INAUGURATION SPEECH OF HIS EXCELLENCY, THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF TARABA STATE, ARCHITECT DARIUS DICKSON ISHAKU FNIA ON THE OCCASION OF HIS SWEARING-IN CEREMONY HELD AT THE JOLLY NYAME STADIUM, JALINGO ON THE 29TH OF MAY, 2019.
Fellow Tarabans, it is with a renewed hope, optimism and faith in our dear State that I address you on this historic day of the swearing into office for my second term, as the Governor of Taraba State. I am indeed overwhelmed with emotions for the unprecedented support, love and trust in my leadership by the good people of the State; before, during and after the March 9th Governorship election, which necessitated today’s august occasion.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me first of all use this auspicious moment to give thanks and appreciation to God Almighty for the successful and peaceful election and for his mercies, direction and protection in the journey so far. I will also like to express my indebtedness to the good people of the State for their sustained belief in my administration in the past four years.
You may recall that exactly four years ago, I stood on this podium to take the oath to serve you as the third elected Governor of Taraba State. On that occasion, I vividly recalled assuring the public that: “We are conscious of the responsibility that the citizenry saddled on us and this government. However, we are humbled by the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead and the high expectations in our bid to Rescue Taraba. With the full cooperation of all and sundry, and with God on our side, together we shall overcome these challenges and meet these expectations”.
Therefore, with all sense of humility, I boldly say, with my head held high, that we have been able to meet most of the yearnings and expectations of the people, particularly in making their lives more meaningful, through the provision of basic needs as contained in the roadmap of my working document ‘the Green Book’ also known as The Rescue Agenda.
This Administration in the past four years has adhered strictly to due diligence in the execution of its programmes and policies, especially in respect to our original mission statement that is “ to create and maintain an enabling environment conducive for the optimal participation and sustainable engagement of key stakeholders and partners, by developing a sensitive and responsive political class, a vibrant and purpose-driven bureaucracy, a veritable resource base, and a robust broad based economy”. This promise we have tried to keep despite the enormous security and financial challenges.
Fellow Tarabans, may I also salute and acknowledge past and present political leaders and indeed the citizens who have contributed and made immense sacrifices using their time, energy and resources in our collective journey to where we are today as a State. We also mourn our former beloved Governor, Danbaba Danfulani Suntai who died on the 27th of July, 2017(May his soul rest in peace, amen). I will not fail to also note the pains of those who suffered losses or even paid the supreme price, as a result of my re-election. May the Lord heal the wounded and comfort the bereaved ones.
Let me once again use this occasion to appeal to all Tarabans of different political persuasions, that it is time to bury the hatchet and make progress, as partisan political activities are over. It is time for us all to rally round this administration, it is time to close ranks, and it is now the time to unite. Together, we can achieve our dreams, together we will build a new Taraba, and together we can have a peaceful and prosperous Taraba. In this respect, my time-tested slogan ‘Give me peace and I will give you development’ becomes even more relevant, timely and pertinent today, than at any other period in the annals of our dear State. No sacrifice is too little or too much towards supporting my administration’s determination to entrench an egalitarian society, whereby meritocracy is promoted above mediocrity, and development evenly spread across the nooks and crannies of our State.
It will however, amount to playing the ostrich, if I did not speak more on the challenges of insecurity that plagued my administration at inception and continues to be a clog in the wheel of progress, due to its destabilizing effect on the economic, social and political lives of the people. We have persistently been held back by some misguided persons, who for selfish reasons have preyed on our fault lines, by appealing to our base sentiments to polarize us. I appeal to the good people of the state to rise above these divisive primordial considerations, so that we can make progress.
You may recall that I did pledge that my “administration will harness the potentials and endowment in agriculture, tourism, and commerce and industry, as well as pay attention to education, health, water and sanitation, and strategic infrastructure, using leverage from development partners and engaging public-private-partnership (PPP) options, to enhance this pursuit” and this covenant we have kept.
