Nigerian Concord Newspaper
Yesterday, I read a report in which the present government in Benue State showered praises on Governor Hyacinth Alia as the man who brought a magic touch to the successful implementation of the Nigeria COVID-19 Action, Recovery and Economic Stimulus, NG-CARES programme in the state and I couldn’t stop laughing. Is it the lack of any project to show as 100 days approaches that made our brothers to take the credit that belongs to the former Governor Ortom and gave to Gov Alia?
As someone who was reporting activities of the then Governor in the media, I remember vividly that on March 9, 2021, the Benue State Executive Council gave approval for participation of the state in the NG-CARES programme which saw the setting up of a Steering Committee headed by the then Commissioner for Finance David Olofu, thus birthing domestication of the programme in the state.
The NG-CARES initiative required sub-nationals to access a World Bank facility through a programme design and qualifications process. With the leadership and political will provided by Governor Ortom, Benue State was able to qualify for the programme ahead of many other states in the country.
The programme christened BN-CARES at the state level was/is an intervention that seeks to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, by protecting the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable households and supporting the recovery of local economic activities, particularly micro and small enterprises.
Governor Ortom ensured the launch of BN-CARES which took place at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi on April 14, 2022. The amount of N1.5 billion was earmarked for distribution to beneficiaries of the programme and the Governor personally distributed cheques to the beneficiaries. The categories which got the cheques were the State CARES Coordinating Unit, Community and Social Development Agency, FADAMA, the Ministry of Industry and Cooperatives and the State Cash Transfer Unit.
The NG-CARES Technical Committee from the Federal Government visited Benue State on a number of occasions and commended the efforts of the State Government. The team was received during one of such visits by the then Deputy Governor, Engr Benson Abounu, on behalf of Governor Ortom.
That was the level of commitment shown by Governor Ortom towards cushioning the impact of COVID-19 in the state. The programme was also in line with the ten year development plan of the Ortom administration as it positively affected welfare, social protection and economic development.
I wonder why the present administration failed to state how much they have so far spent on implementation of the NG-CARES programme but were quick to chastise the previous government. And even if Governor Alia has sustained and improved on implementation of the programme, government is a continuum and that’s why he was elected to provide development.
The indisputable fact is that if today Benue is applauded for the successful implementation of Nigeria COVID-19 Action, Recovery and Economic Stimulus, NG-CARES, the person who deserves to take the plaudits is the immediate past Governor of the state, Chief Samuel Ortom.
The fear of the fast approaching first 100 days without fulfilment of many promises made should not compel the Governor Alia-led administration in Benue to start taking credit for what Chief Samuel Ortom did while in office as Governor. This is misleading and unthinkable of a reverend man of God.
I have attached some screenshots here to back up the facts of what Ortom did as far as NG-CARES/BN-CARES is concerned.
* Jimin Geoffrey, observing from Makurdi.