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‘Our work, targets for Plateau to attain next level’

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[FILES] Plateau

In an interview with journalists in Jos, the Deputy Chairman, Media and Publicity of APC Campaign Group in Plateau, Festus Fuanter, speaks on the achievements of Governor Lalong in his almost four years in office, which he said were enough to fetch APC victory. Excerpts:

What is the selling point or major achievements of the administration in the past four years?
In order to appreciate the selling point of Governor Simon Bako Lalong and the APC, it is essential to first and foremost understand where Plateau State was and where it is today.

When Lalong was aspiring to be governor, he shied away from making bogus campaign promises but waited for the outcome of his town hall meetings with the over fifty three ethnic nationalities on the Plateau where their aspirations became the basis of his pledges.

The average desire of the people then ranged from infrastructural development to the provision of social amenities. But on assumption of office, the realities on ground ranging from the state of insecurity, the over #222 billion state debt, myriad of abandoned projects and the over seven month salary arrears owed the civil servants forced the new government to realign its priorities into a five-point agenda that made peace, security and good governance as topmost priorities.

In this area, the governor was able to in the last four years faced the innuendos that had been responsible for the persistent crisis in the State by creating the peace building agency and providing an inclusive governance through equity, justice and fairness.

Through this, the Lalong Government was able to provide the much needed peace on the Plateau. He today remains one of the only governor in the state that has empathized with victims of attacks in the state, visited them in their displaced persons camps and was able to through the Federal Government provide a Mobile Police Barracks in Bachit (Northern Zone) one of the epicenters and flashpoints in the recent attacks before attempting to resettle the first batch of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

He also made sure that similar security establishments were also set up in Shendam (Southern Zone) and Mangu (Central Zone.

Besides these commendable efforts, the governor was able to pay off the backlog of civil servants salaries, which cost the state over N30 billion to settle which puts Plateau tops among the few states in the Federation that is up to date in payment of salaries.

Gov. Lalong was also able to complete almost all the abandoned projects started by several of his predecessors and has in addition started new projects ranging from the twenty two rural roads to the nineteen Lalong Legacy Projects which are equitably spread around the seventeen Local Government Areas of the State.

In the area of Education, over 300 primary and secondary schools were renovated and more than 2500 teachers employed.

He reopened and ensured the accreditation of all existing courses in the Plateau State University, the Plateau State Polytechnic, College of Education and the School of Agriculture.

He has completed the entire renovation of the Government Secondary School in Shendam and will soon be through with the renovation of GSS Pankshin with a view to converting the two into Technical Colleges with bias in Information Technology.

These will be in addition to the upgrading of the existing Technical College in Kuru.

Agriculture received a major lift with the resuscitation of the Fertilizer Blending Plant In Bokkos, provision of over four hundred tractors and the Agricultural Services Training Center was refocused to provide the necessary consultancy to farmers.

He has also laid the foundation for the building of a state of the art Laboratory for research to support the Potato Value Chain in Mangu.

In view of this and many more, Lalong has proved to be a humble governor who can finish projects abandoned by his predecessors and so if given a second chance he can complete his own.

He has proved to be a dispassionate governor who understands the plight of the civil servants and the need to pay them their wages and if given a second chance he will continue to pay salaries consistently. Because Lalong is a beneficiary of public schools, he has pledged to revolutionize the Education Sector and may where consider the return of some of the Mission Schools to their owners for efficiency. Governor Lalong has proved that the youth constituency is an area of priority.

This is why he has been able to through partnership with the Federal Government provided tens of thousands of youths with gainful engagement through the N-Power and the Small and Medium Scale Enterprise.

This will no doubt receive a center stage if Lalong gets a second chance. These are some of the selling points that will no doubt propel Lalong to victory in the forthcoming polls.

People of the state especially the opposition are accusing the governor of always outside the state, that is, playing national politics to the detriment of state matters. What is the gain of this in the past four years?
In the political history of Plateau State, Governor Lalong ranks only second to the late former Governor Solomon Lar in terms of exposure in national politics.

He has been a Chairman of the Nigerian Speakers Forum, Chairman of Former Nigerian Speakers Forum, member of almost all committees on topical national issues and today, is one of the governors that enjoys the confidence and friendship of not only his colleagues but the President.

Lalong has no doubt built a political asset at the center stage for himself and through that removed Plateau State from the pariah and isolationist status it was known for. Has this translated into any benefit to Plateau State? Yes! Through the governor’s friendship and contacts at the national level, several projects were attracted to Plateau State.

These include the Babban Lamba through Garam to Sharam Road, the road that links Bauchi State to Plateau through Kanke, the completion of the moribund Mangu Water Dam, the proposed Akwanga-Jos-Bauchi-Gombe Road, the multiple ETF Projects in the Plateau State University and Polytechnic, the soon to be completed Bokkos to Wamba (in Nasarawa State) Road, the Federal Ministry of Transport intervention in the ongoing Inland Container Depot In Hiepang are some of the benefits which this emerging National team player has attracted by his shuttle diplomacy and involvement in national politics.

