Introduction and Background
It is a pleasure to be in your midst once again, at yet another Convention of Idoma Association, USA. You would recall that I was at the 2019 Convention held at Adria Hotel and Conference Centre, Bayside, New York City, along with the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Dr. Samuel Ortom. Let me begin by thanking all of you who have worked assiduously to ensure the success of this year’s convention. I am aware that the Convention could not hold in 2020 and 2021 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant travel restrictions. I am optimistic that the deliberations at this Convention will further provide answers to the nagging socio-economic questions in Idoma land.
I bring you fraternal greetings from all your loved ones and families at home in Idoma land. Though the times are challenging presently, flowing from the economic downturn dictated by the combined effects of Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the failure of leadership at various levels of government in Nigeria, we are doing our best to grapple with the challenges that each day presents. It is sad to note that farming, which is the occupation of over 70% of our people, is being threatened by the activities of militia herdsmen who have been responsible for the death of many farmers in Idoma Land and other parts of Benue State.
Having noted that, the situation at home is not all tales of woes, the farming season is progressing and the farms are picking the pieces for good harvest in the season ahead.
Let me record my sincere appreciation to the Idoma Community in the United States for extending the invitation to me to attend yet another important outing in Minneapolis. I am convinced that through the instrumentality of this kind of cultural outing, the Idoma in the Diaspora, are holding effectively unto our identity instruments.
As I noted at the 2019 Convention in New York, culture, along with its credible values and norms, is what really define a nation. It sets the standards for what may be considered good or bad, desirable or undesirable. It also formulates the parameters and rules for standard behavior. Properly situated, culture influences the type of development by which a society actuates its progress because the absence of credible values could result in confusion, underdevelopment and disarticulation of a given social group. Culture works for development and the realization that the world view of a people is their most potent instrument for gauging their existence in global division of labour. It is the reason all of us, no matter where we live on the globe, must strive to ensure the Idoma identity and culture are preserved and passed unto our children.
It is against the foregoing that I specifically appreciate your efforts to secure your Idoma identity through the avenue of the Idoma Association USA, and I encourage you to sustain it as it will engender deeper connection with your roots and further accentuate your Idoma-ness.
I am sure a great number of you are in touch daily with your kiths and kins back home in Nigeria. With globalization, nothing that happens in even the remotest part of the globe can escape attention, not to talk of a large country as Nigeria and specifically the Idoma nation in Benue State. You definitely must also be concerned about the security situation as well as the economic challenges in Nigeria, and invariably in Idoma land. There is no doubt that we are confronted by multi-dimensional challenges in Nigeria. For the Idoma, the issues of insecurity, youth unemployment and poverty, are prominent.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are daily confronted with myriad of problems, as noted above, which problems are compounded by the near absence of institutional framework to deal with them. It is the reason some of our brothers and sisters take their frustrations on the political class, even when one is making genuine efforts to address the prevailing challenges. Poverty and hunger are twin evils that have held our people captive. They have so affected our land in such a way that no matter the infrastructural strides you make as a leader, the fact that they do not provide direct money for the pockets and food for the stomach, you still have huge challenges to grapple with. It is this twin-evil that has been responsible for the rise of “vote-buying” during elections in Nigeria. It is also the reason we all need to put our hands on deck as we make genuine efforts to pull our people out of the clutches of poverty and hunger.
Nothing tests my inner equilibrium like the cases of the killing of farmers in our land by herdsmen and the rise in the activities of kidnap gangs in Idoma land. While I must note that it is such a difficult time to lead our people, I am hopeful that with sustained commitment of all of us at home and in the diaspora, to empower our youths, provide infrastructure and strengthen our security, we will once again be living in a peaceful and prosperous Idoma land.
The Way Forward
Since I assumed office as your Senator on the 11th June, 2019, a little over 3 years ago, I have been working assiduously to provide both leadership and infrastructure in all the nine Local Government Areas which make up the Benue South Senatorial District. Be that as it may, I am not under any illusion that I can do all alone. I am aware that those of you in the Diaspora have a central role to play as we continue to strive towards building the Idoma land of our dream.
Let me therefore use this medium to apprise you on my stewardship as your Senator in the last three years that I have been in the saddle. I will hereunder proceed to give you a brief rundown on some of my activities in the Senate:
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have continued to utilize the opportunities presented by my representation of you in the Nigerian Senate, to include in the Budgets of 2020, 2021 and 2022, so far, projects that have direct impacts on our people at the grassroots, being a grassroots’ man myself. I have left no stone unturned to ensure that appropriated funds were released for them to be completed. Some of the projects are:
OKPOKWU LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1.Construction of a HEALTHCARE Center at Okwungaga, Ugbokolo.
