From John Adams, Minna
Usually, during electioneering, governorship candidates mostly promise to address poverty, unemployment, infrastructural facilities in roads, water supply and healthcare delivery. Such campaign promises are redeemed through the proper implementation of the annual budgetary proposal.
During his declaration to seek the nomination of All Progressives Congress (APC) to contest the governorship of Niger State in 2015, the governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello said that he was seeking the mandate of the people “to restore its lost glory and reclaim its prosperity, selflessness and uncommon services”.
The governor acknowledged that there was a lot of work to be done, saying that “the current state of infrastructural decay and the superimposed state of insecurity calls for swift and urgent action”. Among the campaign promises of the governor was to address youths unemployment by creating jobs, respecting and upholding the dignity of women and girl child and other vulnerable groups, charting a new sources of economic growth and fostering peaceful and harmonious co-existence among the diverse population and promoting prosperity based on the talents and resourcefulness of the people.”
These were part of the convincing submissions by Bello, which won the heart of the people of the state and gave the governor an overwhelming support, culminating in his emergence in 2015 as the sixth elected civilian governor of the state.
On assumption in office in May 29, 2015, the governor reassured the people that despite the dwindling revenues from the federation account, the heavy external and internal debt burden on the state, the weak internally generated revenue (IGR), an unworkable structure of government with 36 ministries and 105 parastatals , agencies, boards and corporations, and above all, a disillusioned and unmotivated workforce-lacking in funds and essential material with which to function, his administration was coming to government prepared and determined to frontally confront these challenges and others that are likely to frustrate their efforts.
However, two years down the line, mixed reactions have greeted the performance of the governor, especially with regards to the fulfillment of his campaign promises.
Although the administration has made some impact in the area of education in the state with massive renovation of some dilapidated schools across the state and a promise to build one modern school in each of the three senatorial zones, it decision to stop the payment of NECO and WAEC examination fees for final year indigent students from the state has attracted sharp reactions from the public.
Before the coming on board of the present administration, the burden of payment of both NECO and WAEC examination fees was taken away from parents, but now they have to cough out well over N24, 000 for both examinations and this depends on the number of children a parent has.
Dan’yahaya, a parent who works in one of the government parastatals told Daily Sun that the abolition of these examination fees was one the most unpopular decision so far taken by this government, in view of the current economic reality in the country.
“It was a great burden that the past government took away from parents because some parents can manage to be paying school fees but when it comes to WAEC or NECO they usually find it difficult, especially when you have more than one child in final year. We are appealing to the government to have a rethink over this decision because things are not easy now. This may lead to increase in the number of dropouts from school”, he declared.
Provision of water
Water supply is one challenge that no administration in the state in the last ten years has been able to surmount. Between 2007 and 2015, the immediate past administration was said to have expended well over N3billion, just to provide water, yet the taps could not run until the administration left office.
However, at the inception of the present administration two years ago, the governor declared emergency on water, and promised to tackle the problem of perennial water scarcity in Minna and other cities of the state.
He said his administration was going to undertake turn round maintenance of all the equipment at the water works so as to increase production capacity from present 20percent to at least 80percent in addition to ensuring the reticulation of water in all parts of the state. He explained that the equipment at the water plant were installed over 30 years ago and had not received total maintenance since then.
He directed the Permanent Secretary of the state ministry of water resources to produce a comprehensive plan for efficient water supply to the people, adding that people must also be ready to pay bills for water consumption.
But all these plans have remained on the drawing board two years after, and all indications point to the fact that there is no end in sight as scarcity of water in Minna, the state capital and its environs remains a common feature.
Water vendors in the state capital have taken advantage of the situation to hike the price of water as a jerry can (20 liter) of water which hitherto sold for N20 now goes for between N50 to N70, depending on the location.
However, if the recent pronouncement by the state commissioner for water resources and Dams, Alhaji Idris Abubakar Azozo during a radio programme in Minna, is anything to go by, then residents of Minna and its environ may have to wait for a longer time before water flows from their taps.
