By Caleb Ayansina,Katsina
Despite diverse opinions about Governor Aminu Bello Masari administration in Katsina State, one common denominator in the views of the people is that there is relative peace in the state. And this, they agree, can bring gradual development.
However, Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, says they are yet to reach the goals he envisages, inspite of the face-lift the state is experiencing at the moment.
He said it was unfortunate that the state was among three most backward states in the country, a situation he credited to poor leadership.
Speaking at a media parley, organised to showcase his achievements, in Katsina, the governor promised to account for “the first and the last kobo” he receives from the Federal Government, including allocations and loans received on behalf of the state.
He noted that Nigeria would have collapsed if the Federal Government had not disbursed the N10 billion bailout and N500 billion Paris-London Club refund to the states in the country, adding that hough people sat at the comfort of their homes and rained insults on President Muhammadu Buhari, his ingenuity to bail out state governments was the brain behind the existence of the country today.
According to him, “Tell me, which President has ever done this to salvage the country? I want you to imagine, if this intervention was not there, this country would have collapsed because no state could pay its salaries, no state could honour its obligations
“In Katsina State, the money that we used in most of the projects was from the N10 billion (bailout fund) money we collected for infrastructure development which was given by the President. What President Buhari has done for this country, no President has ever done it.
“When we won election in 2015, state governments across the country were not paying salaries and could not pay. He came out with bailouts for those that have salary arrears to pay, and for those who have pension and gratuity arrears to pay. So, any governor who refused to pay, refused to pay not because he has not collected the money. “In Katsina State, we paid all the retirees, those who retired up to December 2014. We collected N11.86 billion and we paid over N11 billion. What we have in the account is about N22 million now. The local governments consumed most of the money, over N7 billion and the state government about N3 billion. Then we said government is not only about paying salaries.
“So, each state was given N10 billion. In our own case, we earmarked N3 billion for education; N2.5 billion for health; N2.5 billion for water supply and N2 billion for agriculture. And we have a balance of over N2 billion still, from the N10 billion and we have attained the certificate of the works we have given as they come.”
The governor explained that the decayed infrastructure he met in the education system in the state compelled his administration to earmark 20 percent of the year’s budget for education.
“We put priority on the standard of education in the state, and the primary schools will be focused to ensure solid foundation for our children.
“We met a decayed infrastructure in education and health, that is why, we earmarked 20 percent for education in the budget, since my coming into power. The only way to remain relevant is through the standard of education”, he said.
“When the white men came to Katsina in 1912, they met an educational system based on Islamic religious knowledge. That’s why when they thought of building schools, they started with Katsina. That’s why we pride ourselves that the first, second and third generation Nigerian leaders from Northern part of this country were either from Katsina or schooled here in Katsina.
“But unfortunately today, Katsina is among the last three most backward states in the area of education in the country. This is how far we have descended.”
On health, the governor said: “The 22 new hospitals are in names only, not in their functions. None of them was functioning as an hospital.”
Consequently, he said the state government had focused on the three general hospitals in the state for remodelling and the construction of some facilities.
Giving a breakdown of the work done so far, the Commissioner for Health, Maryatu Bala Usman, said more than 600 personnel had been employed in addition to the sum of N500 million spent each for the ongoing projects in the General Hospital in Katsina, Daura and Funtua.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kabiru Mustapha, noted that there was ongoing construction of Outpatient Department (OPD), Radiology, and the renovation of Accident and Emergency (A&E) wards, as part of one project, while the second project comprises the construction of mortuary and renovation of a female ward in each of the three general hospitals.
This, he disclosed, was in addition to about N780 million worth of equipments ready for installation. “The same projects in this general hospital in Katsina are being replicated in Daura and Funtua General Hospitals. Not less than N1.5b had been sunk in the three hospitals,” he disclosed.