2. Construction of DRAINAGE SYSTEM in Ugbokolo Town.
3. Construction of a BLOCK OF CLASSROOMS at Odessassa Primary School.
4. Electrification of Olaidu/Ojigo communities.
5. Procurement and installation of transformer in Ichama.
6. Rehabilitation of Eke-Ugbokolo road.
7. Construction of lecture hall at the National Open University of Nigeria, Ugbokolo Study Centre.
8. Procurement and installation of solar street lights in Ugbokolo.
ADO LOCAL GOVERNMENT
1. Construction of Block of Classrooms in Ogi.
2. Procurement and installation of Solar Streetlights in Igumale.
3. Electrification of Ikpemgbe community.
4. Construction of Healthcare Centre in Apa-Agila.
5. Rehabilitation of Ekile road.
OGBADIBO LOCAL GOVERNMENT
1. Construction of Onyirada River Bridge in Udaburu.
2. Procurement and installation of Electricity Transformer at Ukwo-Owukpa.
3. Procurement and installation of Solar Streetlights in Orokam and Ukwo Owukpa.
4. Electrification of Ago community in Otukpa.
5. Construction of a Block of 3-Classrooms in Obu 1 LGA Primary School, Otukpa.
OBI LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1.Drilling of solar-powered borehole, along Ogore Road, Obarike-Ito.
2. Construction of General Hospital road, Obarike-Ito.
3. Procurement and installation of solar streetlights in Obarike-Ito
4. Rehabilitation of Odiapa Road.
OJU LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1. Rehabilitation of Uchuo-Okpoma road
2. Rehabilitation of Obusa-Adokpa road
APA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1. Construction of a block of classrooms in Oba community.
2. Construction of a block of 3-classrooms at LGA Primary School, Ojantelle.
3. Electrification of Auke community.
4. Electrification of Edikwu-Ankpali community.
5. Construction of a block of 3-classrooms at Excellent Primary School, Oba.
6. Procurement and installation of solar street lights in Ugbokolo.
AGATU LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1. Drilling of Boreholes in Obagaji, Okokolo, Odugbeho and Usha.
2. Procurement and installation of solar-powered streetlights in Okokolo.
3. Procurement and distribution of motorcycles to Agatu youths.
4. Procurement and distribution of medical equipments to Agatu communities.
OTUKPO LOCAL GOVERNMENT
1. Rehabilitation of Ochoga Avenue.
2. Rehabilitation of Jamaica Street.
3. Procurement and installation of Transformer at Rice Mill Otukpo.
4. Procurement and installation of Transformer at Anmoda Otukpo.
5. Construction of Igaluwa-Ugboju road.
6. Construction of dual carriage of electricity lines from Asa sub-station at Enugu roundabout.
The foregoing projects are in addition to various empowerment projects we have executed with participants/beneficiaries drawn from all the nine Local Government Areas of Benue South Senatorial District as follows:
1. Training and Distribution of empowerment materials: tricycles, motorcycles, grinding/sewing machines, hair dressing equipments, generating sets, refrigerators for small scale businesses, start up capitals, SME loans, etc.
2. Training and empowerment of youths in Agricultural value chain.
3. Training of youths in digital skills and empowerment with branded computer laptops.
4. Training in different trades: soap/detergent making, grasscutter farming, poultry farming, event decoration, tailoring, baking, fish farming, etc.
My brothers and sisters, further to the foregoing, I have further facilitated the following projects under the 2022 Budget and the execution will commence as soon as the jobs are awarded. They are:
1. Installation of Lafiya Tele-health Primary Healthcare system/machine kiosks in selected communities in Benue South Senatorial District.
2. Training of youths in digital skills and empowerment with branded laptops.
3. Grading/lateriting of Ihilikpa-Onyangede road and completion of Ohimini River bridge, in Ohimini LGA.
4. Training in agricultural value chain and empowerment with chickens, goats, pigs, etc, in Benue South Senatorial District.
5. Grading and lateriting of Obagaji-Okokolo road in Agatu LGA.
6. Construction/Acquisition of delivery warehouses in rural outreach programme, in Obekpa Efoyo, in Okpokwu LGA.
7. Grading and lateriting of Angwa-Otakpa road, in Apa LGA.
8. Grading and lateriting of River Ogbadibo Bridge and grading of Atekpo/Okpafie/Ogbadibo road in Okpokwu LGA.
9. Construction of community clinic in Agadagba, Ohimini LGA.
10. Purchase and installation of transformers in various locations in Benue South Senatorial District.
11. Drilling of hand-pump boreholes in various locations of Benue South.
12. Electrification of Otto community in Ogbadibo LGA.
13. Completion of the construction and fencing of a lecture hall at the National Open University study centre, Ugbokolo, Okpokwu LGA.