At this moment, it is incumbent for me to take us down memory lane on the promises made to the people at inception, and how far we have gone to keep our own part of the bargain, by briefly taking stock of our four years in the office, despite the enormous challenges.
Agriculture has been the mainstay of the economy of the State since inception and considerable measures were taken to deepen and reposition it to play even more significant role. We have always considered ourselves as food producers of Nigeria, owing to the conducive and fertile land that supports tropical and subtropical crops. We have been able to sustain and modernize the agricultural sector with the timely provision of inputs such as fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and improved seedlings like early maturing cocoa, oil palm, mangoes and citrus, cassava cuttings and seeds like sesame, groundnuts and soya-beans among others, to farmers at subsidized rates.
Taraba State is indeed one of the leading producers of rice in the country, and all efforts will be made by my administration to continue the partnership with Federal Government and other international organizations to enhance more production.
This Administration has also taken pragmatic measures to boost agricultural mechanization with the purchase of tractors, which were sold on hire purchase to cooperative groups based on equity. More will be acquired as soon as the loans are repaid as a revolving fund. My administration has also bought hand held tillers, which have been distributed to local farmers this cropping season.
In addition, the State Government has actively encouraged Dangote, Dominion Farms, among others, to come and establish large scale farms. This will provide employment and put money in the pockets of the people. Also, as part of the modernization of the agricultural sector, my Administration established the novel Green House Project to produce premium quality vegetables like cucumber, tomato and pepper all year round for local consumption and for major cities in the country.
The project, which was commissioned by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has become a major source of direct and indirect employment for youths and particularly women in the state capital. The out-growers scheme promises to further build on the huge success already achieved. This project also has the potential of training students of Colleges of Agriculture and other agriculture related institutions in the country.
HEALTH CARE DELIVERY
Another sector that my Administration has recorded remarkable progress is in the health sector. Enormous resources have been committed to revitalize, upgrade and make functional existing facilities, in addition to building new ones. It is in this respect, that we have remodeled, reconstructed and reequipped Wukari General Hospital, while work on Gembu and Bambur General Hospitals are at advanced levels of completion. The Takum General Hospital has also been upgraded to a Specialist status. These have become Centers of Excellence for the provision of health services as they have specialists in various fields of medicine.
We have continued to meet our counterpart funding obligations and also sustained beneficial collaborations with Development Partners like the World Bank, WHO, UNICEF, the TY Danjuma Foundation and Foreign Governments such as Japan and Israel, to provide world class maternal and child care facilities, immunization and capacity building for health personnel.
Permit me, to use this opportunity to thank General T.Y. Danjuma for donating a brand-new Maternity Referral Hospital to us in Takum. This Hospital is doing well and has delivered over 549 babies.
The State Primary Health Care Development Agency has been empowered to make health care facilities in rural areas more functional. We have also rejuvenated the Taraba State Drug Revolving Scheme, so that our hospitals do not remain mere consulting clinics.
You may recall that, in order to mitigate the shortfall in the number of qualified medical personnel, the Government recruited more doctors and nurses, in addition to re-engaging some retired nurses on contract basis. Our doctors now enjoy the adjusted Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS). As a permanent solution to the shortage of qualified Nurses and Midwives, my Administration has resuscitated the College of Nursing and Midwifery, which graduated 65 students last year.
When I came board, there was “The reality of the decline and deterioration in the quality of education and the depletion of qualified teachers”. These were my exact words four years ago depicting the state of our educational institutions, especially in secondary schools where our students scored below 30 percent in 2014, in external examinations (SSCE), a performance that spurred us into action immediately, in order to reverse the situation. The measures we took included:
- The recruitment of the 3000 Rescue Teachers.
- The provision of over 10,000 pieces of furniture for pupils and teachers, as well as the rehabilitation of hundreds of classrooms.
Fellow citizens, a combination of our numerous interventions in manpower requirement, training and retraining of old teachers, employment of new ones, provision of teaching aids and conducive environment for teaching and learning have led to remarkable improvement in the performance of Taraba State students in WAEC examinations, in which they scored 67 percent in 2017 and did better by scoring 75.3 percent in 2018, to emerge first in the north and eight in the whole country.
