opposition PDP kicks
BY NDAHI MARAMA, MAIDUGURI
Borno State Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum on Saturday said, his administration has within the last two years fulfilled a lot of its electioneering campaign promises, especially in the area of reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) back to their ancestral homes.
But the Chairman of the Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Alhaji Usman Mahdi Baderi in an exclusive interview with vanguard kicked against ongoing rebuilding and the resettlement process, alleging that, there is nothing to celebrate.
Zulum while addressing the people via a State Live- Broadcast said, with shared commitments and with the strong goodwill, support and prayers from all and sundry, the present administration is delivering 556 capital projects with 70% of the total already completed while 30% are at various completion levels.
His words: ” In the last two years in office, we are delivering 556 capital projects with 70% of the total already completed while 30% are at various completion levels.
“Our projects, done with your support, include 194 capital projects on education, which encompass rehabilitation, completion and fresh construction of Mega-size government technical colleges and primary schools in different communities.
“We have 63 capital projects on governance, and another 63 capital projects on roads, transport, rural and urban development. 59 capital projects are being delivered on water and environment; while on health, we are delivering 58 capital projects that include establishment of 74 primary healthcare centres across local government areas, rehabilitation of 8 General and specialist hospitals in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC), Biu, Damboa, Monguno and Magumeri.
“We have undertaken 53 capital projects on Reconstruction Rehabilitation and Resettlement which involve estates combining over 6,000 resettlement houses for IDPs and Refugees in 15 towns.
“I am happy to once again, acknowledge, that His Excellency, Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has since approved 10,000 resettlement houses in Borno State. I am also happy to note substantial number of these houses have been completed with more ongoing.
“There are 28 capital projects on Jobs creation, Youths Empowerment and Humanitarian support which include an all-inclusive vocational training centre with 14 workshops for capacity development of 1,500 persons per annum.
“Although, in these two years, we have together, witnessed continued turbulence even though in the midst of shared hope, optimism, faith, resilience and communal determination to ceaselessly devote ourselves to freeing our Borno from 12 years of vicious insurgency.
“As part of that commitment, we, from our first day in office, made security our number one priority. This is in recognition of the fact that the fundamental duty of any Government is to ensure the safety of citizens to such a level that citizens themselves feel they are safe.
“My first activity as Governor of Borno State was to interface with head of the military involved in the fight against insurgents.
“In our first week in office, we interfaced with thousands of our volunteers from the civilian JTF, hunters and vigilantes, and we increased their monthly allowances, in addition to allocating to them more patrol vehicles and other logistics needed to enhance their operational roles of complementing armed forces in fighting Boko Haram.
“In our combined approach, we took aggressive steps of recruiting thousands of hunters from different parts of northern Nigeria, mobilized and deployed them to accelerate our support for the military.
“We made it a policy that in all our 27 local government areas, volunteers were strengthened with additional recruitment, surveillance vehicles and other gadgets.
“We extended tremendous support to the military, the Nigeria Police Force and other armed forces, through the allocation of vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers and other logistics. We gave far reaching support to families of fallen soldiers, other security personnel and volunteers.
“From our first week in office back in 2019, we began tour of all the 27 local government areas to identify their priority needs; and we interfaced with critical stakeholders in these local governments to select areas requiring immediate, short and long term interventions.
“Findings from these assessment visits to 27 local government areas provided the guide to the policies, programmes and capital projects we have embarked upon from our first 100 days to our first year in office. In our second year, we have, with the full participation of all stakeholders, developed, launched and adopted a 25-year development plan for Borno, with initial 10-year phase of implementation.
“We however recognized that no plan of ours could succeed when hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens, especially those displaced by insurgents, live with hunger and indignity.
“From day one, we were faced with acute humanitarian crisis particularly in northern and some parts of the central senatorial zones. As such, we made it a policy, that as Governor, I assume the role of chief humanitarian officer for different reasons. On one hand, it was our duty to deliver help to our fellow citizens that were either internally displaced or taking refuge in neighbouring countries. On the other, there was the risk that insurgents could, after making IDPs socially and economically vulnerable, also explore that vulnerability by offering food and cash incentives to recruit fighters who could even serve as their spies in communities. From records, we have experienced instances when insurgents offered as low as between 5,000 and 10,000 Naira to recruit some spies and smugglers of weapons. We therefore needed to take steps ahead by making sure we regularly visit IDPs in all parts of Borno, including remote locations, to efficiently and sufficiently deliver food, cash support, and clothing. We needed to ensure that our good citizens had the support they needed, and they were not exposed to potential attractions for the incentives of insurgents.
“For instance, we took measures to curtail and hopefully, put an end to street begging. To achieve this, we began conditional cash support to physically challenged persons while working on empowering them with means to rely on themselves through vocational skills peculiar to their individual and group conditions. We took a bolder step towards reforming the almajiri school system which we call sangaya here in Borno. Consequently, a bill to establish Sangaya and Islamiya Board was sent to the state assembly.
“Meanwhile, we have in our reforms, banned political thuggery amongst our youths across the state. We have with their full cooperation, converted the energies they used for political thuggery into productive uses that improve our environment, while we paid them monthly stipends for livelihoods. Government will soon come up with more plans to support these youths. Zulum stated.
