Despite the many odds he had to face, Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State has shown that he was well-prepared for governance as evident in his first 100 days in office, Seriki Adinoyi reports
Not many Governors in the current dispensation started on the same pedestal as the Plateau State Governor, Barrister Caleb Mutfwang, who not only inherited a huge debt burden from his predecessor, but also took over a state that was under a siege of mayhem.
With a N307bn debt staring the state in the face, a disabled workforce whose civil servants are on strike because of unpaid wages, a lame economy, and a threatening security challenge where citizens are killed in droves every other night and farmers chased away from their farms, Mutfwang’s seat was not an envious one.
So, when other Governors were recently being rated on the measure of achievements in their first 100 days in office, perhaps Mutfwang should have been excused for obvious reasons. But that he has done reasonably well despite the daunting challenges is to say the least, commendable.
He had probably been watching from the sideline and perhaps eager to get to work.
So, he didn’t procrastinate.
He had said right from the outset on May 29, 2023 while he was being sworn-in that, “We know you are expecting much from us. Today, it is not just my inauguration; it is our inauguration as it marks the beginning of our collective quest for a new Plateau.”
The despondent citizens were indeed waiting for him to do a ‘magic’ as they were already weary of the state of the state.
While waiting to be sworn-in, Mangu Local Government Area came under heavy attacks that claimed over 100 lives. The attacks escalated to neighbouring local governments of Barkin Ladi, Riyom, and Bokkos.
So, it was not a surprise that tackling security challenge was his number one priority.
Thus, only two days after his swearing-in, he visited Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Riyom and Mangu local government areas.
That visit gave hope and confidence to the already despondent women and children some of who had been there from previous crises and had been abandoned for years in the IDP camps. He reassured them of the commitment of his administration to address their plight.
Having studied the nature of the attacks, during his inauguration, the Plateau Governor had put them in proper perspective and outlined the direction his government would take in bringing the attacks to a definite end.
In his inaugural speech, Mutfwang had said, “I wish to assure you that the government under my watch will be committed to peaceful coexistence and will work assiduously to secure the boundaries of Plateau State. Criminal elements/invaders hell bent on destruction will be decisively dealt with.”
That was the first time in the last eight years that government was taking such a tough and decisive stance against such carnage that had almost become a daily routine in parts of the state.
Moreover, it took no small courage for the governor to officially debunk for the first time the familiar narrative that had gained ground during the previous administration that what was happening in the state was a conflict between farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
It was in the light of these that he personally interfaced with President Bola Tinubu who graciously gave him a listening ear and promised to do everything possible to help out.
The governor also had one-on-one interactions with the nation’s security chiefs when he visited the Defence and Army headquarters in Abuja on July 12, 2023.
As a result, he extracted their firm commitment towards stepping up the campaigns, both kinetic and non-kinetic, against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
One of the outcomes of such initiatives was the relocation of the GOC, Third Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, who also doubles as the Commander, Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, to Mangu. The presence of the other arms of the security apparatus was also beefed up in Mangu, Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Bassa local government areas.
In addition to many other steps taken by his government, citizens can now sleep with their eyes closed, at least in recent times.
On July 12, 2023, Mutfwang visited the national headquarters of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Abuja where he made a strong case for the welfare of the IDPs. Based on the promises made by the Director-General, Mustapha Habib Ahmed, some relief materials have started trickling into the state, and victims of the attacks are already having some levels of succour and relief pending their relocation to their ancestral homes.
The Agricultural Services Training Company (ASTC) in the state has been fully mobilized to farming communities in Mangu, Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas to assist the farmers continue with the farming season which was abruptly interrupted by these attacks.
Deploying 29 tractors, about 900 hectares of land have already been ploughed. This intervention is fully complemented by the security provided by the agro-rangers of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC).
Measures have also been put in place to increase the quantum of land and extend the exercise into the dry season to enable farmers continue plying their trade even after the rainy season. Subsequently, the Plateau Agricultural Development Project (PADP) and other related government agencies have joined in these efforts.
With the current network of arrangement, Plateau will have enough to eat and export to other states despite the attacks that drove away farmers from the lands.
The governor also undertook an official visit to the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in Abuja, where he drew the Agency’s attention to the urgent need to fund schools that have been adversely affected by the conflicts in the state. Most of these have been destroyed and others turned into shelters for IDPs.
When the governor assumed office and critically looked at the true state of things on the ground, he realised that the situation was far worse than he and his team had imagined. The rot was so deep and widespread in Plateau civil service that government documents were being typed and photocopied at business centres, not minding their levels of confidentiality.
This was even as civil servants were being owed salaries of five months, amounting to over N11 billion, which was one of the reasons that had forced them to proceed on strike. Worst of all, there was an unwieldy debt profile of over N300 billion and many other outstanding financial obligations hanging on the neck of the state government.
The Plateau State civil service workers had insisted that their February and March, 2023 salary arrears must be paid for them to call off the strike. When government met this demand, they resumed work. As at August 21, about 70% of the June salary backlog had been paid, while pension arrears are also being paid alongside the salaries.
Plateau State Polytechnic was on the brink of collapse as almost all its courses were long overdue for accreditation. The state government had to source for the required N200 million to bail it out. The state also had to quickly raise about N300 million to save the Plateau State University from having the accreditation of some of its core programmes withdrawn.
The quality and nature of government appointees determine its success or otherwise because they are the drivers of the state policy.
For Mutfwang, he had set his mind on using young and vibrant technocrats to drive his agenda. These well-motivated and vibrant young turks have been the ones propelling the machinery of state in the last one hundred days.
He had organized a retreat for them at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru, where participants resolved to improve funding to meet the demands of the state by exploring alternative sources of funding, reducing the cost of governance and improving revenue generation for effective revenue funding.
They also agreed to practice inclusivity and mainstream gender in all government policies and programmes and rise above the years of socio-economic, political and security struggles, build on the legacies of Plateau’s founding fathers and attain a clear identity to ensure holistic comprehension of ‘The Time is Now’ mantra of the Governor.
Surely, they came away from that retreat with renewed vigour and determination to ensure the attainment of set objectives so as to take the state out of the present challenges it is faced with.
The Governor has personally admitted that the situation his administration inherited was far worse than its expectations, but he has so far demonstrated that he did not allow such a bleak reality dampen his initial resolve to restore the state to its lost glory.
With such impressive start, it will only be correct to hope that in the next four years the state will witness a sustainable peace and giant leaps in economic and many other facets.