My Dear Kogites,
I am overjoyed to see 2021, along with every Kogite and every Nigerian, at home and in the Diaspora, who has been equally privileged by the Almighty. We are grateful to God for the blessing of crossing from one year into another.
We are all winners, just for surviving 2020. As a state, Kogi has many reasons to be thankful. As individuals, we all have many reasons to thank God. Last year was the year that demonstrated to humanity in no uncertain terms just how precarious our grip on planet earth is.
I mourn with all those who lost people in 2020. The death of my beloved mother, Hajia Hauwa’u Oziohu Bello on Sunday, March 15, 2020 makes me kin to everyone who lost a loved one. Mama died at 101 years old, peacefully and surrounded by her family and loved ones, and for that I am grateful. May her soul continue to rest in peace. The pain of her passing remains fresh and is a constant reminder that many distraught families are dealing with death and loss of their own.
HRM, Dr. Michael Idakwo, Ameh Oboni II and Attah of all Igala, a beloved monarch, embarked on a grand odyssey according to the custom of his own people on which we wish him safe journey.
His Lordship, Honourable Justice Nasir Ajanah, the former Chief Judge of Kogi State is one of the prominent Kogites who passed on in 2020. May the Almighty God grant each and everyone of those we have lost eternal rest, and give us the fortitude to overcome.
2020 was a bizarre year in many aspects. One moment, life was normal, the next moment we were in critical overdrive, fighting for our very right to exist on the earth against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 or SARS-COV2.
CoviD-19 is a disease that has raised more questions than answers. How it escaped the notice of the World Health Organisation and all of mankind’s other watchdogs and safeguards for early detection is what we must unravel before we can really feel safe again.
However, beyond the disease itself, which science tells us has between 96% and 99.75% recovery rate, the biggest mystery is the franchise of often conflicting advisories and response to it released by reputable institutions. There seems to be a design to subordinate more dangerous socioeconomic and geopolitical consequences to covid-induced panic.
The result is that more people have died from economic collapse, natural disasters and social upheavals while the world shelves every other pursuit to focus on a massive drive to give everyone on the globe vaccines that are anything but precise science at the moment.
Like everything associated with Covid-19, no one is exempt from the toxic fallout of the pandemic. Between January and March of 2020 Covid-19 moved from a strictly health menace to a major global economic, security and human welfare threat.
Nigeria, alongside much of the world, fell into recession and after months of severe lockdown, restive citizens went on rampage after hijack of the #EndSARS protests and several major cities were practically burnt down. The violence was universally characterised by a scramble for food palliatives and the looting of essential commodities or anything that could be resold for money.
Dear Kogites, as you are already aware, we took a different, less popular, path in our state. We avoided total lockdowns in favour of guided restrictions relating to health. This enabled us to put a human face to our response in order to ensure that disruptions to your lives and livelihoods are reduced to the barest minimum.
As before, we remain determined as a Government not to respond to the highly controversial second wave with mass hysteria. While reiterating that our primary objective is keeping Kogi State coronavirus-free as it is at today, we will continue to respond to developments with reason informed by knowledge.
Of course, it would be irresponsible as a government to allow Covid-19 be the sole definer of our 2020. In fact, in many aspects it proved to be an opportunity for us in many sectors.
In the education sector, despite the challenge of Federal Government mandated shutdown of academic institutions, we worked hard to make sure that students of our tertiary institutions make as much progress as they can within the windows available. We are looking forward to graduating a set of students early this year.
This is why we are currently studying new restrictions from Abuja over the purported Second Wave and considering all our options. This also relates to the formal opening of the Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH) which we founded last month to beef our capacity to produce and scale both manpower and investments in STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines, especially Infotech and Artificial Intelligence.
In the area of health, we have been able to maintain normal services in all our hospitals while advanced steps have been taken to reopen the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja which was closed following community unrest. We are currently in advanced construction of a 600-bed Reference Hospital at Okene, and two General Hospitals – one at Ajaokuta and the other at Gegu-Beki.
