Lalong: Bridging The Gap

By Yakubu Dati

As political activities heighten with the release of the timetable for the 2023 general elections, governance has notably slowed down across the country.

While this may be the case in some states, it is not so on the Plateau as
Governor Alert! (a name by which Gov Simon Lalong is fondly referred to by Plateau State workers after he cleared 8- 10 months outstanding salary arrears inherited from the last administration) has not shifted his focus on the goal of working for his people.

With an average monthly commitment of 2 billion naira paid to workers in the state in the last six years, the local economy has received a huge boost with the injection of more than 84 billion naira in the corresponding years of the current administration.

These payments have no doubt stimulated the economy of the state substantially and unleashed additional economic growth for the people thereby closing the gap of inequality and reducing hardship across board.

While economists are best suited to measure the accompanying leapfrog in economic activities and its concomitant boost in small and medium scale enterprise (SMSEs) along with its social impact, the effect is such that even laymen are testifying of the difference recorded.

Buoyed by passion to uplift urban and rural poor through land which is the physical bedrock for human activities, Gov Lalong is unlocking these resources for the benefit of all and sundry.

The Governor only recently assented to two critical bills on land administration on 14th July 2021 viz The Plateau State Property Land Use Charge Law 2021 and The Plateau State Geographic Information Systems (PLAGIS) Law 2021.

In the bid to unveil the benefits of these laws to the business community, the Plateau State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning organised a stakeholders engagement with support from a major German development agency, GIZ (The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH).
At the forum, Gov Lalong reiterated the subsisting 50 percent waiver on land transactions to empower the business community in the bid to promote the ease of doing business and empower the populace while the Attorney General and commissioner of justice, Chrysantus Ahmadu, xrayed the benefits of the law to the leadership of the SMSEs.

Chairman of the Plateau State Internal Revenue Service (PSIRS), Dashe Arlat, in his remarks, reaffirmed his agency’s commitment to generate N5 billion monthly as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

On the heels of all these positives, Gov Lalong flagged-off the construction of N9.9 billion British-American Junction fly over and the dualization of 1.7 K/m road to Lamingo roundabout in Jos North LGA.

Initial announcement of this landmark legacy project was greeted with mixed reactions by those genuinely concerned about where the funding will be sourced and the opposition who are confined by the walls of pessimism they built around themselves to be blind to positive derivatives of government.

While the former became convinced about its workability and welcomed the realization of the project with a sigh of relief, the latter thought they could harm the project and finding no means of doing so, resorted to lies claiming that the 9.9 billion naira project would cost a whopping 19 billion naira!

Sonya Parker, an author, succinctly captures these naysayers in his treatise when he said, “a hater’s job is to hate you, and they stay on their job 24/7. So, if you’re expecting them to clock out, and leave you alone think again.”

Unperturbed by these opposition elements however, Gov Lalong is taking the bricks hauled at his administration and is using them to stay the course of leaving Plateau better than he met it.

Underscoring the importance of the event, is the fact that the ground-breaking ceremony was performed by the former Head of State and living legend, Gen Yakubu Gowon.

Governor of Niger State, Sani Bello, his Kwara State counterpart, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and Edo State Governor, Godwin Obasaki represented by his Deputy, Philip Shuiabu joined other well meaning patriots to be part of history by coming to witness the event.

To overcome the stranglehold of funding, which is responsible for many abandoned projects, the Government adopted the Contractor-Financing model which tilts the process in favour of preferred bidders.

A firm, Craneburg Construction Company Ltd, armed with funding from Access Bank, easily distinguished itself amongst several bidders to emerge top.

Commissioner for Works, Pam Botmang, affirmed that the bank has mobilized the contractor and work has commenced in earnest from the preliminary works of the Right of Way from the Federal Ministry of Works, to relocation of public utilities with underpass and roundabout, slip roads and approach, as well as scarification and site clearance.

The scope of work is also huge and includes a 6 – span dual bridge of 15.0m/Span with a total length of 90m as part of the Over-Pass and erection of four retaining walls on the approaches of various lengths totaling 300m.

The contractor will also carry out earthworks with extensive filling on the bridge approaches with ramps, slip roads and underpass.

Furthermore the contractors are to build two reinforced concrete single spans of 20m length bridges along the 1.7km British American Junction to Lamingo Junction Roundabout and it is to be dualized and reconstructed with asphaltic binder and wearing coarse which will include pipe and box culverts, reinforced concrete drainages, concrete kerbs, concrete walkways and other auxiliary or ancillary works like street lights, road signages and markings, etc

As an awardee of the internationally recognised Open Governance Partnership ( OGP) the Plateau State Government is adhering to strict financial template that ensures direct disbursement from the bank to the contractor on receipts of Certificates of Valuation (CVs) certified by the Ministry and duly approved by the Governor.

The Performance Monitoring and Results Delivery Office (PMRDO) led by Noel Donjur, Chief of Staff, has put these rigourous process of transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness in place to ensure the delivery of the project on time.

Gen Yakubu Gowon, at the event, expressed satisfaction with the level of support accorded Governor Simon Lalong by Plateau people in the last six years and urged him to leave better legacies that would be emulated.

He applauded Governor Lalong for completing projects inherited from the successive administration saying continuity in governance is critical to the development of the society.

The ongoing British/American overhead bridge, for example, is another demonstration of a government in action.

While a majority of patriotic citizens welcome the construction which has commenced in earnest, the few depleting opposition elements are confronted with brickwalls in their failed bid to throw spanners in the works.

Forgetting that the Rescue administration, paid up debts incurred by the last administration including the cost for the dualization project the former governor, Jonah Jang named after himself in a purse case of a self serving attempt at self immortalisation.

The British/American Overhead Bridge which has become a nightmare to road users is a very important artery that serves the city and is an important gateway to travellers transiting the state.

It is pertinent to note that due to the insecurity created by the last administration, states like Bauchi, Gombe and others who were forced to build airports to avoiding transiting through Jos, are back to using this artery, following the restoration of peace, thus increasing the vehicular traffic.

For the purpose of emphasis, the British/American flyover with 7 km dual carriage way is contractor financed, meaning that the contractor came with a financing from a reputable bank to fund the project, similar to the model adopted by the Federal Government in financing the rail and airport projects. In simple terms, the bank is funding the contractor directly.

Gov Lalong continues to leverage on innovation to steer up development and entrepreneurship. The automation of land administration has secured land owners, attracting over 7 billion naira in mortgages during his administration.
Little wonder, Plateau youths have continued to shine on the national stage, winning laurels in their stride. At the National SMSE Awards organised by the Muhammadu Buhari administration, Jerry Mallo came tops in 2019, while Luka Bot and Mafeng won in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Gov Lalong continues to expand the frontiers of possibilities by bridging the gap.

Yakubu Dati is the Commissioner of Lands.
He sent the piece from Jos

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