A Must Read: ” An Open Letter To Benue State Governor” Chief Samuel Ortom

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Samuel-Ortom Your Excellency, on the 29th of May 2015 the people of Benue breathed a sigh of relief – relief from failed government, relief from broken promises, relief from months of unpaid salaries, relief from lack and hunger. The reason they had this sigh was because they fought for and voted for a governor of their choice whom they believed was coming to wipe away their tears and take away the pains of the past. They all jubilated when you were sworn in as the governor of Benue state. Hope was birthed in the hearts of the people – your people. This desire for hope didn’t start today, it started in 2011 when we all took part in the then Broom revolution that invaded Benue state. We went on the streets screaming “Ugbah Yor, Isho’ Changi”. At that time the hope of the people was in Prof. Steve Ugbah, the then ACN governorship candidate. The elections came but the people were disappointed…their hope was killed. Now fast forward to 2015, the people came all out to demand change which was founded on hope for a better Benue. They campaigned, they faced intimidation from the then ruling party, but stood their grounds. Some of us became known as APC chairmen because of the passion with which we campaigned for your candidacy. We campaigned in our offices, Business places, Churches, among friends, etc. When in April 2015 you were declared the winner of the Benue state governorship elections, the whole Makurdi town went into celebration. I received calls congratulating me and the people of Benue. The people believed hope had come. Today, 11 months into your government the story is different. The people that called to congratulate me when you won are now calling me to complain about your government. I have now become your unofficial spokesman because I keep trying to explain your plans for Benue to the people even though I don’t really understand them myself. One issue that is very deep in the hearts of the people – your own people, is the issue of payment of salaries. This issue is one that any government that plays with it is already planning to fail. Suffice to say that the refusal of the past government of Gabriel Suswam to pay salaries at the twilight of his administration was responsible for the rejection of the PDP in the state. Now the same trend is ongoing. Someone called me and asked a question. He asked whether you were no longer receiving allocations from the federation account. I answered in the affirmative. Then he asked “then why is Ortom not paying salaries?” I didn’t have an answer for him and I still don’t. It is public knowledge that Benue state is ‘a civil service’ state. The civil service runs the state, hence once salaries are owed by the government, the economy of the state is seriously affected. Another issue that calls for your urgent response is that of the fraudulent and abnormal increase of school fees and acceptance fee at the Benue State University. I call it fraudulent because the people can’t understand why a school will just wake up and increase its fees from 62,000 to about 130,000. That’s over a hundred percent increment. Not only that, acceptance fee was increased from 5,500 to 22,000 (that is exactly 400 percent increase). For a state like Benue it is bad, inhuman, and a slap on the faces of those that voted you in. BSU is a family school where most of the students are indigenes of the state; now how do you expect the parents of these students to pay the fraudulent acceptance fee and school fee when their salaries are being owed? Even if their salaries are paid as at when due, it is still inhuman. I am personally angry at this particular issue because it makes no sense. Your tax policy is another matter of concern. I understand that there is paucity of funds in the state, receipts from the federation account has drastically reduced, and the state’s account was left in red by the past government, hence there is need to look for other sources of funding the state. But if you put ears on the ground you will realize that the people see that policy as anti- people and their reasons are genuine. The questions they ask is why should a government be owing salaries and yet be hammering on payment of taxes when the state is civil service driven? If the government is working and salaries are being paid people will not complain about your tax policies. When you tax businesses excessively, the burden of those taxes will be eventually transferred to the consumers – your own people through the increase in prices of goods and services. That is how it works. And when that happens you are simply increasing inflation. One very troubling and annoying issue is the name given to some of these taxes and their abnormal amounts which makes them appear fraudulent. For instance, how can someone be asked to pay tax for using generator to power his business when the same government of Nigeria has refused to provide him with power? The question people are asking is, is your government planning to fly to the sky to fix the Ozone layer? That tax does not make sense. Another instance is that of the borehole tax; let’s get somethings straight. Your government has not provided the people with water, the people then use their own money to dig boreholes to service their businesses, and then your government wants them to pay for that? I was talking with one of the numerous tax consultants contracted by the BIRS to receive tax, and he told me the borehole tax was 100,000. A friend of mine who has a borehole in his house was billed 50,000 