State police will be a burden on govs – Dr. Idris

Dr. Nasir Idris is a unionist, educationist and politician who currently serves as the governor of Kebbi state. He spoke to journalists in Abuja on the revenue-sharing formula among the three tiers of the government and state police, among other things. ABDULLAHI M. GULLOMA was there.

Kebbi has a teeming youth population, how are you engaging them to make sure the youth are not idle?

During our elections campaign, we had promised the youth that we would create opportunities for them, by engaging them, by creating skills acquisition centres, and that we have started.

We have awarded contracts for the construction of the skills acquisition centres; we will furnish them and we will make sure that we engage our teeming youth to be productive. We will engage them by giving them stipends and tools so that they can be independent.

You have vast lands in Kebbi state, and still on the youth, how are you engaging them in agriculture?

We are engaging them in farming activities by making them have an association and clusters. We bought solar pumps and all the equipment needed to make them participate actively in farming.

Our message has always been that they should go back to the farm because it is a goldmine, so to speak. I can tell you that I know that a substantial number of our youth have embraced farming.

And they are leveraging what the state government has put in place to make farming a lucrative business. We have provided solar pumps free of charge and so on.

We are now working hard to ensure that fertilisers are distributed to real farmers to encourage farming activities in the state and to particularly engage our teeming youth and make them productive and self-reliant.

Kebbi state is known for its tomatoes, which a foreign firm has now invested in. The state is also known for onions; are you thinking of replicating the tomatoes for the onion industry or do you want to engage the private sector to come in?

Recently, one private firm came to Kebbi state, and we kick-started a discussion on the issue of onions and I can tell you that we have gone far. Kebbi state is known for farming onions, so the firm said that it has a way of preserving onions or drying them and exporting them to other countries. So, we have just started discussions around that with them and I know that Inshaa Allah at the end of the day all of us will benefit from that cooperation.

What empowerment are you doing for women in terms of education, and accessing good health, especially at the grassroots?

We are doing a lot for women in Kebbi state.Women are central to our activities as a government.We have just awarded the rehabilitation of our hospitals and primary health care facilities to ensure that women in Kebbi state enjoy the dividends of our administration.

We are engaging a lot of women in agriculture and they are doing very well. Women are among the top and most powerful farmers we have in Kebbi state largely due to our intervention as a government. I know a particular woman who harvests between 600 and 1000 bags of rice at the end of a season and there are many.

So, the state government under my leadership is consistently assisting women through massive provision of fertilisers and farming tools. We have empowered them with solar pumping machines, water pump machines, seedlings, etc.

So, we are not leaving women out, they are part of this administration, and this government is ready to assist them to realise their full potential. We are not going to leave the women behind, they are part of us and part of this administration and if there’s anything that will make them to achieve the best things in life, and we will not hesitate to do it.

There has been agitation for the establishment of a state police which the federal government and governors are now considering through the National Economic Council (NEC). Where does Your Excellency stand, are you for or against?

We have to look at the advantages and disadvantages of the agitation for state police because it is something new that is about to be introduced in this country. This state police, we already have the federal police, and it is even better to look at the problems of the federal police so that we can address them and make them effective.

But we are not looking at it that way; we are only calling for the establishment of state police. If we have a state police even the funding alone is going to be difficult for the state governments. For instance, how much is an armoured personnel carrier now? If you buy one for N300 million, how many do you need to effectively cover the state? How many do you need to secure big towns and big local governments? Can you sustain the funding as a state? How effective will your funding be? What about personnel? His effectively can you manage them?

What do you think are the challenges of the existing police structure that necessitate the agitation for the creation of state police?

Well, my thinking is that instead of introducing something that has not been there since independence, it is better, like I said, to address the challenges of the existing unified police, because if the federal government is facing difficulties and challenges here and there on the policing issue, I don’t think the state governments will have a smooth sail on it.

If you have state police, then everything will be the responsibility of the state; you will pay them salaries and allowances, buy arms and ammunition, buy operational vehicles, etc, because the federal government will not give state governments money to maintain state police.

So, what are the challenges that you want to be addressed to strengthen the existing central police?

The federal government should recruit more personnel for the Nigeria Police Force. Considering our population of over 200 million people, we should have been having mass recruitment of police to sufficiently cover the country. The federal government should be recruiting at least between 10, 000 and 20, 000 policemen to bridge the manpower deficit. This recruitment exercise should be periodic to cover those who have died, retired or left the service for whatever reasons.

The key thing is that we must have sufficient police to secure the country and its people. When you have enough policemen for the growing population in the country, crimes will reduce drastically and that will guarantee peace and order.

And this recruitment drive should not be restricted to the police alone. All our security agencies, the armed forces, state security service, and civil defence, should have sufficient employees to be able to carry out their duties effectively.

