Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina, in this interview with Muazu Elazeh, speaks on what his administration is doing to ensure relative peace in the state and steps he has taken to move the state forward.
Can you tell us some of the programmes you have mapped out for your people in your second term?
I’ll first of all begin by thanking you and of course giving gratitude to Almighty God, who made it possible for us to render the type of services we have rendered to our communities, to our state and to the nation. Coming into office 2007 was a huge challenge in the sense that we met a lot of ongoing projects that are critical to the lives of the people of Katsina state.
I decided that I would not start any single project of my own until all inherited projects were completed, because Nigeria is littered with uncompleted projects all over the place for years on end and I felt in Katsina we should have some difference.
And thank God that by the time I spent two years in office almost 98 percent of all the projects I inherited were completed.
They range from the Katsina International Airport expansion, development of Turai Yar’Adua Child Maternity Care Hospital, the development of State university, which was just barely awarded when I came in.
And of course, thereafter, we launched into our own programmes of development with three clear focus points. Number one is education: we decided to embark on massive drive programme for the development of the educational sector, and number two is agriculture, which remains the most important area that we feel we must continue to do our best because the main stay of our people in Katsina state is agriculture and livestock development.
Third one is solid minerals development and of course human capital development. Side by side we face other challenges like issue of infrastructure, health sector, transport sector, and the rest of it. Our duty is to continue to do the best we can to render the best services possible by this administration to the people of Katsina state.
Do you have enough funds for these projects?
We cope with the little resources available at our disposal. We use essentially public funds available to us through the public treasury. I have never borrowed a Kobo since the inception of this administration and we have not borrowed in our first term, we have not borrowed till date because we have no need to do so.
We try to manage the meagre resources to do all these projects you have seen. We try to pay contractual obligations as and when due provided the contractual obligations meet all the necessary extant rules, regulations and the laws of our land. We don’t owe contractors deliberately; we don’t owe civil servants deliberately and pensioners.
Every month, we have a salary bill now of close to about N1.6 billion, and we have workforce of about 20, 000 in the state and we have started implementation of the Minimum Wage at the state level. There are some hiccups here and there that we are trying to sort out with the ones for local government, and pretty soon, we shall start to implement that as well.
Why is your administration committing huge resources into the building of a new Government House, which many consider not a priority?
You see the state is not embarking on one project. We have multitude of projects in the state. We have constructed over 38 roads. We have built over 155 secondary schools in the last four years. We have built 28 new primary schools and 58 primary health care centres. We have done a lot of water works and dug over 2000 boreholes through the MDGs and RUWASSA.
We are constructing ring road in Katsina Township and we are building a new Government House. In the area of agriculture, we provided 350 tractors to farmers. We are providing free education at all levels and we pay for WAEC, NECO and NABTEB examination fee.
So, the new Government House is just a complementary project, which is being built because people of the state deserve a better edifice.
What informed the Katsina Township Ring Road project?
You see cities are developed with the conceptualization of two hundred and above years in mind. Development plans around the world do no longer revolve around a five- year plan. They are plans for 200 or more years and Katsina State has been restricted to the old GRA and the old roads so for the city to expand or for any state to expand, infrastructure is necessary and we felt that doing a ring road in Katsina township will create job opportunities for those who work under those projects.
When you hear America talk about job creation, they are talking about construction companies. What people tend to ignore is that when you award a road project for about a year or two, labourers will be engaged for the number of years the road is being constructed; the person who sells sand, the food seller, and a host of others will be busy for the next one or so years that the project continues.
Beyond that, where ever you build this road, the value of land adjacent the road will certainly appreciate. That is direct empowerment for the land owners. So the advantages of road construction are so many. Additionally, road construction speeds up the development of the state. Years from now, you will see houses coming up in where the ring road is being constructed.
In a few weeks you would have clocked one year in office. What can you point at as your achievements within the period?
Well for the achievements I will like to give gratitude to almighty God. It takes the special grace of Allah for us to achieve what we have recorded so far. We are very happy and proud of the contributions of all and sundry since when I came on board. If you go round Katsina State, you will see road crisscrossing the state.
Most of the road projects have been completed or about 90 percent completed. We have built over 1,702 houses. You can go round and then ask yourself if what you now see is the Katsina you knew in the last four year.
There is a large deposit of solid minerals in virtually all the 34 LGAs of the state waiting to be tapped. What effort is the state government making to support the exploration of these minerals?
We established a resource development department, which has been upgraded to the ministry of resource development. The ministry has discovered that out of the over 26 solid minerals existing in Nigeria, Katsina has 24 readily available in 17 LGAs. If you go to almost every local government in the state, you will find out that there is kaolin.
Equally, we discovered there is gold in about 13 LGAs. We have silica sand, we have asbestos, we have iron ore and other minerals that if well harnessed would provide huge employment opportunities for the teeming populace of the state. So government is partnering with relevant stakeholders to ensure full exploration of these minerals.
What is your position on the controversy over the review of the revenue formula?
My position will not be different from that of any lawyer who knows the Constitution and the law. Revenue formula is a constitutional issue and in democracy, everybody has the right to express his views but the expression of such views should be made in such a manner that an understanding and appreciation of the concern of all sides should be taken into consideration in a way that our constitution is not fundamentally breached.
Therefore, I believe this is a healthy debate. Iit is a healthy argument; people should not try to blame one section or the other for expressing their opinion, but we should be fair enough to sit down and do what is right for the good people of Nigeria.
The revenue formula in itself is packaged in such a manner that it ensures fairness and equity to all Nigerians. So, my take on this that no matter what comes out of this debate or discussion, fairness and equity to all Nigerians should be the parameter and the yardstick.
What is the secret behind the peace and security in the state?
There is no secret; we give glory to Almightily God that it is in his favour and kindness that Katsina has remained peaceful. We work hard to ensure that the people are untied and the different sections of society are given an opportunity to live and earn their living or livelihood according to the dictates of what the law says.
And, therefore, we are very happy that Katsina people have given us maximum cooperation and the security agencies are doing their best to ensure that there is protection to lives and property.