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‘Katsina doesn’t enjoy special benefits despite being home to Buhari’

By Terhemba Daka
25 September 2017   |   3:45 am
If it was the other time this (Katsina) would have become a Mecca of some sort. Even I (Masari) in my small house here would have become a king. But this is not the kind of president we have.

President Muhammadu Buhari received by the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Umar Farouk and Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari.

Governor Aminu Masari recently fielded questions from State House Correspondents on the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari who was in Daura, Katsina State to mark the Eid el-fitir. Masari said Katsina does not enjoy any special benefit for being Buhari’s home state. The governor also spoke on other issues. TERHEMBA DAKA was there. Excerpts:

Your Excellency, would you say that Katsina enjoys special benefits for being the President’s home state?
No. Except your being here. You know this president is not somebody who will take projects to katsina because he is from katsina. But of course, some investing companies or some ministries. When you go and say you are from katsina, they may look at you as somebody coming from the President’s state, naturally. But for him to put a project in katsina because it is his state it won’t happen. So it is no longer business as usual that when you have a president everybody will be trooping. How many jets have you seen here since he has been here?

If it was the other time this (Katsina) would have become a Mecca of some sort. Even I (Masari) in my small house here would have become a king. But this is not the kind of president we have. These are the kind of leaders the nation needs.

But for the typical katsina man’s feeling, coming from the home state of the president? Very responsive. Is a huge responsibility because wherever you go and the moment they know you are from Katsina State people will watch what you do. The era of beating your chest, breaking the laws, doing as you like because the President is from your state is over. We tell our people to try and show good manners, yes I am from Katsina so the best I can do for the president is to do something that will show good manners. We are law abiding and very responsible because to do otherwise you are wasting your time.
Katsina will be 30 in a few days, with the way you are prudent with funds, is there any elaborate celebration in the offing?

We are going to have a very simple celebration which will not cost the tax payers so much. We will be 30 just like Akwa Ibom State but we are not doing elaborate ceremony.

What’s your opinion on the recent clamour for restructuring?
I believe in devolution of power because somebody telling you restructuring does not know what it means. I believe strongly in devolution not to the extent of weakening the central government because here we need the central government so that it can carry the nation forward to a greater height. Because a weak central government can bring the nation down. But at the same time, I do not not see the rationale of the federal government concerning itself with primary and secondary education. These are foundational education which is the responsibility of local government and states. I do not see the business of federal government in constructing boreholes, primary healthcare centers, fixing the salaries for my councilor here, fixing the same salary with Lagos. Even I as a governor I should not be earning the same thing as the governor of Lagos State. Because the revenue base is different from mine. The revenue base of Kano state is higher than mine. These are the areas we really need to look at and address. I believe in devolution my friend but for restructuring I don’t know what it means.

The National Bureau of Statistic just announced that Nigeria has exited recession, what’s the implication of the country coming?
I don’t know how to put it. You know you cannot be more taller than your bed. You heard what the president said about our coming out of recession and so I stand with him.

Many Nigerians are disappointed with your party, the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) performance in the last two years, but others are saying the party should be given another chance in 2019. What is your take?
It depends on who is saying he is disappointed, maybe the person was not in Nigeria upto 2015. But the beauty of all this is that you can only lie with your mouth, your inside knows the truth.

For restoring peace and security in this country, APC has created the atmosphere, and the environment conducive for living. Before 2015 election we were not sure if there will be Nigeria or not. And for those who knew what was then in terms of revenue that was accruing to the federal government, and what is now in terms of revenue accruing I think any reasonable person will give kudos to the APC because for navigating up to this time, the population has increased but the source of revenue has gone down.

The mouths to feed are increasing while the source of revenue is going down. When we had the opportunity to save we didn’t save, when we had opportunity to invest in areas that will bring additional revenue, we did not. Everybody in Nigeria was a living witness to this. So yes, for us to consolidate the change and to see the fruits from these heavy investments takes years, it takes time.

You know, the APC has come to provide responsible and responsive leadership which it has done and it is doing. We didn’t say we are coming here to perform magic because we are not magician. So for anybody to say APC is a huge disappointment… you know whoever was in the PDP yesterday and is in the PDP today inside him knows the truth. You can only lie with your mouth.

