BY PETER DURU
BEFORE his inauguration, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State made it clear that his first 100 days would be dedicated to reconciling the Benue family, which had been plagued by deep-rooted animosity among leaders of the state and political foes on account of the last general elections.
He also reiterated this on May 29 while taking over as governor, promising to pursue peace and reconciliation of all feuding parties.
He also promised to clear all outstanding salaries of workers, which his predecessor had accumulated for over five months and to hit the ground running with his developmental agenda.
Three months after, the people might need to wait a little longer because the administration has persistently lamented its financial predicament owing to the debt profile of the state.
This may have accounted for the lull in the execution of development projects by his administration in the last three months.
Backlog of unpaid salaries left behind by the immediate past administration are yet to receive attention as civil servants continue to groan under the hardship inflicted on them by the months of unpaid remuneration.
That not withstanding, the government has been able to pay some workers’ salaries since it took over after collecting a loan of N10 billion and over N6 billion from the federation account.
The general opinion among residents is that the Ortom government is too slow and too concerned with the supposed maladministration of past regime than concentrating on getting the job done.
The Governor only recently claimed that he inherited over N160 billion debt from the past administration, though former Governor Gabriel Suswam countered that he left about N9billion debt. The inconsistency on the issue must have spurred the Ortom administration to institute a probe panel to investigate all the financial dealings of the last administration.
It must also be noted that the last three months has witnessed increased rate of criminality which culminated in the killing of Chief Atoza Ihindan in Katsina/Ala, a septuagenarian and acclaimed political godfather of Gabriel Suswam.
He was killed by yet to be identified gunmen who have persistently raided parts of Benue North East senatorial district on motorbikes killing people.
Makurdi, the state capital has also had its share of the increasing crime wave with young men on motorbikes robbing unsuspecting residents of their mobile phones and valuables in the streets.
The immediate past administration was able to stem such in the last eight years but the sudden surge in criminal activities in the state posses a major challenge to the government.
Perhaps, a major achievement of the administration is the introduction of an amnesty programme which entailed that those in possession of illegal arms in the state surrendered them for financial benefits and possible rehabilitation.
So far, the programme which is expected to end in two weeks has recorded some level of success especially with the government’s ability to cajole the elusive militia leader, Terwase Agwaza, popularly known as Gana, to surrender his arms to the government.
Hitherto, Agwaza had been a dreaded personality who had been accused of running an organised outfit that was alleged to be responsible for heinous crimes in the Benue North East senatorial district.
That the Ortom led administration got Agwaza to appear in public for the very first time to surrender over 84 diverse calibre of weapons is an achievement that deserves commendation.
Special Adviser on Media and ICT to the governor, Tahav Agerzua said: “This is not the usual 100 days given the financial situation in the state and the country. Be that as it may, the surrender of arms by a known militia leader, Terwase Agwaza is a major achievement of this administration.
“We also have to our credit the reopening of the Benue State University, BSU, after months of strike by unions in the institution owing to unpaid entitlements, which this government inherited from the last administration but was able to address.
“Moreso, the resolution of the issues at the BSU teaching hospital, which paved the way for the visit of Dental Medical Council for the accreditation of courses at the institution is a major high point for the administration.
“Today Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government receive their over head which was stopped by the previous administration.
“It is also pertinent to note that the government has has released over N200million to ensure that the School of Nursing and Midwifery gets accredited. In the same vein the College of Agriculture Yandev and the Agric Centre at Mbatie are being given facelift.’’