By James Ibechi
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, took democratization of the state one notch higher on Monday by swearing in 23 newly elected chairmen of LGs.
The euphoria that greeted the state with the recent signing into law of anti-open grazing and anti-kidnap bills hardly dissolved on the happy faces of the Benue people before the governor through the state electoral body, Benue State Independent Electoral Commission, BSIEC, conducted the LG election that produced the council chairmen on June 3.
But that was yet a tip of the iceberg of what development Governor Ortom was poised to further trickle down to the third tier of government with his pledge yesterday that he will not tamper with funds accruing to the local governments.
Such a vow by Governor Ortom was a watershed in the anal of the history of LG control by state government, and represents a very important departure from what obtained under the immediate past administration of Gabriel Suswam.
Under the ex-governor, LG administration suffered its worse in history, as funds accruing from the Federation Account to the grassroots for development of the localities suffered serious pillages under the pretext and guise of ‘Joint Account’ singsong.
Then elected LG chairmen took directives from the governor on financial dealings and administration, with the elected LG bosses themselves becoming nothing better than puppets to SA to governor on LG and chieftaincy affairs and governor, which way the running of the third tier of government became stifled.
But it was not a surprise because ex-Governor Suswam himself, unlike Governor Ortom who pledged not to tamper with LG monies, vowed to make council chairmanship less attractive to politicians wanting to vie for the seat.
Governor Ortom while performing the swearing in at IBB Square tasked the 23 newly elected chairmen to be prudent in handling the finances of their LGs to enable them execute projects that will have direct impact on the lives of the people.
“As all of you may be aware, we are still suffering from the pains of recession, so you should work hard to improve on the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile of your Local Government Councils,” he said.
According to Ortom,” as elected leaders, you should shun the temptation to operate as Sole Administrators. You should carry along your deputies and councilors as well as other stakeholders who would help you in the delivery of services in health care, education, agriculture and other areas of need to the local populace.
“I want to make it clear to all of you that the era of sharing government money with cronies or so-called elders is over. Government money is only for development purposes to positively touch the lives of the majority of the people. Let me restate my pledge that the state government under my watch will not tamper with any money that accrues to the Local Government Councils under any guise.”
The governor also recalled the recent signing into law the Anti-grazing Bill and the heat it has generated.
“ You are aware of the heat the bill generated, therefore, as the chief security officers of your respective Local Government Councils, you have to be alert to ensure that no individual or group of persons under your Council take the laws of the land into their own hands. And as you might have already known, there cannot be progress or development without peace. So, peace building should be your cardinal objective at all times.”