LOLO NA SSGBy Akawu Ibrahim

Six years ago, precisely on May 29, 2015, the government of Abubakar Sani Bello was ushered in, first for the initial period of four years which elapsed on May 29, 2019 and in accordance with the Constitution, the governor sought for a second mandate which was willfully granted by the people of Niger state.

Already the administration has spent two years of the second and final mandate. In every election, politicians made promises to the people during campaigns and entered a kind of social contract with the electorates who own the power. Either as individual or on the platform of his political party, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello had entered into a social contract with the people of Niger state to improve their well-being through construction of roads (rural and urban), to ease movement of people and goods, upgrade and modernize schools, to improve learning and skills acquisition, secure lives and properties, which is the primary responsibility of government, improve and construct health facilities, increase agricultural outputs, improve hygiene through water and sanitation and provide jobs and social welfare to youths and vulnerable group of the society.

How far has the administration gone in achieving these noble objectives? In this special interview; our correspondent, Akawu Ibrahim takes the Director General, Strategic Operations Unit, ICT and Public Enlightenment to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, the ubiquitous Abdullberqy Usman Ebbo (Alkalamin Lapai), as he gives account into the administration’s strides in core areas of education, health, agriculture, security, the civil service, youths and women engagement and the general welfare and administration of the state.

EDUCATION:

Education is the bedrock of every society. Any nation or state that wishes to attain greatness must take the education of its citizens seriously. Because of this, the government of Abubakar Sani Bello has taken education as one of its priority areas to receive the administration’s attention. Now, what has the government done in this area?

The governor’s DG on Public Enlightenment and ICT said “quite honestly, whatever I say will be attributed to the fact that I work with the governor. So many people who hear this will interpret it as if I was doing my work of promoting the governor’s image. But whatever it is, I must be very fair and just to my conscience by saying that I have gone through the performances of past governors that have governed this state and I must tell you that to make any meaningful progress in this analysis, we must do some comparison; what we had before and what we have now. What was done before and what we are doing now. Let me start with the education sector. When we came in; we commissioned a probe into the state of education in the state. We hired experts from Oxfords University to work with our own experts. They went round the state and came back with a report. The report contained sort of disturbing information about the near collapse of our educational institutions. One of which is that there are schools that were established since the creation of this state and were never worked on or paid attention to. There was also a huge gap in accessing schools by communities which caused overcrowding of the few available ones. Teaching and learning equipment were no longer there and the few ones were obsolete and unfit for modern teaching and learning.

What did the governor do upon receiving this report? He started by committing funds to train the trainers and embark on a whole school renovation approach. Today, the administration has constructed over 2500 classrooms for primary and junior secondary school level. In the ‘Whole School Renovation Approach,’ it means we are going to reconstruct the schools, upgrade them by providing ICT centres, putting up e-libraries, equip the laboratories, renovate teachers’ quarters and refurbish and furnish principals’ quarters and construct the perimetre fence of 15 schools to safeguard them. We have also drilled 70 boreholes to ensure constant supply of water to students and improve their hygiene. We also built three integrated Qur’anic Education Centres, renovated 11 libraries and supply 10, 243 furniture to equip Early Child Care Education Development Scheme and another 69, 320 primary 3 seater furniture. This is in addition to supplying 18, 679 pieces for staff rooms across the state. The records are there and all we have done are on ground, very visible for everyone to see and feel.

We have done this to 22 schools so far and we are continuing. We have also provided 960 state of the art four compartment VIP toilets to our schools in the state, in addition to 18 ICT centres. All these happened despite huge financial strain but the governor was committed to changing the story of education in the state. We have taken three secondary schools in each of the Senatorial districts in pursuance of these objectives. These are Government Secondary School, Izom, Maryam Babangida Science School, Minna, Government Secondary School, Rijau, Government Girls Secondary School, Kontagora, Government Science College, Kutigi renamed after Justice Legbo Kutigi, Government Science Secondary School, Bida, Government Secondary School Tegina, Mu’azu Commercial Secondary School, Kontagora,and Government Secondary School Baro, which was converted to science boarding school. These were all upgraded to modern standard and equipped with learning facilities.

This administration has also completed the upgrade and renovation of the school of Nursing, Bida. For almost 41 years, the school programmes were not accredited until this administration came on board. The administration also builds new school of health technology in Kontagora and ensured that the courses there were accredited. Go to our boarding schools, the food they eat, the dormitories, their hostels, learning facilities and all of that are now wearing a new look.

Agreed, there are still some challenges. There are still places we haven’t touched but the reasons aren’t far fetched. The problem is inadequate finances. But even the blind can testify that this governor has done his best and have made a record others have not made. The records are there for anyone to see,” he said.

