We Must Rescue Plateau From Bad Governance – Lalong | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


We Must Rescue Plateau From Bad Governance – Lalong

Posted: Jun 7, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who was former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, in this interview with newsmen, speaks on the vision of his administration, strategies aimed at tackling insecurity in the state, and other issues. ONOJA AUDU was there. Excerpts…



How do you, as governor, intend to address the state’s current security challenges?

By the grace of God we are going to approach governance with the rule of law in mind.  We are going to work in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Usually, when you win an election, the first thing you do is to take an oath that you are going to work in accordance with the constitution of Nigeria.  Having taken the oath of office, we are going to work with the judiciary and the legislature to make things work in the state.  We are going to be guided by our manifesto and the motto of our manifesto is that we are on rescue mission. The question here is, why are we on rescue mission? Why this cry for change on the plateau? I’m aware that in the eight years that I have been out of office, many things might have happened in this state and those are the things we are here to correct. We must rescue Plateau from impunity, tribalism, favouritism and bad governance, and that is what we are set to do. When we talk about rescue mission, some people say it is all hate comment, it is not hate comment. For example, our campaigns were expected to be anchored on issues but aren’t those issues real? It has happened in this state that teachers have not been paid salaries for about 10 months; the civil servants are being owed salary arrears. It is a matter of fact that in the last three years, Plateau students who wrote WASC examinations came last in the exams; the records are there. It is a matter of fact that pensioners are not paid their emoluments, state-owned tertiary institutions are on strike. It is on record that the state university was closed down for more than a year and the students have not been able to graduate in the eight years of the last administration. At a point my deputy, Tyoden, when he was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jos, was compelled to move some of the students to university of Jos to enable them graduate. We also have on record that there is still serious controversy at the state university in Bokkos on whether the courses offered in the institution should be accredited or not. The present set of students who are writing their final year exams, even if they graduate, may find it difficult to go for their youth service because the courses are not accredited. It is a matter of fact that in the last eight years of the immediate past administration, we have more Government Houses. I was told that Governor Jang was boasting that he built the first Government House. It is not true. We had Government Houses before Jang came to power in the state. Jang renovated his private house during his first tenure, claiming that he was going to settle there as Government House. He later moved from there to renovate what used to be Local Government Service Commission complex to become deputy governor’s office, but later turned it into government lodge. Now, I understand that he has given the complex to the Chairman of Plateau State Traditional Institution, Gbom-Gwom Jos, as his palace, after huge amount spent to renovate the place. The priority of the state is not building of new government house that will cost about N15billion. A contract of N3 billion has risen to N15 billion to build a new Government House at Little Rayfield, Jos. If we have such money, we should have used it to pay workers who are currently on strike over non-payment of salaries. Civil service and health institutions are almost dead in this state. Doctors are running away from the state hospitals for better pay in other places. I stand by what I said during the governorship debate that the state’s debt is over 100 billion. In this state, SURE-P fund which should be used to improve the lot of the unemployed youths was mismanaged. The state House of Assembly ought to have wadded into the matter as part of their legislative function, but the son of the governor went to court and got an order to stop the House of Assembly from probing the allegations.  Today, nobody is hearing anything about the SURE-P funds because there is a court order on it. In this state today, insecurity is taking over and has got to local government areas and is still spreading to towns and villages. Some of the crises are beyond the state. It calls for Federal Government’s intervention. Another reason for the insecurity has to do with the poverty in the state. That is why in the All Progressives Congress (APC), we intend to change the concept and build on five items; our emphasis is to build on the rule of law.

What will you do to correct the ills of the past and give everyone in the state a sense of belonging?

If you go through my campaign manifesto and blueprint, there is emphasis on the rule of law, improved education, health care, agriculture, rural development and industrialisation, security and good governance. The first thing we are going to do as I assume duties as governor is to set up elders’ advisory council. What we need in this state is unity. It is only in Plateau State that the governor has appointed his son as commissioner of Land and Survey and he is doubling as special adviser on special duties. It is constitutionally wrong to appoint anybody to become commissioner in a state without being screened by members of the state House of Assembly. Jang used his position as governor to distribute government appointments to his children and cronies. He made his son a commissioner and, as lawyer and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, I know that whoever must be appointed as commissioner has to be screened on the floor of the House, but the son of Jang was not screened. I’m still wondering why the civil society groups in the state have not seen anything wrong in what Jang has done, but to me, it is constitutionally wrong to appoint just anybody into position of such responsibility. The best thing to have done is to appoint a serving commissioner that has gone through screening to take care of a ministry as sensitive as the Ministry of Land and Survey. If you appoint a commissioner for land and survey that is not screened by the state House of Assembly to issue certificate of occupancy to the people of Plateau state, the danger is that somebody can go to court to challenge the legibility of such person to issue such certificates of occupancy.

