100 days in Office : Gov Alia taking Benue from Grass to Grace
By Bridget Ikyado
When on May 29, 2023 Reverend Fr Hyacinth Alia took the oath of office as the Executive Governor of Benue State, he vowed to run a robust administration that would massively transform the state , ensure equity and development.
He also vowed to provide well secured environment for people to pursue their means of livelihood and attract investments for employment in all sectors.
On this note, the Governor came into office with a clear 7-Point Agenda anchored on the Security of Lives and Property; Agriculture and Rural Development; Commerce and Industry; Human Capital and Social Development; . Infrastructure and Environment; Information and Communications Technology (ICT); and Political and Economic Governance.
“You were waiting for Hope. Renewed Hope. And I want to assure you, Benue: Hope is here!,” he told the people at his inauguration.
One hundred days after, it is obvious that the Alia – led administration is making significant progress in his determination to transform and lift the state to greater heights.
Owing to the great expectation from the people, while a few may feel that the Governor has not been too aggressive in the pursuit of set goals, many observers have thumped up the steady progress the administration has made towards laying proper foundation for the total transformation and overall development of Benue state in the best interest of the generality of the people.
There is no gainsaying the people of Benue have an unwavering belief in the capacity and ability of Governor Alia to deliver, transform and set the state on the path of progress and development.
He is not only seen as patriotic, but also as a committed gentleman with the tenacity to provide responsible leadership and good governance.
So far, he has not disappointed his teeming supporters. The Governor has not only embarked on projects to meet the infrastructure needs of the state, but he has also set up machinery to reform the civil service, tackle the security challenges in the state, and support people displaced by years of conflict to return home.
In this respect, there has been tremendous support from the citizens of the state for the reforms he is quietly carrying out to establish a workable system that will culminate in economic growth and development in the state.
No doubt, the actions of the Governor so far, has signalled the season of renewed hope, as he provides the NEEDED leadership to positively turn around the fortunes of Benue state.
It is important to understand that the Governor inherited dilapidated institutions and bastardized governance structures, a collapsed economy and disillusioned civil service.
He insisted all these must be strengthened, reformed and overhauled for quality service delivery to the people of Benue State.
In his inaugural address on May 29, Governor Alia froze all bank accounts of the government to enable the administration ascertain the financial state of the state.
Within the period, he has proved to the public that Benue can use Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to pay salaries, wages and gratuities, without recourse to loans. With this, he has shattered the record of the ever borrowing State.
On his second day in office, the Governor paid unscheduled visits to key government offices in the state, including the State Secretariat to see their conditions for himself.
Since then, the Governor has brought sanity into the administration of the civil service. He swiftly weeded out the ghost workers from the civil service payroll. This singular step saved the government a princely sum of over N1.2 billion, which was hitherto been siphoned under the guise of workers and pension entitlements.
To enhance the productivity of the state workforce, the Governor has been paying salaries on the 25th of every month. This has become a great relief to the workers. The administration has also given priority to the payment of gratuities and pension. It has also set machinery in motion to improve the welfare of workers and their working environment to enhance service delivery.
It is pertinent to state that civil servants and pensioners in the state had endured non- payment of salaries and wages from the previous government.
On issues of security,the Governor has vowed to end banditry, kidnapping and all forms of criminalities.
He has held series of security meetings with various Milliatry and Paramillitary Agencies to this effect
In line with his pledge, the Governor has since commenced the construction of affordable houses for low-income earners via Riella Properties and Investment Limited.
The housing estate has 100 units each being constructed along Gboko road, and at Adeke near the Mobile Police Barrack in Makurdi. It consists of fifty duplexes, and one, two and three-bedroom flats.
This development is expected to provide a significant boost to the availability of affordable housing in the state and improve the living standard of low-income earners.
Within the first 100 days in office, Alia has also begun the training and empowerment of 5,000 women to raise their skills. The training is also to contribute to strengthening the local economy, take their families out of poverty, and create generational wealth and self-sufficiency.
Similarly, the administration has selected 10,000 Benue youths to receive six months free training on ICT, to enable them function optimally in the digital world and become progressively dependent on their digital skills for survival.
Following the removal of fuel subsidy and the attendant hardship on the people, the administration has efficiently utilised the Two Billion Naira it received from the Federal Government for palliative.
Out of the amount quite a chunk of market women are to receive N50,000 each to enhance their businesses.
It will also be used to pay the examination fees for students in public schools sitting for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and National Examination Council (NECO) examination. This gesture will no doubt reduce the financial burden on parents, and encourage the students to pursue their studies with confidence and without distraction.
Similarly, the governor has ordered the procurement of 100 buses for Benue Links, the state owned transport company, to provide affordable transportation to the public. The government will also purchase and distribute rice to indigent households across the state.
Another significant achievement within the governor’s 100 days in office, is the confidence in him by other governors and the Presidency to lead a major adhoc committee in the National Economic Council (NEC) , a development that will draw the state closer to the central government, thereby attracting more federal government presence, better opportunities and benefits for the state.
The Governor also within his hundred days in office , embarked on massive installation and maintenance of street lights within and outside the outskirts of the state capital, which helps to curb criminal activities.
In the area of agriculture, the government had ensured prompt distribution of assorted fertilizers to farmers at a properly subsidized rate. This will help to ensure bountiful harvest and reduce farming cost.
