GOVERNOR Simon Lalong of Plateau State, yesterday, said he was desirous to rebuild burnt Jos market to generate enough revenue to pay the new N30,000 minimum wage.
Lalong also said the report that his administration budgeted N1.1 billion to demolish the market in 2019 appropriation was unfair and an attempt to tarnish his image.
Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the governor described the report as worrisome.
According to him, “the report is not very fair. If you understand the history of the Jos main market, you will understand the passion for rebuilding that market.
“That market was blown off years ago and has remained like that. The market was our main source of revenue and I saw it as very necessary to rebuild the main market to address challenges of the state, including that of the minimum wage.
“What somebody saw was the presentation before the budget committee and when he saw N1.1 billion, he said it is for demolition. N1.1 billion cannot be for demolition. There are four components of the demolition and reconstruction of the market. The person saw one aspect and jumped into conclusion.
“The entire process has four components. First, it has to be a special demolition and you know in special demolition, you don’t bring down the entire market.
“We have two proposals, either to bring down the entire market and start building new one or carry out the special demolition and reconstruction and the overhaul of the market. There are the technical aspect, the consultancy aspect and the contract itself.
“So, I have asked them to make everything public so that people will not jump into conclusion that we are demolishing the market. It is not everyone that can do that type of special demolition, in Nigeria it has only been done either twice or thrice.
“I had to travel to South Africa to ensure that if we are going to carry out the demolition, it must be a very special demolition. Otherwise, the next option was to bring down the entire market and start rebuilding. The sum of N1 billion can build a new market.
“The report is wrong and whoever is behind it should get the true facts and he will see that the entire N1.1 billion is not for demolition but for other aspects of the contract including technical, consultancy and the commencement of the rebuilding of that market.”
Asked if more money was going to be budgeted for the actual rebuilding of the market, the governor said: “First, we are starting with the demolition before we move to other things. Without technical drawing, you will not understand what I am saying.”
“If you have seen Jos main market, it is a choked up area and if you have to rebuild you must put security outpost there, even the parking space has to be changed.
“But, I have had to face serious opposition as regards that market because good things don’t come easy. You don’t get gold on the surface, you must dig. That is why I said, during my time I must rebuild the market. Plateau people know that whatever I say I will do, I always do it.”
Also asked how soon the market will be ready to contribute to paying the minimum wage, the governor said, “It will not take us long to rebuild the market. As for the minimum wage, when I inherited nine months salary arrears and what was left in the treasury was N95 million, I was asked if I was going to pay, I said by God’s grace.
“Each time you use that phrase “God’s grace” God will always provide. Today, I have paid all the salary arrears and in the same vein, with or without money, I will rebuild that market.”