A GOOD WILL MESSAGE BY HIS EXCELLENCY ALH. YAHAYA A BELLO GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE TO NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (NEC) MEETING OF NIGERIA BAR ASSOCIATION (NEC) IN LOKOJA ON THE 1ST DAY OF JULY, 2017.
I am delighted to welcome the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to Lokoja, Kogi State. Kogi is Nigeria’s Confluence State, and Lokoja is where the Rivers Niger and Benue meet and mingle before moving on as one, never to part again.
Kogi State is a metaphor for our Nation. We are the intersection at the heart of Nigeria where compatriots from different parts meet every day, share a meal or a short rest and travel together to mutual destinations. Our aspiration is a Nigeria where we can all meet in our rich diversity, unite in our nationhood and travel together towards our greatness.
That aspiration requires dogged protection by all stakeholders especially the Bar and Bench. Tyranny can only tarry when the lawyers and the courts either collude with it, are intimidated by it or become indifferent to it. Fortunately, we have a legal profession that distinguished itself under some of the worst dictatorships known to modern history. I have no doubt that all of you here will ensure that it continues to live up to its billings in that regard.
My Administration is running with what we call the New Direction Agenda for Kogi State. Part of our commitment towards good governance for our state is to always respect the Rule of Law. We have never hesitated to do whatever is required of us to promote it in our dealings.
In particular, we have closely observed the Principle of Separation of Powers between the Three Arms of Government as well as adherence to Due Process as enshrined in our Laws.
Our relationship with the Kogi State Judiciary is more Father-Son than anything else, with the Judiciary as the parent. My Lord, the Chief Judge of Kogi State, the Honourable Justice Nasir Ajanah will attest that they enjoy financial and administrative autonomy, and that we have not sought to interfere with the discharge of their functions in any way.
The commitment of my Administration to providing vehicles and other working tools, and the improvement of the work environment through construction of roads, water and other facilities/infrastructure to the Kogi State Judiciary is both optimal and continuous.
In the same vein, we have endeavored to build a filial relationship with the Legislative Arm. The Kogi State House of Assembly remains thoroughly unhindered in the performance of her duties. We overhauled and refurnished the dilapidated Legislative Complex we met and like the Judiciary provided modern working tools and environment for them. They run their affairs unimpeded by us.
The ensuing relationship between the 3 Arms of the Kogi State Government is therefore a strong partnership of equals. It is a status quo we intend to nurture every inch of the way.
May 29th was Democracy Day. In my Democracy Day Address to the great people of Kogi State, I quoted a certain James Bovard who had this to say:
‘Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.’
I used it to drive home the point that wherever wolves and sheep vote on what to eat, the sheep invariably gets eaten. I reassured my people that my Administration will never hide under the guise of democratic mandate to slaughter them for our eating pleasure. Instead, I reiterated my humble resolve to always guide and protect them as a shepherd leading his flock.
Unfortunately, not all leaders are guided by the profound principles of ‘The People First’. Democratic leadership can derail sometimes. In fact, given our bitter experiences in Nigeria before May 29th 2015, there has been massive derailment from these ideals over the years.
The question then would be:
‘Are citizens to be without hope or remedy in the face of vicious marauders masquerading as leaders – whether democratic or autocratic?’
My answer is a resounding ‘No!’ My answer is predicated on the presence and activities of a virile Bar. If indeed the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man, then this Noble Profession is the curator of that hope.
This is the second time within the past 6 years that Kogi State will be playing host to this august body. Our eagerness to have you again underscores our confidence in the legal profession as an invaluable Wall of Defense for our Democracy and our rights and liberties.
One thing I learned from the 17 cases filed against me after my election by opponents of every persuasion is that nothing will hasten the collapse of all we hold dear than a compromised, timid Bar or Bench. As I won victory after victory despite the huge armies and resources besieging me, all the way to the Supreme Court, it became clear to me that the day the Nigerian Bar is pocketed by any special interest, that is the day the Nigerian Enterprise stumbles onto the slippery and rocky slopes to perdition.
NBA leaders, please raise your eyes to the evolving political landscape in Nigeria and activate again the powerful weapons of public interest, even pro bono, litigation so powerfully deployed by the undying Gani Fawehinmi and others like him. Our society cannot have publicly available evidence languishing, or without redress or punishment as appropriate, because no one has paid a lawyer to litigate it. And I mean evidence, some of them in clear video or audio format, widely available online or offline, shewing proof of corruption of public officials, bribery of judicial officials, subversion of whole elections, destabilisation of national institutions, disobedience to court orders, and other overt criminality.
Dear Leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association, we have strong confidence in you. I trust, along with 180million other Nigerians, that you and your members will not fail this nation.
The Bar in Kogi State knows that we are respectful of their professional rights. It has not crossed our minds to detain or denounce any lawyer for doing his work, whether we agree with his position or not. Our able Attorney-General, a consummate Bar Man, and our Team members who are Legal Practitioners have been careful to lead us into very cordial relationships with the Bar.
