Mr. Dan Manjang is the newly appointed Commissioner for Information and Communication in Plateau State. In this interview with VICTOR GAI, he speaks on wide range of issues including his vision for the ministry, new lease of life for parastatals under the ministry and relationship with the press. Excerpts.
Congratulations on your appointment as Commissioner for Information and Commication.
What has the present government done to consolidate on the legacies of past governments?
Well, unless you go into specifics, this government has done a lot. There is no sector in the state that has not been touched by this administration. In the last dispensation, we were guided by five pronged policy thrust, but now we are guided by three pronged policy thrust. And in the five pronged policy thrust, it touched virtually on everything, peace, security and good governance. We are still harping on that, Plateau people are no strangers to what used to be the situation. We came up with the Peace Building Agency, the first of its kind in Nigeria and the Agency has done a lot in dousing tension.
Gone were the days when people sleep with their eyes open, now they sleep with their eyes closed. There was no night life in the state, but there is night life in the state now. There were spate of killings in those years, on the average 29 people were being killed every day for 90 days. We did that study and we found out that, there were bombings. Now, there is no bombing, of course we had scourge of kidnapping and armed robbery, but it is not in the dimension as it is in other states.
Good governance, promotion is ongoing. Some people were sacked from their jobs, PRTV is a good example, about 100 were relieved from their appointments, the government brought them back.
The same thing in Lands and Survey, and over 5000 people have been promoted. Everybody knows that Plateau State University was closed, but the administration reopened it, students now go for NYSC. Convocation goes on every year. By this time next year, 68 people would have come back from abroad that are doing their PHD. Courses are being accredited. Go and see the infrastructural development going on there.
If you touch agriculture, 400 tractors was contracted, Even though he hasn’t brought all, but he has brought some. If you look at fertilizers and chemicals, there is no outcry as it used to be. The fertilizer blending plant is being rebagged. The prices of fertilizers and chemicals have remained all time low, subsidized by government. In health, the Cottage Hospital in Riyom is ready, over N500 million has been injected there. It is going to be a Trauma hospital and there is a hospital in Kanke that is almost being completed. The Specialist Hospital here in Jos is being upgraded. It was operating without a law but a law has been put in place so that it can take its rightful place as a Specialist Hospital.
The Light-Jos Project if you go to many streets now, everywhere, is glowing. We have 22 roads that are ongoing in all the local governments. We have the Lalong Legacy Projects; they are either schools or hospitals and the Governor has assured that, the projects will be completed before he leaves office in 2023. Apart from payment of salaries; some people say it is not an achievement. They should go to Kogi and asked whether, payment of salary is an achievement or not.
Tourism is more like the birthright of Plateau State considering its clement weather, topography and some unique exotic crops that are being produced which you don’t find in other parts of the country, yet tourism has received the list of attention in terms of budgetary allocation. We have lots of hotels and a stadium which could have attracted international matches to Jos. So despite these potentials, why is tourism taken a back seat under this administration?
Well, as far as we are concerned, this government has taken tourism seriously, that is why we had the first Jos Carnival. We had the second one. It was a success story. Now, there is a five year development plan that is being developed for the state. The commissioners are on a retreat and tourism is on the front burner. We want to see how we can inject the requisite funds. Recently, the Governor had to pay a visit to the Jos Wildlife Park to see things for himself. After the retreat, there is a deliberate plan to look at mining. Tourism, finance, industrialization and so on. By the time we take a deliberate policy, the situation would change but I can tell you, the situation is much better than it was.
Tourism is a money spinner, we are looking at the hotels, encouraging people to build. But we can’t do this without peace. We want to gain the peace first which we have gotten. As speak now, the Jos Trade Fair is going on which is a source of income. There is also golfing that is being relegated to the background is being promoted. We want to bring back Plateau as the home of Peace and Tourism. After gaining the peace, tourism is next. We are looking at Pandam Wild Life, Wase Rock, Rakwang Rock Formation, Jos Wild Life (there are people that have never seen a tortoise before). We are trying to stock the Wildlife Park and we are happy with the new General Manager, he is doing quite a lot to make sure that place is well-stocked to attract people.
The Plateau Publishing Corporation (Publishers of THE NIGERIA STANDARD Newspaper) is an asset. Apart from playing its role in information dissemination, it is housed by a massive structure. Machines were procured by the past government which is not being utilized. What is the government doing to reposition the corporation for the benefit of the state?
I just came in and I have been told that there is an intervention by (PIPC) Plateau Investment and Properties Development Company. So, very soon, the story is going to change. That PIPC has stepped in, it gladdens the heart, we will drive PIPC to make sure that they do the needful because, an MoU has been signed and they are taking over the total overhaul of that place. I have worked in PPC so I know. I know that place has been neglected. That machine, we are looking at the components.
As I talk to you now, approval is being made. Its not only PPC, PRTVC and even the Government Printing Press. They are money spinning agencies. Let me appeal to government MDA’s that they should take those places, PPC, Government Printer, as commercial ventures. You don’t expect for adverts to be placed for you and you don’t pay. You are killing the place. Let them patronize. Why do the private ones thrive and government own don’t?
As Commissioner for Information, what is your vision for the ministry?
My vision for the Information Ministry is to make sure that we disseminate information… You know in the past, there are some of our colleagues that hear information. If they don’t want to divulge information to journalists, let them give us the statistics we would do it. We are going to galvanize them and make sure that the correct information goes.
I am here to make sure that we create a correct relationship between the press and government. We have PRTVC, we have THE NIGERIA STANDARD. We would begin from there before we go to the private ones. We have the Freedom of Information Act; I am here to give information. What I appeal is that we should comply with the professional code of ethics, it should be our guide. Try and clear all your stories. Don’t go to press with half information. It is unprofessional.