We have continued to support the Taraba State University, Jalingo; College of Education, Zing; College of Agriculture, Jalingo; and, the Taraba State Polytechnic in Suntai, which led to increased enrolment and the creation of more faculties, departments, employment of professors and lecturers, as well as the accreditation of most courses on offer.
The Taraba State University, Jalingo, which used to have only 5 professors, now boasts of over 50 professors, and the institution is gradually transforming to become one of the top universities in the country. I am painfully aware of the strike embarked upon by ASSU chapter of Taraba State University, Jalingo immediately after my election. I am also not unaware of the financial problems of the University, which is hampering the smooth running of the institution and I am determined to tackle it headlong once and for all and permanently put an end to this unnecessary disruption of the education of our youths. I urge the students, parents and guardians to exercise little patience, as the issues are almost resolved.
The expansion of good intra city and intercity road networks have been used as some of the indices of development in any given society. In a state like ours, where the bulk of the population of the people reside in rural areas, the provision of roads and bridges then become a top priority and, in the past four years, we have been able to complete many roads, while others are still on-going. The following township roads have already been completed or nearing completion. They include Palace Way, Abuja Phase 2 road network, FMC quarters road, Jolly Nyame road, Magami road and the TSBS-NNPC-Deeper Life Camp access road still under construction.
Other on-going road projects include Pantisawa-Yorro, Wukari-Tsokundi, Takum-Wukari and Bali-Serti-Gembu road projects, while Takum-Katsina-Ala Benue boundary and the first phase of Jalingo-Kona-Lau roads have also been completed. Some of these are Federal Government roads, but are being undertaken by the Taraba State Government, using our limited resources, due to their economic and social importance to the State. May I use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to release the balance of 22 billion naira approved by the National Economic Council and the National Assembly to Taraba State.
We have also given the provision of electricity attention in view of its strategic role in driving entrepreneurship and industrialization. The 400KW Tunga Dam, which I initiated as the then Minister of power, became the first project I commissioned as the Executive Governor. We are working on the second aspect of the hydro-electric project to increase electricity generation. We have also constructed 33/11 KVA injection substation in Takum to evacuate power from the Kashimbilla dam. We have almost completed the Mutum-Biyu substation. Similarly, substations have been built in Wukari and Donga and several transformers were bought and installed in many towns. We have also had increased power supply from the national grid and this enabled us to connect towns like Monkin, Kakulu, Yakoko, Kunini and Lau, while the extension of national grid to Mutum-Biyu, Garba-Chede and Bali are on-going.
In the area of air transportation, the state in December 2015, witnessed the commencement of commercial flights, through an arrangement with Overland Airways. It has grown from a tri-weekly flight to daily flights from Abuja to Jalingo, with the exception of Saturdays, thereby easing the cumbersome road trip for businessmen and other citizens. We hope to soon have a connection flight to Kashimbilla via Jalingo.
This administration recognizes that in order to keep the citizenry abreast with its programmes and policies, it is imperative to upgrade facilities of the Taraba Television Corporation (TTV) and the Taraba State Broadcasting Service (TSBS), against the backdrop of the digitization deadline.
The TTV has been fully digitized with modern equipment, making it possible for it to commence satellite transmission.
WATER AND SANITATION
Before the inception this Administration, Jalingo, the state capital had grappled with acute shortage of clean water for the residents of the metropolis. On taking over, we declared a state of emergency in the water sector and within 30 days, we increased water supply to appreciable level. We also commenced work on the 75 million liters per day, Greater Jalingo Water Project, which will cater for the anticipated population expansion for the next 20 years. This project is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and construction work has already attained 60 percent completion.
The State Government also sent 50 newly employed youths and 17 staff of the Water Supply Agency to train on water production and distribution in Kenya. They have since returned and are putting in their best by modernizing water distribution and billing system. At the same time over 300 boreholes were sunk across the length and breadth of the state.
