Here is the speech by the Executive Governor of Benue State, HE, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia
My fellow citizens of Benue State,
Today marks a new beginning in the history of our beloved state as I take office as your governor. I stand before you with a sense of humility and purpose, fully aware of the enormous challenges that lie ahead. But am grateful for the trust you have bestowed and conscious of the sacrifices borne by all of you to make this happen.
I am particularly excited at the promise of Hope which our newly minted administration represents. During the campaigns, we traversed the length and breadth of our State and I personally saw, firsthand, the appalling situation of our people. Town after town and village after village, you waited for hours on end for our campaign train to arrive. That wait was not for Fr Alia or my Deputy Bar Sam Ode, mni. You were waiting for Hope. Renewed Hope. And I want to assure you, Benue: Hope is here!
We are faced with a situation of sustained insecurity, dampened morale from non-payment of salaries, pensions and gratuity, dilapidated infrastructure, a broken economy, an even more broken civil service, massive unemployment and underemployment, endemic corruption, and malaise. The list is long! These are all indicators of a crisis – a deep rooted crisis. And it calls for action – bold and swift. And I assure you, Benue, that as a government, your government, WE WILL ACT! We were unambiguous in our Victory Speech at the polls: that our State,Benue, is broken and needs a reset. The moment is here. And the time is now. A New Benue is Possible! We campaigned on the promise of the Seven Pillars of our Campaign Document: A Strategic Development Plan for a Greater Benue.
i. Our State has been tested by crises that have steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. We therefore promised to prioritize the security of lives and property of our people by ending insecurity occasioned by farmer/herder crisis, returning our Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, to their ancestral homes and providing them a means of livelihood in a new economy.
ii. We promised to industrialize our State through agriculture and massive rural development. This cannot be done through government alone and therefore, we will create the conditions that promote private sector-led, Agric driven industrialisation.
iii. We promised to celebrate the initiative and enterprise of our people, their insistence on hard work and personal responsibility which are constants in our character. We will achieve this by creating opportunities through a revitalized commerce and industry space.
iv. We need to build capabilities of our people for the change we want to lead through human capital and social development.
v. We must build the required infrastructure to support our planned economic growth and care for the environment to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change through the adoption of climate change adaptation technologies.
vi. We, like other countries and organizations, must move forward with digital transformations and the skills needed to implement them through investment in information and communications technology, ICT.
vii. Finally, we promised to reform our civil service and local government systems, carry out pension reform, education reform and curricula review, review our laws to make them investor-friendly through political and economic governance. My fellow Benue citizens, these seven pillars represent a Social Contract between our Government and your good selves. On these promises, we shall be held to account. You hired us with your votes to deliver on these promises. We will do everything in our power to fulfill our side of the contract.
One of the most pressing issues facing our state today is insecurity. We cannot achieve any meaningful development in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. As your governor, I am committed to working with security agencies and the Federal Government to ensure the safety of lives and property in our state. We will also work tirelessly to address the root causes of insecurity, such as poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion. The state of our economy is another area that requires urgent attention. We can safely say that our State is on economic life support requiring intensive care. We will prioritize job creation and economic empowerment by promoting private sector-led industrialization, with a particular emphasis on agriculture. We will also work to improve the business environment in the state by enacting investor protection laws and streamlining procedures to make it easier to do business in Benue State. We took a cursory overview of the state of our infrastructure and found every facet to be comatose and non-performing due to deliberate gross negligence.
We reviewed the state of water, health, education, sports, electricity, roads, public housing, telecommunications, and commerce infrastructure, amongst others, and found a highly unacceptable level of abandonment and decay. For the avoidance of doubt, no parastatal or extra-ministerial department of the Benue State Government, saddled with responsibility for public scrutiny, accountability and transparency was even minimally funded to deliver basic services. Consequently, public infrastructure has remained in a deplorable state of decay, and we are forced to start at ground zero. In view of this uncanny state of affairs, Government would immediately set in motion, machinery for clearing blocked drainage systems in Makurdi metropolis to address avoidable flooding, pending when a comprehensive solution would be found to the perennial flooding of the state capital. To provide immediate succor to the army of unemployed youth in the state, we shall execute this exercise through a public works scheme or direct labor.
In addition, Government shall within the shortest time acquire a dump site for the evacuation of refuse from the city for an eventual creation of a Waste to Wealth Programme. In the meantime, Government shall engage the Federal Authorities towards the Dredging of River Benue to address the flooding problem in Makurdi. In continuation of our public works programme, we have commenced work on the design of a comprehensive infrastructure development programme involving our unemployed graduate youths, details of which will be unveiled within the next 100 Days. In addition, our industrial parks and technology incubation centers, designed to bring the best out of our youth and provide gainful self-employment would be equally unveiled within the period. To bring succor to the very poor, we have commenced negotiations with credible partners for soft credit facilities to women in all the council wards in the state. This would be a revolving facility based on good repayment records.
