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The many promises about Benue moribund industries

After having spent about one-and-a-half term in office, Gabriel Suswam-led administration says it will fix the numerous Benue dead industries in the remaining two years. How workable is this?

Benue state poverty index is high according to the 2012 National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) poverty profile which depicts it as the 8th poorest state in Nigeria with unemployment rate put at 25.4 percent.
Based on this degrading status, most people have argued that the state like many others in the country, is sitting on a time bomb if nothing is done quickly to arrest the ugly trend.
Only recently, an elder statesman, Abu King Shuluwa in answer to question thrown to him by a cross section of journalists in Makurdi said that things must be put into right perspective in this country or else there will be a revolution.
“If things continue this way, there will be a revolution. If things go on like this, do you think the youth will sit and keep on watching? There are people that have graduated for over 10 years without any job, they’re roaming our streets.
“Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb. When you push somebody to the wall and there is no way they can escape, they fight back. We’re all human beings. The Arabs have no better brain than we have. Perhaps we are only tolerating but for how long can we tolerate this insecurity, this unemployment? How long can we tolerate these things?” Shuluwa queried.
The Benue State government has recently shown the desire to revive its multiple ailing industries across the 23 local government areas after years of neglect and abandonment by successive administrations.
The crippled industries which include: Otukpo Burnt Bricks, Igumale Cement Industry in Ado, Benue Brewery Industry Makurdi, Benco Roof Tiles in Guma Abisi, Tomato and Mango Juice Processing Factory at Wannune in Tarka local government area,  Mbatiav Cement Factory Gboko, Lobi Cassava Flour Limited Garagboul in Buruku and Benue Fruit Juice Industry, Katsina-Ala.
Others are Benue Plastic Factory Makurdi, Taraku Mills Limited Gwer, Coal Powered Plant Owukpa, Benfruits Nigeria Limited (Fruit Juice, formerly YUTECO Foods) Gboko, Benue Agro Millers Company (OLAM), Benue Fertilizers and Chemicals Company Limited, Benue Agricultural Development Company (ADC), Teragro Fruit Juice Factory, Benue Plastics Limited (BENKIMS) located in Makurdi local governmen. The ailing companies which are in various states of disrepair have been put up for private investment and are now at different stages of negotiation with private investors to ensure they bounce back to life.
The bid to resuscitate the ailing industrial sector of the state is aimed to create job opportunities for the teeming idle youths, some of whom have taken solace in political thuggery, prostitution and other forms of anti-social behaviours, quite unbecoming of the leaders of tomorrow.
Many citizens of the state feel the revitilisation of the moribund companies in long overdue as it would eushion  the hardships suffered by the people i n the midst of plenty.
State Commissioner of Commerce and Industry Terfa Atoza Ihinda who is shouldered with the responsibility to resurrect the affected industries disclosed at a press parley in Makurdi that the moribund government-owned companies will soon set the pace for the industrial development of the agrarian state after their revitalization.
Ihinda said the companies are to be sold under the state’s privatization scheme as he cited an instance with the prostate Taraku Mills that is now test running production following its lease to a competent investor - Growrich Nigeria Limited at the sum of N300 million.
“As for the Otukpo Burnt Bricks factory, we are still advertising it for interested investors to take over. We also have the Benco Roof Tiles that nobody has indicated interest and the Wannune Tomato and Mango factory project which we are about to complete,” the commissioner explained.
According to him, the emphasis of government at this point is to privatise the companies for smooth managerial operations since the state does not have the capability to run the companies. He said the Chinese counterparts are already on ground to restore the lost glory of the Igumale Cement industry.
“The emphasis of government as at now is to privatize state-owned industries. Where we can sell outright, we will do so. My vision in this office is to ensure that all industries work in the state at all cost since the state cannot run these enterprises. The moribund industries in the state will start working before the end of this administration,” he maintained.
The commissioner expressed optimism that unemployment rate will reduce drastically as the contractual agreements with the private partners consist of the constitutional provision to include the right percentage of local content of the workforce.
He highlighted other efforts being made by government to boost commercial activities in the state to include the completion of the international market located in Makurdi which is already at 80 percent level of construction as well as the modern market that is currently undergoing renovation.
Ihinda also said the government plans to encourage the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in every nook and cranny of the state with the collaboration of the Bank of Industry (BOI) to access revolving loans.
“BOI has agreed on the informal micro credit loan scheme with friendly conditionality. We have introduced the cooperative model to enable us partner with the bank to grant our people who are entrepreneurs a revolving loan”.
He added that the loan scheme and an entrepreneurial centre to train young people will be launched soon in the state as the state government has fulfilled its own counterpart funding promise of N744 million in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The state governor while inspecting some projects penultimate week as part of the functions to mark the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference held in Makurdi assured that all these projects and many others will become reality before the end of his administration.
“I’ll finish my projects before I leave office. I still have two solid years and three months to do all of this,” Suswam added.
Meanwhile, the electorate have kept their fingers crossed, waiting to see the governor fulfil his promises hoping that these are not the perpetual political pep talks that characterise the country’s political turf.


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