In order to enhance revenue generation by the Agency, government installed the first solar-powered Automated Teller Machine (ATM) for water in the country. Additional eight have been installed in high density areas to afford the poor access to clean water delivery.
YOUTH AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
This administration has placed on the front burner; youths and women employment and empowerment, in view of their crucial role in the society. The army of unemployed youths continue to swell on a daily basis, and to tackle this menace, the State Government established the Rescue Watch Skill Acquisition Programme, which has successfully trained, in batches, over three thousand (3000) youths and women, from all the 168 wards of the State, in 16 different trades such as carpentry, welding, tailoring, hairdressing and computer operation among others.
I am proud to announce that these trained artisans are not only gainfully employed but have also in turn trained others. The multiplier effect of this cycle will go a long way in checking youth restiveness. We will aggressively continue on this drive. Fortunately, one of the Banks has built three skills acquisition centers (SAC) in Jalingo, Bali and Takum. This will allow us train more youths and women across the state.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
My compatriots, on assumption of office, we inherited 25 moribund state companies. This administration acknowledges their strategic positions, especially in terms of revenue generation and employment, and already has revived some of them. They include; Mambilla Highland Tea, Taraba Poly Products, Taraba Gas Limited, Viva Feeds, and Taraba Oil Mill. The highland tea is now being exported, while the demand for the premium quality tea continues to soar nationwide.
We have finally signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Dangote Group to establish a Sugar Company in Lau Local Government area; an initiative that started 13 years ago but could not be concluded. This is one project with a potential to absorb thousands of youths and at the same time boost revenue and economy of the state.
THE CIVIL SERVICE
We realized that a well-motivated civil service is the engine room of any successful administration. It is against this understanding that in my first inaugural speech, I said that “I saw the reality of an oversized public service. In this regard, we resolved that we shall overhaul the civil service to reposition it for functionality; we shall examine the staffing, the anomalies, and the capacity gaps…we shall proactively engage the labour unions”. We have not reneged on these pledges in the past four years.
The administration has successfully plugged leakages in the salary system and exterminated the ‘ghost workers syndrome’ for good. The reduced civil service has enabled us to pay regular salaries and entitlements without backlog, as well as ensure their welfare and trainings. We are up-to-date with our salary and pension payments and have also commenced the reduction of Gratuities.
We continue to have cordial working relations with the organized labour and its affiliates. A number of Labour Unions and Organizations have recognized our numerous efforts with several notable awards which include:
Vanguard personality of the year, Governor of the Year by Daily Assets Newspaper 2017, Leadership Governor of the Year 2018, Award of Excellence by the Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry for outstanding performance in Trade and Investment (at 2017 Abuja international Trade Fair), and the Most Youth Friendly Governor by the National Youth Council of Nigeria. Others awards include: Distinguished service Award by the Nigeria Medical Association, Water Man of the Year 2018, Electricity Man of the Year 2018 and joint Award by ALGON and NULGE to mention only a few. We intend to leverage on the harmonious relationship in the next four years.
Dear Tarabans, since the inception of this administration, we have had to deal with one security challenge or another, almost on a daily basis. But we have never wavered in our resolve to tackle these clashes which range from minor communal clashes, to the massive attacks by marauding bandits using sophisticated weapons, and kidnapping for ransom. We have, as a matter of deliberate policy collaborated, cooperated, and supported the various security outfits operating in the state with vehicles and other logistics to make the work easier.
One of the ingenious strategies adopted to curb the ceaseless clashes between farmers and herdsmen is the enactment of the Taraba State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law: 2017.
Fellow citizens of Taraba; security issue is a collective responsibility, because the repercussions of our actions and inactions live with us all. Let us join hands, irrespective of our partisan affiliations, to support the drive to have a peaceful and free society. It is on this premise that I appeal to our traditional rulers to play more proactive roles, being the custodians of our cultures and values. It is because of this that, after wide consultations across all strata of the society, my Administration upgraded and created additional chiefdoms to give every community a sense of belonging.