He further said, in supervisory approach, Government made it a habit of showing up at late night, early mornings or at any odd time, to hospitals, schools, IDP camps, water service areas, ministries and other government establishments.
Continuing he said, ” I even established an office annex at the Musa Usman workers secretariat, in order to keep civil servants, particularly those at the top levels, on their toes. I made my appearance to the secretariat continually unpredictable to even my security and other personal aides.
“Our approach have steadily yielded dividends as we can see from gradual pick up of increased commitment in hospitals, schools, other government institutions and in our local government areas.
“We are undertaking other social protection interventions which cost money and yet we are amongst states that are the most constant in paying monthly salaries and pensions.
“As we may have seen in some states, downsizing is taking place in order to cope with payment of salaries and pensions of workers. In Borno State, we cannot afford mass retrenchment of workers because we know the potential social implications of such actions. While many persons may argue that workers are in fewer thousands, we recognize that these numbers have multiplying effects not only in terms of bigger number of dependents, but also on the effect of salaries and pensions in our local economy.
“Thousands of traders, both small and medium, rely on sales from the funds pumped into the local economy, for their survival.
“We therefore cannot afford a mass sack to cope with wages, rather, we are even employing more and more persons. For instance, we have in January this year, employed and trained 800 teachers, just as we employed more doctors, nurses, midwives and other support staff.
“To create more rooms for employment, we are reviving industries and putting the good ones to productivity. We are also preparing grounds for our youths to become more employable, and we do this by ceaselessly awarding scholarships to hundreds for specialized courses abroad and for all programmes across Nigeria.
“We are subsidizing access to education by paying annual scholarship to over 20,000 students in tertiary schools within and outside Borno. We even paid tuition fees for over 3,000 pioneer students of our state university, yet, we have been supporting parents and guardians by paying for Senior Secondary Certificate Examination fees for our citizens.
“Borno State is shouldering these responsibilities because we recognize that they impact on the generality of our citizens.
“However, we cannot sustain all these subsidies in primary, secondary and tertiary education, in healthcare, in consistency of salaries and pensions, and creating new jobs and giving out start up capitals to small and medium scale business persons, unless we create means of increasing our internally generated revenue through some of the tax measures we took, the blocking of leakages and the strengthening of our revenue generating establishments with bold targets.
“The Borno State Geographic Information System, BOGIS, has in less than two years of its existence generated close to one billion naira while we were only able to generate around 100 million from 2017 to end of 2019. Of course, affected citizens, in few hundreds, were happy with not paying land levies in previous years, but then, nearly one billion naira generated by BOGIS, has been used on public services that include subsidizing education and healthcare to benefit the generality of Borno people.
“We are determined to remain on the track of finding enduring peace in Borno State. We are determined to continue our massive construction of thousands of homes for the relentless and safe resettlement of displaced persons and refugees.
“We have been able to return our citizens from refugee camps in Niger and Cameroon to safe and dignified resettlement in parts of Borno State. We will continue in this regard the same way we will continue in safely resettling IDPs.” Zulum enumerated.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Borno state, Alhaji Usman Mahdi Baderi alleged that, the people of the state have nothing to celebrate the Demcracy Day and the two- year Anniversary of Governor Babagana Umara Zulum.
He insisted that, the lingering insecurity is disturbing the lives of each and everyone, due to inability of the Government to address the root cause, and nip it in the bud.
Instead, he alleged that the present administration is spending tax payers money into building of houses, schools and clinics in volatile Local Government Areas of Marte, Abadam, Kala Balge, Ngala, Damboa, Chibok, Dikwa among others, and allocates to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who now occupied these houses in fear, as they live under daily threats and attacks by insurgents.
Baderi however advised that, instead of spending monies meant for local government areas by unwarranted and unnecessary building of structures, forcing IDPs to return back to their volatile ancestral homes to occupy, it is better such hard earned monies be channelled into purchasing of weapons to security operatives, members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, and hunters to clear these communities from terrorists, make it habitable and safe for human lives and their livestock.
“We the PDP and by extension the people in Borno are deeply concerned with the programme that the State Government is doing by sinking billions of naira in rebuilding houses at our various Local government areas, and forcefully taking displaced people to their hometowns.
“Instead of channelling these huge amount of monies into security, buy sophisticated weapons to motivate our military and Civilian JTF/Hunters go and chase out insurgents from their hideouts in Sambisa forests and the Lake Chad Area, Zulum is busy using such monies for the purpose not intended.
“Another big issue we have with this present Governor is that, he do not heed to advices even from his aides, but we the opposition PDP want to re-echo our voice in form of advise for this Government to desist from such unnecessary construction of houses at volatile communities, because his predecessor, Senator Kashim Shettima did the same thing, by reconstructing houses, hospitals, schools and other public building which were hitherto destroyed, particularly in almost all the Local government areas in northern and central Borno Senatorial Districts.
“The most worrisome is that local government areas like Abadam, Marte, Guzamala, Kukawa which are located on the fringes of the lake Chad, and host of others where nobody leaves there for the past 8 years receives their monthly allocations amounting to over N100 million each, unfortunately, after payment of staff salaries, the remaining ones which was supposed to be utilized in Infrastructural developments, are been diverted into some individual pockets, leaving their IDPs, women and children in hunger and abject poverty while in camps.” Baderi alleged.