Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong subjected his newly appointed Commissioners to a tour of rural communities, a training workshop and a strategic policy retreat, all in a bid to improve government’s performance and consolidate on achievements of his first term, YUSUFU AMINU IDEGU reports
It is almost becoming a tradition in political leadership in Nigeria that elected political office holders, particularly governors, only do well in terms of provision of dividends of democracy in their first terms. This aims at impressing the electorate so that they can vote for them during their second term bid.
Popular views are that the governors do show some commitments in serving the people in their first tenures as a way of encouraging them to believe in their abilities to deliver the benefits of democracy to them. But no sooner they are re-elected for second term than their level of commitment to duty begins to wane; leading to lull in performance.
However, there are some governors who are genuinely committed to providing the necessary basic amenities for the people during their first term in office, irrespective of the fact that they may or not be voted for during their second term bid by the electorate.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong seems determined to end the culture of waste in the state. To this end, Lalong organised a five-day policy retreat for members of his executive council, Permanent Secretaries and top government functionaries. The retreat, which held at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, aimed at introducing government officials to his administration’s policy initiatives and the roadmap for proper implementation. This move could signal some level of credence Lalong brings to bear in order to surpass his governance performance during his first term.
The executive council consists of some commissioners who served in Lalong’s first term and some new names. The nominees were screened and cleared by members of the Plateau State House of Assembly before they were sworn in by Governor Lalong on October 7, 2019.
Before the swearing in ceremony, the governor led the new commissioners and other appointees on a three-day tour of the 17 local government areas of the state.
The tour, according to Lalong, was aimed at providing the commissioners with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with some challenges at the grassroots and also to enable them to interact with political and community leaders at that level before assuming office.
After the familiarisation tour, Lalong gave to each member document containing the five-year State Strategic Development Plan to study and get acquainted with the contents of the document.
With the two initial tasks accomplished, the governor administered the oath of office on the commissioners.
He said: “Let me state clearly that our Rescue Administration has so much to do within a short time and would ensure that every second counts as you settle down to deliver on the Next Level Agenda,” Governor Lalong said while swearing in the commissioners.
He further committed members of the executive council to a week-long workshop immediately after their inauguration in which the governor took time to tutor members of his cabinet on the direction and policy trust of his administration’s second tenure.
The workshop was also an opportunity to understand the agenda of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as the campaign promises the governor made to the people. Lalong said all these were preparatory to the just-concluded policy retreat, through which the governor equipped his commissioners and other top government officials with the machinery of government to enable them to “hit the ground running in service to people of the state in a result-oriented manner.”
The theme of the five-day policy retreat was “New Initiatives for Sustaining the Rescue Agenda to the Next Level.”
This, according to the governor, was “specifically arranged for participants to interact with one another, listen to experts, constructively engage one another in robust discourse and deepen their understanding of the vision and philosophy of the Rescue Agenda of my government.”
Lalong believed that at the end of the retreat, all his appointees would demonstrate high level of synergy, collaboration and co-operation as they work together to harness the resources of government and the goodwill of citizens in delivering good governance throughout the period of the administration.
He said: “It is for this reason that we have brought in not only members of the state executive council, but also Permanent Secretaries and Heads of key government agencies with a view to creating the needed understanding and synergy in meeting our objectives as a government.”
On assumption of office for his second term on May 29, 2019, Governor Lalong rolled out a three-Pillar Policy framework for his administration which is centered on peace, security and good governance, physical infrastructure development and sustainable economic re-birth.
From that moment, citizens became anxious to know what this three-pillar policy framework means, vis-a-vis the five-pillar policy trust of his first term. The people wanted to know how the new policy will impact on their living standards, and how soon they will begin to realise the evidence of this vision. It was in the quest to address these agitations of the electorate that the governor thought it worthwhile that all appointees needed to sit down and plan, review, discuss, strategise and project on what government needs to do to get the desired answers for those who elected them and to whom they are accountable.
But as much as Governor Lalong desires to fulfill his campaign promises through the three-pillar policy framework, the state faces challenges of scarce revenue amid numerous challenges that are capital intensive.
The first task before the government is to consider how to get the necessary fund to carry out its mission and accomplish its vision. Therefore, government needs to take a broad look at the state of the state’s economy and devise a formula to expand its revenue base. It is obvious that the current revenues accrued to the state from both external and internal sources may not be enough to provide needed social services to the citizens.
The governor was not ready to play pranks with the intelligence of his people on the poor financial status of the state. He, therefore, made his appointees understand the economic reality of the state when he said: “And you all know the challenge of raising funds that are critical to achieving the goals of our administration in delivering better living standards for our people. Let me emphasise that boosting the state’s revenue generation capacity, strengthening partnerships and other aspects that are captured within the MDAs’ Medium-Term Sector Strategy (MTSS) as well as the Medium-Term Revenue Framework (MTRF) should be a thing of priority to us as government.”
One of the cardinal principles of the Lalong administration which is also very central in the manifesto of the ruling APC is never to leave any project abandoned during any tenure. There are numerous abandoned projects all over the state right from the First Republic. This made the administration whose intention is to change the status quo, vowed never to start any project it will not complete.
For this reason, Lalong has put in place a committee that monitors project execution. As a deliberate step to make the job of the monitoring committee effective, the governor charged participants at the retreat to also look at issues relating to planning, monitoring and evaluation of projects.
He said: “As a government, we cannot afford to waste valuable time and resources nor condone the culture of waste that denies our people good life in the past. The Project Monitoring and Result Delivery Unit headed by the Chief of Staff has already been mandated to ensure that the state gets value for money and to track the implementation of all projects and programmes through the various Key Performance Indicators.”
Having set the agenda for the retreat, the participants began with the review of government activities within the first term by analysing how the administration started in 2015; how it fared between 2015 and 2019; and the focus of the administration in the second term.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the retreat, the appointees resolved to make agriculture, mining and tourism the main economic base of the administration by encouraging the governor to invest heavily in the three sectors where the state has comparative advantage. It is their belief that with good investment in these three sectors; the state will be able to boost its revenue generation, create jobs and sustain development.
The participants also demanded a complete paradigm shift from dependence on the monthly federal allocation to run its administration and execute capital projects to reliance on its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
The appointees resolved that beginning from 2020, all state ministries, departments and agencies must think of how to generate revenue. This is because the appointees believed strongly that there is no ministry, department or agency in the state that cannot generate revenue from the services they must render to citizens.
Similarly, it was resolved that the project management unit under the office of the Chief of Staff saddled with the responsibility of monitoring and evaluation of performances of ministries, departments and agencies, should ensure quality tracking of set targets, just as they all agreed to work as a team in the interest of their people.
These resolutions were reached by the participants with the view of consolidating on past achievements and further developing the new policy framework so as to achieve sustainable, feasible and implementable results for a legacy that will stand the test of time in the state.
” This retreat was specifically arranged for participants to interact with one another, listen to experts, constructively engage one another in robust discourse and deepen their understanding of the vision and philosophy of the Rescue Agenda of my government…It is for this reason that we have brought in not only members of the state executive council, but also Permanent Secretaries and Heads of key government agencies with a view to creating the needed understanding and synergy in meeting government’s objectives “