By Hembadoon Orsar,
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom was sworn in as the fifth democratically elected governor of Benue State on 29th May, 2015 and to properly position himself, the governor declared a 14 -day prayer, fasting and dedicated the state to God at IBB Square, Makurdi.
Even though the two years of his administration has witnessed some achievements in areas such as,
SECURITY: the governor after the dedication of the state to God, swung into action and introduced the amnesty programme which has the carrot and stick approache, where over 700 youths embraced the programme and submitted over 600 arms, light weapons and thousands of ammunition.
Also to ensure peace between farmers and herdsmen and as well build interstate peace relations, Benue and Nasarawa State Governments came together and resolved to put to an end, the lingering crises between herdsmen and farmers at the border areas of Agatu and Nasarawa for a peaceful coexistence of the two again.
Briefing journalists after a security meeting between the two governors and other top security chiefs of the states held months ago in Makurdi, Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State said, the two states must work together to bring to an end farmers/herdsmen crises that had claimed so many lives, destroyed farm lands, properties and rendered many homeless.
According to him, “the issue of Fulani and farmers’ crises is not only peculiar to Benue, it is also happening in Bauchi, Katsina, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna and other states of the federation. For this, we are saying that ranching is the only solution to stem the ugly situation.
“For us, we will do our best to ensure that this crisis does not occur again, we are committed towards finding a lasting solution that will bring permanent peace to the crises areas in our domain”.
Governor Ortom and his Nasarawa State counterpart, Al-Makura, after a two and half hour closed door meeting, agreed that they will ensure that both Fulani and farmers in the two states cohabit peacefully for the overall development of the states and country.
The two governors on a later day, paid a visit to Agatu communities to ascertain the level of damages in the area and to also get the views of community members on ways they think would help bring permanent resolution to the crises.
During the visit, the governors of Benue and Nasarawa States called on security agencies in the two states to take the necessary steps to check the proliferation of sophisticated weapons and ammunition in order to forestall the reoccurrence of similar crises between the two communities.
This was contained in a communique issued at the end of a joint security meeting between the two (2) States.
While accepting to make peace and forgive one another, the two (2) communities urged all those in possession of illegal weapons to surrender them immediately.
The two governors also agreed to make a case to the federal government, donor agencies, development partners, voluntary organisation and philanthropists to assist. Even at this, governor Ortom, still emphasised and maintained his stand on ranching as a panacea for putting an end to the herders/ farmers clashes in the state.
“There is every need for Nigerians to come together to encourage herders to ranch their cattle”
“The solution to Fulani invasion is ranching. There is nowhere in the world where we have cattle moving about except in Nigeria. Why must we live with animals? How can we continue to spend on security in the midst of recession? We must ranch our cattle. Nigeria must come together to support herdsmen in ranching their cattle, even in the constitution of Nigeria that allows every Nigeria the freedom to live anywhere in the country, there is no portion in it that allows freedom of cattle or animal in any part of the country.”
To further affirm the governor’s position to find a lasting solution to the incessant attack on Benue farmers by suspected Fulani herdsmen, the Benue State House of Assembly recently passed the bill for a law to prohibit Open Rearing and Grazing of Livestock in the state.
The bill, apart from providing for the establishment of Ranches and Livestock administration, regulation and control, the bill also provided that anybody who engages in cattle rustling shall be liable on conviction for imprisonment for a term of not less than three years or N100,00 per animal or both.
Cited as the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, the bill was passed after the House considered the report of its Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources as presented by its chairman, Mr. James Gbande, in the Committee of the Whole chaired by the Speaker, Mr Terkimbi Ikyange.
Among other things, the bill provides that “no individual or group shall, after the commencement of this law, engage in open nomadic livestock herding or grazing in the state outside the permitted ranches”.
“Section 19 (2) provides that “any person or group of persons who contravenes the above provision shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment or N1000,000 fine or both.”
The bill also provides for monetary compensation in case of any damage to a property and imprisonment of two years of the livestock owner or manager in case of injury to any person within the state.
Where such contravention causes the death of any person within the state, the owner or manager of such livestock shall be guilty of an offence of culpable homicide punishable under the Penal Code Law”
The bil,l as passed by the Assembly, shows that sections 3 (1), 4,8,13,14,15,16,17,20,21,23 and 24 which relate to the establishment of Livestock Promotion, Development and Regulatory Agency as contained in the draft bill has been deleted in line with the aspiration of Benue people as expressed during the public hearing and a Town Hall meetings in respect of the bill.
