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Assessing Ortom’s one year in office

On May 29 last year, Samuel Ortom was sworn-in as the fifth democratic governor of Benue State.
At the time, Benue State was facing numerous economic challenges ranging from non-payment of workers salaries to abandonment of projects in different parts of the state. To make matters worse, the Ortom administration inherited not only an empty treasury but also a deficit one.
Ortom, aware of the huge expectations of Benue people, set to work to right the wrongs in accordance with the ideology of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The administration launched a blueprint named ‘Our Collective Vision for a New Benue’ which has five pillars namely: Good governance and revenue security, agriculture-driven industrialization, STEAM-based education and health care delivery, provision of critical infrastructure and women, gender, youths, sports and people with disabilities.
Some of the first steps the administration took was to cut down the number of commissioners from 17 to 13, and that of special advisers from 28 to 20.
To ensure accountability and transparency, Ortom set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into funds which accrued to the state from May 29th 2007 to May 29th 2015 and an Administrative Commission into Sale and Lease of Government Property by the immediate past administration. The Judicial Commission’s report indicted 52 other individuals and 10 corporate bodies that diverted N107 billion belonging to the state government.
To show that the Ortom administration has nothing to hide, union leaders have been involved in the disbursement of funds. The Benue State Executive Council has concluded plans to send the Fiscal Responsibility and the Public Procurement bills to the House of Assembly as part of its commitment to transparency and accountability.
In the area of security, Ortom’s amnesty programme has continued to be a reference point. Over 700 youths embraced the amnesty programme with about 600 arms and ammunition surrendered. Ortom entered into collaboration with the governors of Taraba and Nasarawa states in the search for peace and security between them and Benue.
In the education sector, Governor l Ortom raised N7.6 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of over 700 primary schools in the 23 local government areas as well as arranged for the procurement and installation of 100 computers each in some of the primary and junior secondary schools. Furniture for the 700 primary schools has started arriving the headquarters of the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB. Geographical survey for the drilling of 100 boreholes in some of the schools has also been completed.
The state government has also concluded arrangements for the renovation and rehabilitation of 64 post-primary schools. Visitation panels for state-owned tertiary institutions have been constituted while the reconstitution of Benue State University Council, which has facilitated full accreditation for seven programmes. The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery as well as College of Technology Agasha which lost accreditation for three years are being reconstructed for reaccreditations. Medical students of the state university were stagnated at the College of Health Sciences for 12 years on account of non-accreditation. The Ortom administration swung into action, reopened the university and met all the accreditation requirements paving way for the graduation of 40 medical doctors. In his efforts to address the high level of infrastructure decay in the state, Ortom obtained a N10 billion infrastructure facility from  by the federal government for the construction of 24km Mobile Barracks – Adeke – Yaikyo road, and 40.4km Origbo – Imande-Akpo – Gbajimba road.
Benue under the leadership of Governor Samuel Ortom has made history as the first state to meet requirements for accessing the 2015 round of Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals conditional grants in Nigeria by paying N1.2 billion counterpart funds. Many of the projects are on going. Governor Ortom also paid N5.5 billion counterpart funds to local and international development partners and also signed MOU with Chinese, German and American investors on infrastructure.
In water supply, Governor Ortom ensured the commencement of reticulation of the Greater Makurdi Water Works, while water supply has been restored in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala with payment of N900 million to the contractor. Under the Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA, 116 water projects are being executed in Tarka, Konshisha, Oju and Ogbadibo local governments.
Governor Ortom has repositioned the Benue Internal Revenue Service, BIRS with the constitution of a new board with introduction of Point of Sale (POS) which has increased the monthly internally generated revenue of the state from N250 million to N500 million. In one year, Ortom has achieved so much with limited resources.
All that the Benue State Governor needs now is support from the people of the state to enable him serve them more.
Akase is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Benue State.

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