Also the State hosted the National Agricultural Mechanization and Innovation Summit (NAMIS’) organized by Coalition Network of Stakeholders in Agricultural Mechanization (CONESAM) in collaboration with Benue State Government for improved agricultural productivity for Benue farmers.
He has also ordered the removal of illegal checkpoints, which have been contributing to price hikes in markets. Farmers are undoubtedly thankful, as the intervention has breathed life into the produce market.
To boost the relationship between the executive and legislature, the governor has begun the remodelling and rehabilitation of the state assembly complex. This will also provide conducive environment for the lawmakers to function effectively in the overall interest of Benue state.
Governor Alia has also embarked on revolutionizing infrastructure by approving the construction of 16 roads in Makurdi metropolis in his first 100 days in office. Already, the contractors have been mobilized and construction work had commenced.
One of the major problems he inherited from the previous administration was the the huge number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were neglected in spite of their pitiable condition.
The first step taken by the governor was to enhance access to emergency and health care for the IDPs through the provision of food, nutritional supplements, and improved access to portable water and sanitation services.
Governor Hyacinth Alia has already put in place a fantastic framework for reintegration of IDPs with a suitable rehabilitation support from the state government to rebuild their livelihoods and contribute effectively to economic and political development of the state.
He further brought a delegation from the United Nations to assess the situation of the IDPs and plan on how to support the government in returning them safely to their ancestral homes.
To attract the support of international development organisations, the Governor has established the Benue State International Cooperation and Development Coordinating Unit. This is to support his vision of developing Benue through the deployment of resources and expertise in a timely, efficient and accountable manner to fast track the transformation of the state.
This move has been lauded by Country Directors of various International Non-government Organisations operating in Nigeria.
Fr. Hyacinth Alia also embarked on series of other response visits to key international organizations all for the development of Benue.
The Governor led discussions with representatives from the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, and the African Development Bank
Rev. Fr. Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia received an International Humanitarian Service award by the International Human Right Commission IHRC .
The award was in honour of his commitment, zeal and determination to end farmers -herders clashes, secure lives and property and return IDPs to their ancestral home.
He participated in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) a three-day leadership retreat for the 36 State Governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).
According to the Organisers, the programme was funded by the UNDP was scheduled for Kigali, Rwanda.
The UN agency explained that the retreat was part of its commitment to raising the level of governance in Africa and other parts of the world
To drive his commitment to accountability, the administration has recovered numerous looted government vehicles, tens of hectares of land and numerous landed property from officials of the immediate past administration. This is in furtherance of his anti-corruption policy and ensuing discipline, accountability and prudent management of government resources.
All these and more are the foundation for Benue’s growth and transformation laid by the governor and on which his administration has been pursuing its renewed hope agenda.
So far, the governor’s able lieutenants are more emboldened by his openness and commitment to service and have been contributing to the transformation agenda.
The Commissioner for Education and Knowledge Management, Reverend Frederick Ikyaan said they were unwavering in their commitment to assist the governor deliver and meet the expectations of Benue people.
His words: “Remarkable achievements have been made, there is however nothing that will be done that will be achieved magically. We will fully contribute and support the governor to deliver on the people’s mandate and meet their expectations.”
Similarly, the Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Hon. Mike Oglegba averred that the administration has in the last 100 days set the wheels in motion for positive changes in the system’s operational framework to allow for progress, smooth and effective running of government business.
He said so far, they have been able to substantially tackle challenges bordering on corruption, bribery and misgovernace.”It takes a lot to iron out issues of misgovernace, but His Excellency is doing that.
“There is prompt payment of salaries and MDAs are receiving the boost they need to work. The government has also been injecting capital into statutory projects such as hospitals, and cleaning of the town,” Oglegba said.
Hon. Saater Tiseer, the Majority Leader, Benue State House of Assembly, said so far so good, and urged Benue citizen’s to continue to give maximum support to Governor Alia.
“He is deeply passionate about making a difference in the governance of the state with his ‘People-First’ Agenda,” said the majority leader.
Also, Dr Emmanuel Chenge, believes that Governor Alia has taken very commendable steps to reposition the ship of state for the better.
“The governor has made laudable moves to stabilize the system and correct certain things that were seen to have been not properly done,” he said.
For Dr Aondona Mkor, the Governor has hit the ground running and will not let Benue people down.
“The governor’s efforts at rectifying the anomalies he met on ground will yield fruitful results for the state.
“Despite the immense challenges he inherited from the past administration, Governor Alia has been meticulous in addressing the issues,” Mkor added.
In his comment, Hon. Benedict Akombo, urged the people of Benue not to forget the enormous problems inherited by the governor. “The expectations of the people are high but they should also remember the enormity of things he inherited. The Governor is capable of delivering the state from its past agonies.
“It is common knowledge that Governor Alia inherited very weak institutions of state such as the State Public Service. He is taking proper steps at addressing them. He inherited so much dilapidation in all institutions in the state, but he is not complaining, rather he is finding solutions.”
Going forward, Barrister Fidelis Myim, the Commissioner for Justice and Public Order, said the administration has developed a robust human capital development plan as part the agenda to uplift the state and its people.
Certaily, the first 100 days of the administration of Governor Hyacinth Alia have sowed the positive seeds the people of the state will reap over the next four years. With patience, the harvest will be bountiful.
_*Bridget IKyado is the Principal Special Assistant, Strategic Communications to Benue State Governor*_