An x-ray of Sokoto under Ahmed Aliyu

Like most of his counterparts in the other 35 states, Governor Ahmed Aliyu of Sokoto state marked his one year in office on May 29, 2024. He scored himself very high marks in the performance of his administration in the last one year.

This write-up is a candid review of the governor’s scorecard against the backdrop of, first and foremost, the provision of security which is number one on his “9-Point Smart Innovative Agenda”. Other issues include payment of gratuity to retired and deceased civil servants.

At every stop in his electioneering campaign train for the 2023 elections, the then All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, was always swearing to high heavens that he was going to bring an end to insecurity especially in the beleaguered Sokoto East.

One year on now, the people of Sokoto state can hardly see or feel the impacts of the governor’s efforts in tackling the menace. Rather, people of the state only hear the governor’s haranguing about the previous administration of former Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal that he didn’t do this or that as if Tambuwal is still the governor and Ahmed is in the opposition seeking to unseat him. 

As it is, the security situation in Sokoto state since Aliyu’s inauguration on May 29, 2023, has only worsened with terrifying number of people either killed, abducted or maimed. Women are raped with impunity and humongous amount of money paid as ransom to the blood sucking terrorists simply called bandits. 

From 2019 when bandits began to unleash their murderous weapons on the hapless people of Tabanni in Rabah local government area through to Dantasakko in Goronyo local government area, Garki in Sabon Birni local government area and the black Sunday Market massacre in Goronyo local government area, there was not a single of such sad occasions that the leadership in Sokoto state ever visited and/or commiserated with any of the affected communities.

We had thought that the governor wanted to and indeed leveraged on the mayhem to come to power. But nobody thought that the administration would continue with the nonchalant attitude to the loss of lives and properties of the people of Sokoto East or anywhere else in the state by refusing to pay condolence visits to the affected communities.

Since coming to power, the governor visited only Giyawa and Tangaza in Goronyo and Tangaza local government areas, respectively, where he condoled with the people over bandit attacks in those communities. That visit only came after criticisms from left, right and center.

In contrast, it is on record that former Governor Tambuwal always cancelled whatever he was doing in any part of the world to come back to Sokoto to commiserate with any community affected by bandit attacks. Several times, he shed tears on seeing the bodies of the people killed by the daredevils. His concern was genuine. He was handicapped in terms of dealing with the situation because he had no control over the security agencies in spite of the deceptive title of being the “Chief Security officer of the State”. 

Currently, Isa, the headquarters of Isa local government area, is full to the brim with Internally displaced persons from Tidibale, Gidan Sale, Gidan Rana, Girnashe and many other communities that had many of their people killed, abducted, animals rustled and whole settlements burnt down by the terrorists.

The story is the same in the Sabon Birni local government area comprising Gatawa, Gangara, Kagara, Tarah, Garin Idi, where the current state deputy governor hails from. Similarly, iMakwaruwa, Lajinge and many other communities are daily being attacked by the marauders moving freely in their communities and killing their sons, abducting their women and levying taxes on communities as protection fees for them to be allowed to work on their farms.

Apparently borrowing a leaf from neighbouring Katsina and Zamfara states, Governor Ahmed Aliyu has established a community security outfit known as Sokoto State Community Guards. However, unlike in those two states, the governor has not given the guards even sticks with which to protect their communities at the end of their training.

Consequently, the recruitment only exposes the volunteers to being targeted by bandits for the kill in any community they attacked. Even the motorcycles displayed on the occasion were never distributed to Guard Corp members. It’s possible that the motorcycles were hired for the occasion and were returned to the owners immediately after the closing ceremony. 

Welfare of civil servants, especially, retirees, is another critical issue worth perusal in the one-year scorecard of Governor Ahmed Aliyu. These segments of the society were given mouth watering assurances that once the governor was voted into power, manna would just be falling from heaven and all their problems would be solved. 

In this regard, the only tangible thing the Aliyu administration did in its first one year was the establishment of a committee to identify and compile the number of retirees who the state government owes gratuity. The committee which was given two weeks to submit its report took months to complete its assignment.

They identified 4000 retirees, 900 of whom are deceased with N14 billion outstanding gratuity and death benefits. Therefore, with the huge amount coming to the coffers of the state and the pledge by the governor to settle the backlog of gratuities, one would expect that the governor would set aside a one-bullet- amount of not less than N5 billion to flag off the payment of retirement and death benefits to senior citizens and families of the deceased civil servants.

Sadly, the hope of these retirees came crumbling like pack of cards, when after receiving the report, the governor directed that N500 million be set aside monthly for the payment of gratuities. He, indeed, followed this up with the commencement of payments on May 29, 2024. This means that some retirees would have to wait till 2026 to be paid their benefits because if N14 billion is divided by N500 million monthly, it will take 28 months or two years and four months to complete payment of arrears of gratuities. Before the payment of arrears is completed, another backlog of retirees from May 2024 to 2026 would then have piled up. Thus, the vicious cycle of arrears would continue.  

It is surprising that Sokoto did not borrow from neighbouring Zamfara where Governor Dauda Lawal Dare set aside over N4 billion to clear all backlog of gratuity. In Borno state, Governor Babagana Zulum did the same for 2011 to 2024 retirees. One wonders why Ahmed Aliyu chose to start payment with a meagre N500 million per month even with an increase of over 100% inflow from the Federation Account since June 2023.

The governor as usual blames his predecessor Aminu Tambuwal for the non-payment of gratuities to retired civil servants. He forgot or decided to ignore the fact that his mentor, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko met a zero-arrears pension and gratuity payment system in the state at the time he took over from Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa as governor of Sokoto state in 2007. 

It is on record that Governor Wamakko did not pay even the severance allowances of his predecessors not to talk of ordinary retirees. It was under him that payment of retirement benefits to personnel got into crisis such that people have to wait for years after retirement to be paid their benefits.

Governor Aminu’s tenure, like that of his colleagues elected at the same time, started on a very bad note in terms of finances such that the federal government had to give them bailout to be able to take off. Sokoto state received N4 billion bailout to settle gratuity arrears. A committee was set up under the chairmanship of the then and current state accountant general, Umaru Ahmad Tambuwal, to screen and come out with the correct list of persons who the state government owed retirement, death and contract gratuities.

Governor Tambuwal used the bailout from the federal government to settle the benefits of all his democratically elected predecessors from 1984 to 2007 as well as the arrears of 2007 to 2015 that Wamakko refused to pay retired workers. I said refused because in the history of Sokoto state, except Aliyu’s, no government has received so much from the federation account as that of Wamakko. 

If Wamakko had paid retirees during his tenure like Bafarawa did, there wouldn’t have been any backlog to be left by Governor Tambuwal and which Governor Aliyu inherited. In essence, Aliyu inherited the backlog of gratuity from the Wamakko administration not Tambuwal’s.

In conclusion, one would enjoin Governor Aliyu to stop playing the blame game on his failings. He should instead strive to fulfill his electioneering campaign promises. He should especially look at the rural dwellers who are groping and wallowing under the suffocating grips of banditry and resultant excruciating poverty. He should look inwards to reassess his 9-Point (un)smart Agenda to see if he is making any progress or not. After all, every good plan must have a monitoring and evaluation component in order to succeed.

Hussaini Na-Hantsi Gadabo, a

retired civil servant, writes from 

Gada, Sokoto state