Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has brushed aside criticism from the opposition to put 25 state-owned companies up for privatization. Ortom had earlier promised to resuscitate the companies to create employment opportunities for youths. He had lamented the sorry state of the firms, saying their collapse indicated that “the state was under an evil spell to have allowed the high level of economic decay and rot of all her industries”.
On Taraku Mills, said to have the capacity to provide over 600 job opportunities, the governor said the state government had no excuse to abandon it. He said: “The raw materials are here and when the factory starts working, farmers, our mothers, and youths will smile. I want to pay tribute to our legend, the late Governor Aper Aku, who had the foresight to establish this factory and I promise to build on his legacy. We will create the enabling environment to ensure that our industries function again.”
But yesterday, the state government announced that it had decided to follow in the footsteps of the Federal Government that “has privatized more than 80 per cent of its commercial enterprises”. The companies listed by the Secretary, Benue State Council on Privatization and Commercialization, Annune Fidelis, for divestment include Taraku Mills Limited, Benue Burnt Bricks Limited, Otukpo, Agricultural Development Corporation Limited (ADC), Fertilizer Blending Plant, Ikwe Wildlife Park at Igbor, JS Tarka Foundation Makurdi, Benue Links Limited and Makurdi International Hotel. The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) attacked Ortom over the privatization plans. Spokesman for the APC, James Ornguga, said: “The administration of Ortom has built no single company and is selling all that we have. May history be kind to this government”
However, Ortom said nothing would stop him from privatising the companies, saying the move would benefit the existing ones. He said: “You have seen what is happening in Nigeria, the (Federal) Government has privatized more than 80 per cent of its commercial enterprises and so why should Benue’s case be different? “I am not going to stop it because commercialization and privatization of the industries will help rejuvenate the existing industries that we have. “Today, the Plastic Industry is working; today the Fertilizer Blending Plant is working and providing employment opportunities for a lot of our people.
“If Taraku Mills, Otukpo Burnt Bricks, Benco Roof Tiles, ADC and several other government enterprises are commercialised and privatized, they will definitely recruit more of our people to work. “So I am not going to be intimidated by anyone, I am even ready to give out those enterprises as long as they meet the requirements of the law on Privatization Council, even free, I am ready to give because what is important is how we can get our children employed in those enterprises. So it doesn’t matter, whatever the opposition and whatever those who hate me say about me, by the grace of God I am not going to relent.”