How my top of­fi­cials fell to cor­rup­tion war – Gan­duje

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Muideen Olaniyi

Daily Trust: You talked about the debts your gov­ern­ment in­her­ited. How far has your gov­ern­ment gone about re­pay­ment? Ab­dul­lahi Umar Gan­duje: We in­her­ited about N300 bil­lion as debt. That was what was re­ported by the tran­si­tion com­mit­tee and I knew that it might cre­ate a prob­lem. So, I ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence where I said that it was not a crime for pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion to leave a debt be­hind, be­cause you can­not get a clear-cut ex­pen­di­ture like that.

I said that the gov­ern­ment will be a gov­ern­ment of con­ti­nu­ity. We shall con­tinue pay­ing the debts and com­plet­ing the projects, which by im­pli­ca­tion will take care of pay­ing those debts. I am happy to in­form you that we are man­ag­ing that very well. We did not al­low that to pre­vent us from em­bark­ing on new projects.

I re­mem­ber that I had to pay an out­stand­ing cer­tifi­cate of over N500 mil­lion on the long­est

fly­over, be­fore the con­trac­tor agreed to come back to site.

What re­ally hap­pened in the re­ported case of un­der­age vot­ers in Kano dur­ing the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, which prompted the elec­toral body to set up an in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee?

Gan­duje: The an­swer to this should come from INEC. For the sake of clar­ity, that lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion in Kano was the most suc­cess­ful lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion ever held in the state. This is not be­cause we won all the seats, after all pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions also won all the seats. When you have a lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion where no­body was killed, no­body was hurt, no build­ing was burnt and there was a large turnout of vot­ers, we are bound to say that it was a suc­cess­ful elec­tion.

I have been around in Kano for a long time and can say in some cases lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions were not held at all be­cause of in­se­cu­rity and some lo­cal gov­ern­ment sec­re­tar­iats were burnt. I am still re­con­struct­ing some of such sec­re­tar­iats burnt dur­ing pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions. In our own case, we had a smooth one be­cause of the level of pub­lic en­light­en­ment we car­ried out.

Re­gard­ing the clip you are talk­ing about, let me say that it was to­tally hy­po­thet­i­cal. How can you see a queue of all chil­dren with no sin­gle adult? That was ar­ranged in an ar­ti­fi­cial elec­tion arena. We did not use any card reader for the elec­tion and the child was hold­ing a card reader. So, you can see that it was a photo trick. Yes, INEC set up a com­mit­tee and they came to Kano. The chair­man of our elec­toral com­mis­sion showed them our records and proved to them that the clip was taken some years back. We used our ICT ex­perts to prove that the first time that clip was posted on the in­ter­net was in 2015; you can al­ways ver­ify that.

So, I want to as­sure you that there was no un­der­age vot­ing in Kano. It was a kind of blackmail and any­body who is in doubt about the cred­i­bil­ity of the elec­tion should go to court.

Which of the past ad­min­is­tra­tion’s projects would you con­sider as eco­nom­i­cal­lyvi­able for Kano State?

Gan­duje: Of course, be­cause of the change in eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try, there are some projects that can­not be com­pleted as ear­lier planned. But we are work­ing very hard on that. There is the hous­ing project on the fringes of Kano. Those houses are very costly and there are a lot of li­a­bil­i­ties on them. Even if we sell all of the houses, the money will only be enough to pay the con­trac­tors that have not been paid. We are bat­tling to solve the prob­lem. But I can say that it has added to the in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment of the city.

The car­di­nal pro­gramme of the APC-led ad­min­is­tra­tion is the war against cor­rup­tion. What is your gov­ern­ment do­ing to stop this so­cial men­ace and is cor­rup­tion re­ally ‘fight­ing back’?

Gan­duje: Yes, cor­rup­tion is fight­ing back. It is one of the car­di­nal prin­ci­ples of our party. Mr. Pres­i­dent made it very clear dur­ing his cam­paign that he will im­prove on the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion of the coun­try, im­prove the econ­omy and fight cor­rup­tion. We have taken a cue from what he said dur­ing his cam­paign and since we came in, the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Kano has im­proved and the econ­omy is im­prov­ing. We have taken the is­sue of cor­rup­tion se­ri­ously and es­tab­lished an anti-cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion. We em­ployed some­one we call a ‘Ju­nior Magu’, who is fear­less. He is an ac­tivist who does not fear any­body and be­cause of his ac­tiv­i­ties, I lost a com­mis­sioner, some per­ma­nent sec­re­taries had to leave, and even my Ac­coun­tant-Gen­eral had to leave and is fac­ing some charges.