In addition, we have commenced discussions for revamping the moribund Benue Microfinance Bank and repositioning it as a vehicle for microcredit delivery in the state. This would domesticate the delivery of microcredit to the poor as a cardinal pursuit of our administration. Our educational system is the bedrock of our future, and we will invest in it accordingly. We will prioritize the training and development of our teachers and provide them with the necessary tools and resources to deliver quality education. We will also work to ensure that our children have access to quality education that reflects the demands of a modern economy, regardless of their socio-economic background. We recognize the crucial role that women, youths, and children play in our society, and we are committed to creating opportunities for them to thrive. We will prioritize their empowerment and inclusion in all aspects of our development agenda.
To all Benue workers, please listen to me: We recognize the plight of our civil servants and pensioners who are owed salaries, pensions, and gratuities. We must strike a healthy balance between caring for the generation that toiled for this State (am talking here about pension and gratuity for our pensioners,) paying our serving employees a living wage and investing in the future of our children through revised curricula that meets the demands of a modern economy. A laborer deserves his wage, so says the Holy Book. We will prioritize and address the issue by ensuring that all verified arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuity, are paid promptly without further delay! We will not do this alone. It is desirable that our Development Partners have a shared vision of our Strategic Development Plan for a Greater Benue. We know that there is no one-best way for development partnerships. It is on a case-by-case basis. This is the reason why engagement early in the game will be paramount. We have already started that engagement process before today and we will continue.
I assure our Donor Community and Development Partners that greater efforts will be invested in monitoring & evaluation activities to ensure that donor funds are appropriately channeled in an auditable manner. We will run an open, accountable, and transparent government. Politically, our State has been disconnected from the Federal Government because of bad politics. We commit to reconnecting Benue State to the proverbial ‘National Grid’ of Nigerian politics in order to harvest the benefits derivable therefrom. We are aware that when executives are hired to disrupt their organizations and change the status quo, they often encounter resistance to their ideas. This tendency to reject change is usually an organization’s “social defense”: an attempt to safeguard the traditions, structures, and cultures that make employees feel comfortable and safe – with most of these structures and cultures rooted in endemic corruption, red tape and malaise that hold us back. These entrenched behaviours and practices can have a negative impact on achieving rapid outcomes.
About 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli made the observation that there was ‘nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things’. These words are true today as they were 500 years ago. But leadership has been demonstrated to be a key element of successful organizational reform right from time. I want to say to you Benue, I am ready and willing to provide the requisite leadership to take that leap of faith into a future of shared prosperity for Benue. And I WILL NOT FAIL YOU! We are inheriting an Anti-open grazing Law whose implementation has become controversial. Having gone through some period of implementation, it is fit and proper for us to review the law to identify the lessons learned, hold the gains made, if any, and reform to accommodate current realities.
For our fellow contestants in the other political parties, I want to say to you loud and clear: the period of campaigns is over. It is now time for governance. I am not Governor for APC. I am the Governor of Benue State. I want to extend a hand of fellowship to you all. Please join hands with us so we can build back Benue better than it ever was. To the Investor Community, we are aware that Benue already lost its investment status owing to bad governance. What is also true is that the whole world is waiting to invest in Benue, but they are waiting for the enablers. A clearly articulated investment vision with defined projects pipeline, a supportive legal and regulatory framework and value proposition at individual project level are the basic preconditions for investor attraction. These enablers are what our administration will prioritize. So, to all potential investors, we want to say to you that Benue is open for business.
May I announce that effective immediately and until further notice, all Government Bank Accounts in all Banks are hereby frozen. A ‘Post No Debit’ instruction shall remain in force until all Signatories are changed. Any Bank that violates this instruction does soat its own risk. My fellow citizens of Benue, I make no pretentions to having the magic wand to actualize the many beautiful plans I have for this state. I am not setting out to be a lone-ranger governor – allknowing and all-powerful. I will listen to you and work with you to achieve the Benue of our dream. I am full of hope that a new Benue shall arise from the present morass of stagnation and backwardness and assume her rightful place in the comity of great societies. My hope lies in the imaginative power of our people and their undying spirit. We are a hugely talented people. This land is blessed with people of great minds and ready hands – builders who have built before and can build again. Long before this moment, our sons and daughters applied their hands and talents to building the national edifice. They can do so again. In every walk of life, there have been people from this land who have shone brightly like a million stars and taken humanity to a better place. We are a land of builders and history-makers! So, today, I call on every one of us to commit to building a new Benue – a Benue all of us can feel proud to call home. Inaugural
Let our children and our children’s children, a thousand years from now, recount with pride the brave efforts of this moment. Let it be recorded that we did what needed to be done to secure a happy future for future generations. Now is the time for Benue to make that change of direction. Now is the time for us to combine the creative imagining of our youths with the wisdom of our sages to regain altitude and soar to higher heights. The journey ahead may be steep and hard, but we trust in the living God “who strengthens us in our weaknesses…” May he guide and protect us at each step of the way. God Bless you. God Bless Benue State and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thank you all!