Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, today kick-started town-hall meetings with a call on the people of the state to go back to land in view of dwindling resources from oil.
Ortom who was addressing the people of Sankera which comprises Logo, Ukum and Katsina-Ala local government areas on the occasion of his first town-hall meeting at the modern auditorium of the College of Education, Katsina-Ala, said Nigeria which was producing over two billion barrels of oil a day has been forced to produce about 600,000 barrels due to damages done to oil installations by Niger Delta Delta Avengers.
The governor further explained to the people that oil which was selling at $140 dollars per barrel in the international market now sells at less than $40 dollars and emphasized that crops like rice, soya bean, groundnut, beniseed and so on now generates a lot of money.
According to him, one bag of harvested rice goes for more than N32, 000 in the market and urged the people of Sankera as well as the entire people of the state to intensify their efforts in agriculture.
He stressed the need for Sankera people to restore their leading role in yam production in Nigeria and expand cultivation of other crops so that their lives could be better.
While saying that he was aware of the wanton destruction of lives, crops/land, and property by Fulani herdsmen, Governor Ortom said the state executive council has sent a bill to the House of Assembly to outlaw grazing because Benue has no land for such purpose.
He said the establishment of ranches would pay Nigeria better than grazing and added that so far, only 13 states have subscribed to grazing reserves excluding Benue.
Governor Ortom said the vigilance groups in Benue would be strengthened to check excesses of those molest farmers and other citizens at will and added that traditional rulers would be involved.
He said the problem of salary payment and pension benefits became encumbered as a result of dwindling allocation from the federation account with Benue receiving less than N2 billion respectively for state and local government workers whose salaries amount to N4 billion and N3.7 billion monthly.
The governor said pensioners have been pad up to March this year while state and local government workers have been paid up to January 2016 and December 2015 respectively with internally generated revenue ranging between N250 million and N500 million monthly.
Governor Ortom said the N28 billion bailout he sourced from the Federal Government was not misapplied as claimed by those in opposition, emphasizing that from the N15.5 billion set aside for payment of salary arrears to local government staff, N1.4 billion was saved through screening which revealed that in a particular local government, 850 staff were recruited through the back door.
He said the N12.5 billion set aside for clearing salary arrears of state workers has been judiciously utilized with the over N1 billion saved through screening put back into payment of salaries.
According to him, the 52 persons that allegedly diverted N107 billion between 2007 and 2015 would be rosé cuter in he law courts and assured that every stolen kobo would be returned.
The governor said Benue State University has been paid up to May2015 and explained that university staff and pensioners have been kept on first line charge because of the need to keep the institution and pensioners going.
He said as a democratically elected government, there is need for him to keep consulting with the people and observed that the challenges of salary payment at the federal, state and local government levels makes the conduct of local government elections difficult.
Governor Ortom maintained that the state independent electoral commission submitted a budget of N1.5 billion but he approved over N800 million which he cannot source immediately and asked for the people's understanding on the matter.
On the issue of first class chiefs, the governor said he was not against t but due process should be followed.
He said the matter of who becomes the next Tor Tiv is entirely left in the hands of the people but warned against generation of bad blood which would be against the people's prayer which ended with the dedication of the state to God on May 30th.
He said he was aware that the next Tor Tiv should come from Kwande and Sankers but warned that chiefs in Benue should not participate in politics.
He said the matter of who becomes the next Tor Tiv should not be a do or die affair and advised that a God fearing person should be chosen.
He said for the people of Sankera to have more sense of belonging, the booster station of Radio Benue in Katsina-Ala would be resuscitated by his administration very soon.
The governor was accompanied by the deputy governor, Engr Benson Abounu and other top government functionaries.