By Tahav Agerzua
Benue State Governor-elect, Chief Dr Samuel Ortom, led a delegation from the state on a one-week visit to China at the invitation and sponsorship of some business organizations. He returned to Nigeria Tuesday evening and spoke with journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, in Abuja. The following are excerpts:
Can you tell us the outcome of your visit to China?
My visit to China was an exploratory one courtesy of our good friends in Nigeria, CGCOC which is an indigenous company based in Nigeria with world wide scope in construction, agriculture, in mining and several other areas of consultancy. They invited me to explore the possibility of partnering with them to see how they can add value to the development of Benue State which I did. It was a worthwhile trip and I appreciate the company and I used the opportunity to also visit the headquarters of one of our own, Moses Ayom who is a director in a Chinese company and they’re doing exploits over there. Through that we were able to explore several areas where we can collaborate to add value to the development of Benue State in agriculture, in solid minerals and in irrigation. I’m glad that today Moses Ayom, of course you know that he has been into furniture making, in those days his factory was situated in Makurdi, Benue State, but for some obvious reasons they shut the operations of the company. But due to the policies of the incoming government he told me that he’s going to reopen Cherrywood and bring it back to Makurdi. The company Hatom Nigeria Limited is also going to establish their base in Benue State to explore solid minerals that we have. Of course you know that this is one area in which we have competitive and comparative advantages. CGCOC is also going to partner with Benue State Government as soon as we’re sworn in to explore several ways of research in agriculture to see how they can better the lives of our people and also develop the state. They are also into massive construction and are willing to help in this regard. The good thing with CGCOC is that they’re willing to even source funding on behalf of the state for some of the projects that we’re going to go through. So it is a wonderful opportunity in line with the policies of the incoming administration which I said will be private sector driven and that government will provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. It’s an avenue for Benue indigenes to come out and make use of the opportunities that we have in the state especially in areas where we have comparative and competitive advantages. They should not leave it to others alone to come and explore, let the indigenes also partake in it because that is the only way we can curb unemployment in the state. It’s the only way we can create wealth, the only way we can create opportunities for our people. I invite all of us to begin to think along that line, outside government box because government alone cannot provide all the opportunities that are needed. I will continue to invite the private sector people and even those who are not in business let them also join because that is what is happening globally. The private sector is driving the economy, government is providing the enabling environment and things are working in other countries. We can do the same thing here in Nigeria and particularly in Benue State. It’s been a worthwhile visit and I appreciate the organizers of this trip.
When are we expecting the results?
Of course I’ve invited them to attend my swearing in and from there do some due diligence and from there we can take off. We have no time to waste. We are willing to engage anyone who’s willing to add value to the development of Benue State. We don’t want to place timelines, we want to do it immediately. There should be no waste of time. Our people are very eager, they are anxious, they want jobs, they want wealth and opportunities to be created by government, we are going to do that, we promised them and we’re going to do it.
While you were away there was a court injunction restraining the Governor and others from appointing first class chiefs but the order was ignored and the chiefs appointed, what’s your comment on this?
I want to say that we’re in the era of rule of law so we must learn to respect all the democratic institutions, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t have the details so I don’t want to comment much on that. I want to assure all the people of Benue State that for me the rule of law must prevail whether now or later. We have a sitting Governor in place and because I don’t have much details I cannot comment deeply about that but as soon as I take over I know what to do.