HEALTH:

Health is wealth, says the wise men. The welbeing of the people determine their level of productivity. No government worthy of its name takes the health of its citizens for granted. In most budget presentations, the health sector often takes the largest slice. In these six years of the administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, what records of achievement have they made? The DG Public Enlightenment sheds some light:

“In the health sector, what we’re doing now is to build one standard, well equipped primary health care centre in each of the 274 wards in the state. And so far, over 20 PHCs are completed and staffed with qualified health personnel. Places like Maito in Wushishi local government, Kataerigi in Katcha, Ebbo in Lapai, Yakila in Rafi, and Kuta in Shiroro LGA are example of places you can go and see them. Some of them even have doctors’ quarters. We want to make sure that before this administration completed its tenure, we would have finished all these health centres and I am assuring you that the work is massively going on. The wisdom behind investing heavily in PHCs was because you will agree with me that 80 percent of people in this state live in rural areas and the first point of call in treating their health challenges are these health centres. That’s why the governor is passionate about completing these projects.

Now, go to the General Hospital, Minna, go there and see the work going on. By the time we are done, it will surprise you; it will become an international hospital. We are not concentrating on the buildings alone, but also equipment. Soon we’ll embark on total upgrade and renovation of the Suleja General Hospital. That of Kontagora is already ongoing. By the time these two are completed, we will now be very proud of this government.

For anybody to say the governor is doing nothing, I will not agree with him.  But if you say the governor is not talking and bragging over his performance, I will agree with you. The governor is seeing governance as a bond between him and God; just do the right thing and leave things to Him. The governor wouldn’t like to undertake new projects as some called it legacy projects when even the ones we have on ground are not serving us. So he adopted the policy of restoration, to restore our past legacies that can still serve the state adequately. And that’s what he’s doing. You can not start a new project when the people have not fully benefited the old ones. So restore and maintain the existing ones and then expand to close up the gaps. We have serious deficit in almost every sector and this government is committed to restoring them to serve the people. The challenges have always been limited. Large chunk of resources coming into state are committed to paying salaries of civil servants. If we don’t prioritize our needs we will find ourselves in a fix.

So we must give our governor kudos in this regard that despite the glut in the economy, he was embarking on projects, paying salaries, tackling emerging security challenges and other things that require financial commitment.

AGRICULTURE

Niger state has been reputed to posses huge agricultural potentials. It is believed that any government that wants to achieve any meaningful progress in tackling poverty, unemployment, economic development and raise revenue must first have a good agricultural programme and invest heavily in it. Since the coming of the Buhari administration, agriculture was put on the front burner and considered a gold mine. What is the Niger state government doing to tap into the huge potentials in agriculture? The DG ICT and Public Enlightenment explain thus:

“One thing I will always tell people is that they always complain about how the state is not taking advantage of its arable land, how it is not taking advantage of the revenue from agriculture. But you can not have revenue generating commerce in a day. You need to plan; you need to lay foundation for a sustainable venture. What the governor is doing right now, I am not speaking as an aide of the governor, I am now speaking as a follower of events in the state, in the next 10 to 15 years to come, no state can compete with Niger state in terms of revenue, not even Kano can be compared to us if this foundation laid by governor Abubakar Sani Bello is sustained by succeeding governments. We have the Bobi grazing reserve. This reserve is a 45 billion dollars investment. The grazing reserve has already been gazetted, as we are talking now, WAMCO, the producers of Peak milk and other diary products have already registered their presence there and are working on their production factory.

As we talk, Chi limited, producers of Chivita, are occupying eight thousand hectres of land there. With these also you have cattle colony where hundreds of thousands of cows are reared, which means that the meat that will be coming out of Bobi grazing reserve every day will be capable of flooding the Nigeria’s meat market. And there will be functional airport. That’s why you see the governor was very passionate about converting the Minna airport to international airport. Then you have the Iri grazing reserve too in Rijau local government. That one too is massively on going. The government has earmarked on six irrigation projects there. Dangote is building one of the biggest Rice Mill in Wushishi local government. This Rice Mill has currently employed over 2000 Nigerlites directly or indirectly. You have Brains and Hammer doing the same Rice Mill in the same Wushishi. The Zungeru fertilizer company, which was constructed by the military government and abandoned for several years, is now being resuscitated by this administration. Go there and see for yourself, it’s not far. The work has attained 90 percent completion. The governor has been asking why can’t we produce our own fertilizer in the state. Because one of the things farmers need to boost their yields is fertilizer. Now that we will soon have our fertilizer plant working, it means that farmers will get all brands of fertilizers at a cheaper rate.

Now you can see that the governor have laid the foundation and before the administration elapsed, we would have gone far with the building. Our prayer is that those who will come after us should be able to complete and sustained the legacy the governor laid. Besides all these, we also have six huge irrigation schemes revitalized in Edozhigi, Zara, Lioji, Rijau, Chanchaga and Wushishi to boost dry season farming. If this investment is sustained in the next 10 to 15 years, you can imagine the quantum of wealth that will be generated for the people and for the government. So alot has been done but you know the governor is not the talking type. He’s a silent achiever and posterity will vindicate him. This is because more people are getting rich through farming in this state. And it’s there in the record, 50 percent of pilgrims that went to Hajj from this state are farmers. Go and check.

Also, a tomato processing factory will soon spring up in Kuta. What’s delaying it is this security problem, if not; the factory would have been working by now. Let me tell you that there is this independent assessor who put Niger state at number 5 among states that witness huge investment flows. They report that the state had gotten N10.6 billion investment in flows in the year under review. Therefore, anyone who said the governor had not attracted investors into the state was only being mischievous.

To be continued

TAURARUWA