By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – GOVERNOR Samuel Ortum of Benue State on Monday said that workers in his state deserve to earn more than the new minimum wage of N30, 000.
But the governor said that he was constrained by scarce resources and that he was blocking all financial loopholes to ensure that the state meets up with its financial responsibility.
Governor Ortom who stated this while finding questions from State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, also said that he disclosed security situation of the state with the President.
He also said that he reported to the President and had reported to the security agencies the suspected criminal gang terrorizing Benue and Taraba States.
Reacting to reports indicating that his state was among 17 states that were insolvent as their Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) in 2018 were far below 10 per cent of their receipts from the Federation Account Allocations (FAA) in the same year, he said that his government was looking inwards to generate funds.
According to him, “The plan is to look inward and see how we can generate more funds, improve on our internally generated revenue (IGR), lock some leakages and see how we can cut down cost of governance and see where that will take us.
“One thing is that I believe in dialogue and I am very transparent with my finances, they are for everyone to see. I have been very cordial with workers in Benue State. For me, if I have my way they should even earn more than N30,000 if the resources are there, they deserve it, we go to the same market and so we know the cost of living and other things are involved.
“The challenge is whether the resources will be there. I believe that we will look for ways and I believe it is not only Benue State, there are about 17 states…all together maybe at governors forum, there will be a way to get out of it.”
The governor said since Nigeria is a federation, there must be synergy between states and the federal government to be able to surmount the security challenges, to be able to safe lives and properties.
Commenting on the security situation in the state, he said that the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 was yielding positive results.
The governor said with the enforcement of the law, there was relative peace regarding the herdsmen/farmers crisis in the Benue, adding that a total of 400 people have been arrested for violating the law out of which, 50 of them have been convicted.
He also stated that about 2,000 cattle have been seized from herders for contravening the provisions of the law.
He said, “The place is relatively peaceful. The law is being implemented and we have arrested 400 people irrespective of their ethnic background, whether Fulani, Igbos, Yoruba, Tiv, Idoma and we have convicted 50 people for contravening various offenses and we have seized more than 2,000 cattle. But we have ensured no one has molested any cattle, nor killing any cattle.
”Once you cattle is seized for open grazing by the livestock guard, within seven days when your cattle is quarantined if you don’t come to pay fines and redeem your cattle we auction them. So far, everyone that we have arrested people have come to redeemed and so we have not had any cause to auction any cattle.”
Governor Ortom said that “The law is still in force in Benue State and we are implementing it. Everyone is free to establish ranch, we are not targeting any individual or group. Anyone who wants to do cattle business should come to Benue and ranch, that we have land for it but for open grazing we have no land.”
On the situation on Katsina Ala road, he said, all the stakeholders in the state were willing to corporate to address insecurity situation but for one notorious criminal “Gana,” who was trained by Boko Haram and has continued to terrorize the state.
“He is the one instrumental to the Kidnappings happening between Benue and Taraba State. All forms of criminality – armed robbery, assassinations and so on. The community too have given up because as at today, the three local governments of Katsina Ala, Logo and Bukun are not safe.
“No educational, farming, commercial activities are going on, the Igbos that are major traders have vacated. With operation Wierd Stroke we are going to move against them and we believe we will be able to surmount them.”