By: Valentine Adese (JP),
The political stage in Plateau State is becoming more tensed and interesting, as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, led by Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Simon Bako Lalong is no longer giving, taking or leaving to chances, any form of blackmail or any attempt to mislead the citizens of the state, especially, from a former Minister, Barr Solomon Dalung, concerning its operations, policies and spending.
You would recall that, the face-off between the former Minister and the incumbent Governor, kicked off in 2014, when the duo were aspiring to pick the governorship ticket of the APC in order to contest in the Plateau State governorship election for 2015.
Lalong won the contest and emerged as the APC governorship candidate, beating Barr Dalung with a very wide margin. Dalung kicked, but the party saw no case. Barr Lalong later won the 2015 governorship election in the state, while Barr Dalung moved his political base to Abuja and close to the seat of power.
Information then has it that, President Muhammadu Buhari made him a Minister, as a favorite friend and the role he played that led to the victory of the APC over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), without consulting any other person including, Governor Lalong. Barr Solomon Dalung became the Minister of Sports.
With the face-off in place, Dalung continued to shot his political arrows at Governor Lalong, especially, accusing him of not consulting him with any matter. His top accusation against the Lalong led administration in Plateau State was that of the visit of President Buhari to the State, when he alleged that he was not consulted to play a single role in the visit despite his position, as a Minister and from the State.
As usual, the ruling APC administration in the state fired back at Solomon, calling him a LIAR!
As it is at the moment and politically speaking, Lalong is still the incumbent Governor of Plateau State, while Barr Dalung is just a member of the APC, Plateau State chapter.
However, the citizens of Plateau State woke up recently to find that, Barr Dalong has not only condemned the achievements of the Lalong administration, but has accused the administration of collecting a loan, worth $350 MILLION DOLLARS from AfDB for Potato, among several other allegations.
In its response to Dalung, the State Government in a Press Release, signed by Hon. Dan Manjang, the State Commissioner for Information and Communication, dated, 25th September, 2020 and made available to REALITY, the Governor and his administration have further described Barr Dalung as a “SERIAL LIAR”, WHILE SHOWCASING THE ADMINISTRATION’S ACHIEVEMENTS.
READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE TEXT BELOW:
$350 MILLION DOLLARS AfDB POTATO LOAN ALLEGATION: PLATEAU GOVERNMENT REPLIES FORMER MINISTER DALUNG, CALLS HIM A SERIAL LIAR.
The attention of the Plateau State Government has been drawn to yet another round of wild and malicious allegations made by the former Minister of Youths and Sports Mr. Solomon Dalung while speaking at a webinar discussion convened by ViewPointNigeria group on Thursday 24th September 2020.
In the discussion purportedly meant to address the question “Why has Plateau lost its relevance on the national stage”, the former Minister launched series of attacks on the Rescue Administration of Governor Simon Bako Lalong and his person which cannot be left unchallenged.
This response has become expedient for two major reasons. First, to refute some of the daylight lies and misinformation that Mr. Dalung reeled out before they are swallowed by unsuspecting persons and the gullible that stand to be misled. Secondly, the organizers of this webinar had already extended an invitation to the Plateau State Commissioner for Information and Communication to be special guest at the next discussion to speak about the key achievements of the Rescue Administration scheduled for 8th October 2020.
However, with this falsehood fabricated by the former Minister to pre-empt that discussion, it will be counter-productive to allow this to sink before that date which is about two weeks away. Right thinking persons must therefore be given the true perspective today before that scheduled webinar holds. This is why a few of the issues will be addressed.
USD 350 MILLION LOAN
Mr. Dalung claimed that the Plateau State Government took a loan worth $ 350 million (N140 billion) from the African Development Bank (AfDB) payable over a 25 years period, for the development of Plateau’s potato value chain. He claimed that as a serving Minister at the time, he was a member of the Federal Executive Council and took part in that approval –but to date, no single value chain infrastructure development of potato can been or verified.
Even though it is a fact that Plateau State benefited from loan facility from the African Development Bank, it is rather sad that someone who claims to have been part of the approval of the facility does not know the amount of the loan. This has aptly put a lie to his desperate attempt to take glory for the transaction that he knows little to nothing about. It is on record that Mr. Dalung as then Minister “supposedly” representing Plateau State in the Federal Cabinet tried unsuccessfully to oppose the loan memo presented by the then Minister of Finance during the FEC Meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. Having failed in his bid, he has not rested in his fruitless effort to discredit the program ever since by fabricating lies. Does he want to drag the name of the Federal Executive Council, the highest executive decision making body in the land to disrepute?
