Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom may have only spent the first quarter of his four-year tenure, but he has already failed to keep key promises he made to the people during his campaign days and the build-up to his taking over power.
Here, we’ve put together the top six key promises he could fulfil but failed to do so after one year in office…
1. FINANCIAL STATUS OF THE STATE
The Promise: I Will Disclose the True Financial Status of the State
Governor Samuel Ortom, prior to his assumption of office, said he would scrutinize the handover notes of his predecessor, Dr Gabriel Suswam, and make full disclosure about the financial status of the state. He said this at a thanksgiving service held at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mega Parish, in Makurdi sometime in May 2015.
The Outcome: it has been a salad of ever-changing figures. As captured in an earlier publication, “When the Governor announced that the state debt profile amounted to N90bn from the initial smaller figures, he gave the breakdown as “N50 billion for ongoing contracts, N18 billion for certified ones, N12 billion for salary arrears and about N10 billion for bonds and bank loans.” Those figures have since changed to N130bn, N150bn, so on and so forth.
Also, different figures have been quoted as wage bill and overhead for the state. According to the government at one time “the wage bill of the State rose from N2.7 billion to N3.7 billion because the APC led government has resumed payment of full salaries and overheads earlier abandoned by the immediate past administration.” Later on July 4th 2015 while addressing Journalists, the Governor said, “For the month of May, the salaries including pensions and overheads, we had to cough out N3.7 billion and if the same thing applies to June, it means salaries for the two months will be N7.4 billion.” Five days later during a meeting with second class chiefs at the Och’Idoma’s palace in Otukpo, the Governor reiterated that the state has a monthly wage bill of N3.7 billion including overheads. On October 6th 2015, Governor Ortom said, “the state received only N2.6 billion as last month’s allocation while the salary wage bill for state workers for September was over N3.4 billion WITHOUT overheads.”
Up until today, with the ever-changing disparity of figures, it won’t be wrong to say Benue people don’t know the true financial status of the state.
2. WORKERS’ SALARIES
The Promise: I Will Pay Workers Salaries as at When Due
While seeking the peoples’support prior to the 2015 gubernatorial elections, Governor Samuel Ortom wept openly at several campaign grounds over the non-payment of salaries by Ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam. Consequently, on the April 19, 2015 as Governor-elect, he criticized Suswam, saying, “… if you talk of government not being able to pay salaries and see what government operatives are doing, in terms of personal things, it sends a wrong signal all together that something is wrong.”
During last year’s workers’ day, precisely on May 1, Governor Ortom promised not only to restore the lost glory of workers in accordance with the dictum that the worker was worthy of his wages but also propel them forward. Few weeks later, on the day of his inauguration, he also said, “Fellow citizens of Benue State, my heart bleeds for Benue workers and pensioners as they have suffered untold hardship as the issues of their salaries, wages and allowances have become a major challenge. The Bible states that the worker deserves his wages and on that score, government must ensure that wages are paid as at when due.”
Ortom added on June 24, 2016 while on a working visit to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja, that Governors have no tenable excuse to owe workers’ salaries. In his words, “…Governors and other employers should give priority to workers’ wages and show compassion for them so that their labour must not be in vain.”
The Outcome: Governor Ortom is now owing 4-5 months’ workers’ salaries after only one year in office having renegaded on an agreement to pay workers once every two months as a result of the economic downturn.
While addressing Catholic faithful at the end of a prayer session conducted by the Bishops of Otukpo, Makurdi, Gboko and Katsina-Ala Catholic Dioceses at the Grace Chapel of Benue People’s House Wednesday, Governor Samuel Ortom said the state will no longer be able to meet up with the payment of monthly wage bill, even as the federal allocation to the State has dropped from N7 billion in the past administration to N1.3 billion this month.
3. FULANI HERDSMEN ATTACKS AND KILLINGS
The Promise: I Will End Fulani Herdsmen Attacks Within Six Months
On May 7, 2015 when the Gaambe-Tiev community and political leaders paid him a solidarity visit at his residence in Makurdi, a then Governor-elect, Samuel Ortom promised that his administration will tackle the perennial Fulani herdsmen attack on Benue communities and bring it to an end in six months.
The Outcome: Benue people have endured incessant and wanton massacre by Fulani herdsmen more than ever before. At a time when his colleagues in other states have taken immediate and fast measures to forestall the killing of their people by herdsmen (For example, Ekiti, Enugu and Ebonyi states – banned open grazing while Cross River and Enugu State have launched ‘Green police’ and ‘neighbourhood security’ respectively), Governor Ortom continues to put all his eggs in the basket of establishing ranches, which is good but is a log-term measure that would take a lot of time to actualise.
The Promise: I Will Ensure Free Education
On 8th March 2015, Governor Ortom, while speaking to landlords and other groups in Akpehe, a suburb in Makurdi, the Benue state capital, pledged to implement his party’s free primary and secondary education policy as enshrined in its manifesto.
The Outcome: Benue people are yet to experience free education at any level, rather the Ortom administration increased the school fees of Benue State University Makurdi by over 400% (has been reversed) and has concluded plans to hand over missionary schools together with their workforce back to their private owners – a policy the people are not particularly happy about.
The Promise: I Will Appoint Only 13 Commissioners and 15 Advisers. I Will Also Be Fair to Everyone
On May 12 2015, Governor Samuel Ortom, when he hosted various groups including All Progressives Congress, APC, stakeholders from Kwande local government area, Masev Development Association, and Igede APC stakeholders at his residence and that of Senator George Akume, in Makurdi, assured that he would be fair to all three geopolitical zones of the state in making political appointments. Few days earlier, while speaking to other groups at his Makurdi residence, he had assured that his cabinet would comprise of, at most, 13 commissioners and 15 advisers so as to save costs and ensure better funding of ministries and other government agencies.
The Outcome: Just as President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Ortom’s appointments have been skewed to favour his kinsmen in Benue North-East and North-West senatorial zones. Also, his cabinet is bloated with over 21 Advisers and countless Assistants, which questions his idea of saving costs.
6. AKUME, SUSWAM FEUD
The Promise: I Will Reconcile Akume and Suswam
On July 28, 2014, Governor Samuel Ortom who was the then Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, and in the same political party as Ex-Benue Governor Gabriel Suswam, condemned the feud between his predecessor and eventual benefactor, Senator George Akume, promising to reconcile them when elected. In his words, “I will reconcile Akume and Suswam so that Benue would move forward. I respect Akume anywhere I see him but I don’t share in his disagreement with Suswam. I can only build bridges of peace rather than encourage violence.”
The Outcome: Since Governor Ortom lost the gubernatorial ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and pitched tent with Senator Akume in the All Progressives Congress (APC), there has been no love lost between him and Suswam. His mission of reconciliation, if ever possible, is a very very long shot away.