CHIEF SERVANT: WALKING HIS TALK, DOING GREAT WORKS (2)
Concerted efforts in the health sector have been rewarding in Niger State, For instance in 2010, the HIV/AIDs scourge reduced from 6.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent, and the state has earned an enviable polio free status over two years, as millions of naira has been released by the government to intensify polio eradication campaigns and carry out routine immunization.
In order to further boost healthcare service, new hospitals, one in each of the three Senatorial zones have been built, in Sabon Wuse, Gulu and Nasko, while hundreds of other health centres have been upgraded and equipped. Free medical services are being enjoyed by children, pregnant mothers and the aged across the state.
The administration of the Chief Servant introduced the Graduate Employment Scheme (GES) and recently the Voluntary Teaching Scheme (VTS), which have gulped hundreds of millions of naira and employed over 5,000 graduates.
Education in the state has been made free and compulsory, from primary to secondary school. In addition, the state government has committed hundreds of millions of naira annually to pay for WASC and NECO examinations fees for final year students in the public secondary schools.
These interventions have greatly enhanced school enrolment. The student population grew from 650,000 in 2007 to now over 1.2 million. The edict against withdrawal of children, especially girl-child has been enforced and teachers have been well motivated. Their outstanding promotions over the years were effected, and the state is among the pioneer states to pay the newly introduced Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) in the country.
Attention to this sector was instructive and deliberate because when the administration took over in 2007, out of 22,000 teachers in the state, only 7,000 were found to be qualified to teach.
Having identified the civil servants in the state as the engine that drives development effort, in terms of policy formulation and implementation, the administration also evolved strategic training and development programmes to invigorate the workers and boost their productivity.
There have been several retreats in the state, organised for both the political class and the top echelon of the civil service to hone their skills for better service delivery to Nigerlites. Much earlier in the life of the administration, e-training programmes were organised for senior civil servants to equip them with basic competency skills to utilize the computer and its resources, such as word, spreadsheet and IT applications; to modernise the services; maximise the use of the internet, and institute e-governance in the state.
At the end of the programme, every trainee went home with a desktop computer or laptop, one of the largest such programmes, one can recollect, by any government anywhere to equip public servants with computer.
Every government has as a cardinal objective to ensure peace and security of lives and property of its citizenry. The governor has tremendously worked tirelessly to sustain the state's enviable history of being one of the most peaceful states, despite obvious daunting security challenges in the country.
Only recently, in his administration's continued effort to ensure that peace and security reign in the state, the government spent N414 million to provide security vehicles and gadgets to security personnel in the state.
Conscious of a serious housing deficit and the attendant difficulty and effects on the well being of the citizens and particularly public servants in the state, the government vowed to remedy the situation by embarking on provision of houses.
The government is determined to provide 10,000 houses in Minna, Suleja, Bida and Kontagora through its pet Private Partnership Project (PPP) programme, which is expected to gulp over N33 billion. Also very important to the welfare of the people, is easy and affordable transportation, in which government has provided under its mass transport programme about 300 new commuter buses and 1,000 tricycles to boost mass transit in the state.
In pursuit of the dream of the state to be an economic and commercial hub in the country, the current administration is unrelenting in its determination to actualise the potentials of being an oil producing state.
Hence, a high-power 24-man gubernatorial committee for the development of the Bida Basin headed by Gen. M. I Wushishi has been constituted to pursue the dream. Likewise, a 21-man Investment Promotion Council is at work in the state to drive home viable investments, as well as a 7-man Suleja- FCT Interface Committee which is working assiduously to change the fortunes of the ancient city and gateway to Abuja, the nation's capital. These intense and sustaiined efforts will no doubt promote peace and economic activities in the area and in the state.
-Baba is senior special adviser (Information) in the office of the SSG, Niger State