From Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state recently spoke with Journalists in the state on a wide range of issues, especially his many disagreements with former President Goodluck Jonathan while serving as the Speaker, House of Representatives.
Nigerians have been advocating for specific roles for religious and traditional rulers, what is the position of Sokoto state on the matter?
This government has respect for traditional institutions, and since we came on board, we have accorded them the respect they deserve. They play important roles in efforts to sustain peace and security, and in a larger sense, they promote religious and communal harmony. Because of their place in our history, we know we cannot do anything less for them. But you will agree with me that our financial situation since we came on board has been precarious. Government has cut down on expenditure, and has prioritised areas of needs for the whole state. I am happy that our traditional rulers have understood clearly what we are faced with and they have not pressured us to continue with the policy of fixing their palaces when there are more competing needs in our hospitals, primary healthcare centres, agriculture, education, youth, women empowerment among others.
Similarly, if you look into the number and importance of projects we met on ground and the pressure to complete them, what we did, is in the best interest of the state. We inherited about 30 large and important projects from the last administration, and we are working hard to complete all of them and put them to use for the benefit of the citizens. These are projects that we have to complete as allowing them rot away will lead to wastage of funds earlier expended to start these projects.
Why is the state government having difficulties paying Council workers their salaries?
We have carried out verification exercise to determine the correct number of workers in each of the 23 local government Councils of Sokoto state. What we met on ground was beyond reason because the strength of the workforce in our local governments is twice more than that of Kano that has 44 Councils. We felt this is not sustainable. We are continuing with the biometric verification to ensure that only genuine workers remain in the schedule of payment, and they will be paid according to their levels. We must do this to sanitise the system and ensure ghost workers or absentee workers do not find sanctuary in the local government system.
How will you describe the performance of the state’s 2016 budget?
I have spoken about this during the presentation of this year’s budget, and in fact when I assented to the budget law a few days ago. Taking a holistic view of the performance of the budget, I feel we can do more.
That is why we started this year by making necessary changes in the personnel that drive the budget process, as can be seen from what we did at the board of internal revenue. We will continue to improve the system because time is not on our side. What I’m promising the people is that the performance of the 2017 budget will be better than that of 2016 in terms of implementation, while even distribution of resources will be ensured. We will start new projects across the state, with much emphasis placed on rural areas.
What is the Northern Governors’ Forum doing to improve security in the region?
We discussed many areas of cooperation, for example agriculture, education and the likes. As for security, we agreed to share intelligence and this has been paying off. Take for instance issues of castle rustling; because of renewed onslaught by security agencies and the inter-state collaboration among all the states, this problem has reduced. We still have few scattered instances, but we are working to tackle that as well. This cooperation is extending to cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, civil unrest and the likes. So the more we collaborate the better for us as states and the better for our citizens.
What is your view about the current economic situation in the country and what is the way out of the recession?
Experts have called on the Federal Government to inject more money into the system. Personally, I believe creating job opportunities, especially through the construction industry, and injection of more money into the economy, remain a sure way out of the current recession in the country. Ask any Economist about the way out of recession, and I am sure they will inform you that massive construction efforts, backed by release of funds, will create jobs whose multiplier effects will jump start the economic barometer.
Similarly, we’ve read how immediate-past President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, used this strategy of massive construction works to take America out of economic challenges. So construction projects alone will create a lot of jobs which will benefit the economy. We all know that Nigerians are not happy and are running out of patience, but they should be more patient. It is very easy to destroy but to rebuild the economy takes time.
As Speaker of the House of Representatives, I’ve had reasons to disagree with many of the policies of the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan which we felt were inimical to the overall development and well-being of the people. Many thought we were raising the alarm because we had personal hatred for him. That is not the case. I had nothing personal against the former President. The recession we are currently facing was as a result of the way the economy was mismanaged, largely, by the Jonathan administration.