Contrary to the bogus and imaginary figures quoted by the former minister, the Loan amount signed between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Federal Ministry of Finance for the benefit of Plateau State is USD 11.2Million and not USD 350Million as claimed by Dalung. Of this loan, 70% is being committed to Infrastructure, 20% for Capacity Building and 10% for Project Management. While he painted a picture as though the money was approved and given to Plateau State Government in cash, the fact is that the disbursement of the loan to Contractors and Consultants is paid directly by the AfDB under strict guidelines that are set by the bank. This is done gradually under the terms of the agreement and not lump sum as he would want the people to believe. If he wanted to be truthful, he knows that no single kobo is managed by the State Government. This is done through the Potato Value Chain Management Project Office which is not a parastatal or agency of the State Government, but operated under the supervision of the AfDB just like Fadama project among others.
Initially, the project covered only 10 out of the 17 LGAs based on the area of coverage of completed Fadama II project in the State. However, His Excellency Governor Simon Lalong demonstrated his passion for the progress of the programme and made a case for inclusion of the 7 other LGAs to benefit from the infrastructure component of the project during the appraisal mission which was accepted by the Bank. The whole 17 LGAs are today beneficiaries of the project. In addition, the Governor mandated the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to carry out research on the possibility of growing the crop in all the Local Governments of the State. The research returned positive and today, potatoes can be grown in the entire State.
As at today, the Potato Value Chain Project has completed many projects while others are on-going. Some of the projects include:
• 9 Community Markets (Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Bokkos, Jos East, Jos North, Jos South, Mangu, Riyom, Pankshin) • 6 Community Markets have been completed and handed over to the Local Governments and Communities. • 3 Community Markets and Diffuse Light Stores are awaiting handing over • 9 Diffuse Light Stores
• 2 Processing Centres • 200km Spot Road Improvement across the 17 LGAs of the State • 17 Spring Captures and • 26 Water Harvesting Structures for expansion of Dry Season Irrigation farming in Plateau State.
Mr. Dalung further made disparaging attacks on the Rescue Administration for not achieving much in its blueprint except completing inherited and abandoned projects, having claimed to be one of those who brought the government to power. The questions to ask him are: Are the completed projects located in Plateau State or in another planet? Who are using the projects? Would he have been happier if Governor Lalong chose the path of neglecting inherited projects to start new ones just because he wants to look good in the eyes of the people? Had he chosen that route, the likes of Dalung would have been the first to wail over the Mararaban Jama’a to Secretariat Junction road which was a nightmare for motorists and commuters when Lalong took over. Despite the fact that monies were paid with little work done, he remained steadfast to completing them and also constructing new ones such as the Lowcost junction to Rantya, Rafiki-Dong, British America-Terminus road among others as well as rehabilitating over 26 city roads. He also installed street lights all over the State Capital which the former minister claims not to have noticed for reasons best known to him. There are other roads across the State as well as the Lalong Legacy Projects that are on-going, not to talk of major projects at the Plateau State University and other tertiary institutions in the State. Many primary and secondary classrooms have equally been constructed or renovated while primary health centers have been executed across the State. Could that have been the reason why even when the Dalung was serving as minister, he refused to be present when President Buhari visited Plateau State to commission projects including the tractors that he had threatened to resign if they were eventually procured?
We are aware of his antecedents as a politician who works for the opposition despite claiming to be a member of the APC (without making any impact even in his polling unit). We know what he did by campaigning against the party in 2019 despite holding the position of a minister. Little wonder he was not contemplated for reappointment when the President was selecting his cabinet for second term. We hope he would one day find time to tell the people of Plateau State and Nigerians in general what he achieved on their behalf in the four years he held sway as minister of Youths and Sports. It is to his shame and to the credit of the Lalong Rescue Administration that Plateau United won the league and is again coasting to victory without any input from him. Rather, he was antagonistic. No wonder he couldn’t give any tangible response when one of the participants at the webinar asked him about his scorecard as minister and what he attracted to the State.
Other matters raised on the governance style of Governor Simon Lalong and the journey so far by the Rescue Administration will be addressed at the next webinar by the ViewPointNigeria group for which the Government has been invited.
Commissioner for Information and Communication.
25th September 2020.