Benue State governor-elect, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, has described the state civil service as one in very bad and critical condition which can be likened to a patient in hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
The Catholic priest-turned-politician, who spoke to newsmen on Wednesday after a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja, said he came to lead the state in order to infuse life into it and keep it going.
Explaining why the state is in bad state, the governor-elect said the state also known asfood basket of the nation, owes backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities and he hopes to remain focus and tackle the myriad of issues on his desk when he takes over office on May 29, 2023.
The governor-elect, who was accompanied on the visit by the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, also lamented the ethnic division that reared its head between the people of the state and Fulani herders, which he said was strange to the state.
On how he plans to revive the state from near collapse, Alia said “Once I’m sworn in, I know that what the good people of Benue want is progress and development and there’s so much that we need to put on track for things to work. Benue state is an agrarian zone and so we must focus on agriculture and upgrade it.
“Benue is very capable of feeding the whole nation, so we are not just the food basket of the nation by name and I am hoping that we will up our game in agriculture and take care of the rest as well.
“It is sad that the life of civil service in the state is near collapse, it’s in the ICU, so I just need to get in there and infuse life in it and keep it moving. We have a lot of backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions and gratuities. So, already I got much on the desk to keep a good focus on and I remain hopeful that I am going to do just that”, he said.
He lauded President Buhari for ensuring the elections took place, noting that although people were expecting a perfect election, it may not have been perfect, but a number of areas in the country recorded a near perfection in the outcome of the results.
His words: “For someone to feel that we have never made the stride in the right directions I think that would be flaw of logic. So, we have done so much and I remain quite grateful. My visit is a solidarity visit and President leaves office in a matter of months, I came to wish him well. He has done so much for the nation. Remember, I am a Catholic priest and I prayed for all of us too and shared the blessings with him too”.
On what he was going to do to address the animosity in the state over the anti-grazing law, Alia said “one thing must remain clear, when you say that the atmosphere was quite tensed, let it be on record that the Benue people are very hospital people.
“We are very friendly people and over the ages, we’ve lived all cultures and different people. And so if some mishap had happened in the last eight years, thank God the eight years has expired.
“I want everyone to feel that Benue is a home for everyone. Remember, before I am stepping in there as a governor, our history reveals that we have all cultures in Benue and so it is, we have all cultures in Nigeria in Benue. So I believe my time will not be any different.
“If there were some errors, I am coming to correct them. But I know for sure we are hospitable, we are friendly and the Benue State Assembly is also a knowledgeable Assembly. So the 10th Assembly is going to work for the people and do the work of the people. If by chance anybody perceived us to be a hostel state, please we are a renewed hope of Benue, a hospitable, friendly, law and order people. So, we are all welcome to Benue as we move in there”, he said.
Asked if he will probe his predecessor against the backdrop of his recent letter to the Benue Investment Property Company, warning them of financial transactions with the incumbent governor, Alia said, “I haven’t looked at the books, so I wouldn’t want to be quite preemptive”.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja