Published On: Tue, May 16th, 2017

Katsina and Masari’s Restoration Agenda: So far, how far?

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Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari

Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari

By Ali Alkali

Under normal circumstances, if pedigree is anything to go by, Katsina State should have been the most advanced state in Northern Nigeria. For, it enjoys the privilege of being the cradle of both Islamic and Western knowledge. The famous Gobarau Mosque was a center for learning of Islamic jurisprudence and other disciplines that hosted renowned Islamic scholars from many countries about 670 years ago.
The building of the mosque was said to have been influenced by Muhammadu Almaghili who visited Katsina in the late 15th Century during the reign of Muhammadu Korau, the then Emir of Katsina. Almaghili and Korau conceived the idea of building the mosque to serve as a centre for spiritual and intellectual activities; hence the Gobarau Mosque was built as the first Juma’at mosque in Katsina. The mosque became an important center of learning, attracting scholars and students from far and wide across the Western and Central Sudan and Magrib. When the academic traffic became so heavy, the mosque was turned into a University. Some historians, like John Hunwick, noted that the Gobarau University was affiliated to the Sankore University in Timbuktu.
Equally, the prestigious Katsina Teachers Training College, established in 1921, which later became Barewa College, Zaria, was the premier institution that produced the first generation of Northern Nigerian administrators, political elite and other professionals. To this day, it is the only school in the entire country that has produced five Heads of State.
Considering this impressive history, if we are operating in a sane clime Katsina should have been talking about industrialization and high-tech breakthrough instead of lack of clean drinking water or dealing with political thugs. Its institutions of learning should have been rubbing shoulders with world class universities such as Al-Azhar, Oxford and Cambridge instead of being dotted with dilapidated schools and hospitals. Unfortunately, we are not operating in a sane clime.
Katsina, as a State, is 30 years old this year. Created in 1987 by the then military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the state has 34 local government areas and an estimated population of eight million people. From its creation to date, Katsina has had three military administrators and seven governors.
It is no longer news that the campaign slogan upon which the All Progressives Congress (APC) rode to power in Katsina State is “Restoration Agenda”. During the campaign, Governor Aminu Bello Masari lamented the deplorable state of infrastructure, health and education facilities in the state.
However, before settling down to bring real change in the above areas, an important aspect of any government or society is security of lives and property; without which everything else collapses.
The years 2009 to 2016 were indeed very challenging for Nigeria, especially the Northern states, as per as security is concerned. Though Boko Haram insurgency and Niger Delta militancy were the dominant security challenges across the nation, Masari administration in Katsina State had inherited three categories of security challenges when it came to power.
At a media summit organized by the state government in March this year, Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Mustapha M Inuwa, enumerated the three major security challenges in the state, inherited by the Masari-led government, as Cattle rustling and banditry, farmers-herdsmen clashes and armed robbery.
According to the SSG, “For years, there was no security. People could not farm, could not trade; and could not even relate with one another freely. Dozens of people were attacked and killed on daily basis. It is a common knowledge to all of us that in a particular area of the state, 142 people were killed in one day. And that coincided with the day the former president visited Katsina State on a state visit. Unfortunately, the then government did not even bother with what happened. They continued with their party here in Katsina, the state capital.
“This had been going on for six years during the period of previous administration,” lamented Dr. Inuwa.
Another security challenge, especially in the cities of Katsina, Daura, Funtua, Malumfashi and others, was the menace of Youths Drug Addicts, known as ‘Yan Daba’ or ‘Kauraye’, depending on the locality. This was because Katsina was a major gateway for drugs from other neighboring countries.
Equally disturbing, cases of armed robbery were so rampant at major highways leading to Katsina city that “nobody wanted to be on the roads after 5pm, because anything could happen. It was a daily occurrence. It was on record that a robbery operation was carried out at a particular spot on a daily basis. People were not only robbed but the females among them were raped. But nobody cared; nobody did anything. There was no any action; not even a statement from the then state government,” lamented Dr Inuwa.
Fulfilling his campaign promise to tackle this monster called insecurity in the state, Governor Aminu Bello Masari started with the notorious cattle rustlers and bandits by bringing all the security agencies in the state and harmonizing their various operations. Under this new harmonized security arrangement, a typical patrol team comprises the army, the police, the civil defense and local vigilante group. The teams were adequately equipped and financed by the state government.