The administration recently set the ball in motion to relocate the IDPs to their various ancestral communities but there is the allegation that the first batch of the exercise was not meticulously planned to provide conducive atmosphere for the returnees. What is the government doing in this regard?
You will recall that the governor had made it clear in several fora that Plateau will not concede an inch of its land to any invader or attacker.

But he also had made it very clear that he was no going to be in a hurry to relocate the IDPs back to their ancestral homes without first mitigating the dangers involved there with. He said he would rather provide the necessary security architecture to support their relocation so as not to put them in harmful way.

That was why he personally had to see the President who approved for the citing of the Mobile Police Barracks and personally followed the Inspector General of Police to ensure the deployment and mobilization of the personnel to the area before the first batch of IDPs were relocated.

This might not have been done under the most ideal situation but the anxiety among the IDPs and the possibility of further vandalism of what was left of their homes by the enemies informed the quick decision to relocate them.

Under normal circumstances, some kind of shelter would have been provided for them but for the lack of funds.

This was further complicated by the inability of our representatives in the National Assembly to include Plateau State in the Commission that was to provide funding to the North Eastern States that have been ravaged by the Boko Haram.

Plateau State was not different but that was not to be.

The governor recently shared building materials to some displaced people to rebuild their houses. Why is the government embarking on this gesture close to election time?
The issue of the IDPs is a very sensitive one and anyone who politicizes their plight is doing the greatest disservice to a people who have hardly recovered from the post traumatic stress they have been through.

The fact that it was an electioneering period does not mean that governance should come to a halt or the governor should shy away from performing his responsibilities.

The governor has always been very passionate about alleviating the plight of the IDPs and if the relief/building materials were coincidentally available during the period of his campaigning, he was not going to allow political distraction and insinuations to deter him from doing what was best in the interest of the IDPs.

What is the update on the burnt terminus market?
The Jos Main Market was one of the pet projects of the Lalong Government. He had made a commitment to ensuring to the resuscitation of the market but for lack of funds and an appropriate and capable private investors who will partner with government to rebuild the edifice.

In spite of the circumstances the government found itself, it has been able to engage a consultant who did an integrity test and has ascertain which part of the market was most affected by the bomb blast. Having completed the test, the company will commence the technical systematic demolition of the aspect that has failed the integrity test.

As a matter of fact, announcements warning the general public on the planned demolition particularly those in the visibility of the market has commenced. It is after the demolition that the few investors who have shown interest in the market will be considered.

What is your reaction to the allegation that this administration tactically sidelined Plateau North especially the Berom in the scheme of things in the past four years?
You know as well as I do that this notion is totally wrong. You will remember that at the inception of this government, positions were equitably distributed based on zones.

The Northern Zone was to have the Speaker of the State Assembly as well as the Secretary to the State Government.

Hon. Pete Azi from Jos North became the Speaker and Hon. Rufus Bature who is a Berom and also Governor Lalong’s Director General of Campaign was made the Secretary to the State Government.

As you are well aware, the seat of Government is in Jos (Northern Zone) and the last administration sited adequate projects in the Northern Zone, most of which were abandoned and completed by Lalong to the detriment of the rural areas.

In spite of all that, Lalong equitably distributed the twenty two on-going rural roads among the seventeen LGAs including the Northern Zone.

So also were the nineteen Lalong Legacy Projects, which were shared to each of the seventeen LGAs across the state. As we are talking, Arch Pam Dung Gyang, a Berom, is the Director General of the Lalong/Tyoden Campaign Organization.

So it’s totally wrong and quite mischievous to insinuate that the Northern Zone and the Berom as a tribe would have been neglected by Gov. Lalong who prides himself as a Rescue Apostle.

The PDP is angling to return to power in Plateau State and people are saying the factors that gave APC victory in 2015 are no longer there. What is the APC government doing to win this election?
As you are aware, Governor Lalong won the 2015 elections on the basis of the desire of the people of Plateau State to entrench zoning and to ensure equity and fairness.

Going by what Lalong has done in the last four years as enumerated earlier, he has been able to recreate these factors in his favor in addition to performing creditably well in the delivery of peace, infrastructure and human capital development which has endeared him to the people.

This is clear from the reception Lalong received throughout the seventeen LGAs of the state. I can tell you without fear of contradictions that the mammoth crowd Lalong is receiving today is far in excess of what he received in 2015.

That as far as we are concerned is a vote of confidence on the Rescue Administration.

Besides the state in general and the Central Zone in particular are still desirous as ever of consolidating on the zoning arrangement and so would not want to risk the possibility of voting anyone else who may subsequently be tempted to aspire for a second term thereby distorting the zoning arrangement which they fought hard to sustain.

So to answer your question, the APC is reassuring the people that it is still under an obligation to deliver the dividend of democracy to Plateau State.


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