On our part, we shall not relent in our resolve to find enduring solutions to the conflicts stalling our progress as a people and I assure you that no stone will be left unturned, until we achieve the goal of a peaceful Taraba, where everybody will be his brothers’ keeper, irrespective of creed or ethnicity. We have also constituted Peace and Reconciliation Committees which have been doing a great job of sensitizing people on the need to live in peace and harmony.
Distinguished guests, related to this is the strides we have made in the dispensation of justice in the state. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied, to this end, my Administration has renovated and constructed many court halls and also recruited many judges to ensure speedy dispensation of justice. We have also given the welfare of judicial personnel top priority, considering their vital role.
CONSOLIDATION OF THE RESCUE AGENDA
Distinguished sons and daughters of Taraba State, as we look forward to the next four years of our renewed mandate, we are optimistic that we have already laid the solid foundation of our Rescue Mission for our dear State and shall now consolidate on it. We are sure of a brighter future where the State will experience another fresh lease of life. In the years ahead, we shall lay further emphasis on road infrastructure to link our towns and villages to the major road arteries in the state, using direct federal and private funding, as well as the Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP).
This administration will continue to give power infrastructure development the desired attention, with the construction of additional substations and distribution lines, as well as complete the second Tunga Dam. A new Ministry of Power has been created to underline our seriousness.
Another area that will receive greater attention is the exploitation of the vast solid mineral resources. The Ministry of Solid Minerals will collaborate with Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals, as well as interested local and foreign investors, to exploit the resources on an ethical and environmentally sustainable manner.
Our goal is to make Taraba State the number one producers of rice, yam, soya-beans and sesame in the country, in addition to increased cultivation of cassava, wheat, cocoa, tea, sorghum and millet, which we have competitive advantage over other states. We intend to create local and international markets for these products, to further provide employment for youths and empower the people.
We have also identified a set of opportunities to achieve ‘quick win’ in Industry and Commerce, Solid Minerals, Housing, Water and Sanitation, Health, Education, Forestry and Environment. It is our resolve to ensure the successful implementation of the Taraba State Rescue Master Plan 2017-2025.
The culture and tourism sector will also receive a boost, as we are indeed the ‘Nature’s Gift to the Nation’.
This is one sector that this administration, despite its lofty ideals, has been handicapped as a result of crisis. We are not unmindful of the fact that, in order to attract investors and tourist to the state, there must be peace. We will work assiduously to achieve peace on a sustainable basis, so that our human and natural resources shall not remain at the level of potentials alone.
We shall also intensify on the gains already made in the areas of Health, Education, Water supply, and public-private-partnership (PPP).
This will be the same approach that we will adopt in the area of tourism and culture. We know that Taraba State host the Gashaka-Gumti National park, which is the largest in West Africa, the unique Mambilla plateau and the Ngel Nyaki Game Sanctuary. We shall partner with the likes of the Nigerian Conservation Society (NCS), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and private individuals, in the hospitality sector, to attract more tourists to the game reserve and the State.
As we commence this second leg of our journey, concerted efforts will be made to explore additional avenues of Internally Generated Revenue IGR for the State. We have come to the conclusion that proceeds from the Federation Account can no longer allow us to carry out effectively some of our developmental programmes. We shall also tighten the noose on wastage of scarce resources by ensuring transparency, accountability, and probity in all spheres of governance.
The next four years promise to be a rewarding one for the State, as we focus more intensely on projects and programmes that have direct bearing on the lives of people, as well as solidify on the numerous peace building measures already put in place by this Administration and with God on our side, we shall surmount all obstacles.
Fellow citizens of our dear State, the hallmark of human civilization is the ability to live and let live. May I solicit the cooperation of all the people of the State and urge all to imbibe the spirit of oneness and togetherness. We have come a long way as a people, therefore, we must remain strong and resolute in our desire to consolidate on our past gains.
Thank you, God bless Taraba State, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.