..Speaks on insecurity, 2023 elections, health, other critical issues
Governor of Sokoto State and Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governors Forum, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, few days ago, fielded questions from a group of Journalists in Sokoto during which he spoke on a wide range of issues. Tambuwal, who is known to be eyeing the nation’s presidency ahead of the 2023 general elections, responded to questions on the issues of insecurity, the timetable recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as well as his various projects in the areas of health, education, agriculture and social infrastructure among others. Our correspondent, Folorunso Alagbede, who was in attendance at the interview session, brought this excerpts:
Q: The issue of insecurity in Sokoto State is in the front burner, what are you doing to tackle it?
A: We have done quite a lot and I have addressed it in a number of times. And you see, basically it is the responsibility of the federal government, you all know that, but what we do at state level is to support the federal security agencies, by way of providing them with the logistics, vehicles. When they’re on special operations, we will give them their allowances to look after their welfare.
Even as we speak now, some of the security personnel that sustained injury somewhere recently, on their way to Abuja, on the account of Sokoto state government have been taken to one of the specialized facilities in Abuja. So we are giving them every support that they require.
There was nothing security agency of Sokoto state requested from us in terms of support that we have not given them. And in the last four, five years, we have provided not less than 500 vehicles to security personnel in Sokoto state, 500.
And as I said, all of the allowances, nothing outstanding, whenever they are having operations, we support them. And we normally give them their monthly security support. So we’re doing our best and you can ask any of them. And we’ve been building and we are still building new police stations in the state and renovating the existing ones. Virtually all he divisional offices have been renovated and we’re building new ones for them across the state.
Q: What about the commission to check tenement rate in the state?
A: Well, we have established a tenancy regulatory commission in the states that documents people who are occupying properties, it is yet to fully take off, that’s why I didn’t address this. But it is there, the commission is there and the purpose is that anybody who is renting a property in Sokoto state will be properly documented; so that we will have your fingerprints, we’ll have your passport with that commission. Should anything happen? It would be easier for security agencies to now trace you.
Q: Sir, in terms of intelligence gathering, is there a support that you’re giving to the DSS?
A: Yes, we are giving them support for getting them the right equipment so that they can now use them. We are giving the military support in terms of getting drones, we’re giving the military support to procure drones, and we’re doing same with the DSS.
Q: You began a consultation recently ahead of the 2023 general election and the issue of presidency. How far has the consultation gone?
A: Well, it is going on well, we’re still doing that and when we conclude, we finish going around, we will sit down and appraise it and then come back with what the position of the consultation is going to be.
Q: Now that INEC has rolled out the timetable, what it the next move now?
A: I am in consultation.
Q: I mean the party generally?
A: The party will also look at the timetable by INEC and come up with its own timetable.
Q: Do you think your party stands a chance with the electoral act?
A: Are you talking about thinking. PDP is the party to beat.
Q: Is there any division in the PDP governors’ forum over zoning?
Q: We’ve gone round parts of Sokoto State and have seen so many projects you have embarked on. Sir, how are you able to fund these projects?
A: Well, thank you very much. When we came in May 2015, we all knew how the general economic situation of the country was. States, and to some extent even the federal government, was struggling to pay wages.
Here in Sokoto, from that time, as bad as situation was till now, we don’t owe any worker any salary. To the best of my knowledge, we pay our salaries as and when due and we pay our pensioners. We managed to stagger payments of even gratuities. We set aside every month either 100 million or 50million to attend to gratuities, that’s apart from salaries and pensions of retired workers, we make that as a priority.
So the Federal Account and Allocation committee (FAAC) allocation we get is very well known, it is public knowledge. Not not until recently, Sokoto has never been able to hit 1 billion in terms of IGR monthly not until recently when we worked on board of internal revenue services, then the IGR is beginning to pick up. So, it is all about planning and financial management, fiscal responsibility.
We try as much as possible knowing that we don’t have these resources to marshal and apply strategic expenditure money. We don’t waste money on frivolities, on things that are not necessary, that will not bring about any impact on the lives of the people.
We have very robust social schemes in the country, and we still pay monthly stipends to a number of indigent people. In Sokoto state, education is free whether you are from any part of Nigeria once you attend public school in Sokoto, the books, either exercise books or reading books that an indigene, I don’t like the word but I have no any better word, of Sokoto uses is whatever any other Nigeria child uses in Sokoto uses free of charge.
Added to that, as we pay for WAEC to indigenes of Sokoto and NECO, we also pay for all of other students of Nigeria that are in our public schools. We don’t discriminate against any of them.
So, you can see that we carry all of these burdens, but we’re still moving ahead. So it’s about strategic expenditure planning and, of course, we took some loans that are targeted at projects and loans that are for capital expenditure and we apply them as agreed in terms of and conditions of obtaining those funds from either the banks or bond.
So, generally it is about discipline, prudence, and effective management of scarce resources. SIFTAN last year, scored Sokoto as number one state in terms of fiscal transparency. It is a World Bank programme, its World Bank assessment programme, guided by the federal government and we are an opposition state and we came first in terms of fiscal transparency.
So it’s all about managing scarce resources and being disciplined and knowing your areas priority.
Q: The country’s talking about Nigeria getting ready for the non oil economy. How ready is Sokoto state?
