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You hardly find Nigerians in Kuwaiti prisons – Ex-envoy

Alhaji Haruna Garba is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Kuwait. In this interview, he speaks about the huge revenue that the small population country has,…

Alhaji Haruna Garba is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Kuwait. In this interview, he speaks about the huge revenue that the small population country has, their honesty and how Nigerian citizens behave there.

How was it like being an envoy in Kuwait?

I was the Ambassador to Kuwait and Bahrain between 2012 and 2015. Kuwait is a desert country and oil has been the mainstay of their economy, but the way they have been extracting, refining and selling it is far different from our own, because Nigeria is only extracting oil; we don’t normally refine it. The refining is normally done outside and brought in, but in Kuwait, they do their extraction and refine it there.

Also, Kuwait has an affluent economy because of the type of arrangement they have; they are not extravagant, and so they are doing very well economically.

Can you remember those days when a rich or well-endowed person was called Kuwait?

Yes! They have oil equivalent to that of Nigeria, but their population is just one state in Nigeria; a population of about five million people, so you can see the difference already.

In a nutshell, Kuwait is a small country with huge revenue, and Nigeria has huge revenue and a huge population.

You talked about Kuwait exploiting crude and refining it, so what advice do you have for Nigeria?

Let’s have our refineries working or have new ones. Luckily, the private sector, through Dangote, has started making refineries. If we can do that and stop the importation of refined oil products, Nigeria will develop and even surpass some world economies.

Many analysts have predicted that in the nearest future oil will be a worthless commodity, and Nigeria depends on oil as its major source of revenue, do you also foresee that?

Fortunately, the present government is talking about diversification and they are going into other energy products; not necessarily oil. Like you know, we have enough sunlight in the North, we also have plants that energy can be extracted from. So, maybe in the next 50 years Nigeria will also have other energy sources other than diesel and petrol.

Now that you are back to Nigeria, what takeaway do you have from there?

My only problem is, number one, the human factor. People in Kuwait are very honest and straightforward. I’m also looking forward to Nigerians to be very honest because some abuses of office here are unimaginable, and we cannot develop with this kind of behaviour.

So there is the need for us to change and act very properly so that Nigeria will benefit from the resources being extracted from this country.

What was your highest point in Kuwait?

One of the high points I always talk about is that in Kuwait they have been able to offer very good training to people all over the world. I made sure Nigerians benefited from it. We took a lot of our people to Kuwait that acquired very good education, including graduate education; the marketing aspect.

I hope that our people who are there will come back home and show other people what they have learnt, because the human factor is an area that everybody is happy developing. I think we have given the theoretical aspect, it is now left for people who are there to transfer what they learnt back home.

What other benefits do you think Nigerians can have from Kuwait?

A lot; one of the areas is through the sale of agricultural products, because Kuwait is a desert area not very good for agriculture. So, if we can have agricultural products being exported to that country, Nigerians will benefit.

Secondly, the exchange of students; I believe they have a very good education system because they have literacy level of 95 per cent, while Nigeria cannot boast of 20 per cent. There is the need for us to send people to learn how they do it so that we can benefit from it.

Now that you are back, how will you contribute to make the country better?

Honesty is very important, because to be corrupt is an expensive project; whereby 50 per cent of our resources go into funding of corruption, and, if only 50 per cent of our resources is used for other things, that is not good enough.

I believe we could do much better by trying to learn more from Kuwait because even though they have a very small population, they have been managing their affairs and resources very well.

Did you sign any bilateral relationship there?

I signed three or so. I processed about six, and one area that I’m worried about is the bilateral air service. That one has not been actualised even though the Kuwaiti government has signed its own area of that agreement. With that agreement, we will have flights directly from Kuwait to Nigeria; that will be very good for us. Also, Nigerian aircraft can also move to Kuwait directly. By the time we establish that, the business relationship will get boosted as exporting our agricultural products will be in hours. Our beef and fish can be transported in hours unlike now that you have to go through Egypt, from Egypt then you go to Kuwait. That is a long route.