The patrol teams, under a special committee chaired by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, were able to arrest 117 cattle rustlers and rescue over 24,000 cattle. At last count, over 23,000 cattle were returned to their owners after verification.
Equally, under a special amnesty programme worked out by the SSG Committee, a lot of the cattle rustlers who were yet to be arrested surrendered and turned in over 300 firearms to the state government (on the 15th January, this year) promising to repent and never engage in such crime again.
“This brought to an end the constant attack of cattle rustling in Katsina State,” said the SSG, adding, “For the last nine months, no single cattle rustling case recorded in the state.”
The highway robbery is also almost eliminated because it was being done mostly by same cattle rustlers.
The success of these patrol teams in Katsina State led to establishing partnership with neighboring states such as Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and some states in Niger Republic.
The ‘Kauraye’ or ‘Yan Daba’ issue (the youth drug addicts who attack people at will) had also become a thing of the past, because, according to the SSG, “the political patronage by the previous government that was using them as political thugs had dried off.”
Other measures taken were: First, the Special Security Committee made sure the drugs trafficking into the state through a neighboring country was blocked. Second, the drug addicts were arrested and rehabilitated.
Many are now pursuing other legitimate businesses, while others are back to school pursuing academic excellence. “We cannot say that we totally eliminated drug abuse in the state; but we can confidently say we have reduced it by 80 percent,” said the committee chairman.
After security, Education must be given high priority if Katsina wants to regain its past glory.
Governor Masari informed participants at the media summit that his administration’s priorities are education, security, healthcare and agriculture. “That’s what we promised our people before we came in.”
So, in its efforts to fulfill that promise, the administration under its “Restoration Agenda” had so far spent over N2.8 billion on renovation and upgrading of secondary schools across the state.
During the Media Summit, the participants were taken to Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jiwa, and Government Boys Science Secondary School, Batagarawa, because of their proximity to the venue of the summit.
In GGSSS Jiwa, the entire structures at the school (from class rooms, dormitories, science laboratories, library, kitchen, toilets and administrative blocks) were totally renovated and upgraded.
Twelve new class rooms were constructed to augment the existing 77, making a total of 85 class rooms for the school’s 1,800 student population. One has to see the pictures of the earlier dilapidated buildings to fully appreciate the enormous work done. According to the Principal of the school, Hajia Hajara Abdulkadir, since the construction of the school in 1986, not a single structure was ever rehabilitated, until now. When Governor Masari first visited the school and saw its kitchen, according to the principal, his reaction was “Is this a toilet or a refuse dump?”
The two science secondary schools now wear a new enviable look that can be compared with many state universities that are, in reality, mere glorified secondary schools. Same effort is replicated at dozens of other schools across the state.
In order to make the restoration holistic, the effort does not stop at schools renovation and upgrading but also covers other vital areas such as feeding of students, paying their NECO & WAIC examination fees and providing scholarships to higher institutions.
According to the state’s Commissioner of Education, Prof Halima Sa’adiyya Idris, to take the burden of examination fees off poor parents, the administration paid the fees for 40,207 WAIC candidates and 40,655 NECO candidates in 2015 alone.
This was apart from other examination fees.“The total amount paid for 2015 SSCE and the rest of other examinations were N998, 857,000. And the total amount paid for 2016 SSCE was N607, 558, 600. For 2017, we have just recently received the figures from WAIC, and we have paid for 1,359 candidates; and the cost was N15, 881, 550,” she revealed.
Another laudable initiative in Katsina State education sector is the implementation of GPE (Global Partners in Education) Projects. Under this project 7,981 girls in primary-one were given scholarships of N50, 000 per girl child, which cost N157, 120,000. Also, under the GPE project, 510 primary schools have benefited from ‘School Improvement Grant’, which amount to N103, 450, 000.
The staffers running the education sector in the state are also not forgotten – for, staff welfare in terms of housing, transportation and allowances were greatly improved. Equally, all teaching staff enjoyed multiple promotions within the last two years under Masari administration.
Another problem that enjoys priority attention by Masari administration is the urban and rural water supply. This is because the administration, unlike many others in the past, is able to see the unbreakable link between adequate, clean water supply and education, health and industrial development.
School enrolment and attendance improves greatly whenever water supply improves, because children and teachers will have more time for school. On health, it is statistically proven that 60 percent of children diseases are water borne. These can be eradicated if adequate and safe water is made available. Equally, the importance of water supply to industrial development can never be over emphasized, because no industry can run without water.
