Benue Was Almost A Failed State – Ageh | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Benue Was Almost A Failed State – Ageh

Posted: Jun 28, 2016 at 3:52 am   /   by   /   comments (0)




Chief Odeh Ageh, the Benue State Commissioner for Information, in this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, spoke on the successes of Governor Samuel Ortom’s administration within one year of his tenure. Excerpts:

A cross section of the public are of the view that the Governor Samuel Ortom administration has not fulfilled its campaign promises as expected of him in one year in office. How would you react to this assertion?

The administration is just one year old, the promises are for four years. Under one year, it is very difficult for any administration to achieve or fulfill all its promises to the electorate. But, going by his many achievements so far, there is every hope that before the end of the tenure, he will fulfill them. He has paid the state counterpart fund to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Benue State is the first state to access the 2015 provisional grant of MDG. That money was specifically for counterpart funding, for the development partners to come back to the state, because before we came in, they had all left the state. And the development partners are very important for the development of the state in the sense that they will tell you to bring certain amount of money and they will match it. If someone tells you to bring N5 million and he will swell it by matching it, there is nothing as good as that, and they have been living up to their expectations.

Then, another loan is the critical infrastructural loan given by the Federal Government to all states. That has been accessed and it is specifically for infrastructure. We cannot apply it to salary payment. If you do that, you are inviting EFCC, ICPC and they will charge you for misappropriation. There are road projects ongoing, contractors who abandoned construction sites have been remobilised back. So, the loan that is for salaries has been so used. On the issue of salaries, the workers have to be patient in the sense that the salary wage bill of Benue State is around N4 billion. What is coming from the Federation Account is in the average of about N1.7 billion. It is not enough and you know, apart from salary, the governor needs to run the government and in the present security challenges, there are a lot of costs involved. So, taking care of security challenges is not easy.

There is need for patience on the part of the people. Payment of salaries is uppermost in the mind of Governor Ortom. Going by all the ratings of Governor Ortom’s performance so far, by whatever criteria, one year in office has been a huge success for this administration. Benue State was almost a failed state. It is this administration that is now giving direction and focus. So, with that, a little push by the grace of God, we will be in the Promise Land. We have just done one year by the grace of God. Using any criteria, looking at all the sectors of the economy, we have, achieved so much. Before the end of the next one year again, you will see how far we have gone and with the budget that has been passed, you will discover that, we will move faster and the issue of funding will improve and all the challenges.

Talking about the MDGs in the state, have they started mobilising people to the state already?

Yes, almost all of them are in the state. MDGs are working all over the state. They include FADAMA two or three, etc. Various works are going on. Intensive infrastructural development is taking place, and as I said the loan obtained has been used to develop various sectors. If you look at road infrastructures, we have about nine old roads that are being constructed and in addition to two new ones. Then, if you look at the health sector, the renovation of the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery is going on and the contract for fencing of Agasha College of Health Technology had been awarded. You must have heard about the medical students of Benue State University (BSU) and about Otobi and Katsina-Ala Water Works. You may have also heard about the Cancer Centre, the Ministry of Women Affair. Look at the renovations in the ministries and quarters. Compare what is coming from the sources available and you will discover that we have gone a long way and have really achieved much so far.

The Benue State government’s amnesty programme is said to be a huge success. Yet activities of miscreants are on the increase. Don’t you think that instead of being a success, the programme is a failure?

The amnesty granted in this state has worked. It is not a failure. It is a big success. International bodies are trying to adopt the strategy. Crime is a way of life of some people. Somebody may not have the criminal tendency today, but tomorrow the devil may be at work on him.  New criminals can spring up, and then some people might have changed today and tomorrow. They are parts of the society; they can still go back to their vomit. The most important thing is that, the time of amnesty, if not that it was recently specially elongated to cater for the interest of new variables, had elapsed and it was a huge success. Anyone caught indulging in any criminal activities, would be arrested, prosecuted and the law will take its full course.

What do you think is the state of educational development in the state and what impact does this have on the Benue child?

You see, if you look at the primary schools now, public primary schools, these schools had almost collapsed, in fact, they all collapsed before this administration came in. When we came, hope was rekindled, teachers were thoroughly screened and they were really given hope. Before, most of the students were studying under mango trees and dilapidated buildings. With the reconstruction and supply of furniture and equipment all over the state, a conducive physical environment for learning will be established. Following this, His Excellency, Gov. Ortom is most likely going to fill up the vacant positions of teachers because looking at these private schools, where one person turns his own house to nursery schools is not healthy. School is supposed to run in a place that is open for children to exercise, run and play football. But, somebody will turn his private palour to school. Buildings that are designed to be private residents, they have to been turned to schools.

But, with the massive reconstruction works by Governor Ortom and matching it up with the intake of new teachers to man all the primary schools, the public primary schools will bounce back again. And when that happens, the primary school that is the main foundation for any education will regain its lost glory. And with the strong foundations the Benue child will be better when the primary school is good, secondary school is guaranteed and I want to see a situation where the university or tertiary institution will be better and that will reduce cultism and all these molestation of teachers due to the fact that the people want to get marks by all means.