as borehole tax. Does this make sense? A fourth issue to look at is the image your government has in the minds of the people. The people see your government as one lacking in direction and plans. The truth is I have had to explain the plans of your government to a number of people. During the Gabriel Suswan’s government the state actually had a blueprint that was known even by a small child – Our Benue Our Future. That plan was made public and marketed to the people, so they knew what the government planned to achieve (even though they were not implemented, at least the government had a plan and the people knew it). I know your government has a written document, our collective blueprint for a better Benue, but how many people know about that document? It is not public knowledge so the people feel you have no definite plans, and even if you do, they think you are just a tax master, and many of them are regretting their votes. Your Excellency with the present state of things in the state if an election was to be conducted today in the state I am afraid to say you will lose out. That is the level of disaffection the people have towards you. I don’t know the feedback your advisers are giving to you, but the truth is the feedback from the people are negative, which is not good for your government. The truth is if your government fails, some of us will not be able to talk again because of the level of commitment and passion we put into convincing the people to vote you. Already they are blaming us. As a son of the soil and one who desire that you succeed and the state moves forward, I am making some suggestions to you based on the issues that the people – your people have raised from my conversations with them on the streets. 1. On the issue of payment of salaries, I’d suggest that you do whatever it will take to ensure salaries are paid consistently. The outstanding salaries should be cleared as soon as possible. I would suggest that you even apologies to the people for the nonpayment of salaries and assure them that your government is on a rescue mission. Give the people hope, right now they have lost their hope. 2. The increment of school fees and acceptance fee at the Benue State University should be reversed immediately to the old rates. There should be no second thoughts on this issue. 3. Your tax policies should be reexamined. Like I said earlier, once salaries are paid and government is working the people will pay their taxes willingly, but one fear I have about the manner in which the Benue Inland Revenue Service (BIRS) is going about the taxation plans, is the fear of businesses closing shop as a result of multiple taxation. There are now too many tax to be paid by businesses, with most of these businesses being SMEs. The SMEs are the drivers of any economy so caution must be applied when dealing with them. If 10 percent of the SMEs in Benue state close shops the state will be in trouble. Also, some of the taxes should be stopped – the borehole tax is fraudulent; the “Ozone layer repair tax” is fraudulent and abnormal. 4. In the area of image, your media team has lots of work to do. They need to market the government to the people. In the present state of things there seems to be a gap between your government and the people. Let the plans of the government be made known to the people. The document ‘Our collective blueprint for a better Benue’ should be made known to the people (I actually think that name should be changed to something more attention grabbing). Our Benue Our Future was a great brand but unfortunately it wasn’t implemented. Serious efforts should be put into communicating with the people. If you really want to succeed as a governor and build a positive legacy that the people will wish you serve for three terms, then I’d advise you put all these recommendations to work without leaving out any. It is my utmost desire that this government succeeds. I wish you and your team the grace of God and the “Common Sense” needed to pilot the affairs of the state well. I look forward to a time when people will start calling me to say ‘thank God we made the right choice – thank God we voted Ortom. In the words of my Friend Enenche Comedian, I wish you and your team an Ortomatic level of success. God bless you God bless Benue State. – Donald Ngbede Yusuf Writer & Strategy Consultant

About the author

Oriri Peter is a blogger, an online media expert, an entrepreneur. Founder of Penessaj Communication, He is politically motivated, He has participated in various political campaign platforms, He is also an event planer/social media mobilizer, a social analyst and a strategic thinker. Studied Sociology from Benue State University Makurdi. He is so passionate about the ordinary Nigeria.

Oriri Peter is a blogger, an online media expert, an entrepreneur. Founder of Penessaj Communication, He is politically motivated, He has participated in various political campaign platforms, He is also an event planer/social media mobilizer, a social analyst and a strategic thinker. Studied Sociology from Benue State University Makurdi. He is so passionate about the ordinary Nigeria.

1 Comment

  1. Moses Okwe Ogbu Jnr

    April 24, 2016 at 11:11 am

    thank you so much for this write up it is the truth of the highest order I am and will continue to pray for the government especially in benue. me too am a victim of the BSU issue and I am seriously confused because I have no helper. the little one I was able to raise I received another news entirely. in my own state I am struggling to be educated. IN GOD WE TRUST…

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