My good people of Kogi State, it gives me boundless pleasure to welcome all citizens and residents of Kogi State into the Year 2018. I cannot thank the Almighty God enough for the privilege of life from Him which has enabled us see this New Year. I am pleased to bring you this message today. Thanks be to God for keeping our dear State Kogi, and for preserving Nigeria our country.
Like someone once said, every 1st day of January is also the first blank page of a 365 page book in which we are all given the opportunity to write, one day at a time. We therefore pray for God’s guidance and help to write greatness into 2018 with our daily decisions and actions.
On January 1st last year, I declared to you in my New Year message that 2017 will be ‘a hallmark year for projects’ in Kogi State. I made that declaration fully aware that it is my job as Governor of Kogi State to improve our standard of living and the social infrastructure on which we rely. I am happy to say that 2017 was indeed a hallmark year for projects.
In spite of the generally harsh financial circumstances in the nation, we were able to commence new projects, continue old ones and even complete a good number of others across the 3 Senatorial Districts. I shall resist the temptation to start listing projects in this short message, but in a couple of weeks’ time we will be marking our 2nd Anniversary in government which will consist of a programme of introspection and stock taking. We will not only itemise our Projects then, but we will screen documentaries on them and publish a 2nd Anniversary Referral Compendium, complete with pictures of projects and other memorable milestones.
The biggest challenge facing this Administration still remains the paucity of funds to finance our development programmes. It is clear that no magic solution exists for the shortfalls in liquidity which has hit governments all over the world, Nigeria included. The only viable option before us is to increase our creativity in maximising existing sources of funds while developing new ones.
I am therefore pleased with the progress we have made in Agriculture as an alternative source of income and employment. Our first harvest from the experimental farm at Omi Dam was hugely satisfying, considering that it is an initial effort. The first batch of Confluence Rice hit the market in December, 2017. This is a source of income we hope to nurture from domestic sales, and if there is a surplus, distribution to other parts of the country and even overseas export.
Our rice renaissance is traceable to the Agricultural Revolution Programme (ARP) which we launched with fanfare early in 2017 and have been working on since. Similarly, Cashew, cassava, sugarcane and benniseed are some other crops we have big plans for. We have made advanced progress with possible investors to cultivate these on an industrial scale in 2018. By the end of year, we should be able to attribute at least 15% of our income to earnings from the Agricultural sector.
Our New Direction Blueprint also documents programmes to start earning some serious money for Kogi State from direct investments in solid minerals. We have not neglected the potentials of this rich source of Internally Generated Revenue. Our state-owned solid minerals production company has been undergoing revitalisation to give it a corporate structure which is more responsive to the current realities. It should be ready to handle transactions from early this year.
Running concurrently with infrastructure development and IGR growth is a programme of social welfare packages which we created to reach as many of our people at the grassroots as possible. While this may not have reached every person and every household, I am aware that it has reached every ward. This direct distribution of foodstuff, particularly rice, has put food on tables which will otherwise be empty, especially during festive seasons. We will work to grow this Food Direct Programme in 2008 while expanding the scope to include other essential commodities like medicines.
I would like to reiterate that our Staff Screening and Verification Exercise has since ended. Cleared Civil Servants have been earning their rightful salaries for months now, albeit with some hiccups now and then due to evident reasons. In December, we made attempts to clear all backlogs within the limits of the available funds, while doing our best to avoid fresh arrears from building up.
This information on payment of salaries in relation to the Screening Exercise is important to dispel the persistent use of alleged non-payment by dishonest and discredited politicians to gain political capital under guise of fighting for Kogi State Civil Servants. It is also important to sound a warning to those Civil Servants who defame government with claims of long months of unpaid salaries in order to solicit money from gullible people, or evade their own contractual or domestic obligations.
As the Governor of Kogi State, I do not know of any circumstance under which any cleared Civil Servant, whether at State or Local Government level, can be owed even 3 months salaries after several months of being cleared, let alone 6, 10 or more months as some continue to claim. Our investigations show that those making these claims were caught in one offence or the other by the screening exercise and were dismissed or suspended from service without pay. In other cases, they were sanctioned for offences, granted pardon subject to regularisation. In all of these cases, due process is applicable. While we are making efforts to avoid collecting our full pound of flesh from those who robbed our state in the past through the Civil Service, we will no longer hesitate to make an example of those we catch compounding their criminal conduct with duplicity in this manner. Government will do her best to pay salaries as and at when due in 2018. With effect from January 2018, the use of electronic attendance devices otherwise known as clocking devices shall be used to compute and generate salaries.
We have continued to make tremendous progress in our unflinching commitment to a safe and secure Kogi State which will guarantee living and investments. Today, we experience tranquillity and a zero-case of kidnapping for over six weeks. This feat is made possible with your cooperation and support. Let’s do this again this year and in other sectors.
This year is significant to the New Direction Administration which I lead. On January 27, 2018 we will accomplish exactly 2 years in office and the dominant thought in our minds is both how far and how well we have executed our mandate. We are also consumed by the knowledge that there is always room for improvement. We owe the citizens and residents of Kogi State a sacred duty to provide good governance. It is therefore our unfailing duty in 2018 to do so by keeping pace with your yearnings and aspirations for Kogi State.
There is hope in every new beginning, and every New Year’s Day is a new beginning, so today I celebrate hope with you. Hope for today, hope for the year and hope for the future beyond this year. Kogi is rising.
Happy New Year Kogi State. May this year 2018 bring peace, prosperity and fulfilment to all of us.
God bless us all.
Executive Governor, Kogi State.