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Saturday, June 18, 2011
"We saved 16.7bn in Katsina State without borrowing a kobo" - Katsina Gov
By KINGSLEY OMONUBI & INALEGWU SHUAIBU
Katsina state governor, Ibrahim Shema who was sworn in May 29 for a second term, in this interview with explains that the primary responsibilities of government are to provide for the general well being of the people.
He throws light on how his administration in the last four years, saved N16. 7billion and provided projects that touch the lives of the people without borrowing a kobo for four years.
How has it been governing Katsina State in the last four years?
I have always said that power belongs to God and he gives it to whoever he pleases. First of all I thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve.
Through his mercies, we have done so many things in the last four years to improve the lives of our people. In agricultural sector, education, commerce and health, we have shown that we are here to work for the people. We have put together a 250 bed hospital, the first of its kind to be built and owned by a state government. In the entire northern Nigeria , there is only one such hospital in Kano .
But now this administration has completed a 250 bed hospital. The equipment has been ready, they are on their way, they will soon be here and a 100 percent payment has been made for them. The rural mobile ambulance scheme will be monitored very well because that touches on the very lives of the rural communities.
Every ambulance goes from village to village, to attend to the needy and when there is need for referrals, the ambulances are used to carry people to medical facilities in the state. We did not leave out sporting events. We have expanded and improved most of our sporting facilities.
We are currently building a 35, 000 capacity stadium in the capital in Katsina. In infrastructure, the housing projects will continue. We have built 1, 772 houses in the last two years and this was all done from the purse of the government. We did not borrow a kobo from any bank. We have done road infrastructure.
There is huge demand for road infrastructure in the state. So far, we have built 27 road projects that are new. Eight that we met on ground that were new. Over 500 kilometers of road that were built by this administration and we are still going strong on that. And we will continue to build and build roads where we have the need for them in this state.
Tourism development was not left out. We improved the quality and the statues of the hotels which are owned by the state government to a three star hotel status. We will try to see what we can do in the transport industry, we have the state transport company that have about 50 vehicles that were there for all this years.
There has never been any change in the issue of the number and size of transport companies that we have in the country. But at the same time, we felt the need for us to expand the services to the people. We introduced different varieties of transportation mix. We introduce some township bus services that did not exist before we came in. we introduce students bus service scheme that carry students points to point, from home to school at the cost of N10 per drop.
These buses have been doing very well in three major towns of Katsina, Daura and Funtua and we have introduce car hire service, still within the state transport company and we introduce long distance bus services that goes from Katsina to Maiduguri, Katsnia to Lagos, Katsina to Onitsha, to the South-East, South-South and to the furthest points of the north.
The company has equally introduced an inter-country transportation between Niger Republic and Nigeria . So they even got an award as the best transport company in Nigeria . The programmes I have just enumerated are just some few of the things I can just remember off hand. And I can tell you that whatever I say here, we are going to make it better insha allahu. But there are some fundamental areas that we pay serious attention to.
Employment generation especially youth employment and water supply. Because of the demand we receive from the communities, water seems to be our number one priority and we provided over 2000 bole holes since the inception of this administration. We bought three brand new drilling machines from Germany , the best in the market now in the whole of Europe . And we placed one in each Senatorial district.
Education is not left out. We have made scholarship available to our boys and girls in institutions abroad. We have some that are studying environmental engineering in the Americas . We have some that are in Sudan training in Arabic computing, calligraphy and printing and we have some that are studying medicine, pharmacy and BA nursing. These are sponsored directly by the state government.
And what we do when we send a child to go and read a particular course, maybe medicine or pharmacy, we compute his entire course fee from the beginning of the course to the end of it and we pay lump some, the entire amount of his tuition, accommodation, everything, we pay the whole amount into the coffers of the university, so they pay him monthly.
His entire course is guaranteed, he does not have to come back to me for money year after year or month after month. Still on education, we have been able to pay TSS (teachers’ salary scheme) for teachers in primary and secondary schools. We have improved the salary of university lecturers to the new salary approved by the Federal Government; we have negotiated and have arrived at some figures.
We have increased the salaries of health workers, and you know all this government workers’ salary have been negotiated by the state government. We have paid about 80 percent across the board what the Federal Government has agreed to pay workers and we continue to improve on the quality of service of our civil servants by sending them on training regularly.
We have been paying our salaries as and when due. This administration has never paid salary beyond 23rd of each month in the last four years and we pay leave grants every year. In January of each year ,we give civil servants, states and local government leave grants. And indeed we closed the four-year tenure with a bonus of one month salary for every staff of government in local and state and staff in tertiary institutions as well. So every staff in Katsina state has got one month salary bonus at the end of this administration.
As far as the issue of staff development and welfare is concern, we have been consistently giving promotion to our staff at all levels. We have paid our pension and gratuities as at when due and the beautiful part of all the things I have enumerated, Katsina state never borrowed a kobo from any institution.
We do not owe any contractor. All contractual obligations are met, the only contractors that have any claim on government are those that have on- going projects and we do not pay until they reach a stage for payment. We do not owe any contractor any money. And still as I mentioned in my speech, we had N16.77 billion liquid cash in the coffers of the state government. We did invest in stock and you know the stock market has crashed and we invested in special trust funds.
During your swearing in, you talked about the American experience of opponents joining hands with government, have you reached out to your opponents after winning the election and how are you going to run this inclusive government?
