Despite increasing banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other criminal activities in Katsina State, Governor Aminu Bello Masari insists they are making progress. He spoke in an interview with Daily Trust.
You recently marked five years in office. What have been your key achievements?
Well, when we came in, we did so with a restoration agenda and we anchored it on education, health, agriculture, water supply, security and other infrastructure.
And we promised that we will raise the budgetary provision in education to nothing less than 20 per cent, which we did up till this moment. Likewise, we raised the provision for health up to 10 per cent.
Within the last five years, with the contribution of SUBEB, UBEC, with the contribution of the state government, we have expended more than N10 billion in the area of rehabilitation and construction of school furniture for primary education alone.
And we have so far rehabilitated most of our secondary schools and constructed more day secondary schools in order to depopulate our schools because we had classes of more then 300 students both in primary and secondary schools.
And we have recruited teachers, for both primary and secondary, on fulltime employment, we have recruited more than 5,000 teachers. And now, we have introduced our own S-Power in which we recruited 5,000 NCE and diploma holders in education, paying them a stipend of N20,000 per month. And also for the graduate, we recruited 2,500 paying them N25, 000 all in order to boost our teaching capacity.
In the area of health, we initially took Katsina General Hospital, Funtua and Daura to rehabilitate and upgrade them so that they can offer all health services.
We don’t want our patients to be going to Zaria, Kano, Sokoto and what have you, except for specialized cases. And in order to reduce such specialized cases, we opened Locum programme, where we have doctors from ABU and Sokoto coming to Funtua.
We have some from Kano in daura, we also have some from Federal Medical Centre here doing Locum. Now we have opened Locum in Funtua, Malunfashi, Kankia, Dutsin-Ma, because after we have reached about 70 per cent in terms of rehabilitation and upgrading of these hospitals, we decided to take Funtua, Kankia, Malunfashi, Dutsin-Ma, Baure and I am sure that all these that I mentioned now have also reached up to 70 percent completion.
But in between we had serious problems. You know, even when we were going in to election, we have seen the resurgence of banditry and while we were trying to settle the issues of banditry and other forms of criminality, then came Covid-19 and that has significantly slowed us down, because the struggle was to pay salaries.
How do you settle all of these while dealing with infrastructural development and insecurity, which also requires a lot of money?
Well, we came in, like I said, the president introduced budget support. That gave us a window where we could pay salaries and pay overhead and still have some money to spend. Along the line, the president also approved payment of the Paris Club funds. That significantly helped us.
If you look at the area of road construction, I think we have constructed over 3, 000 kilometres of both tarred and untarred roads over five years and rehabilitated many others.
We were able to manage, you know. The projects are local and I think with good management of resources, we can achieve a lot.
The problem is this issue of Covid-19 that brought down the price of crude oil, which affected and is still affecting the federation account. So what we are getting now is simply enough to pay salaries and do some services.
And again, we have to take a lot of our resources to support the police, the military in the fight against this banditry. So, I support those governors who are calling on the president to give bailout to states affected by insecurity, because we have spent so much, especially within the last three months when we have the highest number of attacks.
Up till now, we have IDPs in Batsari, not to talk of those who are staying with their relatives or friends. Luckily enough, we don’t have any IDP camp in Kankara now where we used to have as a result of the attack in Dansadau, near the border with Zamfara State.
So really, had it been we don’t have to spend hundreds of millions on insecurity, we could have utilized that, especially in the area of education
Again, when we came in, government was paying for NECO and WAEC examinations, but we realized that out of every 35,000 to 40,000 students that government has paid for, you can hardly get up to 5,000.
The maximum Katsina ever recorded was 11 per cent in WAEC and 20 per cent in NECO. We reintroduced qualifying exams that any student who scores a certain number of credits, we will pay for their WAEC, but if they fail to do that and manage to score at least three credits, then we will help them pay for NECO.
Parents who feel that their children can still sit for WAEC and pay for them, and the children manage to pass, then we will refund the parents, and we have refunded over N100 million so far to parents who have paid for their children’s WAEC unless the children get the minimum five credits.
Some people are of the opinion that it is not ideal to give all the governors security bailout since some states are at peace. What do you think of this?
Yes, I think we are talking about those areas that are more affected by insecurity. But in reality, typical of our own attitude in Nigeria, every state will say after all, I too have security challenges, but everybody knows that there are security challenges in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger and they don’t have these kind of challenges even in other north-western states apart from the ones I have mentioned.
So it is not about giving everybody. And even if that would be the case, it should be on the basis of their peculiar challenges, so it will be sort of graduated.
What would be the implications if insecurity expand beyond these affected states?
The implications are obvious. There wouldn’t be development, that is one. People will lose hope in the capacity of the authorities to address the issues. And if there is a loss of faith, people will take the law into their own hands, and if they do that, there will be chaos and you know the consequences of chaos. I need not tell you the consequences of chaos that can lead to breakdown of law and order.
Some years ago, the north-western governors formed a forum which you happen to be the chairman of. Does that forum still exist and how far have you gone?
Yes, the forum still exists and we have worked the papers. Then, unfortunately, the elections came and after elections, this problem of insecurity that is bedevilling us. We had two meetings here in Katsina with the governors and we have discussed insecurity, which is one arm of the forum. Then, we intended to register it as an economic commission for our zone, because without security you cannot have economic development or prosperity. So I think it is still on and it is a work in progress.