Obtaining N10 billion infrastructure facility and mobilisation of contractors back to site for the completion of 11 abandoned road projects across the state which included a 46.52km Zaki Biam -Afia-Gbeji, 61km Taraku-Naka Agagbe, 52km Oju -Obussa 55.61km Otukpo- Utonkon -Igumale,10km Oshigbudu- Obagaji,36.732km Igbor-Ikpa-wannune, 32kmVandeikya – koti-yough -Adikpo, 37km Ge-Ikyobo-Agbeede-Amua Anshagba, 45.14kmTordonga- Zaki Biam-Tsewuaze -Tiza-Shila, Daudu-Gbajimba and Achusa welfare quarters roads, with award of contract for two new roads which included, 24km Mobile Police Barracks -Yaikyo Apir road,and 40.397km Origbo -Imande- Akpur-Gbajimba
The Ortom administration has constructed 10 housing units at the Owner Occupier Housing estate in Makurdi for onward allocation to civil servants.
“In continuation of the Owner-occupier Housing Scheme Project, 10 new housing units are built to be allocated to civil servants, constructed streets, electrified and installed 500KVA transformer at Owner-occupier Housing Estate phase II.
Money was approved and released for the conduct of the civil service promotion examination for over 2000 staff at different levels
While 286 staff were also promoted during the period under review.
On public sector reforms, a committee was set up by Governor Ortom to work out a framework for the implementation of the reforms and made recommendations which would be looked into with the aim of upgrading the state public service for maximum productivity.
Benue State Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with a foreign investor for the establishment of a Bio-fuel (Ethanol) plant in Agasha Guma local government Area of Benue State.
The project which also involved the establishment of sugarcane and cassava plantations for the provision of raw materials needed by the plant, will also create employment opportunities for the community if completed.
Governor Ortom also supported the training and certification of 16,950 farmers to qualify for participation in the CBN-Anchor Borrowers Programme for the rice and soya bean enterprises, out of which only 8,700 farmers benefited through the bank of Agriculture and Excellent Micro Finance Bank.
He awarded contract for the construction and equipping of laboratories at Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev.
Facilitation of N2 billion CBN agricultural loan to be disbursed to farmers as well as signing of agreement with Torra KFT for the completion and takeover of the Wannune Tomatoe factory.
Also 5000 hectares of land for the proposed cargo airport in the state and a maximum of 200 hectares in each of the 23 local government areas for warehouses preparatory for the cargo airport have also been acquired and a perimeter survey and valuation of the sites of the lands were ongoing to pave way for compensation of all traditional title holders whose lands had been acquired for the purpose.
The Ortom led administration also approved the renovation of the headquarters of the ministry of Justice, and Judges Quarters.
The administration also granted Amnesty to 127 convicted persons based on the recommendation of the advisory council on the prerogative of mercy.
In exercising its constitutional powers of amnesty, the advisory council on the prerogative of mercy, also secured the release of 25 convicts, reduced the prison sentences of 10 inmates, commuted the death sentence of 18 inmates to life imprisonment, and paid the fines of 74 inmates.
In order to decongest prisons and ease the suffering of inmates, contract for construction of more cells at Makurdi Medium and Security Prison has been awarded as well as the purchased of two buses for prison officials to convey inmates to and from courts.
The governor also set a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the funds which accrued to the state between 2007 to 2015 which submitted its reports and indicted 52 persons and 10 corporate bodies who were to refund N107 billion to the state coffers as well as
setting up administrative commission of Inquiry to look into the sale and leasing of government property within the same period and how it was utilised.
Payment of accreditation requirements for College of Health sciences and Benue States University Teaching hospital, facilitating the graduation of 152 medical doctors at the College of health sciences, Benue State University, after 12 years of stagnation, approval and release of the sum of N3.7 million for the registration of each of the fresh graduates with the Dental and Medical Council of Nigeria.
Ortom, while briefing newsmen said, the first set comprised 40 doctors, the second 27, the third 44 while the fourth set were 41, bringing the total to 152. Graduation of the four sets was achievable within 14 months.
Renovation, securing of accreditation of courses with a promise to upgrade the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi, and expand its scope through the provision of more structures.
Although, Governor Ortom had declared state of emergency on salary and promised to source for funds through every legal means to enable him pay backlog of salaries owed workers and pensioners in the state, Trade Union Congress TUC in the state has lamented the increasing hardship being faced by workers and pensioners in the state following nonpayment of salaries
The union, during this year’s workers’ day celebration on May 1st, boycotted the celebration in protest to the non-payment of workers’ salaries and monthly pensions of retirees which according to them, had accumulated to several months.
The State TUC Chairman, Comrade Ordue Tartenger said the decision to boycott the May Day celebration was taken in solidarity with the affected workers and pensioners and to also demonstrate their feelings about the issue
Even though the Benue State House of Assembly has passed the bill for a law to prohibit Open Rearing and Grazing of Livestock in the state, the killing of farmers by suspected herdsmen have continued unabated especially in Buruku and Logo local government Areas, some of the Fulani men have even gone to the media threatening the governor not to sign the bill into Law.
While most of the projects embarked upon by the governor are yet to be completed and commissioned.
– Orsar, wrote in from Makurdi