Yakubu Wuyep in Jos reports on the demands made by citizens of the state on the government following Governor Simon Lalong’s disclosure during the week that the debt profile he inherited from the outgone administration, apart from the backlog of workers salaries, is overwhelming
Plateau citizens were during the week jolted by Governor Simon Lalong’s revelation that the past administration of Jonah Jang left behind a total debt of N104 billion contrary to the N18 billion stated by the ex-Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Abubakar Badu, almost a month to the election.
According to Lalong, Jonah David Jang left N104 billion debt in his hand-over note to him. Lalong said this while addressing judicial workers who were led by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Pius Damulak, on a courtesy visit to the governor at the Presidential Lodge wing of the old Government House in Rayfield, Jos. Lalong said that he found no kobo in the state treasury upon resumption of office, stressing that the N104 billion debt excludes seven months old salary of workers and pension of retirees in the state. “I want the Judiciary to know that the past administration left N104 billion Naira documented in the handing over note to me and there is also no kobo left in the treasury of the state and we will have to battle again with the seven months unpaid salaries of workers, including pensioners in the state,” Lalong disclosed to the visitors, who reacted with some buzz for sometime.
Lalong also expressed worry at the despair and high degree of gloom that have characterized the civil service of the outgone government, saying that something has to be done fast to reenergize and reposition it for effective service delivery. Speaking on the occasion too, the Plateau State chief Judge, Damulak, complained that the state judiciary was underfunded during the past administration and urged the governor to regard the judiciary as a key sector, which should not be played with.
The revelation of the N104 billion debt profile of Plateau State came as a shock to Plateau people who were later to learn that Commissioner Badu’s publicly stated N18 billion debt profile of the past administration had conveniently left out another N27 billion loan which the government took from the capital market amidst criticism from many quarters in the dying days of the administration. In fact so worried by the situation on the ground is Lalong that he has refused to move into the new government edifice built with N15 billion in dedication to the children and the people of Plateau state. With these revelations, stakeholders have called on Governor Lalong to be visibly courageous and extremely focused to reposition the state for better productivity.
This is against the background of the pervading pessimism among the people following the lack of focus and plan by the Jang administration to cater for the needs of the citizenry, especially the immediate needs of the civil service. Particularly worrisome is the inert-ethnic rivalry which the divide and rule tactics of Jang had bred in the state, leading in the immediate reaction to the rejection of his candidate for governor, Senator Pwajok, by the voters during the April 11 poll. On two occasions the workers tried without success to force Jang’s hand to pay them by heckling him at occasions. In fact on inauguration day of the new governor, he stayed away from the venue understandably to avert crisis, which would have been provoked by civil servants who had besieged the place with the foremost intention of pelting him with stones.
Galling to the people was the last minute lavish spending spree embarked upon by the Jang administration, leaving behind huge bills from unpaid claims of contractors and numerous service providers. Commenting on this sad state of affairs, the gubernatorial candidate of African Democratic Congress,ADC, Hon Sabiu Ibrahim Musa has applauded the administration of Bar. Simon Lalong for bringing out a plan of action that would be beneficiary to the state. He described the victory of Lalong as the return of peace in the state among its ethnic nationalities Musa emphasized more on the recent appointments of key cabinet member as a great move toward bringing development to the state. According to him, the expectation of Plateau people is that the new government should give more emphasis on payment of salary of civil servants.
He said: “Our people did not enjoy the dividends of democracy throughout the regime of governor Jang” He advised Governor Simon Lalong to take the whole of six months to settle workers salary and arrears of retirees. Musa urged the government of Lalong to continue to maintain his five pillars policy, which he promised to carry everybody along. He slammed the outgoing government for squandering state funds and advised the Lalong government to set up committee of inquiry to investigate and book the culprit. He pleaded with the civil servants to call-off the ongoing strike for the interest of the state, urging the leadership of Labour union sit with Lalong government and address the problem headlong.
A renowned politician in the state, MC Alh. Jibrin Mohammed said the issue of settlement of staff salary is one of the tasks the present government has to critically consider. He also emphasized on the need for government to give priority to youth empowerment and women with funds for them to operation small-scale business. Mohammed explained further that issues of abandoned projects by the outgoing government must be look into as its affected the lives of people in the state. According to him, roads linking Mararaba through Jos town and inter-local government roads within Bukuru and Jos town should be immediately completed to reduce the plight of citizenry. He advised the government to appoint competent and diligent aides and Commissioners into the government in order to avoid similar mistakes of uneven and sectional development made by the outgone government of Jang.
For the Plateau workers and retirees, their real challenge, which is the backlog of seven months salary must be addresses immediately. Though the governors has agreed to look into this, they want it spelt out in concrete terms how the issues would be addressed, for according to them, they came out to vote for the governor with the hope that their plight would be addressed immediately. For them, a state that is in reality a civil service state, most, especially against the background of the long series of political crisis that ravaged the state and frightened away or halted the few industrial and service sector providers. Lalong has however pledged to rise to the occasion.
At the searing –in ceremony of the first set of appointees into his administration on Thursday including the Secretary to the state Government, Hon. Rufus Bature, Chief of Staff government House, Hon. John Dafaan and Chief Dan Dul; Chairman, Langtang North Local Government Council, he pledged to do the needful:“Indeed we have a big task ahead of us in ensuring that we put smiles on the faces of our people and the responsibility of this public trust must be carried out with diligence and vigilance to ensure that it is not abused”, he said. He told the gathering at the ceremony that he has set up a transition committee to raise a plan of action with inputs from all sectors and stakeholders in the state before he would take further action in government.