Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, has said the state was not receiving special favours because President Muhammadu Buhari was from the state.
According to him, unlike past administrations where indigenes of a particular state were above the law and reckless because the president was from their state, Buhari’s disposition does not encourage such, adding that indigenes of the states have chosen to be responsible and live above board coming from the President’s state.
How are you getting the funds for free medical care for children between ages five and below, free surgeries for hernia, caesarian section, maternity?
Everybody is aware of the state of the economy when we came in and Katsina was not an exception. First of all we started by cutting spending especially on political appointees. So the intervention of the federal government from that N10 billion was what we used as seed money for our projects. You know states were given N10 billion each. In our own case we took N3 billion to education because our number one priority is education. We took 2.5 billion to health N2.5 billion to water and N2 billion to agriculture because these are our key priority areas.
In the health sector we met our hospitals in a terrible condition, in fact I was there 3 a.m to 5 a.m, there was no light in the delivery room, they were using improvised lighting system, it was a very bad situation. There was one ward we went to in Funtua, there were some few beds and the other side was a dumping section of the hospital for rubbish. It was a terrible situation, the ceiling was falling in and what we did was that we looked into their expenditure and we asked where the money was going? It was not going anywhere and what surprised me most was that I met the general manager of the health board and found out that for the last 20 years he has not visited Funtua General Hospital. He has never visited and he is the general manager of the health management board.
The hospital in Katsina was built over 60 to 70 years ago so we thought we needed to bring them to the level that they will be able to provide the basic requirement of a general hospital. So we started, we renovated the wards but ended up constructing new ones in most of the places. If you go to Katsina General Hospital we have the biggest radiologist, A and E, paediatric. In fact we have exceeded the N3 billion we are no longer talking about N2.5 billion again.
In primary education alone since we came in, we have spent over N3 billion, because when we came in, in the case of our primary schools, none has less than 98 in one class and 90 percent of our schools have fallen down. We are trying to decongest to 50 but it will take us five years to do that. But thank God before we started this one, we have intervened and provided additional 251 classrooms, and we have done complete rehabilitation.
Aside from health and education, agriculture use to be the state’s main stay of the economy. How far have you gone in keying into the federal government’s agriculture initiative to attain 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 in this state was educated through the native authority system which was relying on agriculture and livestock, they were the main source of revenue in the native authority system. It was from there we trained, built primary schools, dispensaries which we now call clinics including building secondary schools. The secondary in Funtua was built by native authority, it was started by native authority and we were midway when the northern Nigerian government took over. We commissioned a consultant, someone who was a consultant with World Bank, FAO, who happens to come from Katsina State. So 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 organise 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 putting in we are pumping it into and research and development including getting information. In Katsina we have three types of soils. If you go to the northern end of the state, it is sandy, the middle between muddy and a type of clay. You have to consider all soil types 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, it is 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. So from our resources we procure fertilizer of over 25,000 metric tons for rainy season in 2015, 2016 and this year because of the federal government’s 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 will be done at polling units and we have over 4,000 polling units. Every polling unit 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. So really 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.
How vibrant is the economy of Katsina State in terms of internally generated revenue?
It is now we are building the infrastructure to generate internal revenue. Prior to now, the state was dependent on federal allocation because for one if you have N10 billion from the federation account, when you pay the salaries 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 sensitization because in this area, since 1979, nobody was paying tax, only those who want to get tax clearance certificate that will pay whatever the revenue office ask them to pay. But those who are suppose to pay, those involved in commercial activities, the farmers, no infrastructure on ground for them to be able to pay. I believe now we have started 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 with the president attending the opening. How has the outcome 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 with BUA who is building a textile park, we are working with another Indian company, we are building economic zone, 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 and power. We have a company that is distributing over 148,000 tractors. They came during the economic summit with 78 tractors. The government, the farmers’ association, and 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 where they can work for a fee. 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. There are 34 councils. In any case there is no money to steal. The Paris Club refund we were told to pay salaries with it, we did just that.
Many Nigerians are disappointed with your party’s 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 up to 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, 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 it was then in terms of revenue that was accruing to the federal government, and what it is now in terms of revenue accruing, I think any reasonable person will give kudos to the APC. 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 do it. 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 it takes years, it takes time.
You know, the APC has come to provide responsible and expansive leadership which it has done and it is doing. We didn’t say we are coming here to perform magic because we are not magicians. 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. If you are 5.6 inches tall you know but you claim to be 6 inches you know is a lie.
Is Katsina enjoying special benefits for being the President’s home state?
You know this president is not somebody who will take projects to Katsina because he is from Katsina. 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, I mean then, when you have a president from a state, everybody will be trooping there. How many jets have you seen here since he has been here? If it was the other time this place would have become a Mecca of some sought. Even I, 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.
What’s your take on restructuring?
I believe in devolution of power. Anybody talking about 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. A weak central government can bring the nation down.