BY BEATRICE GONDYI
In this piece, BEATRICE GONDYI mirrors the achievements and challenges of the Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, on the saddle two years after.
Since the inception of the present administration, the governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar has given his best in ensuring that inhabitants and most especially, citizens of the state, have reasons to smile. As he celebrates two years in office, it is pertinent to note that the needs of the state are uppermost in his mind.
Since assumption of office, Governor Abubakar has left no stone unturned to bring to bear, his mission to change things positively as he inaugurated a high powered committee to investigate all major contracts awarded in the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board, Ministry for Local Government Affair, Specialist Hospital Bauchi and all other ministries, departments and agencies between May, 2007 and May, 2015.
He immediately settled backlog of salaries owed by the previous government of Isa Yuguda.
As a dedicated governor, he attaches great importance to the agricultural sector which is in recognition of its role as the highest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state as well as a means of job and wealth creation for the teeming population because of the employment opportunities it provides to the people.
It is in realisation of this that one of the first assignments of the administration after assuming office was the launching of the 2015 farming season in Misau, followed by the disbursement of 10,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer to farmers at subsidised rate of N2, 750.00 for NPK and N3, 000.00 for Urea.
Other achievements of the administration in the agricultural sector, include partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the improvement of food security of about 2, 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state through the provision of 60 metric tonnes of assorted (improved) crop seeds; distribution of artisanal fisheries inputs (nets, floats, sinkers, ropes etc) to about 200 fishermen under the GESS Project, while in the year 2016 farming season, 20 metric tonnes of fertilizer, equivalent to 666 trucks were procured and distributed in over 40 different locations in the 20 LGAs of the state.
The government also keyed into the federal government’s agricultural financing programmes, especially the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, working to make it easy for farmers to access funds from commercial banks to work on rice and sorghum production for rain, rice and wheat for dry season production.
It also highly subsidised the fertilizer with NPK sold at N4,000 and Urea sold at N4,500, provided equity, training and extension services as required by the CBN and targets at least, 100,000 rice and maize farmers in the 2017 planting season.
The Bauchi State government met contacts with commodity companies in China and Lebanon, who have indicated interest in investments in sesame, soybeans and groundnuts, while others showed interest in establishing agro-processing industries.
During his recent visit to the Czech Republic to prospect for investments, Abubakar indentified eight models of small and medium capacity tractors that can be affordable to farmers that seek to reduce time and labour farmers spent on land preparation, planting, weed control and harvesting. Efforts are being concluded to procure the tractors for farmers before the commencement of the 2017 planting season.
Again, in order to mechanize farming in the state, plans are being made to procure some combined harvesters to be sold to farmers with heavy subsidy. Similarly, to encourage necessary change in livestock farming, the present administration in the state, is making efforts to encourage ranching, breeding, beef and dairy productions as well poultry and fish production. To that effect, the administration is collaborating with China Research Institute on the development of our pastures and fodder for livestock, especially on a grass species specially developed that yield 500 metric tonnes of fodder per hectare in one growing season to be made available to livestock farmers.
In line with the objective of the administration in having a healthy society free from communicable and non-communicable diseases, aFive Point Health Agenda of the administration was launched in September, 2015, which is aimed at strengthening the primary health care services with particular emphasis on diseases affecting maternal, new born and child population as well as routine immunisation exercise.
Other activities in the health sector are improvement of funding of the health sector through innovative financing mechanism, accountability and transparency. Payment of N160 million as part of the state government’s commitment in the MoU with Bill and Melinda Gates and Dangote Foundation, respectively, aimed at setting up emergency operation centres on polio; sponsorship of maternal, neo-natal and child health week and rapid response to diarrhea disease outbreak in some parts of the state; resuscitation of patient-feeding and fueling of generators in general hospitals and other health facilities in the state.
The administration facilitated the accreditation of the state College of Nursing and Midwifery and collaborated with Al-Basar International Foundation in organising a five-day free eye treatment to about 10,000 eye patients. It constructed 20 maternities, staff quarters, solar-powered boreholes in different parts of the state to reduce infant and maternal deaths as well as water-borne diseases.
Another remarkable achievement of the administration in the health sector is the official commendation received from Mr Bill Gates, the proprietor of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in which he appreciated the effort of the state government in the routine immunisation programme and the implementation of primary health care under one roof.