I gave that com­mis­sion a free hand. We are con­struct­ing anti-cor­rup­tion of­fices in all the 44 lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas and we have sent five of our of­fi­cers to the EFCC for train­ing. We

Dr Ab­dul­lahi Umar Gan­duje is the gov­er­nor of Kano State. In this in­ter­view, he spoke on the con­tro­versy trail­ing the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions in the state, the state’s debt bur­den and other is­sues. Ex­cerpts:

We are send­ing some others to ICPC for train­ing. Our law is on ground, the com­mis­sion is in­de­pen­dent and very ef­fec­tive. It goes into the civil ser­vice and even the pri­vate sec­tor and no­body is spared. So, I am happy to say that Kano has been rated as hav­ing the best anti-cor­rup­tion out­fit.

Cor­rup­tion is fight­ing back at the na­tional level and even at the state level. We have peo­ple who hide un­der the guise of pol­i­tics to at­tack the gov­ern­ment be­cause we want them to re­turn what they have taken from the gov­ern­ment. But we have to be per­sis­tent in the fight. What is im­por­tant is to re­fine the sys­tem so that those who want to loot gov­ern­ment funds will find it dif­fi­cult. The is­sue is that our in­sti­tu­tions are very weak. Un­less our in­sti­tu­tions are made strong, the anti-cor­rup­tion fight will be dif­fi­cult. I be­lieve that Mr. Pres­i­dent is do­ing a lot in that area.

Why did you in­vite herds­men to Kano State to graze, amid farmer­herder con­flicts?

Gan­duje: This is a na­tional se­cu­rity prob­lem. In Kano, we are blessed with some dams and graz­ing ar­eas. You must know that the Mid­dle Belt is blessed with graz­ing ar­eas and that is why the prob­lem is con­cen­trated in the Mid­dle Belt be­cause the cli­mate is dif­fer­ent. The cli­mate is friendly there than in the ex­treme north. We have started pro­vid­ing some fa­cil­i­ties and have iden­ti­fied five graz­ing ar­eas and we are dis­cour­ag­ing our herds­men from go­ing out­side the state. We want to use the Fal­gore For­est, es­pe­cially now that the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has im­proved. We have de­signed how to con­struct some dams. We had to start with fea­si­bil­ity study and that is what we are do­ing.

There are some rivers and dams in the for­est which we have to har­ness to pro­vide some fa­cil­i­ties for herds­men. When we launched our free vac­ci­na­tion, we vac­ci­nated over one mil­lion for free. We spon­sored the chil­dren of herds­men to go and be trained in ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion. The first qual­i­fi­ca­tion for that train­ing was that you have to be the child of a herds­man be­cause we didn’t want a sit­u­a­tion where we train you and you aban­don the trade. We sent 70 of them to Turkey for train­ing. And right now, they are prac­tic­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion. We con­structed two modern ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion cen­tre where modern an­i­mal hus­bandry is be­ing prac­ticed. It is a pro­gramme we have taken se­ri­ously and one that will be a bless­ing to Kano State if they can come. We know that our en­vi­ron­ment is not the best for herds­men, but since the Is­raelis can con­vert the desert to one of the best ir­ri­ga­tion ar­eas in the world, we can do the same in Kano.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view, you said that Kano State is tar­get­ing a point where there are rice pyra­mids. How far have you gone to re­alise this dream? Gan­duje: The orig­i­nal ground­nut pyra­mids were put up dur­ing the colo­nial pe­riod, be­cause they were con­sid­ered as raw ma­te­ri­als for colo­nial masters. They did not al­low us to have com­pa­nies that will process the ground­nut be­cause they wanted to ship the ground­nuts to their coun­tries. Talk­ing about rice pyra­mid, what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has suc­ceeded in do­ing is to re­duce the im­por­ta­tion of rice so that there will be an in­crease in the con­sump­tion of lo­cal­lypro­duced „ rice. So, we have not yet reached the stage where we will have the rice pyra­mid. What we re­quire now is to be self-suf­fi­cient and self­sus­tain­ing. We have so many rice mills now and we can­not be talk­ing about rice pyra­mid yet be­cause the in­ten­tion is to feed our­selves first and shun im­por­ta­tion.

