By Achiri Igiri-West
Honourable Peter Onche is the Sole Administrator of Obi local government area of Benue state. In this chat with The Hawk newspapers, he disclosed that they are given free hand to operate including management of their funds.
For long Nigerian society, especially Benue State has yearned for leaders with requisite knowledge, experience, and hands-on type of leadership to propel it out of the woods.
Leadership at both levels of governance in the state has been bereft of people with focus who would hit the ground running, completely altruistic in approach to issues that border on overall growth and development of the society. More often than not, they are clannish, on ego trip, on vengeful mission and highly acquisitive.
It is therefore not out of place to regard them as rat-like. They are so because like rat, their ilk, they bite hard into the fabrics of the society and blow palliative air into it to soothe the pains and shift the victim’s focus from his predicament.
That is why people are heaving a sigh of relief with appointments made by the government of Benue state under the leadership of Governor Samuel Ortom into the administrative positions of the 23 local government areas of the state.
Most of these individuals have clearly departed from the norm of learning process of the past. These leaders are not only executing projects using the meager resources advanced to them but are also dipping their hands into their personal coffers to carry out projects that would uplift the standard of life of their people.
That exactly is what Honourable Peter Okwugbem Onche, the Sole Administrator of Obi local government area of Benue state is doing. After his swearing in on the 11th of October last year, Honourable Onche swung into action by tackling environmental pollution, righting maladministration, embarked on peace-inducing programmes and carried out repairs of equipment abandoned for years amongst others.
In this exclusive chat with The Hawk newspaper at Obarike-Ito the local government headquarter, Onche led us into the hows and whys of his policies and programmes that are clear departure from the decay of the past.
According to him, in line with the charge handed down to them by the governor he has since embarked on policies and programmes that would uplift the standard of living of the people. In this wise, he added, “we are focusing on areas that will enhance the quality of life of our people, areas like environmental health, youth and women empowerment, infrastructure development and upgrade of administrative system of the local government.”
He further said “when I came on board, the local government secretariat was over grown with weeds, it was highly unconducive for work, the perimeter fence had fallen almost round large percent of the place, the gates were also bad. I immediately mobilized and the whole bush was cleared, perimeter fence re-erected and gates firmly fixed. Now the place is habitable. Again, Obi is one of the Local government areas with low revenue because we have one major market called Ihiokwu that operates weekly, we have no high institution, no industry, not even a commercial bank, or a currency centre of a bank. To shore up our revenue profile, I had to mobilize our women from the 12 council wards to clean up the market which was very unkempt and inappropriate for commercial activities to thrive. I also ordered those allocated plots to erect shops to complete them or have them revoked after the ultimatum of December 31st 2016. In line with our efforts at improving our revenue profile, I have repaired our grader machine and already contacted my counterparts in Oju and Otukpo to use it at a reduced rate. Apart from the money we will generate from it, it will also save our little resources which we would have used to hire tractors to grade our roads. That tractor is what we want to use to grade and expand secretariat and hospital roads. I like to inform you that the tractor had been in the state of neglect and disrepair for several years. I have also put back to the road our long-neglected and abandoned vehicles; our hilux, Peugeot 307 and legislative bus are all back on the road. I am sent here to initiate programmes, bring back to life abandoned projects and ensure the overall growth of our place and that exactly is what I am doing.
In the face of paucity of funds how is he coping, you sought to know “thank you so much for this question, I am happy to say that this is the time that people will know those called to serve and others who come to plunder or loot. We are able to cope because His Excellency Governor Ortom is not tampering with our money. Whatever money allocated to the local government is given to us. When our monies come, the governor lay them bare on the table for us and say ‘take, use it’ but with a caveat that if wrongly applied, or misapplied and misappropriated we should know that for a happy moment of six months, the duration of our assignment, we are bound to spend years behind the bar of anti-graft agencies. You know that is in line with his oft-quoted warning that ‘if you chop money, money will chop you.’ What is also helping some of us is that we were all highly engaged in our private businesses and so we have little resources in our personal accounts which we are now using part of to augment allocations from federation accounts.”
On his empowerment programmes, Honourable Onche has this to say, “we have done much in this area in terms of sensitization and enlightenment. We have had talks with our youths on the need to engage in productive ventures. This is preparatory to our planned skill acquisition programmes. We want to get them ready psychologically before we pass them through our planned training programmes. We will train our youths and women in tailoring, hair dressing, computer education and similar others. One thing we are hoping to achieve is lasting peace, love and unity among our people. Without this, no matter how laudable our programmes may be, we will achieve little because as things are now the factionalization in our local government is eating deep into our lives so negatively. There are two pronounced factions with the third been the feeder. The third faction is fighting hard to maintain the factions because it is feeding fat from it but we will not allow it to fester more. We want development here, we have illustrious sons and daughters that have companies, magnificent edifice and other investments outside but are afraid to come home and develop their place. We want to reverse that thinking, whatever is causing that we will do away with it. We are also, as part of encouraging our people, going to embark on street naming. We will name streets after our people who are making waves all over the world. We hope that will lure them home to contribute their quota to the development of their land.”
The Sole Administrator, who holds a High National Diploma (HND) in Accountancy, has been a major player in the oil and gas and construction industries before making a foray into public sphere. He however bemoaned the level of pilferage he met in the local government. According to him, even though in line with a charge from Governor Ortom to all the Sole Administrators to remain in their respective local councils, he is operating from his private residence as the chairman’s lodge is in state of disrepair, “the lodge was stripped of everything; kitchen utensils, TV sets, fridge, beddings etc, all carted away by my predecessors. That is not to say that I am contemplating operating from outside, no, I had never slept outside my local government and I will never do that.”
The Sole Administrator who says he believes in giving people their dues disclosed that he had restored impress to various heads of departments with an addition of his personal stipend. He however said he would never condone truancy and corrupt practices which is why he said he had ordered his staff to ensure proper documentation of all financial transactions as well as purchases made to avoid future pilferage of local government properties.