The administration of Governor Mohammed Bago of Niger State said it had in the last six months invested N20 billion in upgrading some rural roads and providing solar electrification to some far situated villages in the state.
The administration equally spent over N2 billion on clearing backlog of debt owed the National Examination Council (NECO) and West African Examination Council (WAEC) for registration of indigent students as electricity bill by the previous administration.
Gov Bago disclosed this at the End of The Year Party of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ),FCT Correspondents’ Chapel in Abuja on Saturday night.
The Governor who was the Special Guest of Honour also stated that his administration had so far employed over 1,752 workers and made some key appointments to help in realisation of his blueprint.
Bago who was recognised by the Union for his giant stride in urban renewal said the government under him discovered that most of the state’s infrastructure were decayed, said there was no way development can be attained without adequate attention paid to infrastructural upliftment.
Represented by his Principal Private Secretary, Usman Magaji, the Governor said Niger abound with untapped natural resources for investors to cash in on and urged media professionals to support the state through highlighting its comparative advantages to national and international publics.
“In the last six or seven months, it will interest you to know that our government has invested about N20 billion in upgrading some of the rural roads linking or connecting some of the rural areas to national grid, providing solar electrification to some far situated villages.
“When we came in government was owing about N750 million to NECO and about same amount to WAEC, we paid off in two months. And because we are forward looking government, we did not only pay but we created a sinking fund.
“ Since the past three, four months we will be saving in that fund N20 million monthly so that by end of the year you would have accumulated such kind of money that WAEC and NECO will need to be able to allow your indigent students sit for the examinations.
“Worthy of mention too, when we came in we discovered that the electricity we are enjoying we were also owing NEPA almost a billion Naira despite the fact that we are power state. We are hosting about four hydro power stations.
“So what we did in our government led by His Excellency Muhammad Umar Bago was to call the NEPA General Manager come, we are owing you N1 billion but we want to progress as a state, we will pay you 70% now and pay the remaining 30% in three months.
“He consented and immediately we paid N700 million into NEPA’s account and as I am talking to you now except there is a natural or unavoidable reason Niger state 60% to 70% of it is having light,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Director General,National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS),
Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman said in the realm of democracy, information remained the bedrock upon which the edifice stand, and journalists, with their pens as mighty swords, carved the path of truth through the thick forest of misinformation.
Represented by the Acting Director, Training and International Cooperation of NILDS, Joke Akinsanmi, Sulaiman commended journalists’ dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, justice, and the public interest.
“As a former Minister of National Planning and Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, I keenly understand the invaluable role that journalists play in holding our institutions accountable and ensuring the transparency that is essential for a thriving democracy.
“This is the reason why I organised capacity-building workshops for members of the Senate and House of Representatives Press Corps on multiple occasions. Some, in partnership with our German partners, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
“This year, in particular, has been a testament to the resilience of the journalistic community. In the face of challenges, journalists have remained steadfast in their commitment to truth, uncovering stories that matter and providing a voice to the voiceless.
“NILDS, in the upcoming year, will intensify advocacy, enhance capacity development, and conduct research focused on the development of legislative and democratic institutions. We remain committed until the realisation of a country that aligns with our dreams,” he stated.
Earlier ,in his welcome address, the Chairman NUJ-FCT Correspondent Chapel, Comrade Jide Oyekunle said if democracy is about good governance, transparency and accountability then freedom of expression should not be curtailed, denied, restricted or taken away.
According to him, one of the key pillars of democracy is a free and vibrant press but when journalists work under fear then there is no press freedom.
“We must not lose sight of who we are as the third estate of the realm charged with holding the government of the day accountable for its actions and inactions but I want to state here that the civic space in the country is shrinking and becoming more toxic, dangerous, and hostile thereby making it difficult for journalists to operate and carry out their statutory roles of holding the government accountable.
“At this point it is necessary to remind the Nigerian government of its legal obligation to defend and protect the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people including the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
“Today we will be recognising the Governor of Niger State, Umar Muhammad Bago on his giant strides in developmental projects particularly in the area of Green Economy and Urban Renewal Projects in the State.
“Also the Director General National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Prof Abubakar Sulaiman for his outstanding and remarkable contributions and support to the journalism profession. The Managing Director Ti’bilon Construction, Mr.Tochukwu Nnamoko will also be recognized for being supportive to the Chapel”Oyekunle stated.