Democracy Day: Gov Lalong In The Eyes Of Plateau, By Mpaka Numbere
Plateau State has prided itself as the home of Peace and Tourism for years and consequently answered to this slogan by attracting a lot of industries few years ago. This can be attributed to its fine weather condition and abundance of natural resources coupled with the hospitable nature of her people. The presence of these resources which serve as raw materials for a number of manufactured goods attracted a lot of firms including foreign ones to Plateau State as the state got opened to investors and businessmen in diverse industries.
At a time, the state became the centre of attraction to many who thronged to it to invest, relax and do business. Plateau was among the most peaceful states in Nigeria until things started taking a turn for the worse when several ethno-religious crises, and recently, herdsmen and farmers clashes disrupted the peace of the state thereby leading to the disruption of industrial coherence the state once enjoyed.
For example, the Plateau Highland Bottling Company went moribund in 1992, just 12 years after it was incorporated thereby leading to loss of jobs and its attendant effects on the workers and their dependents including those who are indirectly engaged by such firms. The same can be said of the Bokkos Fertilizer Blending Plant, JIB, Panyam Fish Farm among several others. It is likely that factors such as poor management, political interference, vested interests etc led to the closure of a majority of the state owned firms in Plateau State for many years.
Governor Simon Bako Lalong on assumption of office in May 2015 following massive support in the 2015 general elections, was faced with the responsibility to live up to expectations and put Plateau back on the path of development. Knowing fully well the need for a greater Plateau, Lalong swung into action to redeem his campaign slogan “RESCUE MISSION”
With backlog of salaries, inherited construction projects, inherited loans by the state, moribund industries and dwindling oil revenue leading to reduced allocation from the center, Governor lalong had to put on his thinking cap to make Plateau Great Again.
For Governor Lalong, a laborer should not be denied his wages hence he took up the challenges of paying up inherited workers’ salaries and pension arrears of about 8-12 months, promotion of workers to reinvigorate the state workforce. This gesture endeared him to the hearts of workers in the state earning him the accolade “Governor Alert”.
For investors to be attracted into the state, Governor Lalong saw the need to focus on completing inherited roads that were at various stages of construction like the Mararaban Jama’a-Zaramaganda road, Zaramaganda – Secretariat Junction road that had one lane completed up to NASCO, the Secretariat Junction Fly over that was at about 30-60 percent completion.
Furthermore, His Excellency took to reduce the suffering of residents of the Rantya-Lowcost by timely initiating and completing the Rantya-Lowcost-Miango road which today has given residents relieve and formed an alternative route for commuters.
To decentralize his road construction initiative, Governor Simon Lalong immediately awarded contracts for the construction of (22) Twenty two roads that are simultaneously constructed in the 17 local government areas among which are (Dokan kasuwa-Lardang-Kwa spur, Kurgwi-Doemak, Kwalla-Tim-Doemak spur, Dokan Tofa-Kurgwi, Doemak-Pwaal spur, Kwalla-Kwaar-Doemak, Barkin Kogi-Shargan-Ngoot-tuguut, Mararaba Denshin-Demshin-Shimankar, Shendam-Kalong-Angwan Yargam, Furbor-Naton-Forsun, Angwan Rogo-Angwan Rimi link bridge etc).
Not leaving any stone unturned, his Excellency took up the challenge to work towards making primary, secondary and tertiary education in the state have a facelift, he employed the services of some of the best hands within the education sector like Prof. Mathew Sule, Prof. D.D. Sheni etc to revive primary and tertiary education in the state and to put life to the education sector. Today, the result produced in the state owned tertiary institution (Plateau State University) is a testimony as students for the first time since inception in 2005 were mobilized for the national youth service and almost all of the institution’s courses accredited with various infrastructures put in place for a conducive learning and teaching environment at all levels of academic endeavor.
However, knowing the importance of industrialization to a State like Plateau, its internally generated revenue and its positive impact on the people, Simon Bako Lalong, the executive governor of the state, embarked on a well-thought out plan to tackle the issues militating against the survival and growth of companies in the state.
Also knowing fully well that no investor would want to invest in an atmosphere of rancor, political interference and uncertainty, Lalong tackled headlong those factors that brewed ethno-religious crisis and farmers/herders clashes in the state which led to the establishment of the Plateau Peace Building Agency, first of its kind in the country, to ensure the building and sustenance of peace in the state.
Having stabilized the state, the governor has through the Plateau Investment and Property Development Company (PIPC) which had also gone under until recently revived, resuscitated a number of the hitherto comatose firms among which are the Highland Bottling Company Ltd, Barkin Ladi, Bejafta Fertiliser, Panyam Fish Farm etc.
Through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, trusted companies were invited to take over the operations of these companies with the government still having some percentage of stakes in them but never interfering with the operations of the companies as carried out by the private investors.
It is the same thing with the fertilizer blending company that is being operated by Bejafta Fertiliser. The fertilizer blending company story is even more significant in that some Indian investors earlier invited by the Lalong administration to come and help resuscitate the company had written off the company as absolutely irredeemable. But in a bid to keep to his campaign promises to the people of the state, Lalong did not give up but gave marching orders to relevant agencies to find indigenous willing and able investors. This is how Bejafta Fertiliser came into the picture. Today, Bejafta has beaten their target of production.
The Panyam Fish farm which is the largest fish farm in Nigeria, is also receiving attention because of the volume and value of fish tended there. This fish farm alone has the capacity to meet the protein needs of north central Nigeria and beyond thereby employing and engaging thousands of people across the zone directly and indirectly.
This farm which had been abandoned for a long time in the past and left to waste is back again, thanks to the governor’s appreciation of its good effect on the state and its people. To ensure that encumbrances are not in the way of potential investors in their bid to acquire lands in the state for their businesses, there was immediate issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) to land owners without the usual delays and cumbersome procedures associated with such processes in other places.
Today, Plateau State is thriving again, thanks to the vision and determination of the governor who has proven that no stone shall be left unturned in his bid to return the state to its days of glory. And to think that the governor is doing all this despite the meagre resources accruable to the state from the federal allocation shows that he is a man who is focused and determined to bring back smiles to the faces of the people and residents of Plateau. At the rate the Lalong administration plans of industrialization is going, very soon, commercial activities in the state will reach an all-time high and the internally generated revenue of the state will so increase that the state, just like Lagos, might have little or no need for allocations from Abuja.