 What will be the focus of your administration?

Our focus is to unite the people as it is the only way to guarantee peace in this state. We have started building confidence in the 53 ethnic nationalities in the state. People are asking how we are going to ensure security. That is how we are going to ensure security on the Plateau; first, we must have confidence in ourselves and we are going to put in place an elders’ council to advise us on matters affecting the wellbeing of the people. We are also planning to empower our traditional institutions so that they will help the state government to keep peace at the grassroots. In the area of youth development, we are going to make education our priority to give hope to the future of our children. There is no point constructing roads here and there when our children cannot go to school and workers are not paid their salaries. We must have teachers that are well educated and well paid; that is how to raise the standard of education in this state. APC is harping on free education; we are going to give free education to our children. On health care, we are going to improve facilities in our hospitals. We also intend to build specialist hospitals in each of the senatorial districts. In the area of agriculture, we intend to create training centres for our farmers. We also intend to establish fertiliser blending plants in this state. What we need in Plateau State is unity. If we have peace, without even going out to look for investors, people will come to Plateau to invest. Jos Main Market which used to be our major source of revenue was burnt down in 2002; we will rebuild it to improve the sources of revenue. We are going to also focus on tourism. We are blessed with good weather that can only be compared to that of Obudu in Cross River State. In Cross River State, in addition to oil, what they are getting from tourism is higher than what they are getting from the federation account. We are going to do the same thing in Plateau under my administration. We will expand our scope of tourism and stop relying on what comes from the federation account.

What is the state’s debt profile?

The debt profile of the state is held in secrecy, they don’t want people to know.  I’m saying the debt profile is between N150 billion and N400 billion and I stand to be corrected. In Kano State, whatever comes to the state’s coffers every month and how it is spent are published in the newspapers for the sake of accountability, but in Plateau State, if you want to know how much has come into the state’s coffers, the government would rush to court to stop you from doing so. During Jang’s administration, loans were taken from some banks and the state House of Assembly was not aware. A house of Assembly that has not been paid salaries for six months, how do you expect the members to speak on behalf of workers; members of the Assembly are struggling for their own salaries, too.  The House of Assembly is broke and cannot afford to probe the state finances, as the governor has refused to pay them salaries. We don’t have a House of Assembly, that arm of government is already destroyed.


Why is Lalong linked with mistakes of Senator Dariye’s regime?

When I talk about mismanagement of government funds under Jang administration, they try to link me with Governor Joshua Dariye’s administration. I headed a different arm of government which is the legislature while Dariye was in charge of the executive arm of government. If you ask me what I have done when I was Speaker of the state House of Assembly, I will tell you straight away. If I had done any shoddy deals at the state House of Assembly during my time, the records should have been made available to Jang government and my opponents. Why are they linking me with the administration of Dariye? Senator Dariye is now a member of PDP while I am in APC.  I was told that the debts Dariye regime left were contractual obligations, but if they  are claiming  that Dariye left a debt of over N60 billion, we want to know how much debt  Jang regime is leaving behind. I want to know because we are planning how to take off in the new administration; if they don’t want us to know the debt profile of the state, when we get there, we will know how to change the tide. Our people must be given the benefit of good governance and accountability and, henceforth, as I come on board, workers must be paid when due. We have three arms of government. If you say the governor that heads the executive arm of government is bad, will you say that the judge that heads the judiciary arm of government is bad? That is what I’m saying. Even though I had opportunity to give account of stewardship before I was booted out of office, I know that I left an indelible mark as a member and Speaker of the state House of Assembly. This state House of Assembly under me performed creditably well. We created the service commission for the state during our time. In the whole of the North, I was the first to establish service commission on the Plateau. Under my speakership, we passed quality laws as against what you are seeing today. In addition to that, because of the sterling quality and improvement of the House, my colleagues at the conference of Speakers voted me as the chairman for two years. I was accountable and I left the House of Assembly  with my head high and any day I’m called to give my account of my leadership, I will tell you I performed creditably. When it comes to general accountability, it is the governor that accounts for how he manages the resources of the state. That is why I’m saying we have three different arms of government.