Explaining Ortom’s Difficulties In Governing Benue | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Explaining Ortom’s Difficulties In Governing Benue

Dr. Samuel Ioraer Ortom; Benue State Governor
Posted: Apr 20, 2016 at 3:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos

Chief Odeh Ageh, the Benue State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, is not known for prevarifications. He is also not known for engaging in verbal attacks. But, faced with the vitriolic attacks by the opposition, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, as the government’s spokesperson, Ageh had to use the opportunity provided by his recent consultative meetings with the All progressives Congress (APC) leaders in Konshisha, Vandeikya and Katsina Ala to give a spirited defence of Governor Samuel Ortom administration and the challenges of providing dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
Ortom, it would be recalled dumped the PDP for the APC during the last governorship election and he reaped the largest number of votes from the people who gave him a massive support under the APC platform to become their governor.
Ageh’s defence is against the backdrop of rough times the people have been undergoing since Ortom mounted the saddle. The administration at its inception claimed that it met “a deficit treasury” as a result of what it termed former Governor Gabriel Suswam’s maladministration and spending spree that emptied the state’s coffers.
Presently, civil servants, including teachers and local government workers are owed some months of salaries, while it has been difficult running the administration and satisfying the needs and yearnings of the people as promised them by the APC torch bearer, Governor Ortom, during his campaign days.
So, at the various meetings of the state Zoning Committee of APC, which took three days, beginning from Thursday April 15, at Konshisha, Vandeikya and Katsina Ala, Ageh stressed that though the committee was not on campaign, there was need to reassure the people of Ortom’s commitment to their welfare and wellbeing, and drum support for his administration and laudable programmes of development.
Ageh told the people that he was only using the opportunity of his contact with some sections of the society to explain the challenges, achievements and the bright prospects of the state under Ortom, who he described as “the governorship of a God-fearing son”, urging the people to remain unalloyed in their support for the administration.
According to him, “Benue would have totally failed as a state given the height of recklessness and wanton looting of the state by the former regime of plunder led by Suswam, if not for God’s intervention through Ortom, urging the people to shun callous campaigns of calumny on the social media by ‘e-rats’ against Ortom.”
Ageh maintained that what the people should do was to support Ortom to succeed in the present condition of Benue State, even as he urged the party leaders as well as people of Benue State to be patient and support the Ortom administration, which he said was committed to their welfare.
Ageh stressed that the administration was greatly concerned over the effect of the delay in the payment of workers’ salaries, attributing the situation to the current poor economic realities in the country occasioned by the plunge in the oil economy.
The situation, he explained, had crashed the state’s accruals from the Federation Account from N6 billion in the time of Gabriel Suswam to below N2 billion per month presently, whereas the state’s wage bill stood above N4billion.
He added: “Same goes for local government workers and the primary school teachers whose wage bill combined stands at about N3.8billion, whereas what comes in from the Federation Account in respect of this, is about a paltry N1.6 billion. Ageh asked: “How do you pay salaries as at when due in such a situation?”
He explained that it was due to Ortom’s sensitivity to the workers’ welfare and plight in the face of the dwindling federal allocation that the governor invited labour unions to brainstorm with them on some options on the payment of salaries; to either pay half salary monthly so everyone would be on the same page, pay some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and leave others or combine two months allocations to pay a full month salary across board, among others.
According to him, the third option was agreed upon as an interim measure pending when the economy improves.
He argued that the N28 billion bailout loan would have been used to advance the development of the state, paid the workers’ salaries and even have surpluses from the funds, if not that Gov. Ortom used the loan to clear “the mess of Suswam’s administration of irresponsibility.”
He stressed that Governor Ortom, despite inheriting a myriad of socio-economic woes has been working hard, and had been able to pay over five months arrears of salaries of workers which he inherited from Gabriel Suswam administration, using parts of a N10billion loan to pay two months salaries, while clearing the rest of the arrears with the bailout fund.
On some of the governor’s achievements, Ageh said that despite inheriting what he called a “minus-zero” economy with about eight months salary arrears from the previous administration of Suswam, Ortom had been able to attract development partners, who left the state due to what he termed “non-chalant attitude of Suswam in not keeping to contractual agreement that frustrated them out in the first place.”
He said the N5.5 billion counterpart-funding loan obtained had been pumped into the development of primary and post primary schools across the state. Governor Ortom achieved the successful accreditation of the School of Health Science of the Benue State University, lack of which had stalled the graduation of medical students of the faculty for 12 years.
“The massive renovation works ongoing at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, State Assembly Complex, the ongoing construction of two major roads notably, Origbo-Gbajimba Road which gulps over N4billion; the returning of contractors back to construction of various roads abandoned by the former administration of Suswam, among very many life-touching projects that Governor Ortom had either initiated, awarded their contracts or had turned them around.”
Ageh stressed that these projects, which were not thought possible because of the poor economic situation buffeting not only Benue State, but also many states of the federation at the moment, had added to the achievements of Governor Ortom in less than a year of assuming office.
However, as Benue tries to get over its long-drawn financial difficulties, analysts believe the current government needs to harness the state’s abundant resources, especially in the area of agricultural, which Benue has a comparative advantage.
One year into the Ortom administration, Ageh, and indeed, the government team should realise that the blame game should be over by now. Suswam’s shadow should not continue to haunt the administration, as the voters may not put that into consideration when 2019 comes knocking.