I’m not afraid of conducting LG poll —Lalong

Lalong, second term, well
Governor Simeon Lalong,
Plateau State

Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State recently had an interactive session with journalists in the state, where he shed light on some issues such as postponed local government election, farmers/herders clashes, Internally Displaced Persons and others. ISAAC SHOBAYO brings the excerpts.

Local Government poll was recently postponed on security ground in your state, opposition parties have stated that it was postponed out of fear of the ruling APC losing, what do you have to say about this?

I have also heard it that we are afraid of conducting local government election, that is why we are running away from it; when I am afraid of election you will know and when I am not, you will know. If I am not afraid of election from outside and as well defeated a sitting governor, I would not be afraid of conducting election when I am the governor of the state. Our priority in this state is the protection of lives and properties. Before now if you were travelling out of the state you had to change your plate numbers. I changed plate number because something happened to me sometimes ago. I travelled to a place with Plateau number, I woke up the following morning to discover that my car had been smashed. I tried to find out who smashed my car, the cleaner told me it had happened to so many people with Plateau State plate numbers; that if your car had Plateau plate number, you had to change it because of the fear of Plateau State. So, if we don’t restore Plateau to the home of peace and tourism we would continue to have this everywhere; peace is very necessary, we can’t go and sacrifice lives of human beings because of election. As a lawyer, I know that there must be a democratically elected government at the local government level. From the beginning, we realised that there was no law in place even the law was not good; there were several cases about that law and what we did was to harmonise the law. We now have a good law to conduct local government election. And when we were set to conduct local government election, there was tension everywhere and even when we suspended the election, there were killings everywhere, but we are ready to convene another security meeting to know if we can go ahead to conduct another local government election. We realised there were red spots in some local governments and we know those areas and we said look, if you are keeping arms for the purpose of election, we give you time to go and remove those arms and surrender them to the law enforcement agencies. If you are keeping arms for the purpose of intimidating people, we know those places, the grace has expired, we will pick them no matter their status. People should get ready, very soon, we will do the local government election.

 

There are insinuations that your political appointees are weak and cannot deliver the programme of the administration and many do not visit their wards and local government areas. Do you agree on this?

I want to tell you that I have confidence in them. In the just concluded ward and local government congresses, all my commissioners and other political appointees were at their various constituencies to mobilise for the exercise and I am impressed with their performances. I also want you to know that not all the appointees are politicians, some are appointed on the basis of their professional capabilities, you cannot force politics on them. And I want to say that those that are using insecurity to stop election, we will conduct local government election very soon and they would be disappointed, because no matter the level of their antics, we would go on with our election.

 

Three years down the line, most of the projects you have completed are those you inherited from your predecessor, when are you going to start projects that would be ascribed to your administration?

This is not my first time in office, I was here as a Speaker of the State House of Assembly and again I am here as a governor, one of the motions that were on the floor of the House when I was the speaker was that there was a danger in leaving abandoned projects. Some projects were abandoned since the time of J D Gomwalk, if the projects are viable, the best thing is to go and complete them because he laid a good foundation for Plateau. The fact is that he laid the foundation and I will complete it for the betterment of Plateau State, why should we abandon a project? The former Head of State, General Gowon, advised me not to leave  abandoned projects I inherited and today, he is not disappointed. Anytime we meet, he keeps commending me but that is not to say we have not initiated our own projects, if you go to Federal Low-cost it was not an abandoned project, today in Plateau State, we have awarded contracts for the construction of 22 roads in all the local government areas of  the state, I mobilised them and we are still continuing with other projects inherited from the previous administrations.

 

Crises on the Plateau led to a lot of people being displaced and unable to eke a living, what is your government doing to alleviate their sufferings?

I was nominated as a member of the six governors to represent the Governors’ Forum to oversee the North Central zone on issue of food security, headed by Mr President; I am also a member of the committee to look into herders and farmers conflict. One of the measures we put on ground is to ensure that we bring back people who were chased out of their domains. You will recall that when we had a problem in Bassa Local Government area of Plateau State, some people were saying it was religious issue while others said it was ethnic matters, but the people told me it is neither religious nor ethnic in nature, they said it is land matter, the same in most of the places that are in crises. The Federal Government insisted that those chased away must go back but the people don’t want to go back. To encourage them to go back, the Federal Government initiated another policy that they are going to mop up arms and that is what they are doing now.

 

In monetary terms, how much has been lost to farmers /herders clash in Plateau State?

I think what you are asking me is what has been lost in terms of insecurity in Plateau State. We quantified it at SEMA and what we gathered prompted us to write an appeal to be included in the North East Commission and because of the volume, we were included in the North East Commission, but when it went to the other arms of the National Assembly, it was thrown out, Kano and Plateau were removed. But our argument is that if you talk of terrorism in Nigeria, it started from Jos, the scars of the burnt Jos Main Market and other bombing across the state are still there. We made an appeal but, unfortunately, we were ruled out, otherwise, we would have been enjoying the benefits of the North East Commission. I have not stopped; I am still pursuing the matter. But on the committee for the herdsmen and farmers, every state especially states that are affected, Plateau, Benue, Zamfara, Kaduna, Taraba and Kogi are all focus areas for Mr President. The Federal Government has already started in Benue to rehabilitate them, it will soon be the turn of Plateau State too, we are still putting our heads together to update our figures.

 

There was the allegation that the tractors the state government bought and were commissioned by Mr. President during his visit to Plateau were not up to 400 as claimed by your administration and that they are refurbished tractors,  what is your reaction to this? 

We have 400 tractors; it was a joint agreement between farmers, the state government and local government, including the consultant. The focus of the government is to subsidise the tractors. If you go to Government House you will see some of them, likewise along Old Airport Road, the contractors brought the tractors but what the contract said was that all must arrive with all the implements.  But they brought them incomplete, that is without some of the components, you can’t use the tractors without the implements. There are lots of insinuations on this issue, people are saying all manner of things. I was with my friend, the governor of Bauchi State, when Mr President visited his state, people there said it was a lie that the government did not buy any tractors that he picked the tractors from Jos, that they saw the tractors with my picture. I will not blame them because agriculture is very important, but I want to tell the people that the ones we have we would distribute them while we are waiting for the rest.

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There is also an allegation that your administration is selective in location of projects and areas where opposition won in the last election are being neglected

We allow people, stakeholders, through their local government chairmen to select projects to be cited in their areas. If you see the twenty-two roads that are ongoing I didn’t select the areas myself, I said, let the stakeholders in the local governments decide which road they want and give it to the state government. So, I have never been selective. People mentioned Jos North, if it is this local government, I got highest number of votes from there, so, I don’t know why I will deny them democratic dividends. What we are doing in Plateau presently is that we are not looking at the past, if we are doing this, certain appointments and projects will not go to some places, that was what the last administration did, but I said no, Plateau needs a new phase. We are not looking at where you voted, we are looking at where we have Plateau people. We cite our projects is for the benefit of the people, not for political party or on the basis of political patronage. Well, it has not come to my notice that people are complaining.

The post I’m not afraid of conducting LG poll —Lalong appeared first on Tribune.

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