We are gradually alleviating poverty in Jigawa, says Badaru
Jigawa State Governor Muhammad Badaru recently spoke to some journalists in Dutse to mark his one year in office. He outlined his achievements so far, the challenges he encountered, promising more democracy dividend for the people who he commended for their patience with his government
When we came here last year, we saw residents pushing carts in search of water. What efforts have been done to solve this perennial water shortage in the state?
Water and sanitation is another key area in our list of prioritised intervention sectors. We discovered that no maintenance had been carried out on our water facilities in three years.
The rapid water intervention scheme was, therefore, our first major infrastructure rehabilitation effort and we expended N1.9 billion, of which N636 million is recurrent, because of the motorised nature of most of our water facilities.
This intervention resulted in the replacement of 402 submersible pumps, repair of 92 overhead tanks, overhauling of 251 generators, and various civil works to provide or repair pump houses, conversion of 39 motorised schemes to solar and rehabilitation of 4,192 hand pumps.
Pipe reticulation, covering 3322 meters, was also carried out within the period and 42 new solar facilities, 510 new hand pumps and 11 boreholes put in place to bring water to the people.
Provision has been made in this year’s budget for the redesign of the Greater Dutse Water Scheme covering about 21 communities and providing water to the capital.
This people-oriented project was shelved by the previous administration. We are, however, working closely with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to collaborate on the scheme and solve the perennial issue of water supply in the state capital.
During your inauguration last year, you promised to create enabling environment for investors. Have you achieved any milestone in this respect?
I believe we have, and it was not easy. We had to go the extra mile in attracting the right kind of investment in Jigawa, because we are surrounded by states, like Kano, that have a comparative advantage, in terms of infrastructure and a ready market.
We have made giant strides in the agricultural sector with conglomerates moving in to give impetus to our goal of large-scale production.
In the last 11 months alone, we have also fast- tracked the development of solar energy with Nova Scotia Power and Pan Africa Solar taking advantage of the LARF policy to fast track land acquisition and compensation process to commence 80MW solar plant in Dutse and another 100MW divided between the Hadejia and Dutse substations.
Erisco Foods and Dangote Farms are establishing tomato paste factories covering a combined 5,500 hectares.
Additionally, following the successful opening of the Lee Group Kijawal factory in Ringim Council, the company has expressed desire to expand additional production lines and the government has decided to establish an industrial park in the same vicinity to take full advantage of the location.
The park will provide incentives and common services, including infrastructure, serviced industrial plots and warehouses, as well as ancillary business and production support, like group security, weigh bridges, etc.
Here in Dutse, we have just commissioned a granite and marble tile production factory that has the capacity to cater for both domestic and international demand for granite finished products.
By sheer dint of relentless focus on investor requirement and promotion, we were able to achieve a concept to production cycle of just six months, following my first trip to China, and today, branded “Jigawa Granite” is rolling off the production line in Kachi and making inroads into the building material market.
This is the same dedicated approach we intend to use in ensuring the gradual industrialisation of the state, notwithstanding the prevalent economic challenges, using the full complement of my office as Chief Investment Promoter, and our supporting agencies, which are being strengthened for greater service delivery.
I am a businessman turned-politician and not the other way round. More so, we are working on the moribund Maigatari EPZ. Our plan is to reorganise it to actualise the Zinder-Daura-Jigawa-Kano trade corridor to encourage seamless ECOWAS trade relations and divert trade traffic to land-locked Niger Republic through the Maigatari border.
Our promotion slogan is “Jigawa is open for business.”
You are accused of running a government that does not tolerate opposition and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members have accused you of intimidation and victimisation. How true are these accusations?
Let me first thank the people of Jigawa for their unprecedented support and encouragement over the last 12 months. I make bold to say that without their patience and understanding, the modest achievements I have outlined would not have been possible.
As soon as you win an election to executive office, your focus must shift from politics to leadership. That is my creed. We uprooted self-styled political giants last year and they are still recovering from their shocking loss, so they come up with all sorts of propaganda and innuendos.
We participated in local government elections as an opposition group and won two councils and several wards hands down, but the previous government could not come to terms with it and arrogantly refused to accept defeat, imposing caretaker committees in place of the winners.
The government amended the local government law eight times to suit whatever political purpose they wanted to achieve. But we had to harmonise all and come up with a consolidated bill, because we lost track of the numerous amendments.
I inherited elected local government structures from the opposition party and was under pressure to sack them, but I resisted. I worked with them in a politically neutral atmosphere to the extent that majority of them abandoned their party and became our allies.