How vibrant is the economy of Katsina State in terms of internally generated revenue (IGR) and adding value to agriculture?
You are absolutely right. It is now we are building the infrastructure to generate internal revenue. Prior to now, the state was dependent on federal allocation because, one, if you have N10 billion from the federation account, all the salaries you pay they will pay tax, the contracts you give they will pay tax. It is now we are building the infrastructure of agriculture that will provide the revenue base.

We have hired a consultant, he has surveyed the entire state, identified the revenue points. So what we are working now is towards embarking on a lot of a lot of sensitization because this area I can say since 1979, nobody was paying tax, only those who want to get tax clearance certificate that will pay whatever the revenue office asks them to pay. But those who are suppose to pay, the commercial, the farmers there was no infrastructure on ground for them to be able to pay.

I believe whatever we have started is to know the taxable outlets, how many we are adding into our tax register and how to get it. You know when you empower farmers the money will go to the pockets of the people, you will increase their purchasing power and they will in turn pay tax. So unless you build the infrastructure you cannot generate internal revenue because like I said earlier, the entire revenue was based on the federation account.

Last year you organized an international business summit in the state that attracted global attention. The President attended the opening. How has the outcomes of that summit translated into gains for the state?
The outcome has been very encouraging. First of all, now we are working with Dangote on some agriculture projects, we are working BUA who is building a textile park, we are working with other Indian companies, we are building economic zone, we are taking advantage of this, and we are building so many power plants, those that have indicated interest we have given them land. They want to build solar power plants but the process in Abuja is taking so much time. In terms of housing we have given more than we will need to the extent that we are now even discouraging those who are building because the houses are too many. Because the houses are meant for civil servants but how many civil servants do we really have?

Those working in the local government areas are not up to 100. So, we are really encouraging all the investment more in the agriculture sector, power. We have a company who is distributing over 148,000 tractors. They came during the economic summit with 78 tractors. The government, the farmers association, the company met with a bank and reached an agreement. Now the tractors are available all you need to do is pay 20 per cent of the cost while you spread the payment gradually. And during dry season the company can come and take the tractors to work and pay you. The model we are employing is working and I believe we will see the result.

The Federal Government is fighting corruption at the center, what is the state doing to curb corruption?
What we have done is to be transparent and open. In this state at every opportunity I get, I tell them what we are getting from Abuja for the local government and for the state. Like last month (August), we got N3.6 billion I told them this is the amount for salary, this is what is going for overheads, and this is the balance, the internally generated revenue is this. The local government last month got N4.02 billion and the total salary package.

So, the money is so transparently open. In any case, there is no money to steal. The Paris Club refund we were told to pay salaries with it. We paid over N7 billion. In the state we paid over N4 billion. Another N4.8 billion we are working on January to April 2017. By December 2016 nobody is being owed salaries whether alive or dead, everybody has been paid. The first intervention of N11.086 billion out of that over N7 billion we paid to the local government areas and the rest for state civil servants up to December 2016. So, as far as salaries, arrears, gratuity is concerned we have paid all.

What particular incentive does your state have to take kids out of the streets to the classrooms?
You know states were given 10 billion each. In our own case we took 3 billion to education because our number one priority is education.

What we are doing is that we are making the schools habitable, we have been paying teachers salaries as and when due. We have promoted teachers that were not promoted in the last seven years and we provided teaching materials and aids and we told parents they have to be responsible because they are ultimately responsible for educating their children. I held a parley with all the head teachers. Of all the primary schools in the state . They told us their grievances, and their problems and we addressed some of them. We are still addressing some of the issues – including overcrowding in schools ,open schools no fencing. I was in one of the secondary schools because I am completely rehabilitating, renovating and building new structures there. In Malumfashi you will see how we were able to rehabilitate and rebuild the schools. The only incentive to parents, you know we had a lot of criticisms and now we have reintroduced mock exams . Before WAEC, NECO you will take mock exams because that was stopped here before. At least, we should have an idea of how many are we expecting to pass. But what the previous government was doing, you enroll your children, they go to schools or they don’t, nobody cares. The teachers don’t go and so at the end you pay for exams and you come on television and say we are paying for your exams, you are paying for failure, a failure that is known to you. It’s not that you don’t know, its just like taking good money and throwing it into the fire that was what the previous government was doing. We said come we are making schools habitable, teachers to sit up, come and do mock exams. Those of you who are qualified who got five credits including maths and English we will pay WAEC and NECO for you, those who are not able to make it, you will repeat, if you are not repeating we will pay for you to take NECO, but we will not pay tax payers money for nothing.

