The Niger State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Umar Abdulhammeed Danladi, tells ABU NMODU in Minna, that the government has adopted a “pan-Nigeria” policy, where all Nigerians in the state, irrespective of their state of origin, enjoy the government’s free education policy, graduate employment scheme, and other social welfare packages.
To what extent will you say the Development Action Plan (DAP) of Governor Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu has been achieved since 2007 in Niger State?
I want you to understand that for any government to have a direction, there must be a vision. What you do first, is to create a vision for the state; that vision is what we have. Again, we also have checks and balances by way of feedbacks to know where we have achieved and where we have not achieved.
However, to cut it short, recently, the National Bureau of Statistics rated Niger State number two in terms of poverty reduction. The government has been able to bring the common and the rural people very close.
So, a lot of deliberate efforts such as the Ward Development Projects were initiated by the government to ensure that people take part in the execution of government projects, because democracy is all about people. Not only that, we have been able to interface with people.
Today, Nigerlites are participating in government’s projects and programmes as their own. They protect them. Through this estimation, people appreciate what the government of Niger State is doing, and we will continue to do more.
But in the area of youth unemployment, what has the government done? Because the state is also being rated on the table as one with the highest percentage in terms of unemployment.
We want to know where this record was gotten from. Believe me, it will be a paradox on the part of the National Bureau of Statistics, if the bureau rated Niger State high in the area of poverty reduction, and as you know, unemployment is one of the variables for poverty reduction.
Moreover, in Niger State, we have the Talban Youth Engagement Scheme. So far, over 4,000 youths have been recruited, and many also engaged through skill acquisition. One thing you must understand also is that our recruitment in Niger State is not limited to only the Gbagi, Nupe or the Hausa. No. It includes the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Tiv, because here in Niger State, everybody is seen as a Nigerlite.
So, we don’t discriminate, unlike many other states. If you don’t belong to their religion, you are not their tribe. They discriminate, but here, we are very considerate in terms of our policies. We adopt a pan-Nigeria policy. And Niger State, with our meagre resources, has the largest workforce in Nigeria.
In terms of workforce , the state was one of those that started partial implementation of the new minimum wage, and now, the workers are calling for full implementation, when would that be?
Thank God, Niger State workers are considerate. Each time there is a problem like that, we sit down on the table and negotiate. Sometimes, we agree together, and at times, we disagree to agree. So far, Niger State civil servants are ready to work as they are ready to move Niger State forward.
They appreciate what the Chief Servant is doing. We have agreed after our negotiation. With the lean resources that the state has at its disposal, the workers now appreciate it better what the government is doing. With improvement in state resources in future, the government would not hesitate to improve on the salaries of workers.
What are you doing, especially in terms of youth sensitisation, for the people to understand government’s policies and programmes, considering the last violent protest during the fuel subsidy removal?
Before that, let me state without mincing words that when this issue of fuel subsidy began, the Chief Servant of Niger State took the bull by the horn. People who are myopic, people who don’t understand democracy, thought the governor was talking too much.
But again, when the problem came to the open, people now appreciated him; why he was always talking to the people. Notwithstanding, the governor of Niger State went into action after the subsidy crisis and appointed an executive council committee to look into the loses.
Thereafter, Niger State Government spent over N350 million for both crisis and government apparatus that were broken down through the violent protest. Since then, we have been sensitising our youths. Those who protected government properties were adequately motivated. They were given certificate of honour. So today, I can tell you that Niger State youths are ready to protect government properties at whatever level.
What are you doing in terms of security in the state, since your state shares border with the Federal Capital, Abuja?
Let me first commend the security agencies in Niger State. They are wonderful. If you remember during the fuel subsidy crisis, an AIG was coming from Abuja and some youths started hitting his vehicle. But because of the enlightenment level of the police in Niger State, they did not confront the youths that time, which was a beautiful thing.
Again recently too, the executive council approved N440 million to support the security operatives in the state, because they are doing a nice job. And we are comfortable, we are quite convinced that we are working relentlessly. To support them, we believe every body has to key into that system.