Firstly, as far as I am concerned, politics should be a civilized contest between two people. Obviously in every contest, there must be winners and losers. In this respect, we won the election in Katsina state. There are elections we lost, for example in the presidential ,we got about 26.7 percent in the state and Buhari got victory here but we did not complain. We are civilized enough to understand and appreciate that you must lose some places yet PDP was lucky to have won all over Nigeria .
So, the 26 percent that we got was enough for President Jonathan as a complementary support from this state. What is however important is that politicians should learn to put this nation first before their personal interest and ambition. When we go out to campaign, what every politician tell the public is that look, if you elect me, I will do ABCD for you. I will do better things than what the present government is doing.
That is what we all tell our people. But once you are not elected, a person is seen as an enemy of the people because he will be working even against the government of the day that is trying to work for the people. That is not the correct way to do politics. People should bring all hands on deck to join governors that have won interest of the people. I cited the example of Clinton . She was the strongest opponent of Democratic Party primary elections in America and she lost the election. It was a very tough fight between them.
Everybody saw it, she easily might have won the election, but God in his wisdom gave it to Obama and when Obama emerged as a President, Hilary joined him and when the election was won, she took the position of the Secretary of state which is basically equivalent to a foreign minister here. You can imagine and she did that for the interest of the nation and her people.
But here in Nigeria , everybody who loses will go to court; bitter court fight ensues until two, three years down the line. He has not contributed anything to the development of the people, he is not helping the government of the day to operate and at the end of it all, a circle of fresh hate and anger is built and we start running around in circles. That is not good politics.
You have listed so many projects and the evidences are there. How were you able to achieve this without borrowing any kobo, yet you left so much in the state account, how were you able to achieve this?
It is possible when you have a simple approach to governance. First like in every thing you do in life, we made plans. We started by making the plans because like what Moa Se Tung said ‘To fail to plan is to plan to fail’, so we started by planning and conceptualizing what we want to do.
When I was campaigning in 2007, I was looking at the activities of government in the state and I was opportuned to be an attorney general here in the government of Yar’Adua. So, I knew quite well how they are operating. So I had a plan of what should be in place for Katsina to move gradually in terms of development. After the planning, I also observe that Nigeria is littered with so many uncompleted projects since independence.
And the problems and projects that have been put in place, some of them have been there. Some roads have been built since the 70s, nobody cares to maintain them. So I have seen them and I felt that there is the need for us to deal with the projects that have not been completed. Because when you start a project and you invest huge amount of money in it and you abandon it, the waste is colossal.
The money you put there has gone to waste. The opportunity to build and complete to allow people to use it is not there. So I felt I had to complete every project I inherited from the government before me. And I made a public statement at my first outing as a governor that I was going to complete every project from the Yar’Adua administration. And the on going projects I met were colossal. For example, the expansion of Katsina airport was just awarded shortly before we came in.
It was awarded at the end of November, mobilization was done in February, March and in April there was election and handing over. So ,I made it my business to stay on the neck of the contractors to be on the site every fortnight of every project that is on going. And that gulped up two third of the budget at that time. Now, besides using the airport for specific purposes which was the intention, we have a big burden aircraft landing in Katsina, We have introduced commercial flight which was not there before.
We handled hajj operations to convey people from Katsina to Jeddah four times for four years in a roll. After we finished that, we looked at what is the next major project. We had the university project that was just awarded. Obasanjo laid the foundation of the university when he came here on the last campaign train of President Yar’Adua, so you can imagine, the foundation was just laid. I told the contractors to sit with our government officials and give me a time line of completion.
Week by week, I want to know where the contractor will be and what the financial requirement is. So, we did a financial floor and from that we know from week A to C, they will have achieved this level, they will have required this money. So we kept the money for that purpose. In 18 months, we finished that university. We furnished it; we put equipment, laboratory equipment, computers and everything and we moved the students from the temporal site to the permanent site.
Look a the Turai Yar’Adua Child Mortality Hospital which was just awarded when we came in. We have some other projects like the expansion of Funtua road, there were water projects. We targeted 18 months completion of all the projects but we overshot the target with three months. The university gulped about N11.8 billion and the hostels were quite modest. It took about N800 million.
We had eight road projects inherited from the previous administration and were just awarded when we just started, there are so many. We have finished all those projects. How did I manage to finish all these? I have a floor. I worked out how much I was getting per month. It was about N3. 4 billion. I have a salary bill of about N1.2 billion, with overheads, it is about N1.5 billion. So I had N1.9 billion to play with. Then, I felt there is need for me is to find additional source of income.
We tried to work on the issue of revenue generation for the state. We made about N130 million monthly from internally generated revenue. So ,we try to do our best to expand it by hiring some consultants. It was not much and by and large, the revenue will always come from Vat, tax but they were able to jack it up to N250 million and then we started placement with banks as deliberate policy.
And we were asking the banks the give us the highest amount of interest rates anybody can give. From eight percent, we were able to get 14.5 percent and we negotiated. So we are making between N500 to N600 million from our deposits. And then we created another account within the commercial bank, UBA. Every bank now will give us a check at the end of every month of what is the due interest accrued to a state and we lodge it in that specific account. Within eight months, we have built about N20 billion reserves.
So we calculated all our projects that are on ground including the new ones and we said okay, how much we need to spend in a month in all the projects we are doing. In one month, we will decide that we are going to spend N1.5 billion, another month we say we are going to spend N1 billion because we know what is coming in from the federation account.
We know what we are generating internally, so our cash floor was managed between incoming fund and IGR and what reserve we have to keep. So in that order, there is no project that went out of contest. Then, our costing method equally helped. We made sure we have high professional people who will do evaluation for us for the job and we ensure reasonable profits.