By: Gurgur Japheth MP
On this auspicious day in 1976, Benue was created out of a defunct Benue Plateau State by the military fiat of General Murtala Muhammed. So many dealers disguised as leaders have come and gone with the sole mission to plunder the people’s commonwealth with a few who chose to do differently by bequeathing a fortune for children yet unborn.
HE Apollos Aku
HE Moses Adasu
HE George Akume
HE Gabriel Suswam
HE Samuel Ortom
Great leaders and among them, dealers too, come and go but like barracks, Benue remains a perpetual entity whose existence is ad infinitum.
Benue State is a state in the mid-belt region of Nigeria with a population of about 4,253,641 in 2006 census which is twice more than the population of Gambia (We shall revert to it, shortly). It is inhabited predominantly by the Tiv, Idoma and Igede peoples, who speak Tiv language, Idoma, and Igede respectively. The Tiv comprise the Etulos while the Idomas comprise the Ufia’s (Utonkon) to Orokam at the west border of the state. There are other ethnic groups, including the Etulo, Abakwa, Jukun, Nyifon. With its capital at Makurdi, Benue is a rich agricultural region; some of the crops grown there are potatoes, cassava, soya bean, guinea corn, flax, yams, sesame, rice, and groundnuts, Palm Tree.
In contrast, Gambia’s 2017 total revenue and grant estimates have been projected at D14.399 billion, representing an increment of 11 percent over 2016 figure of D12.994 billion. The 2017 budget is equivalent to N115.192 in Naira. The population of Gambia is about 2,009,648, less than half of the population of Benue which stands at with at about 4,253,641 and less than Cross a River with population of about 3 344 400. The GDP of Gambia is $3.3billion (2016 est.) less than Benue which is $6.8b
Benue State is blessed with abundant mineral resources. These resources are distributed in the Local Government Areas of the state. Of these mineral resources, only Limestone at Tse-Kucha near Gboko and Kaolinite at Otukpo are being commercially exploited. Other mineral deposits include Baryte, Gypsum, Feldspar, Wolframite, Kaolinite, mineral salts and Gemstone etc.
Benue State is the nation’s acclaimed food basket because of its rich agricultural produce which include Yam, Rice, Beans, Cassava, Sweet-potato, Maize, Soybean, Sorghum, Millet, Sesame, cocoyam etc. The state accounts for over 70% of Nigeria’s Soybean production.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, engaging over 75% of the state farming population. The State also boasts of one of the longest stretches of river systems in the country with great potential for a viable fishing industry, dry season farming through irrigation and for an inland water highway.
The vegetation of the southern parts of the state is characterised by forests, which yield trees for timber and provide a suitable habitat for rare animals types and species. The state thus possesses potential for the development of viable forest and wildlife reserves.
This is a rough estimated employment percentage in the state: 75% are farmers, 10% traders, 6% civil servants, 9% private. But the 6% in Civil Service have to also belong to the percentages of trading or farming since they are not paid salaries regularly.
Benue State has the capacity to support a wide range of industries using local agricultural and mineral resources although potentials are yet to be exploited. Private initiatives in commerce and industry, particularly by indigenes, is as also on a small scale and is limited to carpentry, shoe repairs and manufacturing, small scale rice mills, leather and plastic industries, weaving, printing, catering, block making, food processing etc. Industry and commerce have been greatly retarded by the absence of capital funds, basic infrastructure and the frequent political changes.
The contrasting profligacy in Benue could be deduced from the fact that while the entire presidential election in a Gambia cost equivalence of N250million, it took Benue State Independent a Electoral Commission about N1.2billion to conduct Local Council Elections same year. In 2012, it was N3billion and what it implied is that the Commission under Dr. Tsuwa John Tor saved the state a whooping sum of N1.1billion.
While Benue State has continued to depend monolithically on oil proceeds from the Federation Allocation Account (FAAC) every 30days, without any efforts to build the local economy in the face of enormous resource, including the River Benue and its Valley prospected to be rich in petrochemical fossils but more importantly, Gambia factors majorly on tourism like Kenya and Ethiopia.
One therefore wonders what is happening to Natural Attractions in Benue State including hills and ranges such as Ikyogen, Abande, Ngokur, Mkar, Ushongo and Harga. There is a heavily wooded natural trench at Tse-Mker which is believed to be inhabited by dangerous creatures including Pythons. Gurgul is a waterfall on Katsina Ala River. The border stretch adjoining the Obudu/South Cameroon Plateau ranges features a beautiful scenery of forests, dissected hills, Dykes, dozens of fast flowing streams and incised valleys. In the Dry season, the water level in both the Benue River and Katsina-Ala River falls, giving rise to beautiful sandy river beaches and clean shallow waters. The waters are excellent for recreational boating and swimming.
At Orokam in Ogbadibo Local government areas, occurs the Enumabia Warm Spring.At Epwa-Ibilla, Andi-Ibilla, Uchenyum-Ibilla, Okochi-Uwokwu, Irachi-Uwokwu, Ette-Uda-Uwokwu, Odepa-Uwokwu, Igbegi-Ipinu-Uwokwu, Edde-Ibilla-Uwokwu, and Ohuma-Uwokwu of Oju, are springs of clean water. There are masses of unusually tall trees in the deep valleys and on the pretty steep highlands, which are all however inhabited.
In summary, 42 Years from 1976, what is Benue known for? Food poverty enamored by inability of government to pay workers and do nothing to improve the economy. Insecurity caused by ignorance and cruelty of primitive people in and out of government. Meanwhile the revenue of Benue annually is bigger than countries like Gambia, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast. While wishing Benue a happy anniversary, I state without fear of equivocation or contradiction that the earlier the dealers are forced out to enthrone leaders, the better; the time is 2019.
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