Unfortunately, the water supply situation in Katsina State was at its worst, since the creation of the state, when Masari administration took over. According to the state’s Commissioner of Water Resources, Salisu Dandume, “Lack of genuine policy and political will have rendered most rural water supply schemes unserviceable.”
The state’s main water treatment plant is the Ajiwa Treatment Plant and Dam, at Ajiwa village. The dam was first built in 1975 to provide 20 million cubic meter of water to the main treatment plant. The plant was commissioned in 1996 – which was 10 years behind scheduled commission date of 1986. Now, because of wear and tear of equipment and total neglect, serious need arises for the total upgrade of the dam by increasing its storage capacity which can also boost irrigation farming.
Equally sad, the machinery components at the treatment plant that help in purification and classification have been down for over 10 years. Katsina metropolis that needs 150,000 cubic meters per day is only getting 30,000 cubic meters now, because evacuation system is totally broken, trapping the water in the tanks, stagnated as “waste water” – as they call it.
Springing into action, contract was awarded for the total rehabilitation of the Ajiwa Treatment Plant and Dam at the cost of N2billinon. When completed, this year, “the production capacity of the plant will be restored to its actual designed capacity of 50,000m3 per day,” said Dandume.
But while working round the clock for this giant project to materialize, the administration had to find other quick solution for the hardship caused by inadequate water supply to people of the state. So, within the first 100 days of Masari administration, four out of six broken-down water supply support schemes were rehabilitated. These schemes were initially constructed to supply some of the suburbs of Katsina metropolis but could not be supplied due to inadequacy of the main Ajiwa plant.
Daura, which was out of operation for four years, is now enjoying a regular water supply of at least 2,500,000,000 liters daily. Malumfashi scheme, which was not in operation for seven years, was back to life since March 2016.
So far, Masari administration had spent over N5.6 billion on water treatment plants restoration. And to tackle the water supply problem permanently in the state, N14 billion is earmarked for the sector in 2017 budget.
The “Restoration Agenda” is also very visible at all four general hospitals in the state. At all the general hospitals, renovation, re-modeling and upgrading are being undertaken.
Unlike the previous small buildings in which skeletal healthcare services were being provided, the re-modeled general hospitals are imposing edifices equipped with state of the art healthcare service delivery machineries. The general hospitals undergoing total restoration and re-modeling are Katsina, Daura, Funtua and Kankiya hospitals. The total amount spent for the upgrading of the four general hospitals, according to Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Kabir Mustapha, was about N1.5 billion.
In addition to these, the state government had also spent hundreds of millions for the total renovation and up-grading of Gen. Amadi Rimi Specialist Hospital, formally known as Orthopedics Hospital.
The administration did not only stop at renovating and re-modeling hospitals, as it employed 620 health personnel across the board – among them 153 nurses, 55 doctors and 6 consultants.
Like every people-oriented leader, Masari understands the importance the media in reaching to his people; and that it is not enough to perform excellently well as a leader but it is even more critical to reach the people and get feedback. But like in many other areas, the Masari administration inherited dilapidated media structure in the state – and without effective media outfits, reaching the people and getting feedback is almost impossible.
In the words of the state’s Commissioner of Information, Culture & Home Affairs, Alhaji Hamza Muhammad Borodo, “As part of the administration’s ‘Restoration Agenda’, the governor ordered and released fund for the establishment of three FM stations in the three senatorial zones of the state, total digitalization of the state’s television services and made several appointments into the office of Special Assistant on Social Media.”
Equally, in its quest for getting adequate feedback from the people on how the administration is performing, all the media outfits are “granted total freedom to air the opinions of individuals and political interests of even those who disagree with the government of the day,” said Borodo.
The ripple effect of all these restoration programmes, under Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s “Restoration Agenda” is that Katsina is regaining its lost glory and getting back on the map. With enhanced security system in place, people travel, trade, farm, interact and sleep safely.
The state is now rising to re-claim its old name and heritage as ‘Katsina Dakin Kara’ – meaning ‘Katsina: Home of Hospitality’ – as investors in the hospitality industry are gradually returning to the state. Hotels are now fully booked because contractors, expatriates, businessman and other professionals are trooping back to the once deserted state.
The SSG, Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, was all smiles when he revealed that “A member of the former ruling party, who is a hotelier, told me that what he made within one year of this administration, he could not make in the eight years of the previous administration. He was even thinking of selling the hotel. Now that things are back to normal, he had renovated the hotel, paying his staff and making good profit.”

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