Apart from the issue of staffing, our security agencies must have quality and sufficient gadgets to carry out their duties. If these agencies are well-staffed and equipped with the necessary security gadgets and equipment, there won’t be any need for a state police.

You have raised issues about a particular project in Kebbi state that was captured in the 2024 budget of the federal government. What really is your concern?

I discovered a federal government road project in my state which, as a governor and an APC governor for that matter, I was not aware of. The tradition has always been that when we have federal roads that need repairs, we normally draw the attention of the federal government to them.

In Kebbi state, we have a couple of roads that need urgent federal government intervention because they are central to the survival of our people. We have even made presentations to the federal government to fix those roads. But, surprisingly, a federal road project that is of little or no value to us as a people found its way into the 2024 federal budget. I look at it as politically motivated because there are areas in the state that are in dire need of roads, especially the areas of the people who have voted for our party. Some of these people died because their roads were not motorable.

We have even asked the federal government to give the state government the chance to construct the road, anytime they have the money to pay us, let them pay us back, but they did not look at the road that is in Zuru. About four local governments are suffering because of the inability of the federal government to fix that road.

Now, the road that the government has captured in the budget for construction at about N158 billion is even fairly motorable and half of that amount can fix the roads that our people use often. Isn’t it a misplacement of priority?

How can you prioritise a road that people hardly use over and above the ones that are being used daily? How can you just go and construct a road to a neighbouring country when your people need the road more? I cannot understand what the Federal Ministry of Works is doing.

I look at it as a fraud. I see it as a conduit pipe for some people to drain federal government’s funds, and we know the people that are behind it; we will fish them out. We will tell the whole world how somebody wants to construct a road to Niger Republic when there are internal roads that need urgent federal government attention.

That road project was smuggled into the budget because even the two ministers from the state including the Minister of Budget and National Planning were not aware of it. We have not presented that road to the federal government, and no one consulted us.

I don’t want to mention names, but they know themselves I call on the federal government, I call on Mr. President to stop the N148 billion fraud in the name of that road project.

I told them that democracy is very clear. When you cast your vote for a political party and the party wins, the expectation is that it will pay you back in terms of the provision of basic amenities. And this is the payback time because our people put in place state and central governments and as leaders of the All Progressives Congress, we must not fail the people that repose confidence.

We can only do that if we embark on policies and programmes that would benefit them and not white elephant projects that we cannot even finish in the life of our administration.

It is in light of this that we reject the proposed federal government road project because the road is not a priority for us; we have other critical roads that the federal government should fix to make life meaningful for the people of Kebbi state.

People have expressed concerns about the current revenue-sharing between the federal government and the state governments. Could you give us an insight into the issues surrounding the revenue-sharing formula?

As far as I am concerned, the revenue-sharing formula does not favour state governments. If you give the federal government 52%, the state and local governments and others will collectively share the remaining 48%.

There is no justification for the federal government to be collecting 52% of the country’s revenue. The bulk of the leadership challenges in this country are being shouldered by the state and local governments.

It is at the state that you find the farmers, the artisans, the poorest of the poor and it is our responsibility as governors to make life meaningful and worth living for them.

So, I believe that the federal government has fewer responsibilities in terms of direct interaction with Nigerians. Governors and local government chairmen deal directly with the people and that is a huge burden on them.

Our revenues should be shared in such a way that state and local governments that often have direct interactions with the Nigerian people should collect higher percentages to meet their yearnings and aspirations.

What do you think is the disconnect between the federal and state governments?

Like I said before, governors and local government chairmen have direct links with the people. We know their needs and challenges because we are closer to them than the federal government.Does the federal government have farmers? Farmers are in the states. Even the vulnerable people are in the states. The state governments and local governments have vulnerable people. That is why some of the policies of the federal government fail because they do not carry state and local governments along.

How can somebody leave Abuja to go to my state, not even the state capital, and say that he or she wants to reach out to the poorest of the poor? Does he know them? He doesn’t know them.

If you want to reach out to the people, you must partner with governors and local government chairmen. By the time you partner with the people in the state and local governments wherever you want to reach, you will reach that place.

When I wanted to share fertilisers with farmers, I constituted a committee made up of state and local government officials including security agencies and they distributed the fertilisers to those that were really in need. The fertilisers reached the place because we know them, we know the terrain, and we know the people who need the fertilisers.

We did the same when we shared grains with the people. The grains reached the grassroots and directly to the intended beneficiaries. So, if the federal government wants to share something, we should be informed so that we can provide accurate data.

You only see, at times, people going to your state that they have come to share things with the poor and when you go through the list, you will discover that almost six discovered the list cannot be in the state.

The bottom line is that the federal government needs to partner with the states and government for its policies and programmes, especially the ones that have a direct bearing on the people because we are closer to them.