Also recently, the Niger State Government has passed a bill; there is now law on vigilante, so that there would be an intelligent information for the security operatives to work on. Without intelligent information, security may not know where to begin and where to stop.
But I’m telling you, with that introduction today, our youths at the 274 wards in the state are working hard in conjunction with our traditional councils in a model of community approach for proactive steps to avert security challenges.
Talking about vigilante groups, people believe that they could be rival groups to the police. What is government’s view on this?
Well, I’m happy that this can be speculated by people that are ignorant, who are not aware of what is on ground. However, the security organisations in Niger State are very supportive. The vigilante are not operating independently. No. They are working with the police.
What we put them there for is to provide intelligent information for the security to swing into action. That’s the essence they are in operation. We are not creating any police anywhere. They are only to serve as informants to the police, because the youths that are working under this scheme are from the locality, they know the locality, therefore, the security in Niger State.
They are appreciative of this scheme, they are also partners, and they don’t complain about rivalry. It is only the myopic people who are speculating such.
On Suleja, we know the place is calm now. What is the government doing to forestall future security breaches, now that the emergency rule is over?
Let me quickly remind Nigerians that over 60 per cent of Niger State was carved out to create the Federal Capital Territory today; and of course, from Suleja Emirate. And today, the heterogeneous status of Suleja is not only incremental by the large workforce of Abuja residents in Suleja, but synoptic.
Therefore, our facilities, the infrastructure provided by the state is overstretched. Suleja is supposed to be a modern satellite town to the Federal Capital. So development in the Federal Capital is supposed to come over to Suleja, because that is where the workforce is.
I’m appealing to the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, to support Niger State, so that we can improve on infrastructure, on facilities and on amenities, so that the people can live peacefully. That also includes helping in the area of the state coping with the security coverage.
Based on what is on ground now, which area do you think the Federal Government should help Niger State, both in the short and long term basis?
I cannot remember now, but I know Niger State Government made a submission to the Federal Government on this intervention. We have both the short and long term action plans for implementation, if the fund is available.
But areas where we want Federal Government’s interventions are in the areas of social amenities; hospitals, motor parks, and roads. If you look at the roads here, they are so inadequate, because the number of vehicles plying the roads are numerous. Therefore, there is always traffic congestion, hence the influx of people.
The present administration has many projects ongoing, do you think you can complete these projects before 2015?
One thing about government is continuity, but people who don’t understand are talking about the government as a terminal thing. These projects are not Dr. Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu’s personal projects or property. They are for the government and people of Niger State.
But we are hoping that we are going to conclude them, because we pray that there are funds as we are saving for the projects. Although, it is the vision of this government that all projects embarked upon are completed, however, where ever we stop, I know those who will succeed us can continue from there, because it is a government project not a personalised project.
Education in Niger State is one of the challenges being faced. Do you think Niger State has attained the level of educational development that can be appreciated?
I want you to understand that Niger State education is free for all residents in the state. We don’t discriminate that this is an Igbo person, a Yoruba person, or a Tiv person. No. Whoever is in Niger State, we give free and fair education.
And not only that, we have had vibrant workforce in education since Dr. Babangida Aliyu came into office. He has put in place, several education boards, and today, we have schools that can compete with any school anywhere in the country.
What is happening to Newsline, the state-owned newspaper house?
The Newsline, like the television station, is also coming up. We want to make it a regional paper. There are challenges. When I came in, my attention was diverted to television because the state television was grounded completely.
Nothing was seen anywhere in Niger State. But today, I can tell you, our state television is working perfectly. Our reach goes beyond 90 kilometres radius, and we are now going to face the issue of Newsline and the radio station, to improve on their services.
The way the state is going, where do you foresee Niger State in 2015?
Progressive, because we have laid the foundation. We have a vision, and most of the things needed to be done have been put into law.
Most federal roads in the state are in deplorable condition, does this give you any form of concern?
Belief me, the governor and the government have been crying out about these federal roads; so much that Niger State Government had to maintain some. The state government has committed so much resources on federal roads. Whether it is a federal road, a local government road or a state road, we work for the betterment of our people.