Under the education sector in the last 19 months, the administration of Abubakar has also performed well in the following areas: it released N80 million to reduce the backlog of expenditure on schools direct feeding programme, released about N120 million to settle WAEC and NABTEB registration fees for indigenes of
Bauchi State and hosted a meeting between the Ministry of Educationand donor organisations at the instance of the governor on ways of exploring possible areas of intervention by the donor organisations in the education sector. The administration also dedicated the largest proportion of the 2016 Budget to the education sector, while in an effort to reposition the sector, a Task Force Committee was inaugurated in 2016 with the deputy governor, who is also the commissioner for Education as the chairman.
However, one institution within the education sub-sector that was most touched by the present administration is the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi, established nearly three decades ago.
At the time Governor Mohammed Abubakar came into office in May 2016, only one out of the many courses had accreditation of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). A year down the line, the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi has over 30 courses fully accredited while approval has been secured for commencement of eight degree courses in technical and vocational courses in affiliation with the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi.
Despite the economic meltdown, the state government met its obligation of sourcing 50 per cent of UBEC counterpart funds for the 2014 and 2015 UBEC matching grants. The State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB considered it necessary to collaborate with relevant donor agencies such as UNICEF, USAID and the World Bank in its effort to provide quality compulsory basic education in the state. The governor provided 2014 and 2015 UBEC matching grants of N1.9 billion, the first of its kind in the history of the state.
In its determined effort to provide safe water for domestic use and agricultural activities, the state government released N 111.9 million as counterpart cash contribution for the construction of 300 hand pump boreholes in 300 communities of Shira and Toro local government areas. This has ensured the continued funding from the Department for International Development (DFID).
The state government is also working assiduously in collaboration with development partners to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to people in the state.
As a result of sustained effort, an estimated 700,000 people have increased access to safe drinking water through the construction of 1,652 hand pump boreholes and 34 motorized powered schemes, while about 30,000 school children have access to safe drinking water and effective sanitation in 42 schools and similarly, about 1.7 million people from over 2,000 Open Defecation Free (ODF) certified communities have increased access to sanitation and good hygiene practices.
Critical infrastructures in Bauchi State were in complete shambles when the present administration assumed office, requiring urgent government attention. The present administration therefore came into office with a renewed commitment to providing lasting solutions to the problems of rural-urban migration in the state through the provision of the critical infrastructure to both the urban and rural areas.
Governor Abubakar thus immediately awarded contract for the complete rehabilitation of Misau-Bulkachuwa–Udubo road project at the cost of over N4. 8 billion and later the extension of Misau-Bulkachuwa–Udubo road project to Gamawa, linking up with the road leading to Zaki local government.
It also awarded contract for the rehabilitation of Murtala Muhammed Way from CBN Roundabout-Federal Low Cost -Railway Road at the cost of over N2.3 billion and contract for the design and construction of 1.3km link road at Fadaman Mada at the cost of over N298 million.
The administration provided of N300 million and 650 hectares of land for the payment of compensation to the Nigerian Air Force for the establishment of an Air Force Base in Bauchi, as well as granting approval of financial and logistics support for the establishment of mini Air Force base in Azare in order to fully secure the northern part of the state.
In the Tourism Industry, the state government signed a memorandum of understanding with Zling Zoo in Czech Republic on improvement of Yankari Games Reserve and collaboration between the Zoo and the Bauchi State University on improvement of tropical agriculture.
Only recently, the state executive council approved the award of contracts for the construction, rehabilitation and dualisation of 175.312 kilometre road projects across the state at the cost of over N20 billion.
Despite Governor Abubakar’s best intentions, his administration is not devoid of crisis. As a result, his reign has been bedeviled by the lingering crisis between him and the NASS members from Bauchi state.
The altercations between the governor and members of the National Assembly can best be described as baseless since their separate functions have been adequately described by the Constitution of Nigeria.
Governor Mohammed Abubakar in describing the crisis, faulted members of the National Assembly representing the state over their self-centred demands since the inception of his administration to date.
The governor, who unfolded the circumstances that culminated to the rift between him and National Assembly members of Bauchi State, blamed it on the lawmakers for what he described as their self-aggrandisements.
He revealed that the rift between them came about as a result of the NASS members’ demand for the purchase of houses and luxury cars which he declined on the basis of lean resources at the disposal of the state government.
Abubakar, who was addressing journalists in Bauchi Friday on the eve of the nation’s 56 independence anniversary celebration, explained that the state largely depends on statutory allocation from the Federation Account which, he argued, always end in salaries and pensions payment.
“The Bauchi NASS members have at one time met me in a certain place where they requested for the purchase to them of houses in Abuja and luxury Jeep cars, but I told them that even if I’m bathing in a pool of money, I cannot afford meeting their demands”.