The governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir El Rufai recently appeared on a network interview with four local radio stations in the state, namely, Radio Nigeria, Kaduna Tate Media Corporation, Nagarta Radio and Freedom Radio, where he spoke on a wide range of issues affecting his state. He spoke on why some members of his party are opposed to his administration; why he sacked a senior official of his administration for awarding fictitious contracts and why he is not bothered about re-election for now.
The interview was conducted before the recent state congress of the All Progressive Congress delegate election, the outcome of which was rejected by several stakeholders in the state, including the two senators representing Kaduna North and Kaduna Central; Othman Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani respectively.
Ben Agande monitored the interview, which was conducted in Hausa and presents a transcript of it here.
During the closure of the Abuja Airport, you said you were trying to secure regular international flights from Kaduna Airport. Ethiopian Airlines has now announced its international flight schedule from Kaduna. How significant is this development for the people of Kaduna?
The Kaduna State Government invested a lot of money to make the Kaduna Airport and our roads ready to serve as alternative during the six weeks that Abuja Airport was closed. Kaduna Airport performed well during the period, and we did not want the investment to waste after the reopening of the Abuja airport. We marketed our potential to local and international airlines to consider having regular flights to and from Kaduna. Ethiopian Airlines was the only international carrier that agreed to fly from Kaduna during the Abuja airport closure. They enjoyed flying to Kaduna, and the passenger figures convinced them that Kaduna is viable. Almost half of the passengers that fly abroad from Abuja are from the North-West zone. Kaduna offers them a shorter trip. Let me thank Ethiopian Airlines for the demonstration of confidence in Kaduna.
Medview is also considering flights to Dubai and London from Kaduna. These regular flights, combined with the operations of the inland container terminal will effectively make Kaduna a port. It will certainly increase economic activities in our state. Our team has worked hard to achieve this. Gambo Hamza, the former head of KADIPA, has done a great job as the pointsman on this project.
You have been in the saddle of leadership for over two years in the state but your critics have alleged that not a single project has been commissioned. What would you point to as your achievement in these two years?
Those who say that know that they are lying. In Education, Heath, Roads, Water and Agriculture, we have done what we promised in our manifesto. As governor, I am proud that it is our commissioners that are commissioning schools, distributing textbooks for students, opening solar-powered primary health centres, completing township roads, launching the farming season and fertilizer sales, commissioning solar-powered waterworks in Lere, roads in Kagoma etc. For some projects, we just complete and release them for public use without any commissioning. For instance, we built a five-kilometre road from Rigasa train station to the airport road in a few weeks, complete with street lights. We just put the road to use without any ceremony. See the secondary schools we are renovating across the state or the Ct-scan we put in some hospitals like the Patrick Yakowa Hospital in Kafanchan. We installed more dialysis machines in Barau Dikko Hospital without any commissioning. The important thing is for the people to be able to enjoy these facilities. Ceremonies don’t matter as much.
We have nearly doubled IGR from N13bn to N23bn; raised primary school enrolment from 1.1m to 2.1m, a figure that will rise further by September when school opens for a new session .
We have a new Pension system in place. We have been praised for budget transparency. Every contract awarded that is above N10m is public knowledge because it is on our website. And we were the first state to announce receipt of the first tranche of Paris Club refunds. Those who are blinded by malice cannot see what is apparent to fair-minded people
In May, you commissioned the first phase of the Zaria water project that will serve Zaria and Sabon Gari Local Governments with potable water. However, people are complaining that residents of Zaria are yet to start seeing water flowing through their taps. What is the situation?
Thank you for this question. What we commissioned in May is the 150 million litres per day water treatment plant. That is the only component of the Zaria Water project that is solely financed by the Kaduna State Government. This has improved water supply in some areas but the installation of new water pipelines across Zaria and Sabon-Gari is continuing. The Water Corporation has also issued water connection forms for customers to fill. The water is there. It is the last mile connection into homes and businesses – that is now the priority, and that is being done.
Other aspects of Zaria Water such as reservoirs and transmission mains, which are financed by the Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank are still being implemented.
The decision by the state government to scrap some local chiefs and district heads has attracted lots of controversy. What informed the decision to prune the district heads from 390 that have been since 2001 to a mere 77?
We want our local governments to work for the people, to do projects and make life better rather than just paying salaries. Many of our local governments are carrying a heavy burden. A committee of senior civil servants that studied the matter did not see any convincing reason why districts increased from 77 to 390 after 2001. These extra districts added to the burden of local governments and gave them thousands of extra workers to pay. In addition, the proliferation also eroded the prestige of our district heads. So we decided to remove the extra burden placed on the local governments. Kano has only 44 districts, with a larger population.
Don’t forget that this government has from its first day been reducing the size of government. We reduced ministries from 19 to 14. We appointed only 15 commissioners, compared to 24 under the previous government.