The other area is allowing prisoner exchange; that sounds very terrible, but if we can have that, whereby if Kuwaitis have their individuals who committed offences here or Nigeria has any person that has committed wrong in Kuwait, we can exchange prisoners.

Another agreement is to allow senior officials to come in and out of both countries freely; even without visa, because for us to say you must process a visa, you know what it takes. Free movement would be good for us.

How do Nigerians behave in Kuwait?

Nigerians are very interesting people; they only misbehave in Nigeria, but in any other place they will respect themselves and follow rules and orders.

Nigerians in Kuwait don’t normally have problems; you hardly find them in Kuwaiti prisons; very difficult. As I said, it’s our nature; we behave wrongly in Nigeria but not in other countries.

What call do you have for Nigerians living there?

Let us change this attitude because the world is now a global village. We should be able to seek education, wealth and everything outside the country. We should be able to move all over the world.

What are you doing after retirement?

I’m on my own, and as a professional accountant, I give advice to people, and Alhamdulillahi! I have been living a very peaceful life.


I was into politics. I contested for the governorship of Gombe State, though I didn’t get it, but Alhamdulillah I got the experience. Even though I may not go back to it, I have the experience.

What inspired you into politics?

We actually got Gombe State created and we thought that we should make sure that we see it grow, and that was why I made sure I went into politics so that I could contribute my quota.

What role did you play in the creation of Gombe State?

There were three phases of campaign that led to the realisation of the creation of Gombe State. I was a party to the 1991 and 1996 campaigns; I drafted the memo for the demand for Gombe State in 1996.

Who were the other people you worked with?

I worked very closely with the late Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Shehu Abubakar; the late Abubakar Hashidu and Ambassador Yerima Abdullahi. There were also the late Umaru Kukani; Barrister Idi Apollos; Y.B. Tadi, A.J.

Filiya, the late Usman Farouk, the late Saleh Amos, Senator U.U. Dukku; the late Danjuma Kent, Honourable Riga Dawaki; the late Abdulkadir Manu; the late A.Y. Gombe; Alhaji Lamido ABM; Alhaji Inuwa Lamido, Alhaji Abba Gombe and others too numerous to mention.

Where did you hold your first meeting?

We held our first meeting in the chambers of the Emir of Gombe. The first exco meeting was held at the Gombe Local Government Council chambers.

Can you remember the number of meetings you held while working to achieve your goal for the creation of the state?

The meetings were numerous, but I always remember the day we took the decision to bring in His Excellency, the late Usman Farouk, a former Governor of North West State, as our consultant; then I was appointed as the Chairman of the Public Enlightenment Committee to engage our sons and daughters who were being misled in the old Bauchi State.

How were they being misled?

It was through some negative stories that our dream for the creation of Gombe State was not realistic.

Did you at any time have a one-on-one with the then Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, in your quest to have Gombe State created?

No; but I was on the emir’s entourage when we went to Abuja to solicit his (Abacha’s) assistance on the advice of one of our sons, the late Gen Timothy Shelpidi; and also Dr Aliyu Modibbo.

What argument did you canvass to persuade the government on the need to create Gombe State?

The secretariat of the movement, chaired by Senator Yerima Abdullahi, with the late Abubakar Habu Hashidu (a former Governor of Gombe State) as secretary, had enriched our demand memo with information about the fact that we (people of Gombe) formed about 60 per cent of the Bauchi State civil service. Our population then, about 1.6 million, was more than some existing states.

In terms of size, our market was second only to Kano in the North. We had prospects for generating high income through untapped resources such as coal in Mai-Ganga, gypsum in Zambuk and oil in Pindiga. Our potentiality for generating good internal revenue was very high. This must have impressed Abacha who granted approval for the creation of the state without a take-off grant since we stated that we had the potential for making Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

What were the specific vision and mission that spurred you to team up to agitate for the creation of Gombe State?

One of the frustrating things that some of us saw as suppression was the neglect of our people’s need for drinking water, the future of our teeming highly qualified and experienced civil servants and the fact that the only market in Gombe town needed supporting markets. These were all achieved after the state was created even though most of our founders are today not alive by the will of Allah.


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