A: Sokoto is largely an agrarian state, 80%, 85% of our populace are farmers, we do everything to support them generally, in the areas of extension services, we employed more extension workers that are helping them with skills and knowledge in terms of more modern knowledge and skills and also they help them in terms of guiding them on the right seeds to use on their farmland whenever it is time for them to plant; or choice of seedlings and all of that. We are moving them from where they were to a knowledge based agricultural business, kind of, and we support them with fertilizers and insecticide and all of that and I don’t think the states are many that really subsidized fertilizer the way we do here in Sokoto state to the farmers and I can tell you that in terms of subsidies Sokoto beats any state. We have the figures in terms of giving a farmer subsidies; be that subsidy on farm implements, like handheld tractors, like sinking some kind of tub bred for them free of charge or even to some extent, even procurement of fertilizer during the dry season farming and the normal wet season farming and all of the inputs we give them some free, some of the seedlings free in most cases and some of the inputs, at heavily subsidized rate, and I don’t think that there is any state that has really done as much in terms of support our farmers.
When we ventured into anchor borrower scheme, we actually had to open accounts for farmers at the expense of the state government, because of the low level of income of the farmers. They could not even afford the basic requirements of money for opening of accounts, we had to, as government, open those accounts for them.
So, we heavily support our farmers by giving them modern technology, modern knowledge, skills, supporting them with knowledge and experience and all of that through the extension workers and subsidies.
So, that has also motivated them to do more on their farms, that has also given them more encouragement and with the guidance of extension workers and then the knowledge and skills and the seedlings, their output has increased.
So, all of that has helped in shoring up not only their interests but generally what they what they produce in the Sokoto.
Siseme is one of the products they do, wheat, rice, tomato, so onion is just one of them. And then I’m sure you’ve heard from the commissioner for commerce that we have done some trials and realised that between 250 and 300 billion naira worth of onions go out of Sokoto annually and that’s just onion
So, I believe that we have achieved a lot in that and that is about collaboration and the farmers accepting new ways of doing things and cooperate with the government.
Q: Still on the ongoing projects in the State, are you not worried that whoever succeeds you may not sustain what you have put in place?
A: Well, you see it is only natural, unless if you are not planning to succeed or if you are planning to fail. if you fail to plan, it means you are planning to fail. So, before now I’ve been working with a number of my lieutenants and I have been understudying a number of them to see who can really serve the people of Sokoto state and do even more to surpass my own, whatever achievements I might have recorded as governor of the state. It is not about who will succeed me, that will be loyal to me, let him be loyal to the people of Sokoto state. That’s, that’s my interest.
Q: Do you have anybody (successor) in mind?
A: There are many of them.
Q: Going round some of your key projects in the state, we were able to know that you have much interest in the education sector, of the states. What motivated you in this massive investment in the education sector? And you think that this your target has been achieved? We have also noticed that you have so much interest in the girl child education.
A: When we came in, I commissioned some of our experts, both local and a very few that are outside Sokoto to understudy our health sector, our education sector, and agric sector, to advise the government because I have identified this three as my priority.
On education, we reason that if you educate people, if they are educated, they’re healthy, they have what to do on their farms, what else are you looking for from government?
So we deliberately set out to really change the narratives in education because whenever you’re counting states, that are backward in western education, with emphasis, Western education, you will count Sokoto as one of them. What is it about?
It is about getting the right infrastructure, getting the right instructional materials, and getting the right teachers and personnel.
So we decided to commission that study on the needs and assessment of the education sector of Sokoto state and we identified all of those and said, okay, we will prioritize and said let us, based on that report, begin to work towards implementation and ensuring that we improve education sector of the state, because if you educate these young boys and girls, and prepare them for the future, what else are you looking for as a father. The desire of any father is to see his child educated.
Figuratively, the governor of the state is like the father of all of these children. So why don’t you sit down and look, reflect and see how best that you can give them education that is not only quantitative, not only providing them with many schools, but quality education, to prepare better for their future. That was why we said look we must take interest in it.
Now, you can see for example, the bandits that we have in Northwest, the insurgents in the Northeast, when you check it out, these are young people who are not educated either in the Western education sense or even a religious sense.
So education is key to addressing all of those challenges of insecurity or poverty and raising the standard of living of the people, educate them and let them go and find something to do.
And about the girl education, the figure has not been good and if you want to address the issue of a girl wanting to go to school; but there is a problem back home because she wants to hawk for her mother, you must find something that will support that concern that is with the family.
So, we of course met a programme that has to do with their cash transfer, conditional cash transfer. If a mother agrees to send her daughter to school, instead of her to be hawking, you give her N5,000; if she has two daughters N10,000, three daughters that is N15,000, we sustained it up to today and improve on it.
And we’ve been very deliberate by creating an agency mandated to take charge of girl child education. In addition to the law we passed in the state for compulsory education, which are the first of its kind in Nigeria.
So all of these go to show that we have identified the gaps, we have identified the problems and the issues. And then we decided to be deliberate in seeing how best we can now change the narrative positively and have these children educated in it, and then reduce the number of out of school children, and all of that.
And closely related to that is the issue of almajiri; when some governors abandoned almajiri, I said no, we are not banning almajiri in Sokoto because there is a misconception about almajiri.
Almajir is not these people that you see, they are roaming about, is a system of education itself. But not the way it has been implemented. And we decided to say okay, there are countries that are largely Islamic in terms of population in terms of their practices, and one of them is Indonesia not even Saudi Arabia.
So we set out, I personally led a delegation to Indonesia, we understudied their system of Islamic education and that’s what we’re using now to reposition the almajiri system of education, it’s not something that you just throw away because it’s been practiced for hundreds of years and you cannot just say one day, you are now going to disruptively cancel it or ban it and without providing an alternative and that’s what you’re doing in Sokoto. So we were taking all of that together.