We consulted the State Council of Chiefs about this. The royal fathers asked for two weeks to consider the matter, after which they wrote to express their support. All our emirates and chiefdoms have forwarded their nominees for appointments as heads of the 77 restored districts, and the government is studying the nominations.
You have been receiving high profile international guests since you came into office. The other day, you received former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair in Kaduna. This week a big delegation came from China. How is your government attracting this international attention? What is it bringing to the people of the state?
The Kaduna State Government is grateful that our development partners consider our governance agenda worthy of support. We have clear plans and clear goals, which our donors and investors consider attractive. For instance, we implemented TSA in six weeks, something that the IMF and the World Bank say is a record. So our international partners support us because they can see that we are doing something right.
Prime Minister Tony Blair came to support the work of our Results Delivery Unit, which works from the Governor’s Office, to help ours Ministries, Departments and Agencies, to deliver their mandates.
Our Chinese friends came to reciprocate the visit we made to China in May this year. During that visit, we signed agreements with Hebei Province and CCECC to work together on Agriculture, solar energy and in other areas. So our guests came from China with investors to check the opportunities that we offer, and we arranged for the private sector in Kaduna to meet them.
You have been accused of awarding contracts worth over N3billion to your family members and cronies. How will you defend this since your government preaches transparency in government?
The government conceived the drainage works towards the end of 2016 to save our roads and energise our local economy through KAPWA. Those we put in charge started well, but they derailed and committed government to potential liabilities above the KAPWA budget. They even awarded drainage works along federal roads, and in places without roads. We stopped the drainage projects in February 2017, and took disciplinary action against the acting AGM Operations of KAPWA after investigations. We have permitted intervention work in some instances to save the walls of homes close to dug drains. But the drainage work in the priority areas will be resumed and concluded after the rains. We initiated the project, and we suspended in February after noticing irregularities. We should be commended for doing that and for taking disciplinary action against one of our own.
We hear that the government is establishing a new Scholarship and Student Loan Board. How will this be different from what we have now?
What our students have been getting is bursary, not scholarship. We have introduced categories of scholarships, including merit for the brightest students, needs-based scholarship for the indigent and scholarships for those studying courses that the state government considers as a priority. We are working with a bank for students loans scheme that enable a student who does not get scholarship to still finance their education and pay back after graduation.
The government also announced new deals with Cuba to train medical doctors and for supply of drugs and vaccines. What is the detail?
Cuba has a decent record in health care and in training health professionals. Senior government officials led by our Deputy Governor have visited Cuba to negotiate a relationship. Our Executive Council has now approved that we sponsor 30 medical students every year from 2017 to 2019. We shall also be buying vaccines from Cuba and work with them to establish a drug manufacturing plant in Kaduna State.
Some members of your party, the All Progressive Congress in the state who call themselves ‘The Akida Group’ recently passed a vote of no confidence on your government. This came shortly after another group called The Kaduna Restoration Group also wrote an open letter condemning your style of governance. How do you see these political developments?
They have been trying to distract us, but they will not succeed. Those in Akida are mainly those who wanted to convert the APC in Kaduna State into their personal empire. We defeated them in internal party contests in 2014, but they refused to work with us during the campaigns despite our outreach to them. The so-called Kaduna Restoration Group are people frustrated because we sacked them after they messed up opportunities we gave them or those who think what they got is less than what they deserved or those angry that they did not get appointments. Some are angry that we did not pay them the money they demanded for bogus contracts. They have decided to gang up and be raising the issue of indigeneship against some of our senior officials. We have recently reminded them that some of them are not indigenes of Kaduna State and that having been accepted by Kaduna State they should stop trying to exclude others. One of their leaders even said I am Ebira. I did not realise that his frustration is that bad. They are practising despicable opportunism, but we remain focused on serving our people.
Your government has commenced the Residency Card Programme in the entire state. What is the rationale behind this new policy?
We need to know who lives in Kaduna State so that we can plan better how to deliver public services. If we have accurate records, we can anticipate and accommodate the doubling of the school population from 1.1m to 2.1m within two years. We are working with National Identity Management Commission on this programme. When you register, you are being enrolled on the national database. If you already have a National Identification Number, all you have to do is present a photocopy at a NIMC centre so that your data is included in the Kaduna section of the national database. Everybody who lives in Kaduna is expected to obtain a Residency Card.
You have been quoted as saying that you don’t care about re-election, that you only want to do the right thing. Can you elaborate further?
Politicians like to play cynical games. But I believe in doing what is right. Some people say we should have delayed action on such things as restructuring districts until the second term. Once people put electoral calculations ahead of principle, then they cannot deliver good governance.
Normalcy has returned to some of the local government areas that experienced violent conflicts. What is the strategy against kidnapping and communal conflicts like the recent one in Kajuru?
Every person who lives in Kaduna State has a duty to uphold peace and harmony. None of us can be wiser than Almighty God who created us with diversity of religion, ethnicity, language and so on. We can all build decent lives without having to squeeze out or destroy others. Let us value and respect each other as human beings above all else.