How can anyone accuse me of victimisation? I think we have been fair and objective and taking some decisions that have actually not gone down well with our own supporters, but like I said, we are in leadership position and every citizen of Jigawa, irrespective of his/her political affiliation, is our responsibility and deserves our attention.
What about the accusation that you are overwhelmed by your predecessor’s achievements in infrastructure and political sagacity and you are still trying to find your feet?
It is interesting how leaders can so brazenly take their people for granted. I read an interview where I was called a “political illiterate” simply because I chose to put people first. Can you imagine someone whose completion of secondary school became the subject of litigation, who has never been within the hallowed walls of a university lecture room, using illiterate to describe a chartered accountant?
As for infrastructure, it should be evident to all, but themselves, that the only motive for some of the so-called gigantic projects was the corresponding giant kickbacks that have seen many of them in the dock, and they are spending their ill-gotten wealth on lawyers’ fees.
What is the point of giant infrastructure and ego massaging white elephant projects that have no positive bearing on the livelihood of the citizen, but continue to consume scarce resources to maintain?
Does it make any sense to spend N17 billion building an airport when you could use the same amount to irrigate several thousand hectares, when the host city and its environs are facing acute water shortages, children taking lessons on bare concrete floors, when you have several unviable airports within a 200-kilometre radius?
I am yet to see a feasibility, viability or in fact any report that justifies an airport from a business perspective. The three flights per week being operated were underwritten by the state government and on many occasions come to pick up one passenger to Abuja, unless of course you factor in the governor’s comfort, as over N200 million was expended on private jet expenditure for his convenience within the period in question.
Are you suggesting that your predecessor squandered huge resources that accrued to the state in the last eight years?
Look, it is now common knowledge that billions of dollars were stolen from our commonwealth and new cases of looting coming out almost daily.
These funds stolen by callous and insensitive individuals driven by primitive greed could well have been used to support the national treasury and mitigated the kind of pressure on the naira that we are seeing today.
Significantly, this was a period of unprecedented high oil earnings, in contrast with what we have now.
Jigawa in particular got more money in that period than at any other time since its creation, but sadly profligacy, a warped sense of priorities permeated every executive decision by those in power.
Our so-called elders saw no difference between public and personal funds and grandiose big-ticket projects were given priority over human development and poverty alleviation or indeed substantial investment in education or even agriculture, a sector that engages 80 per cent of our population.
There was no attempt to save or build up any kind of reserve that could have provided a cushion similar to the scenario we had at the 2008 transition.
Even the recent shocking use of public funds to rig last year’s elections have a local equivalent here, because we also saw evidence of hundreds of millions of naira in cash being withdrawn on the eve of the elections, with no corresponding expenditure.
I don’t believe it is just an unrelated coincidence.
What is your message to your people as you enter your second year in office?
I will give them my commitment to put their interest above all others in the discharge of their mandate and promise to run an open and responsive government that is not a family affair.
I want to assure them that I will stick to people-oriented programmes, despite the ironic and insensitive mockery of our grassroots poverty alleviation programmes by a people or politicians that expect people to be flying to imaginary destinations, when the state is adjudged to be at the bottom of the national poverty table.
Our empowerment programmes are target specific and carefully structured to ensure sustainability, not some generic unimaginative tractor or equipment distribution schemes that hijacked by cronies. We are still trying to recover monies ploughed into such schemes by the last government.
Our goat empowerment scheme, which they chose to ridicule, is simply a micro-credit programme replacing conventional currency with three goats, which by their nature are maintenance free small ruminants that can multiply two folds within 12 months, after which we retrieve three offspring from the beneficiary to put back to the pool.
This goat lending or livestock-revolving scheme in other place has been successfully used to alleviate poverty in rural women by up to 73 per cent in over 23 countries. Our target is 20 women per ward or about 17,220 goats.
One set of three goats that can change the life of a rural woman is less than the cost of an air ticket from Dutse to Abuja, and I would rather do that than pay an airline for empty seats.
I must also commend their patience, because we have taken over at the worst possible period and witnessed a combination of negative and inter-linked trends from falling oil prices to currency devaluation and galloping inflation.
The fact that some unpatriotic people who have lost the chance to continue their brigandage are sabotaging our efforts is no longer in doubt.
The situation, therefore, calls for patience and understanding and we are doing everything, in conjunction with the federal government, to put all hands on deck to alleviate the plight of the people.
I equally give them glad tidings of our modest attempt at complementing the palliatives being rolled out by the federal government to cushion the prevalent difficult situation.
We have purchased 3,527 tonnes of assorted grains that will be evenly and equitably distributed on the basis of One ton or 10
100kg bags for every one of the 3,527 polling units we have in the state.
We also solicit their prayers, as Divine intervention is required to reverse the trend and put this country on the path of progress once more.