Most of the three million Almajiris in Kano are foreigners’

By BEN AGANDE

When  Dr  AbdullahiUmar Ganduje took over from Alhaji Ibrahim Kwankwaso as  governor of Kano  State, many observers waited with bated breath to see how he would improve on what he met, especially in the area of infrastructural development where it was believed Kwankwaso set a  high standard.

But almost two years into his tenure, Ganduje has demonstrated that his experience  of being in the corridor of power was not in a waste. Apart from completing or going on with some of the projects that the Kwankwaso administration had initiated, the governor has embarked on massive infrastructural development that makes one question his source of resources to embark on such projects at a time that some of his colleague governors can barely pay workers’ salaries. In the interview, he speaks on issues concerning his administration and of national importance.

Can you tell us how you have been able to fund the several  projects that you have embarked on at this time that many of your colleagues are unable to pay workers’ salaries?

We boosted our internally generated revenue by removing all the civil servants in our revenue collection and sending them back to the head of the civil service and then employed the best practices in modern revenue collection. We instituted a recruitment outfit which invited anybody interested to work to apply. After completing the recruitment which was transparent, we made the outfit independent. What we pay them is a certain percentage of whatever they collect. That is the beginning of the story.

Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje

Secondly, sometimes it is not only the quantum of money that you have, of course the quantum of money is important, but blocking leakages is also important. For instance, you could use N10million to do a project if you do things as usual but you could also use N7million to do that same project if it is not business as usual.

So by blocking leakages, reducing the cost of governance, being transparent in the award of contracts, then having knowledge of the implementation of projects with time line and having auditors and due process being strong in the system have all combined to make us achieve what we have done so far.

The revenue board is still young but we are expanding. We study other governments that we believe are superior in terms of revenue collection like Lagos. Last week, we employed 765 graduates in different fields to assist in the collection of revenue.

We are so conscious of our expenditure projection. This is a government of continuity because I was part of the previous government; it is a government of consolidation, consolidation meaning those important projects that were not completed would be completed. I have even gone further beyond that to complete those abandoned 10years back by other administrations.

When I was campaigning, I said my government will    fine-tune    some policies because of the economic situation.    While we are continuing with the completion of  projects initiated by previous governments, we also introduced new programmes and new projects. All these require lot of expenditure and the money coming from Abuja is not enough to do all these projects unless we look inward.

Your party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, seems to be losing grip on governance given what is happening in the National Assembly. Are you not afraid that the APC might lose it come 2019.

The APC is a party formed  by different parties consolidating into one party and it takes time for such a party to stabilise.

Another aspect is that democracy is growing and some of the disagreements you see are part of democracy because the executive has to swallow the bitter pills sometimes.    The legislature sometimes has to withstand the pressures from the executive and, at the end of it, there will be a solution. It is even better than when everything is quiet or smooth. It will look like things are staged-managed.

Politics is one thing that is unpredictable. Less than 24months before the coming of this administration, I am sure if we invite you to come to Kano, you will not because of the insecurity issue. At that time, churches, mosques, filling stations, motor parks were being bombed. People were attacked and slaughtered on the highways and  some local governments in Yobe and Borno states were in the hands of insurgents, but now it is a different story. People have forgotten about these problems plaguing everybody and were trying to penetrate into the southern part of the country. But  when it comes to election, it will be a different issue. So don’t mind all these comments here and there. These are the interplays of politics.

Your party is being alleged to be under-funded at the National Secretariat. What is responsible?

It is part of the change mantra. People were used to getting cheap money; some struggled to be party officials in order to make money but President Buhari is not like that.    If the party has programmes on the ground, the governors have no problem to see how the party can be funded. But the issue of taking government money to fund the party does not  arise now, it is the challenge of all political parties;    we have to look inwards. And here in Kano we have deviced a system of funding the party by tasking political office holders to pay some fraction of their salaries  and allowances to fund the party. We will not allow the party to crumble but, at the same time, we will not allow the party to flourish to the extent that it will now be business as usual and corruption becomes attractive. We will bail out when we have seen  concrete and realistic things that would be executed.

In fact, a political party as an institution is supposed to be creating avenues to fund itself but because we are used to bringing money from government to nourish political parties,    that is why our perception is still like that. But a political party has to think of ways to invest, to do something that would make it sustainable.

The issue of security is very important for sustainable development. Kano at a time was  unsafe for residents and visitors. What did you do and what are you doing to sustain the current peaceful atmosphere in the state?

We have to thank Mr President for destroying the nucleus of insurgency because if the nucleus still exists, then of course you will find out that there will always be a supply of the elements  of insecurity. The main thing here is that the origin has been destroyed to some extent; so the backslash that we used to have here is no longer there. We work with the security agencies and the communities especially in terms of security information. A lot of arrests are being made everyday.

After dealing with the Boko Haram menace, the next thing was cattle rustling. That one too we had to battle with it because that one too was affecting our local economy where the herdsmen were losing thousands of cattle to  rustlers  who come with guns and take away their cattle. We had to get the security agencies involved and we even had to penetrate the herdsmen themselves because we discovered that most of the cattle rustling originated from them.

We have forests in the state which was a safe haven for the rustlers. We have handed it over to the military to convert it to a training ground. We intend to settle our nomadic Fulanis and we have identified five forest areas within Kano and we are already mapping them. We will resettle them so that they don’t move from one place to another. That is part of keeping the security intact.

We have constructed security dormitories along the major roads in Kano and each security dormitory contains about 40 security members; they sleep there  and  check all the vehicles  coming into Kano. They have  communication gadgets and that is what is helping us a lot in terms of security in Kano. You will not see them but they are there. We are doing a lot to ensure that we maintain security in our state.

