BY SAMINU IBRAHIM
DUring the immediate past administration of Governor Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi in Zamfara State, Alhaji Muhammad Muttaka Rini was a member of the state House of Assembly. However, he left the House unceremoniously mid-way and has now bounced back as commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. He told reporters why he parted ways with Shinkafi and how the problem of ghost workers was hampering development in Zamfara. Excerpts:
Recently the state government reconstituted the state council of chiefs, why was it dissolved in the first place?
You are aware of the transition from the immediate past government to the present one in office. This is a new government and there are bound to be little changes. We were in the same party with the former governor Shinkafi before he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
But now All Nigeria Peoples Party ANPP is in office hence you will expect some changes in government and that explains why His Excellency decided to dissolve all councils, boards and parastatals and reconstituted them. Again, the council of chiefs were found with flaws. Before now, the council was made up of other people, who were not Emirs as members.
Removal of district heads
The government has resolved to make the council purely first and second class emirs only and the former chairman, Emir of Anka was reinstated as the council chairman. So the Anka emirate is still chairing the council. If you look at our neighbouring states- Sokoto and Kebbi, they operate the same system. We have removed the district heads from the council of chiefs.
How do you view comments that Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima pressured the government to reinstate the Emir of Anka as chairman of the council?
It is not true. Like I said earlier, all political offices including the council of chiefs were dissolved and later reconstituted and some amendments were made. We are not bothered with anybody. We don’t have problem with Emir of Anka. He is an indigene and not only that he is also a royal father. No matter what politics they played, the emirs still remain our royal fathers. Had it been we have grudges against him, we could have replaced the emir and yet leave the title with Anka emirate. This means that whoever later emerges as emir will automatically become the chairman of the council of chief.
Could you comment on allegations that there are no developments in the local councils because of lack of funds?
You know there are laws guiding the spending of government funds. There has to be provision for you to spend money.
Our plan is that in each of the councils, we want to construct township roads and drainage at the council headquarters. Where the local government area headquarters has those facilities, we will select two villages and construct 20 kilometres of road within the council. In four of the local councils, the state government has taken Gusau and Talata Mafara and two others.
The state Attorney-General recently said ghost workers are milking the state of resources and cited example of teenagers and house wives on the local government pay roll. What efforts are you putting in place to solve the problem?
It is a true assertion; we constituted verification committee for each of the 14 local government areas. Reports from 10 local councils are ready; a lot of discoveries were made. In Zurmi council, we discovered 261 ghost workers and the council after paying salaries returned over N4million to the ministry. That means the agitations are true.
In Bakura and Maru councils, we found 312 and 426 ghost workers respectively. Bakura council gave us remittance of N1.6million after paying everybody. Now we have engaged the services of UBA to use biometric data for all local government employees, with that system we will detect under age staff.