Okorie James writes that Governor Simon Bako Lalongâ€™s achievements in Plateau State in the first two years of his administration has endeared him to the people of the state
Political stakeholders in Plateau State have commended the achievements of Governor Simon Bako Lalong in the first two years of his administration and said that he is fulfilling what he promised the people of the state during the election campaigns.
Speaking on behalf of the stakeholders, the former Commissioner of Information in the state, Mr. Yakubu Dati said Lalong is approaching governance with a sense of responsibility and the seriousness it deserves, noting that his predecessor elevated his birthdays as a state affair, but Lalong warned against such frivolities but also dedicated himself to a solemn self-appraisal of the Plateau project.
Dati who spoke to journalists recently in Lagos said Lalong took notes in every of the 67 town hall meetings he conducted round the state and chronicles the desires of the people of the state and the first two years of his administration showed that he is fulfilling the aspirations of the people.
â€œThese requests, which he carried as a burden, create his compass for leadership. For a fair assessment of the Simon Lalongâ€™s government, the key performance indicator cannot be situated far from the dialogues at those town-hall meetings.
It is well known fact that Governor Simon Lalong inherited a state in crisis caused by a self-serving regime. He knew that without peace and security, nothing tangible would be achieved in the state. Working in tandem with all arms of security apparatus, he applied his brinkmanship by initiating series of town hall meetings with all stakeholders in the state on issue-based policies sensitisation, and held consultative fora with the Berom and Fulani communities amongst others. These significant steps resolved some of the crises that bedeviled the state by entrenching peace, unity and security of lives and property,â€ Dati said.
He said Lalong institutionalised peace building by creating a proactive agency known as the Plateau Peace Building Agency – a significant shift from the reactionary pattern, adding that today, Plateau is in peace and following the restoration of peace, the administration promptly paid up the backlog of eight months salaries owned workers by the last regime.
â€œThe consistent payments of salaries thereafter, and the general welfare of the workforce, which in itself stimulated the local economy has endeared him to the average Plateau man. Simon Lalong rolled up his sleeves to face the education sector, but was taken aback by the rot and decay. The performance of Plateau State at the WAEC examination was a disaster â€“ 36th out of 37 states in the federation. Never known to shy away from the frontlines, Governor Lalong took the bull by the horns and changed the landscape through employment and training of teachers, construction of new classrooms, and massive injection of funds. Recently over 4000 teaching personnel were recruited on ad hoc basis, while infrastructural deficit is being tackled through construction and renovation of more classrooms. More than 500 classrooms have been built and renovated in the past two years alone,â€ Dati said.
He noted that the Plateau State University, Bokkos has been given a new lease of life with the reconstitution of the Governing Council with Prof. Attahiru Jega as Pro-Chancellor, adding that so far, all its 17 programmes are being accredited which in turn facilitated the mobilisation of two sets of graduands for the NYSC scheme earlier this year, the first since its establishment.
Other state tertiary institutions, Dati noted, are also receiving the desired attention. The regular intervention in the sector has made it to run smoothly without any interruption on grounds of non-payment of salaries, which usually give rise to industrial dispute, remarking that today, Plateau students, especially those living with disability are being supported with scholarships and grants from the rescue administration.
â€œLalong is also paying attention to agriculture, which is the mainstay of most of the Plateau people. About 800 trailers laden with 24 thousand metric tones of fertiliser are being offloaded to farmers at subsidised rate. The resuscitation of the Panyam Fish Farm, Bokkos Fertiliser Blending Plant, accreditation of Garkawa College of Education and the provision of soft loans to farmers have restored Plateau to its pride of place in agriculture.
â€œIn line with the yearnings for community leadership, vacant stools of traditional institutions in the state are being filled based on laid down law and gazettes. So far, more than 50 communities cutting across all the local government areas have benefitted, ranging from the first class status chiefs to district heads. The creation of districts and development areas are at its final stage of implementation, to bring development to the grassroots,â€ the former commissioner said.
The stakeholders also remarked that the state is also reviving and revamping its moribund industries including the Jos International breweries (JIB), Highland Bottling Company and the Jos Main Market. The reacquisition of the BARC Farms is being pursued vigorously.
In recognition of its multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature, Lalong has also entrenched equity and fairness in appointments to political offices and government patronage. In the same vein, cultural festivals and carnivals have boldly restored the state on the tourism map of the country.
â€œTo open a new vista in economic empowerment, the Lalong administration has unveiled the process to harness and develop the tourism sector. This is a sector that sustains many countries in the world and research by this administration has shown that there is tourism potential that are yet to be exploited. The state government has stepped up the process to harness these opportunities to boost the stateâ€™s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
â€œIn the critical area of effective healthcare delivery, the Lalong administration has given it a boost with the creation of the state Primary Health Care Board now in operation. The Health institutions are also receiving serious government attention,â€ Dati said.
He said another area the state government is looking at to boost IGR is the mineral sector, which the state has in abundance. According to him, the state government has recognised that the mineral sector is critical so the state has opened its frontiers to both local and foreign investors.
â€œToday series of MoUs have been signed for the exploration and exploitation of mineral deposits along the value chain to boost the state economy and in line with the stipulated federal government policies.
Critical infrastructures like roads inherited from the last administration have been completed as new ones are being unveiled.
The lifting of the embargo placed on the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) and the reduction of its cost by 50 per cent has engendered inclusiveness,â€ Dati also observed.
The stakeholders in their review noted that midway into the first quarter of the Lalong administration, there is no doubt that his experience a Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly has exposed him to the balance of diverse group interests in the state, adding that his courageous application of the spirit of give and take is indeed paying off positively.