What are you doing to make sure that you are not ripped-off  from the PPP that you are involving the state in?

We have two major programmes: the first one is at the old market, the textile market. The PPP there is that because it is in the heart of the city, the land there is very expensive. So we designed the market and allocated some parcels of lands within the market and resettled some of the petty traders. What we requested from the developer is infrastructure to be put in the market. We are not committing our money to that and yet we are able to get all the roads to be constructed, and the petty traders too are accommodated by the private developers. It is a win-win situation. We will get the best for the state.    What is important is that without government spending money, we will get world class facility and then revenue for the state.    If we didn’t have the foresight to engage private developers, things will remain the same.

The other private public partnership project is the Kano Economic City. Our responsibility as a government is to pay compensation.    We resettled some villages in that area and we will provide certificates of occupancy.    That is our own contribution to the development and some of the assets will belong to the state government but the management of the whole place will be between the developers and the state government and most importantly avenue for taxation is being created at no cost. In the long run, whatever you see there is taxable.

I learnt that you inherited a very huge debt profile. With all the projects going on, are you not adding to the debt that is already on ground?

Right from when we took over, we said debt by previous governments is not a crime, so we are paying gradually and completing the abandoned projects and we have completed a lot of them.

The hydro electricity power project was started by the immediate past  government and we continued with it; the longest flyover in the northern part of the country was started by the  administration and we have continued with the  project.    We will complete all projects and pay the debts.

What are you doing in the area of education?

When you have a population like our own, it  could be an asset or a liability and the only factor that can determine which way you go is education but government alone cannot do it.    People have to be committed; people have to contribute towards the development of education. We established  what we call education promotion committees in all the 44 local governments areas of the state. We gave them initial sum of 10million Naira each and we requested them to  scout for additional funding within their communities; some will provide the ideas, some will provide the labour, some will provide the materials.

In the past, when the roof of a school in the village gets blown off, some of the villagers will scramble about who will take away the roofing sheets instead of taking it back. but with the community participating, they provide free services, some will bring sand from the river, some will bring water and, before you know it, a big work has been done.

We discovered that more than half of our teachers were not qualified to teach according to the new education policy. So instead of sending away the unqualified teachers and creating unemployment, we decided to sponsor them for further education where they need to develop.  Gradually we shall be able to make our teachers competent.

We also pay our counterpart funding to the Federal Government. Recently we paid N1billion and we are expecting N2billion from the Federal Government which will soon come and the whole of that money will be put into education.

What is your government doing about the issue of begging by children who ought to be in school?

We undertook a survey of the Almajiri issue.    We have well more than three million Almajiris in Kano State but, from our investigation, most of the Almajiris are not indigenes of Kano State.    Some are from Niger, some are from Chad and some are from other states especially from the North-West and the North-East.

We are taking two steps. One is taking an element of integration, since we don’t have enough money to provide infrastructure for them, we don’t have money to employ teachers because the out-of-school children are almost equal to those who are in classroom.

So what we have done is to introduce some core subjects into the Almajiri schools which are Quranic schools.    We introduced mathematics, English and social studies in  some of the Almajiri schools.

Another part is to convince our counterparts, governors of neighbouring states, to have a common law preventing the migration of school age children. We don’t have a law that prevents any child from coming into Kano. We used to have an outfit that takes any child that comes into Kano as an Almajiri to where they came from, but they will find a way of coming back. A permanent solution is for the states, especially neighbouring states, to have laws preventing the migration of school age children. That is the step we are taking.

Closely related is agriculture; we heard that Kano is doing very well in wheat and rice production.    With what we have on ground, can Kano feed Nigeria?

When we came in, we tried to identify the real farmers; we eliminated the issue of middlemen in agriculture and regulated subsidy because subsidy destroys whatever you want to do. After identifying the real farmers, we encouraged them to form cooperatives so that they can deal directly with government.

We    identified those who are producing wheat and then discussed with them the problem of improved seeds, the problem of mechanization, the problem of pricing. If you sit with the farmers, you can hear their stories and you can see where you can come in and you can see where they will come in and that is how we are succeeding. I think we are the largest producers of wheat in this country.

We are lucky that we have infrastructure, irrigation system built by the first governor of Kano State, a man with foresight, who constructed major dams in the state and that is what is giving us an advantage.

And to add to that, we also provide some level of mechanization.    Our farmers plant throughout the year and not only during the raining season. If you go, you will see thousands of women and men in the farms that don’t even come to the city at all because they have something doing.

Another thing is consistent policy in agriculture because if you allow the importation of all sorts of things into the country, farm produce will be cheap and farmers will not be able to compete. When I hear people complain that rice is expensive, I just sit back and laugh because the local farmers are happy. But somebody who is used to cheap foodstuff not minding how it affects the economy of the country will complain.

In the beginning,    it was a big problem but eventually when people went back to the farms and    started producing,    the prices started going down. Gradually it will stabilize, it will become our culture to become normal; we produce, we eat and then we export instead of we import, we eat. Those countries that are selling food to us are subsidizing; how much you buy it now is not the actual cost, it is less than the production cost so that their farmers can export. We are very serious about rice, tomatoes and other commercial crops production and we are creating the enabling environment for our farmers to thrive.

Our fertilizer plant,  established by the late Abubakar Rimi, was abandoned for over 30years. We spent over N1billion on it and it is now working. I am sure right now if you go there, they are working there day and night producing fertilizer. Last year we produced fertilizers for some states. I can remember Kebbi  bought over 200 trucks and the company made over N500million in profit  and they are installing a new line. Kano  can feed the nation gradually but not immediately.

 

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