In infrastructure and utilities we have continued to ensure that Lokoja enjoys uninterrupted water supply from the public mains while working to expand our rapidly increasing network of intra-state, township and rural road by hundreds of kilometres. This is exclusive of the roads done in our first term.
With the return of expatriates who left per the CoviD-19 guidelines such roads as the Idah-Ajaka-Umomi-Ejule to Ayingba roads are now fully reactivated. Okene township roads are ongoing. Feasibility and design work for Kabba township roads have been completed, the contractor has mobilised and work will start this January.
The 18km Achara road in Koton Karfe was constructed to strengthen the security architecture of the state. It joins other reconstructed rural and farm center roads in food basket localities like Mopa Amuro and environs to enhance access to and evacuation of farm produce.
Project Light Up Kogi East (PLUKE) continues to march forward with armoured cabling across the Itobe Bridge upgraded from 90mm2 with a capacity of 14 megawatts to 300mm2 with a capacity of 45 megawatts with massive installation or rehabilitation of distribution lines across the 9 Local Government Areas in Kogi East. We have also extended the distribution lines with additional 24 units of 300KVA Transformers.
We are reactivating moribund streetlighting in several places within the Lokoja metropolis and other towns to improve night economy and overall residency experience. We are renovating Ganaja road again while expecting the Federal Government to fully assume its responsibility.
Contract for the Ganaja flyover will commence in the first quarter of 2021. Marking of structures to be affected for compensation is already completed. The original designs are being expanded to include a comprehensive overhaul of Lokoja Township roads.
Kogi Hotels have been earmarked for completion and operations while site work is ongoing for construction of more residences under the social housing scheme in partnership with the Federal Government.
We have made serious progress in deepening our Public Service and Pension Reforms after the Staff Screening and Verification Exercise of our first term. Salaries of state workers are paid in full and on time. Local Government staff salaries are also paid on time subject to the financial options available to each LGA.
We successfully installed and presented Staff of Office to several Traditional Rulers across the State. By respecting the customs and traditions of each locality, we were able to achieve this without the usual rancour or fighting.
The Kogi State Local Government Council Elections 2020 held on December 12, 2020 and were rated the most peaceful, free and fair by far in the history of Kogi State.
We have since inaugurated the elected Local Government Chairmen and Councillors across the State. Worthy of note is that women emerged deputy chairmen in all the 21 LGAs by our deliberate design. The speakers of the 21 LGAs legislatures are also women. This further cements our sterling credentials as champions of affirmative action in Nigeria.
In 2020, we continued to forge ahead with our New Direction Agricultural Revolution for Food Security through the purchase of 100 Massey Ferguson (MF) Tractors with complete implements and spare parts. They were distributed to the 21 Local Government Areas to further beef up the farming activities.
What is also worthy of note is that we are doing all of this with full transparency and accountability. Kogi State scored 100% in the 2019 Annual Performance Assessment (APA) of Nigerian states under the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS), a $750m competitive programme of the Federal Government through which states are rated and rewarded for meeting any or all indicators for improved Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability.
In the area of security, our administration continues to be a shining light. We have been held up as examples for other to emulate by sundry security agencies, including recently by the Nigerian Army Special Forces Battalion.
Last year we took the battle to kidnappers, armed robbers and other violent criminals and made Kogi State unsafe in a big way for them. Scores were leading to the death and arrest of many of them in gun battles with the Police and other law enforcement.
We took out a camp community of the Darrul-salam terrorist group which specialises in cross-border banditry and kidnap between Kogi and Nasarawa States. Over 180 terrorist-kidnappers were either killed or captured while hundreds of captives and family members of the terrorists were liberated or released to their state governments.
We indeed thank the Almighty God for bringing us into this Year. I welcome Kogites to a year in which I will continue to invest all the resources of the State and every political will at my disposal to ensure that Government works for the people. We intend to do even more in this New Year. All we require is your unalloyed support as usual, as well as your prayers and partnership.
My Dear Kogites, I wish us all a Happy and Prosperous 2021.
God bless Kogi State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Governor of Kogi State
1st January, 2021.