In addition to financial aid for her programmes and activities, we have donated a brand new eighteen (18) seater Toyota bus to the Lokoja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association since assuming Office. We have four (4) branches of the NBA in Kogi State, and we shall continue to make our modest contributions to their growth and wellbeing.
Lest we fall into the category of lawyers who make submissions without citing relevant authorities, we must not end this message without intimating you of some of our efforts to deliver the dividends of Democracy to the people of Kogi State:
We have tamed the widespread insecurity of lives and property which we inherited. Today, the incidence of kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes has dropped to almost zero.
We have changed the custom of nepotism, tribalism and cronyism which characterized appointments into government offices and the distribution of public resources in the past into a system which thrives on merit and identifiable need.
We just concluded a difficult Staff Screening and Verification Exercise to cleanse our Civil Service of ghost-workers and unintended beneficiaries. Now our genuine Civil Servants and Pensioners have better chances of being paid promptly as the fraud in our Payroll which nearly sucked the lifeblood out of the whole State has been exposed and halted.
We have also completed payment of salaries, including arrears to at least 95% of workers who were cleared in the screening exercise. I can confirm that people are still getting payment alerts as we do our best to meet the May 31st timeline which we set for ourselves to complete all payments.
We are also deploying integrated staff and payroll automation solutions to consolidate the gains from the Screening Exercise as part of our ongoing Civil Service and Pension Reforms.
We granted autonomy to the Kogi State Board of Internal Revenue and repositioned it for excellence through the recruitment of qualified staff and the construction of a modern 4-storey Revenue Building which we commenced from scratch and completed within 12 months.
Consequently, we have increased our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by about 300% from between N350m and N400m per month where it stagnated for many years to over N1bn monthly now, and it is still growing.
We have employed over 1000 of our citizens in the the Ministries of Environment, Justice and the Revenue Board. We have placed adverts for massive recruitment in our Health Sector and others will soon follow as part of our commitment to Job Creation and Youth Engagement.
Our strongest efforts so far are in the Infrastructure and Utilities thematic segment of our Blueprint through numerous construction Projects across the 3 Senatorial Districts of the State. They include: about 16 major state roads at different stages of completion.
We are providing facelifts for some Federal Roads, notably the Lokoja-Okene Highway which had become a deathtrap long before we even took Office, but was neglected by successive governments.
We have been shortlisted for the World Bank’s Rural Access And Mobility Project (RAMP) which will be constructing 500km of feeder roads across the three senatorial districts of the state.
We are currently engaged in the rehabilitation or fresh installation of over 25 electricity projects across Kogi State.
We are also construction or rehabilitating scores of abandoned Rural Water Schemes complete with motorized boreholes, overhead tanks and multiple outlets.
We have run adverts for the construction of at least 239 blocks of 2 Classrooms, one in each of the 239 wards in Kogi State under the GYB Model Primary School Initiative.
Lokoja our state capital is wearing a new look from our aggressive program of urban renewal with sanitation, improved roads, water reticulation, and better security. This is being replicated in other major towns across the state.
We have worked hard to reposition Kogi State as a preferred destination for investments and the world is coming to see things for themselves.
We hosted the Ambassador of the United States of America, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, the Head of the European Union Delegation in Nigeria, the Ambassador of the Republic of South Korea, among other notable international partnerships. We expect to reap a harvest of new investments to create new jobs for our people and boost our Internally Generated Revenue profile.
We have resuscitated the defunct Kogi Travellers as Kogi Transport Company, renamed it Confluence Express, placed it under professional management and its operations has been a delight to all its customers.
We are paying subventions to our tertiary and other institutions, and now that their lecturers have called off the strikes and our students are returning to school, we will commence the payment of bursaries, scholarships and other stipends having approved increases to all of them, some by as much as 300%!
Governance is not about stomach infrastructure, but there is room in governance for stomach infrastructure. Accordingly, We have paid close attention to direct welfare for our people than any other administration before us. During significant seasons, our appointees have been mandated to visit their constituencies with materials for distribution as part of our goodwill services to our people.
For instance, during these Democracy Day celebrations, we dispensed with parades and dispatched all our appointees into the hinterlands of Kogi State with 50 Bags of Rice and a token amount to each of our wards. Some are just returning to Lokoja having stayed behind to supervise distribution, practically door to door.
We are also purchasing trailer-loads of fertilizer for free distribution to farmers.
I know the agenda for this meeting has been set before now. I shall however call upon my rights as host to add a little item to your deliberations: Lawyers never fail to let persons of other disciplines know they are only educated, not learned. My dictionary has not helped my knowledge of the difference, so I guess the answer must lie in a Law Book or Dictionary somewhere. I hereby mandate this august body to find the answer and explain it to me clearly before this NEC rounds off.
Once again, on behalf of the Government and the good people of Kogi State, I wish all members of NEC successful deliberations, and a wonderful stay in Lokoja. Do not forget to take some time off to see one or more of our tourist attractions in Kogi State.
Executive Governor of Kogi State.
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