14. Rehabilitation of 20km road with associated drainage system in Ikpogo-Omadewu-Eboya, in Okpokwu LGA.
15. Grading and lateriting of Entekpa road, in Otukpo LGA.
16. Construction of Health Centre at Adenu Methodist Masse, in Oju LGA.
17. Construction of Health Centre at Ondo-Awume, in Ohimini LGA.
BILLS, MOTIONS AND PETITIONS
Beloved constituents, in addition to my contributions on the floor of the Senate, oversight functions and execution of constituency projects, please, allow me to briefly touch on some of the Bills, Motions and Petitions, I have sponsored in the Senate in the last three years.
It is noteworthy that Bills are draft legislations to be enacted by the National Assembly, subject to the Assent of the President or the Overriding Vote of the National Assembly. In the last three years as your Senator, I have sponsored the following Bills:
1. A Bill for an Act for the alteration of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), to make provisions for Local Government autonomy. The Bill, if passed into law, will give the Local Government system autonomy, which will help to bring visible development and governance to the grassroots.
2. A Bill for an Act for the establishment of Families of Fallen Servicemen Support Fund. The intent of the Bill is to cater for families of service men who die in the line of duty.
3. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
4. A Bill for an Act to establish the Federal University of Health Sciences, Akwete-Akpa, Otukpo, Benue State.
5. A Bill for an Act to establish the Veteran Welfare Fund 2020.
6. A Bill seeking the establishment of North Central Development Commission (NCDC).
7. A Bill for an Act seeking the establishment of Federal College of Agricultural Technoogy in Opialu-Ojapo, in Okpokwu LGA, Benue State.
8. Constitution Amendment Bill, 2022, for an Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to provide for INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY in Presidential, Governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Council Elections.
9. A Bill for an Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to provide for FINANCIAL and ADMINISTRATIVE AUTONOMY for Local Government System in Nigeria.
10. Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2019.
11. Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigeria Agricultural Harvest and Processing Free Zone, Ataganyi, Apa/Agatu LGAs Benue State.
12. Rotation of Power Bill 2022.
In the last three years, I have moved the following Motions on the floor of the Senate and they were all duly passed by the Senate. They are:
1. Motion on the devastating effects of windstorm disaster in Ogbadibo, Okpokwu and Otukpo communities.
2. Motion on the outbreak of yellow fever in Oye-Obi Local Government Area.
3. Motion on the illegal and excessive charges on customers’ accounts by banks. The Motion condemned the charges and requested that the relevant regulatory agencies investigate the charges with a view to putting an end to them.
10. Motion on the killings in Ado and Oju LGAs, requesting for an end to the crises, one-minute silence in honour of those killed and a call on NEMA to provide relief materials to those displaced.
11. Motion on the Herdsmen attack on Echori and Itakpa Communities .
12. Motion On the Urgent Need to Cushion The Devastating Effects of Rain/Windstorm Disaster on Ai-Afam Community of Owukpa District in Ogbadibo Local Government
13. Motion on the Incessant Bloody Clashes Between Bordering Communities of Benue and Ebonyi States: Urgent Need for Senate Intervention
14. Incessant Militia Attacks on Okokolo and other Communities Of Agatu Local Government Area Of Benue State: Urgent Need for Senate Intervention.
15. The Prerogative of Correctional Inmates Awaiting Trial to Vote in General Elections: Statutory, Inalienable and Non-negotiable
16. Nigerians Dumbfounded, Outraged over Pay-Tv Tariff Hikes, demand for pay-per-view Subscription Model.
I have received the following petitions from my constituents and laid on them the floor of the Senate for necessary action. They are:
1. Petition to the Senate over the refusal of PENCOM to pay Mr Gabriel Iduh part of his savings to go for surgery.
2. Petition, on behalf of Ado Local Government Council Chairman, Hon. James Oche, against the killing of Ado people and abduction of five elders from the LGA.
3. Petition on the poor handling of the case of missing ASP Akor Udeh by the Police.
4. Petition on the gruesome murder of Mr Shedrack Ochoche by the Nigerian Police.
5. Petition against the gruesome murder of Alexander Ogbu, an Idoma Journalist based in Abuja.
My dear constituents, I have continued to commit myself to ensuring that I provide very purposeful representation to our people. I am very much aware of the confidence repose in me and therefore make myself available to celebrate and mourn with them at given times. The economic situation all over the world has made certain things difficult but I have not reneged on my promise to do my best to put smile on the faces of our people, within the limits of my resources and opportunities.
Further to the above, I have also put very effective pressure on the Minister of Works and the relevant Committees of the Nigerian Senate, and the work on the Loko/Oweto road has continued and nearing completion each passing day. You would recall that the Loko/Oweto road was a legacy constituency project attracted to Idoma land by His Excellency, Distinguished Senator David Alechenu Mark, GCON, as President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The road has cut down the journey from Abuja to Otukpo, by half. The driving time will further reduce as the road is completed.
