Chris Steven, Abuja
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has said he settled for appointment of care taker committee chairmen due to paucity of funds to conduct local council elections in the state.
The Governor said there was no reasons why he should conduct local council elections when he could hardly meet the monthly wage bill of civil servants in the state.
He told State House correspondents shortly after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Monday,that he has been having a running battle paying workers’ salaries in his state.
Ortom said he has been maintaining a monthly wage deficit of N3.8billion in the past few months when the resources of the country nosedived.
He said his monthly wage bill runs into N7.8billion but that in the last few months when recession set in he accessed only N4billion from the federation account.
“We will conduct elections as soon as we have the resources. The point is that we were given a bill of N1billion to conduct elections, when I cannot pay salaries.
“I am down by four months. My wage bill for a month is N7.8 billion. Since August of last year we have been receiving an average of N4 billion, so how do I cope?
“Every month I have a deficit of N3.8 billion to pay workers and then run the government. It is a big challenge. My Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is N250million. So its a big challenge.
“As soon as the resources are there I will conduct election. I’m a product of a democratic process, I don’t see why I will truncate it at the local government level. I was a local government chairman democratically elected on the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1991 and I see no reason why I should truncate that.
“It is not my making and I have consulted with the stakeholders of Benue State and they have given me the go ahead,”Ortom assured.
On his visit to the Presidency and herdmen,farmers challenge,the Governor disclosed that he has been able to find a middle ground where most of the contending issues had been resolved.
He said dialogue remains the key to maintaining peace in conflict situations and stakeholders should not be afraid to exploit such opportunities.
“I came to visit Mr. President, once in a while is important to brief the President about my state so that we are on the same page.
“We have been having security challenges but thank God with the collaboration with some security agencies in my state and with the support of Mr. President, I can say that is relatively calm.
“Today, the issue of herdsmen and farmers we have been able to through dialogue agree to work together in a manner that there will be win-win. Yes, the herdsmen have their rights to live but the farmers too have their rights to live and do their farming activities.
“The herdsmen too must find ways of relating with the farmers and not encroaching on people’s farms. We have told our people that we need one another, life is complimentary and we need one another. We must compliment one another by ensuring that anyone who has a chosen career must be supported to pursue it. And so today the state is relatively calm.
“There were other issues bothering on economy. Today, we are talking about diversifying the economy and we have comparative advantage in Agriculture, that is what we are promoting, we are expecting multiple harvests this year.
“Our people yielded to advise to go back to farm because food first before any other thing. We also appreciate the investors who are coming into the state, coming to process our primary products.
“So its important that once in a while I brief Mr. President about the development in my state.
“Let people understand that if we say live and let’s live, we are in a global village today you cannot live in isolation, we must live with one another. You know that as a Tiv man we like eating meat, I also know that a Fulani man also like to eat food.
“So we have the food and they have the meat so we must always find a way around it and not allowing criminality to be involved. I think the issue was amplified because of the criminality that was involved. We have criminals from the herdsmen side and also from the farmers side.
“We are aware that when these criminals will come they rustle cattle and the herdsmen will come and attack these villagers who are innocent. These are the issues and we have all come together because our common enemy are these criminals, so we are fighting them because once we remove these criminals there will be peace,”Ortom said in an interview session with State House correspondents.