A cardinal objective of democracy is that citizens are the actual power brokers in a democratic society. It therefore requires that leaders live up to what is expected of them from the citizens in terms of meaningful policies and programmes, writes GOLOK NANMWA.
There is no economy that thrives in the atmosphere of insecurity, political instability and lack of enabling incentives. Most states of the federation have fallen victims of these challenges. Thus, since last year, the Plateau State inherited these and many other challenges on assumption of office. To solve the problems required some decisive interventions. It could be recalled that Plateau State was crisis-ridden for over a decade before the Simon Lalong came into office. The Fulani and Berom in the Northern Senatorial Zone of the state had been on each others throat. The two groups have been locked in a lingering violence leading to loss of several lives, while farms and livestock were destroyed. Past government’s efforts towards settling them had always ended in futility as fresh violence often erupted sometimes immediately after one peace agreement or the other. However relative peace seems to have been restored in the state in the past 11 months as there had no outbreak of violence or attacks. Peace, security and good governance remains key to the success of any purposeful governance and administration, Governor Lalong observed saying that there was a need for “an institutional framework which to promote peaceful coexistence among citizens”. To a very large extent, this has been achieved in the past one year. One of the major steps taken by the state government was that it set up a 14-man committee, seven each from the warring Berom and Fulani communities to reconcile their differences towards lasting peace. Through dialogue and carrying all tribes along in governance, he was able to restore back peace in the state. Similarly, civil servants in the state were on strike before the inauguration of the Lalong administration due to nonpayment of salaries. After series of negotiations, the workers resumed and were paid their salaries. Jos the state capital also benefited from the intervention project of the governor as the abandoned secretariat fly over bridge has been completed. Also work has begun on most of the abandoned projects in the state. The governor also completed the rehabilitation of roads within the Greater Jos – Bukuru metropolis. In keeping to his campaign promises of revamping the agricultural sector, the governor purchased and distributed 650 trucks of fertiliser on assumption of office through a community based distribution. The governor also said he would ensure that accessible, affordable, high quality healthcare is available to citizens of the state and has pledged to build specialist hospitals in each of the three Senatorial Zones across the state, while upgrading facilities in all cottage and General hospitals”. He said public healthcare must be well managed by doctors, nurses and healthcare must be well managed by doctors, nurses and healthworkers to ensure that every patient is cared for through a decentralised area based, people cantered primary health care system. Efforts were being made to also replicate the current National Health Insurance Scheme in the state with the view to providing affordable health cover to civil servants and their families. For the people of the state, revival of most moribund commercial projects in Plateau should be a central focus right from the inception in order to boost the Internal Generated Revenue in the state. The motive is to raise more money to finance developmental projects across the state. One year after, the people of the state have challenged the state government to rebuild the abandoned terminus market, just as they are happy that the state government had signed an agreement with Hummer Drinks Ltd, a soft-drinks producing company to refurbish abandoned Highland Bottling Company in Barkin Ladi, that has been abandoned for over 20 years. Acting Chairman, Plateau State Internal Revenue Service, PSIRS, Dashe Arlat, stated that the revenue collected within the period as “very encouraging’’ in comparison with the N1.84 billion realized in the corresponding period last year, 2015. “From the amount so realised this first quarter of the year, it is glaring that we are improving with our revenue generation having surpassed that of last year with N219, 506, 232.86. In fact, by what we just realized, it’s a clear indication that we shall definitely meet our target of N13 billion for this year. This is because we have not yet included our arears of tax liabilities of about N5 billion,’’ he said. One of the benefits of peace in the state s that “Investors are already coming to invest in our tourism, solid minerals and agriculture sector”, the governor said adding the state government was ready to “create a business friendly environment which is favourable to all investors”, has employed over 4,000 adhoc teachers and renovated so many schools since last year. Chairman of the state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Professor Matthew Sule told journalist in Jos that only 47 percent of the 19,155 public schools in the state are in fairly good shape, and the government would renovate the structures based on a scale of preference. “We are working towards addressing this challenge but we are incapacitated at the moment financially. We have paid the
N1billion counterpart funds required for us to access resources for such projects and are waiting for the release of these funds to commence work. We are aware that basic education structure especially in rural areas, are clamouring for urgent attention and plead for more patience to have access to the resources required for such projects”, he said. In a related development, speaking while signing the 2016 budget into law at the new Government House Little Rayfield recently, the governor said his administration was determined to change and rescue the current economic situations in the state. The peoples expectations are high that the governor will use the 2016 budget to introduce innovative governance towards improving the lives of the citizens. “Having now signed into law the budget, it is necessary to admonish that while the budget is being executed in line with the stipulation of the law, the legislature must also be on alert to ensure the necessary checks and balances that behoves of it, as the second arm of government”, said Mallam Abdul Mustapha, a civil servant in the state. According to the Commissioner for Finance in the state, Mrs Tamwakat Weli “change administration of Governor Simon Lalong has tagged this years budget as Budget of Rescue and Hope and its aimed at salvaging the people of Plateau from deprivation,
insecurity, poverty”. Nanchang Bitrus a member of the Peoples Democratic Party while commending on the first year of Lalong in office said he has done fairly well, but called on him to do more for the people of the state. He said more is expected from the APC government in the state and at the federal level. Newly elected chairman of the PDP in the state, Damishi Sango however said, the party is still on ground in the state. He also said the state is wearing a strange garment in the current political dispensation. “Plateau is PDP and the APC has no business occupying the government house in Jos as Plateau is the home of PDP. Meanwhile some people of the state have commended the governor for what they described as rescue mission in the state in the past one year in the state. Nagelu Garba , a citizen of Plateau said people of the state are particularly happy, with the governor for his efforts at clearing the backlog of salaries owed the civil servants by the immediate past administration of David Jang. He also applauded governor Lalong for his effort towards resolving the ethnic conflict in the state and for uniting the people of the state by carrying along all tribes in governance. He said People of the state craved for a change in governance in the state and the governor is not doing badly. Alex Malunga another citizen of Plateau said the people of the state are convinced that Lalong administration will bring change to Plateau State during its four year tenure. “He has done well by clearing of backlog of salaries. He also made proper use of the bailout funds that was sent to the state recently. Stephen Jings the management committee chairman of Pankshin Local government who spoke to our correspondent said the governor has done well and would continue to do more for the people. He also called on people of the state to support the Lalong led administration as the governor is dedicated to providing the dividends of democracy to the people of the state. Solomon Goje, from Bassa local government of the state said the governor has started on a good note. He however called on him to ensure that he meets 70 percent of his campaign promises. He however charged that government officials should be properly accountable to the people because that us the essence of democracy.