As God gives us the grace to return to the Senate in 2023, I will make spirited efforts towards the completion of the Otobi Dam, which when completed, will provide portable water for use, irrigation for farmers and a good source of hydro electric power generation in Idoma land.
In addition to the success recorded with regards to the Loko/Oweto Bridge and road, academic activities have fully commenced at the University of Health Sciences, Otukpo with the foundation of the permanent site already laid. The university is doing well and growing within leaps and bounds, through the efforts of the management team led by our brother, Professor Innocent Ujah, as Vice Chancellor.
Let me add that with the commitment and efforts of our beloved brother, Architect Sunday Echono, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, and presently the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trustfund, we presently have a Federal College of Education sited in Odugbo, Apa LGA, Benue State, which college has taken off with Professor Joe Eriba, as Provost.
As I noted at the New York Convention in 2019, the security of the entire Benue South Senatorial District is of utmost concern to me. The activities of men of the underworld reached a feverish level with the gruesome killing of one of our beloved brothers, Chris Echobu Adah, in December, 2021. This was in addition to several security breaches that we had experienced in Benue South. In response to that ugly development, I made efforts towards the deployment of soldiers and a team of police men from the Inspector General’s Response Team, who are presently working in Idoma land to ensure that we overcome the security challenges that have become a perennial problem in Nigeria.
As I have always noted, security is the business of everybody. We are all responsible for the security of our society as much as the government. For instance, in every community, the people who live in it can easily point out to you those with questionable characters that are behind security breaches in such community. This is why I believe in community policing and local intelligence gathering as key security model in a society like ours. It is in synergy with the Idoma communities that security agencies will be able to address the growing security challenges in our land.
Furthermore, in collaboration with the Benue State Government, we are making efforts to put together a formidable vigilante service that will utilize our youths, retired military, police and paramilitary officers and personnel to adequately protect lives and properties in Benue State, particularly in the wake of the growing attacks by militia herdsmen that leave scores dead each time.
On the whole, Idoma communities must beware of the kind of visitors we welcome into our communities. We must be on the alert more than ever before, particularly in welcoming strangers. Our existence as a people is badly threatened now and we must make all efforts to ensure that we vet our visitors, using available traditional mechanisms, to know their missions in our communities.
Benue South Governor
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, recall that I called at the 2019 convention in New York, for a governor of Benue State from Benue South Senatorial District. As much as it is worrisome, that the Benue South Senatorial has not produced a governor since the creation of Benue State in 1976, it has become obvious that our TIV brothers and sisters are ill-prepared now to support us in the direction of producing a governor. Truth however, is that we did not do enough to enlist the necessary support to assail our opponents. We did not engage the delegates enough to gain their confidence to vote for our candidates. There was palpable fear for the failure. And the fear of the ruling government loosing the general election to other parties which may cede their tickets to Zone C if the PDP did was real. The worry among a section of the delegates was not about who would be offended if they did not vote for a candidate of Zone C but whether the fragile relationship with the government would not be destroyed if the minority did not go along with the majority. That was the dilemma of the Idoma man at the nomination primary election.
The delegates were confronted with the choice of voting enblock for an Idoma aspirant, making a statement of intent and damning the consequences or following with the political current on ground. The rest as they say is now history. My consolation is that because the world is not coming to an end today, we still do have a chance to learn from our mistakes to chart a new course for a better outing in the future.
In furtherance of my pledge to use the instrument of legislation to achieve the rotation of Governorship position among the three Senatorial Zones in Benue State and every State of Nigeria, I have proposed The Power Rotation Bill 2022, which the Bill has gone through First Reading at the Senate. I am very sure the Bill will be expeditiously passed because it addresses the concerns of minority ethnic groups in Nigeria, at all levels of politicking. The Bill seeks to make the position of the President of Nigeria rotational among the 6 Geopolitical Zones; Governor, rotational among the Senatorial Districts in the State.
The Bill will create enabling environment for equitable development and real sense of belonging for Nigerians from all ethnic groups, particularly minority ethnic groups. It will further close the ethnic fault lines dictated by the domination of party politics by the major tribes in Nigeria.
I had promised at the 2019 Convention in New York, to sponsor Bills that will have positive impact on the socio-economic and political life of our people. One of such Bills is the Bill for an Act to create a special agricultural Free Zone harvest and processing at Ataganyi, a boundary town between Apa and Agatu agricultural produce, from across Nigeria, can be warehoused and traded, with the support of the Federal/State governments in both farm inputs and infrastructure. The Bill and others, as I noted earlier, are already before the Senate for consideration and passage into law.
Once again, my beloved brothers and sisters, I cannot thank you enough for the privilege of addressing this August Convention in August 2022.
Long live Idoma land.
Long Live Benue South.
Long Live Benue State.
Long Live Nigeria.
God bless you all.
Senator Abba Moro, DLitt., FIAMN, FCPA
Benue South Senatorial District