If you have a child that you don’t have to pay for examination fees, you will take interest to see he goes to school, remains in school and when he comes back, you will ask what he did in school and what we have started introducing is that we are forming association of retired teachers in each village in each local government. I was in one village where I am rehabilitating one of the schools, I met some of the pioneer students of the primary school that have retired as teachers about 10 of them. They also have now agreed to form an association that each one of them will be coming to give lecture once a week, so every week we get 10 free lectures and those of them who can do more than one because we have so many retired teachers idling in the villages and towns while the schools have no teachers. It is not that we don’t want to spend money, we want parents to be responsible. After all we finished our secondary schools in the 60s and at that time parents were paying for WAEC, government was not paying WAEC for anybody. Parents were paying in 1960 how come parents don’t want to pay in 2017 when all other thing in school is free. So you make people responsible it’s not about spending the money. We have started to see the wisdom.

Agriculture used to be the main stay of the economy in the state. How far have you gone in keying into the federal government’s agriculture initiative to attend sufficiency in food production?
You are absolutely right. When we were campaigning we told the people very clearly that all of us, anybody above 40 that was educated through the native authority system relied on agriculture and livestock. These were the main source of revenue in the native authority system. It was from there that we trained and built primary schools, dispensaries which we now call clinics including building secondary schools. The secondary school in Funtua was build by native authority, it was started by native authority and we were midway when the northern Nigerian government took over. It was done before through agriculture and it can still be done. So we put agriculture as part of our priority and that was why we allocated N2 billion to that sector.

Because you have to determine the type of soil we have, we commissioned a consultant. Someone who was a consultant with World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who happens to come from Katsina State. We pulled him out and appointed him Special Adviser on Agriculture. Then we established 34 other stations close to the local government.

Now we have done farmers data capture and it was through that we were able to during the last dry season farming, using the anchor from federal government to organize 9,000 farmers who participated in rice production. That was only for dry season. Now we are targeting that for cotton production next year, we have minimum of 60,000 farmers. Also all the money we are pumping in we are pumping into research and development including getting information because we can’t start like we use to do without information on seed, soil.

In Katsina we have three types of soils. If you go to the northern end of the state is sandy, the middle is between muddy and a type of clay. You have to consider all soil even to the point where you have to choose a tractor. For instance if you want to go to Daura you cannot take 7.5 horse power tractor, what will you be doing with that when with three or four horse power you can achieve result because the soil there is light and soft. If you go down south of the state you will need heavy tractor because the soil there is heavy. So, we have stopped doing blanket planning for the rainy season. From our resources we procure fertilizer of over 25,000 metric tons for rainy season in 2015, 2016 and this year (2017). Because of the federal government intervention we targeted about 100,000 metric tons. We were only able to get 30,000 tons and that is why this year we did not do any fertilizer ceremony. We have stopped it. We have moved to a time where anytime within the year you go to a fertilizer supply company you will get fertilizer. It should not be a ceremonial affair that we are launching fertilizer. If we have fertilizer we take it to polling units because what we have also introduced is that allocation of fertilizer is to polling units and we have over 4,000 polling units.

Every polling units has an allocation, the southern part where they need more fertilizer they have higher allocation and others where they don’t need much theirs is reduced but no ward is getting less than 109 allocation of assorted fertilizers. In the southern part we allocate 139 per per ward.

So, we also gave money to the farmers supply companies because hitherto they were not doing anything. To order for improved seeds, insecticides, herbicides and they also rehabilitate up to three irrigation projects. We built new canals, we invited contractors who bidded and won and we gave them money one at Malam Fashe, Dagura, which is an old irrigation dam that was built during the northern Nigerian government. Previous government attempted to spend money doing this and that and in the end money didn’t work because it was not applied the way it should. This time around we have the bidding, we have the contractors and they are doing a good job.

We have taken agriculture as our second priority because we believe with that we can sustain the state. The native authority of yesteryears was a province made up of Katsina and Daura Emirate. Before you have equal empowerment you must have a minimum of two Emirate and so it was Katsina and Daura that formed the Katsina province, so is the same province that is Katsina state today.

So I think if we go back to our history definitely if we do the right thing in the next five years we will be able to survive.