The commissioner attributed the current water scarcity to the epileptic power supply in the state, saying that “because of poor power supply, we cannot supply water like we used to. The government is trying to provide a new generator that will be able to power our plants to allow us increase our capacity”.
Daily Sun’s investigations in Minna and its environs reveal that the only source of portable water supply available to the people are privately owned boreholes where water vendors patronise, while those who cannot afford to buy water from the water vendors rely on well water and this, according to a health personnel, Shehu Abubakar, who spoke to our Correspondent on the dangers of the well water, said apart from cholera, it could cause typhoid fever and guinea worm.
One of the water vendors who also spoke to our Correspondent in Maitumbi area of Minna where the scarcity is said to biting harder disclosed that they (water vendors) buy a truck of ten Jerry cans (20 liters) for between N250 and N300 and sell for N500 or N700, depending on the location.
At the inception of the administration, the governor, declared operation zero pot holes for the first 100 days in office. This, the government had followed religiously and the pot holes have disappeared. The government has also taken further steps to fix some township roads that were not motorable.
Some of these roads include the Sabon Gari-Kasuwan Gwari road, the brighter road, and the NNPC mega station- Himma school road, among others.
However the government’s intervention on Minna-Suleja road could not yield any result as the road went bad barely one month after the N500million repair work was completed.
While the government may have achieved some successes in fixing roads within the state capital, all the 25 councils are yet to feel the impact of the government in the area of roads. No single kilometer of road has so far been tarred in the councils.
Speaking on the governor’s performance so far, the chairman of the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barrister Tanko Beji, said the government lacked focus as it has not come out with a clear policy on how to transform the “rot” they claim to have inherited.
“Two years have gone, and we are yet to see any meaningful development. Every day, it is one excuse or the other, there is no direction, and there is no vision. It has been two years of complain and blame games”.
He described the nonpayment of salary of civil servants in the councils as unacceptable, saying the people should ask the governor, to explain to them how the N6billion bailout funds he collected was expended.
Barrister Beji said that the governor had no reason whatsoever not to pay local government staff their salary for two months running now after collecting monthly allocation of the 25 councils.
Also in it reaction to the governor’s performance in the last two years, a group, the 1976s in a press statement signed by its Coordinator, Mohammedu D. Abubakar said that the governor lacks what they called “encyclopedic understanding of Niger State and art of governance.”
According to the group, “Mr. Governor has made it easier for Nigerlites to judge his performance which split into short, medium and long term and this can be seen in his development blueprint (ASEY & WE) 2015-2019, his acceptance speech as governor and that of 100 days in office.
The group pointed out that they are motivated to X-Ray the governor’s performance “because of the increasing banners adoring the city of Minna with the caption ‘Lolo is working’, which is a complete misrepresentation of the true situation on ground after two years in office.”
The group said for instance, under Youth’s empowerment, the governor promised to train 370,000 youths every year in entrepreneurship, meaning that after two years in office he should have trained 740,000 youths but nothing to show for this.
“Even with the promise to lift the embargo on employment of health workers, more than four months after interviewing over 1,000 health personnel, not a single person has been given employment letter.”
The group said this is in addition to the governor’s failure to utilize $150million from the Federal Ministry of health to all states of the federation to improve maternal and child care service, pointing out that “the said money is laying fallow in the Central Bank of Nigeria, Minna Branch”.
Also, a retired Principal in one of the public schools in the state, Abdul Mamman Shehu, described the two years administration of the APC at all levels as “two years of pain and frustrations”.
In Niger state for example, he said there is nothing to suggest that the administration has brought the change it promised, saying that “I think we are better off in the corrupt government of PDP than this change government”.
But the state commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Jonathan Vasta disagreed with those who think that the government has not done anything, saying that two years was not enough to judge a performance of this administration that inherited a “rotting system”.
“When we came in, everything was at stand still. Nobody knows where to start from because the entire system was messed up. We inherited a complete decayed government with empty treasury at every level. Up till now this government cannot boast of clearing this decay just within two years”, the state’s spokesperson, said.
This is just as he insisted that the administration deserved some commendations for what it has achieved so far in the area of roads, health, education and its effort towards the turnaround of the state water works for a better service delivery.