How I’ll pay N30,000 new minimum wage ― Ortom

Says over 400 arrested for anti-grazing law violations

GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom on Monday outlined ways to enable the state to pay the new National Minimum Wage of N30,000, saying that working with other states governor, Benue must exploit additional sources or revenue generation.

Speaking to State House correspondents in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, he said his administration would block leakages to make more funds available.

He noted that if he had his way, his government would pay more than the approved N30,000 minimum wage given the present state of the nation’s economy.

The governor said: “The plan is to look inward and see how we can generate more funds, improve on our internally generated revenue (IGR), block some leakages and see how we can cut down the cost of governance and see where that will take us.

“One thing is that I believe in dialogue and I am very transparent with my finances, they are for everyone to see.

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“I have been very cordial with workers in Benue State. For me, if I have my way they should even earn more than N30,000 if the resources are there, they deserve it, we go to the same market and so we know the cost of living and other things are involved. The challenge is whether the resources will be there.

“I believe that we will look for ways and I believe it is not only Benue State. There are about 17 states all together maybe at governors forum, there will be a way to get out of it.”

Governor Ortom, who said he was at the presidential villa to brief the President on the security situation in Benue state, noted that over 400 persons have so far been arrested for anti-open grazing law violation in the State.

He said 50 of them have been convicted.

According to him, “On herdsmen and farmers, the place (Benue) is relatively peaceful. The law is being implemented and we have arrested 400 people irrespective of their ethnic background, whether Fulani, Igbos, Yoruba, Tiv, Idoma and we have convicted 50 people for contravening various offences and we have seized more than 2,000 cattle.

But we have ensured no one has molested any cattle, nor killing any cattle. Once your cattle is seized for open grazing by the livestock guards, within seven years, when your cattle are quarantined if you don’t come to pay fines and redeem your cattle we auction them.

“So far, everyone that we have arrested, people have come to redeemed and so we have not had any cause to auction any cattle.

“The law is still in force in Benue State and we are implementing it.

“Everyone is free to establish (cattle) ranch. We are not targeting any individual or group. Anyone who wants to do cattle business should come to Benue and ranch. That, we have land for it, but for open grazing, we have no land.”

The governor affirmed that even though the state has remained generally peaceful, a certain fugitive named “Gana,” who he said were trained by Boko Haram has continued to perpetrate criminal activities in some parts.

Ortom added: “He is the one instrumental to the kidnappings happening between Benue and Taraba State, all forms of criminality – armed robbery, assassinations and so on.

“The communities too have given up because as at today, the three local governments of Katsina-Ala, Logo and Bukun are not safe. No educational activities, farming, commercial activities are going on; the Igbos that are major traders have vacated.

“With operation “Wild Stroke,” we are going to move against them and we believe we will be able to surmount them.”