It is with the green grass and water wherever found in Nigeria. The implementation of our law is progressing steadily as those caught contravening have been charged to court.  States including Adamawa, Cross Rivers, Niger, Kaduna, Abia, Ebonyi, Anambra, Ogun, Zamfara have been attacked by Fulani herdsmen yet these States have not enacted anti-open grazing law.
17.    In Benue State the security situation appears to be getting out of hand as even trained security agents are becoming victims. Our people must however remain calm but alert and vigilant. They must not take the laws into their hands as the state government is collaborating with the relevant authorities to bring the situation under control.
18.    Benue State needs help to overcome this invasion. We need help to tackle the enormous humanitarian crisis on our hands.  We now have over 50,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in our State.  We appreciate the Federal authorities, individuals and organizations that have helped us to overcome similar challenges in the past and appeal to them to rally round us once again.  We call on the International Community to assist.
19.    Tomorrow morning, we shall all gather at the IBB Square in Makurdi to pay last respects to our fallen heroes.  Let me call on all citizens of Benue State to remain calm.  No one should betray his or her emotions tomorrow at the mass burial. The blood of our fallen heroes is crying out to the Federal Government and most importantly to God Almighty.  Be rest assured that our God will not fail us.
20.    May God bless you all.
21.    In God we trust.
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Benue News, Speeches

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

 

PROTOCOL

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.

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Benue News, Speeches
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. Protocols 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
 
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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;
  1. The Conditional Cash Transfer Programme,CCT
  2. The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme,GEEP
  • The NPOWER Programme
  1. 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.
  1. 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;
  1. Zone A – Ushongo, Vandeikya and Konshisha
  2. 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.
  1. 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. III.    N-POWER 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;
  1. 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
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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
  1. 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%.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
 
               TOTAL                                                                  N183,368,780,499.00
  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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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
  1. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the 2018 Budget Estimate is based on the assumption that:
  2. the revenue sharing formula would improve with respect to the Statutory Allocation and Value Added Tax (VAT)
  3. there would be continued institutional strengthening of internally generated revenue collection in the State in collaboration with the Local Government Councils
  4. there would be a total blockage of all leakages in internal revenue generation by MDAs and remitting of same into Government Treasury Single Account
  5. there would be continuation of the financial management reforms embarked upon with the implementation of the Fiscal Sustainability Plan
  6. the political and economic climate of Nigeria and particularly of Benue State shall remain stable during fiscal year 2018
  7. 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
  8. Herdsmen and Farmers and other communal clashes are eliminated.
2018 BUDGET REVENUE ESTIMATES
  1. 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:-
  2. 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
  3. 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
  1. iv) we are also consolidating our accounting systems with the sustained implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS)
  2. 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
Independent Revenue 23,214,986,203.00
Investment Income 20,000,000.00
Excess Crude Oil 2,000,000,000.00
Budget Augmentation 10,000,000,000.00
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
 Total 178,377,811,608.00
  2018 BUDGET EXPENDITURE PROJECTION
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  1. 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
  1. The following are the anticipated challenges of the 2018 Budget.
  2. a) ensuring adequate revenue inflows in the face of dwindling federation account receipts to fund the budget
  3. b) sustainable payment of wages to all legitimate categories of public servants and pensioners
  4. c) payment of cost of running government
  5. d) funding of all capital projects and meeting Government contractual obligations
  6. e) payments of all outstanding debts
  7. f) cost of controlling unexpected herdsmen and communal crises.
  8. 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.
CONCLUSION
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Thank you for your attention.
  4. In God we trust.
 
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Speeches
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.
2. O LORD God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the One who You made the heavens and the earth. Your throne O God is forever and ever. 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
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Speeches
PROTOCOL 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.
I also promised you that our government shall have zero tolerance for corruption and any government official who misappropriates public funds would be punished. Our philosophy is that which regards public office as an opportunity to serve and not that for amassing illegal wealth. 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.
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