So, we are work­ing round the clock, with the an­chor bor­row­ers’ scheme and pro­vid­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, es­pe­cially ir­ri­ga­tion and fer­til­izer at a con­trolled price. We don’t be­lieve in sub­si­diz­ing fer­til­izer. I am the first per­son that said I will not sub­si­dize fer­til­izer be­cause it en­cour­ages cor­rup­tion. You sub­si­dize fer­til­izer and the farm­ers go and sell it. They buy it for N3,000, for ex­am­ple, and sell it in the open mar­ket for N9,000, which is more prof­itable than the farm­ing. That is why we had to in­stall the fer­til­izer blend­ing plant. The com­pany has in­stalled a new line and pro­duce fer­til­izer which is sold at con­trolled price. We get profit from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in­put be­cause we get paid for any fer­til­izer we blend. So, we are cre­at­ing a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for that.

What has your ad­min­is­tra­tion done dif­fer­ently since com­ing on board? Gan­duje: When we came in, we said that our ad­min­is­tra­tion is a pro­jec­tion from the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion. That was why when we were cam­paign­ing, we said that our gov­ern­ment would be a gov­ern­ment of con­ti­nu­ity, gov­ern­ment of con­sol­i­da­tion, a gov­ern­ment of fine-tun­ing and a gov­ern­ment of new ini­tia­tives and ideas. The is­sue of con­ti­nu­ity in gover­nance is very im­por­tant and it is one of the prob­lems in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in Nige­ria, The orig­i­nal ground­nut pyra­mids were put up dur­ing the colo­nial pe­riod, be­cause they were con­sid­ered as raw ma­te­ri­als for colo­nial masters. They did not al­low us to have com­pa­nies that will process the ground­nut be­cause they wanted to ship the ground­nuts to their coun­tries where there is al­ways the urge to come up with new ini­tia­tives and leave what has been in­her­ited in the name of de­vel­op­ment so that the per­son in power will have what he can call his own pro­gramme.

So, we de­cided to take stock of all those aban­doned projects by pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions be­cause as time passes, it be­comes dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween what was left be­hind by one ad­min­is­tra­tion or the other. What­ever was started by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion was started with pub­lic funds for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple. So, it is only fair that we con­tinue and com­plete what the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion started.

For ex­am­ple, the Ibrahim Sheka­rau ad­min­is­tra­tion started two gi­gan­tic hospi­tals, but they were aban­doned at 30 per cent com­ple­tion. We took the draw­ings, fine-tuned, mod­i­fied and com­pleted them. After that, we started look­ing for the most re­cent hos­pi­tal equip­ment. I am happy to in­form you that the two hospi­tals are 100% com­pleted. Right now, our staff are be­ing trained on how to han­dle those so­phis­ti­cated equip­ment and very soon those hospi­tals will start op­er­a­tion.

It is not go­ing to be busi­ness-asusual be­cause we don’t want to run them the civil ser­vice way with a lot of bu­reau­cracy. If we al­low that, very soon most of the equip­ment will break down and the huge amount of money spent on them would go down the drain and they will not be able to pro­vide the needed ser­vices. So, we de­cided to en­act a law to en­able us run them like a pri­vate sec­tor hos­pi­tal, but in con­junc­tion with the state gov­ern­ment be­cause they are re­fer­ral hospi­tals. We are do­ing that be­cause apart from pro­vid­ing health ser­vices to the peo­ple of Kano State, it is our in­ten­tion to re­duce med­i­cal tourism.

Also, we in­her­ited a hy­dro­elec­tric­ity project. As you know, I was deputy gov­er­nor in the last ad­min­is­tra­tion. There are two hy­dro-power projects; one in Tiga and the other in Challawa Dam. I be­lieve that by July, the Tiga hy­dropower project will be com­pleted. We have also awarded con­tract to evac­u­ate the elec­tric­ity to our mega city, while work is con­tin­u­ing in the Challawa project.

There is the long­est fly­over bridge in the north, about two kilo­me­ters long, which was also aban­doned at about 30 per cent com­ple­tion. We con­tin­ued with that project and I be­lieve that be­fore the end of the year, that project will be com­pleted. It is cost­ing us about N14 bil­lion. These are some of the mega projects we are ex­e­cut­ing though there are still others.

Gov­er­nor Ab­dul­lahi Umar Gan­duje of Kano State

Gov­er­nor Gan­duje: “There was no un­der­age vot­ing in Kano State elec­tions”

Gov­er­nor Gan­duje: “Cor­rup­tion is fight­ing back at the na­tional level and even at the state level”

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