How has it been joining politics from the banking sector?
Life is about competition and that is what politics is all about. Politics has been very interesting from 2007 to date. It is really challenging to work with someone like Governor Ali Modu Sheriff because he moves at a pace that can drive you nut if you don’t get ready at all times. He will always set target to get things done. He monitor it at every level to ensure that it is done. He does not accept failure. Of course, my background in the banking industry helps in making me mobile at all times and I am able to catch up with my boss however he sets the pace.
The opposition parties in this state accuse Governor Sheriff of short-changing local governments. How would you react to that?
Opposition politicians can rarely accept an incumbent government, no matter how good its policies are. Even, if, that government brings on board some opposition members. A times only those on board genuinely support the government because the joy of every political party is to be in power. The average opposition man is a mischief-maker, no matter the party he belongs to. He is out for anything negative and where he can’t find one, he either exaggerates what he hears from the grapevine or he manufactures something without trace.
But we need to go beyond viewing politics as a gateway to capturing power and put an end to mindless accusations, malicious concoctions and dubious castigation of individuals and governments. We all need to work collectively irrespective of our political affiliations, religious persuasions, sectional or ethnic backgrounds.
The question is, does Borno government interfere with LG funds?
I was coming to that. Weeks ago, I read in one of the editions of the Weekly Trust, an interview with the chairman of Kwaya-Kusar, one of the 27 local governments in the state and the headline reads; ‘Sheriff does not interfere with LG funds’ and I think another chairman, that of Bama, granted a similar one.
…Couldn’t they have been directed to say so?
If anybody says so, then he or she is not fair to them as educated adults whose views must be respected and who are entitled to their views. If anyone had directed them to say so, may be, it was the chairman of the ALGON. The two chairmen spoke on their own. Perhaps, they were bitter about some insinuations they were sure were very wrong, given the fact that they have seen what is on ground. I can tell you that Borno is famous for holding routine joint account meetings before funds are allocated.
What do you do in the meetings?
You already know that the joint account was established by law, which began from the national to state assemblies, with a view to ensuring supervision in the management of local government funds. Here, in Borno, as soon as we receive allocations after the FAAC meetings in Abuja, our technical sub-committee, made up of treasurers of all the 27 local government areas meet, with the Accountant-General of the State presiding. At such meetings, they look at what is allocated to each of the 27 councils and the statutory deductions to be made as provided by law. The technical sub-committee regularly submits their reports to the main LG/Joint Account Committee which has the 27 chairmen, commissioner for local governments and chieftaincy affairs, the A-G, representatives from the local government audit, ministry of justice, board of internal revenue among others. The main committee looks at the deductions, deliberates on them and when it is satisfied with the work of the technical sub-committee, the deductions are effected and cheques released to councils. Quite often, the councils start getting their cheques as soon as the meetings are concluded.
Which are these statutory deductions you are talking about?
The statutory deductions include: payments to primary education board for funding of primary schools for teacher’s salaries and we have funding of local government pension, teachers’ pension; funding of traditional ruling councils; funding for training of local government staff through the local government service commission etc, all of which are in certain percentages as established by law. Uunfortunately, mischief-makers deliberately ignore this process or they simply don’t care to know; but only make allegations.
What effort is the state government making to ensure that development gets to local governments?
The best way of teaching someone is by exhibiting the qualities that should be emulated. Juxtaposing the sorry state of affairs in Borno in 2003 and what it today, it becomes glaring to discernible observers that Governor Ali Modu Sheriff has done marvellously well. For instance, look at Biu Local government has a good road network. Similar transformations have either taken place or are currently on in other urban centres, such as Bama, Gwoza, Ngala, Damboa and several wards in Maiduguri Metropolis such as Umarari, Zajeri, Gamboru liberty, Gwomari, Gwange etc.
Nearly N20 billion has been sunk into infrastructural development in the state, without borrowing a single dime from any financial institution! It is pertinent to mention that several housing units have been built at a cost of nearly N19 billion. Most of Governor Sheriff’s critics are economical with the truth and merely engage in destructive criticisms.
There are hints linking you to the 2011 elections to succeed your boss. Are you preparing to contest?
Honestly, it is baffling and amazing when people debate today what should come up in two years time. It is only a moron can pursue such an agenda! There cannot be two captains on the same ship. SAS is the chief executive of Borno State until 29th May, 2011. He plucked most of us from relative obscurity and brought us to the limelight and I do not allow myself to get worked up or distracted by such a wild speculation.
But the governor’s wife, Mrs Fatima Ali Sheriff, is being linked with 2011? Do you support the idea?
The issue of linking her to the governorship is on the pages of newspapers. She has not declared any of such intention. But let’s not forget that the Nigerian constitution does not prohibit the first lady or any woman from contesting governorship elections. That she is married to the governor does reduce her right to vote or be voted for. She has her right to make her decisions and, of course, she is a good politician with support across board.