Kano will be Independent Of Oil Revenues — Kano Deputy Gov, Ganduje

Source: pointblanknews.com

Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is the deputy governor of Kano State and commissioner for local government. In this interview, he gives insight into the priorities of the state government and some of its challenges including polio eradication campaign and the efforts to reduce the state's dependence on oil revenues. Excerpts:

You have recently received an award in South Africa for your efforts in restoring prudent management of funds in the local government councils. How were you able to achieve this?

First of all, the local government is the foundation of any development you can think of whether it is state or federal. It understands the people, what they require and what would promote their welfare, that is the foundation of success in managing the local population. And having realized that, we ensured that local governments are up to the task in trying to harness the demands and what would satisfy the local population. We made sure that those administering the local governments are people who are committed and well guided so that they can execute the relevant projects. I think these are the issues that made the House committee on state and local government affairs, which after going round all the local governments in the country, concluded that the ones in Kano are doing very well. They noted that the commissioner for local government was part of the success.

You were also reported to have called on councils to explore ways of generating revenues without relying on government allocations. What motivated you to make that call?

It is not safe to rely on one source of revenue like what is happening now that local governments are relying on government allocations from Abuja. Oil money is not reliable because it can go up or down or even dry up one day. Therefore it is high time local governments discover alternative sources of revenues that can make them self reliant. Because of that we hired a consultant and some international organizations to find out what can be charged as taxes in all the 44 local government areas. We want to harmonize the system. We have drafted a law and submitted it to the House of Assembly so that all the local governments would have the same tax base and rates to ensure that taxes are collected appropriately.

Already your government has increased its revenue to almost N2 billion from less than N500 million in the past. If the local governments increase their revenue generation, what is your projection of the amount that would be realized?

Well, since the harmonization of tax would be the first of its kind here, we can hardly project until we see from the initial collection. But we want to ensure that those that would be collecting the tax are honest people that would be monitored and evaluated from time to time to ensure that whatever is collected actually goes to the local government's account. But we believe, the local government's revenues would increase in many folds just like those of the state though it's difficult to give a specific figure. Our objective is to make Kano state independent of federal allocations.

As the chairman of the Kano State task force on polio eradication, what is your assessment of the campaign against polio and what are you doing to tackle the challenge of missing children by vaccinators?

Whoever is conversant with the polio eradication exercise knows that there are loopholes here and there and certainly the issue of children left out of it is a serious issue because it means that they are not being protected. And if they are infected, definitely they are bound to infect other people who also are being missed. So, what we have done now is to make sure that all stakeholders pledge to the complete success of this programme. For example, we have mobilized the local government chairmen, their heads of department, traditional rulers and other stakeholders and ensure that those who are vested with the actual carrying out of the immunization are young men and women who have the strength, commitment and knowledge to cover the areas assigned for them to cover. And also we have introduced competition between performing local governments which receive trophies at the end of each monthly campaign. This encourages local governments to conduct a large coverage that reduces the number of missed children significantly.

There are also issues of non-compliance which is almost the same as non-coverage. To address this problem, we hold dialogue with the local communities. So, by and large, this is an issue we have taken seriously.

Your government has entered into a partnership with some organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dangote Foundation and the Federal Ministry of Health with the aim of eradicating polio by 2015. Do you think that goal is realizable?

Well, it is realizable looking at the approach we have adopted. The tripartite agreement between these organizations and the state government is proving positive because we have identified the problems and the financial involvement for those problems and developed a formula where each party in the agreement would pay their dues. Therefore at the local government level we ensured that hospitals are renovated, we ensured that the daily routine immunization is being observed because we cannot continue relying on monthly immunization. So, the tripartite agreement is mainly to encourage daily routine immunization whereby anytime women go to hospital, their children are vaccinated. We are already noticing reduction in infections and if it continues like this, there is hope that polio could be eradicated in 2015.

There are also reports that some of the 5km roads that are being built by the state government are experiencing delays because the contractors have allegedly not been paid. What is the truth of the matter?

The truth of the matter is there is problem of compensation within the township or the headquarters of the local government because we cannot continue to demolish people's houses without evaluating, computing and providing alternatives to the owners of the affected houses. All these take a lot of time but it is not the issue of payment. The contractors do not have any pending certificates that have not been paid. And since the issue is about compensation, definitely the contractors would not have any certificate to present because they have not covered the areas they were supposed to cover. We held a meeting with officials of the ministry of land who are involved in evaluation for compensation with traditional rulers and stakeholders in the local government level to speed up the process so that compensation can be paid. But compensation mainly affects construction within the townships.

Your government is executing numerous infrastructural projects and programmes across the state but there are fears that you may not be able to complete these projects before the expiration of your administration in 2015. Do you think you can complete all these projects?

You see, it's a matter of planning. When we awarded these contracts, we didn't award them by intuition. We awarded these projects after a very comprehensive planning and assessment of what we have in our kit and what the technology can allow within the time frame. So, if you look at our projects for 2014 even though we have not made it public, our priority this time around is not for any new project but for the completion of all the capital projects that we are pursuing. So if you can dedicate a budget for that, I think there would be very little that would be left out at the end of the administration.

And also, you know government is a continuous process. You don't have to complete a hundred percent of whatever you are doing. For instance, the students we have sponsored abroad every year there must be payment of allowances and scholarships. Therefore you cannot say that you have completed everything before you leave government; somebody must continue. Even the recent N10 billion flyover would be almost 90 percent completed and no person can come and abandon it because it was started by a former regime. Government does not operate like that and we believe we would achieve about 90 percent of most of the projects we have initiated.

In case you are unable to complete these projects, have you taken any steps to make sure that your works are completed by the next government?

That is left in the hands of God. Only God knows who is coming isn't it?

What is your message to the people of Kano State?
We thank Allah for making it possible to come back as administrators of Kano State after leaving the scene for eight years. We thank the people of Kano state for finding it wise to vote for us again so that we can bring the desired development for the people and we feel satisfied that we have initiated a number of projects and programmes that will improve the quality of lives of our people. We have also changed the face of Kano State and I urge the people to continue to support our government in our efforts to give them more dividends of democracy.

Daily Trust