Governor Idris Wada of Kogi state recently celebrated his two years in office. In this interview with OYIBO SALIHU and other journalists, the governor opens up on some issues bordering on his administration, including the N20 billion bond from capital market, its agricultural reform as well as that of some sacked local government workers in the state
We applied for N20 billion but it was arranged in the trenches of N5billion. The first N5billion will be available by first week of February. There are many processes and procedure involved and the bond is tied to projects. It is not money given out for people to use the way they like. We had a presentation at the issuing houses, such as Security and Exchange Commission(SEC), Debt Management Office and the Federal Ministry of Finance. We have to specify what we are going to use the money for, and specifically we are going to use the money for infrastructure development. We intend to build a road from Otokiti to Ganaja- Ajaokuta road which will be double lane so as to open up a new town in the state capital.
It is also in our plan to build 500 housing units from the proceeds of the bond, we are going to build zonal hospitals with the bond as well as several water projects in the three senatorial districts of the state. Also, some schools will be touched. The Kogi State University Teaching Hospital at Anyigba is a major project that would also come out of the bond. For all these projects, studies were carried out, consultations were made and some of them were at the stage of tender opening. After about three months, subject to how well we use the first trench, we now apply for the second trench of the bond which is another N5 billion and then we will execute those projects. Some of the projects I have outlined earlier cannot be completed with the first trench, we will just start and take them to a certain stage where an evaluation by the bond issuing authorities would be carried out, they would come and expect to see how far we have gone and how well we have spent the money before they approved the second trench of the money. This money is not the type of money that will be floating around for us to do what we like with it. It is targeted at specific projects which will be periodically assessed by the bond issuing authority before further disbursement are made.
On the issue of Sally Tibot screening of 2008 where some workers were sacked, the aggrieved sacked workers that went to court got judgment but the state government appealed the judgment at Appeal Court in Abuja and I believe we have a stay, that is why they have not been recalled back. So, until we hear from the appeal and the legal advice of the state ministry justice before we can take any action on the matter, but I assure you that it will be resolved.
The Accelerated Rice Programme is on, but we have not made much noise this year as we did last year because last year was the beginning. We believe that we have achieved the awareness because a lot of our people have shown interest . In Sarkin Noma area, we have a seedling farm there and a lot of rice has been planted for the dry season farming. Interested farmers have accessed input, we have given them seedlings, fertilizers and extension workers who are working with them. We have also gone further to send a team from the state to Vietnam, because Vietnam is a country, that about twenty years ago was importing rice but when they started a programme of growing rice.
Today, the country is about the second or third largest exporter of rice in the whole world. Vietnam used appropriate technology, we sent a team there to study what they were doing, they came back with ideas on how to improve our performance and we are now implementing some of those ideas. During the first week of February we will have a visiting team from Vietnam to work with our people to increase their capacity in terms of rice production in the state. We are going to partner with the team from Vietnam to make Kogi State one of the largest producer of rice in Nigeria in few years from now.
Yes! Much publicity was not given as we did in the first year but we are working hard on the sustainability of the programme and my happiness is that many of our farmers has improved their methods and they have shown tremendous interest in rice production. We are also number one in the country in terms of cassava production. Every local government council in Kogi State grows cassava in large quantities. Recently, we took the Minister of Agriculture and 14 American from Cargil group of Company to Alape in Kabba Bunu local government, we as a state have clear and planted over 200 hectares of cassava which is growing beautifully. They were very happy at our effort and commitment, and they were ready to work with us to put big cassava plant there that would produce starch and sweeteners for the domestic and export market.
We are encouraging our people to grow cassava because we have also introduced cassava processing micro industries in some of the local governments in the state and more local governments will be co-opted into the programme this year where youth and women will be engaged in processing cassava chips, and others. The market is growing, we are now being recognized for the cassava cultivation because we got enquires from industries that need the cassava as raw material.
On cashew, Kogi is also doing well . We are working hand in hand with the Cashew Association of Nigeria tapping on their experiences, we are again in contact with a team in Vietnam to domesticate cashew for us so that we can add value to it. Through the association, we are working toward processing of cashew before it is being exported so that the farmers can get their value. When the Vietnamese come, they will help us to establish cashew plantations. This plantation will form copious cashew processing industries in the state
The Vietnamese will train our people on modern techniques and varieties of cashew that will sell, that will give the farmers higher yield. In addition Kogi State University Anyigba have started processing cashew and the product is already in the market for consumption. The University is planning to establish a cashew centre of excellence , they have done a lot of researches on cashew nut to improve on it and to make it as one of their sources of Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) to help the programmes of the University. So a lot of work have been done in this area but it has not been published because we want to be confident and sure of the way forward before we publicize it. This is one of the characteristic of our Government as we do a lot of planning, research and be sure of what we are doing before we made it public.
On the Internal Generated Revenue of the State, before I took over, the IGR of the state was between N150million to N180million, but we improved it to N450 to N500million per month. What we did was to block some of the leakages and we have started seeing the prospect The biggest effort we are putting now is working with the Department For International Development((DFID) which sent a team to us called James – 3 who are helping us to go to the fundamental of IGR, they carried out documentation of undocumented people and organizations in the state, guide us on the way forward because they have done it in three other states in this country where the states have seen tremendous improvement. So there is a systematic effort working with the DFID, the State Board of Internal Revenue and the Ministry of finance to restructure the IGR systems of Kogi State.
We hope that by the time next year, we would be talking about double or triple what we are generating as IGR now in the State. We are also educating our people that tax is a civil obligation and if you are expecting development you should. contribute your part by paying tax regularly. Recently the DFID assisted us with four Hilux vehicles and ten motorcycle to ease movement of the tax officers. We have also recruited some young graduates who are to be trained to improve on the collection and documentation of IGR in the State.
The issue of local government councils paying half salaries to their staff in Kogi State is unfortunate and unconstitutional. When people agitate for local government autonomy, it looks realistic, but in the actual sense of it , it can never work because of financial recklessness of some people who may be opportune to be at the helm of affairs of the councils . Local government council was established as third tier form of government aimed at taking development to the grass root . Since I came on board , I have been giving free hand to the chairmen of the local government in the state to operate. I don’t interfere or touch their money.
The councils’ allocation comes direct into the joint account, after the statutory deduction as stipulated by law, I ordered that their money be given to them without removing kobo, unfortunately there is high level of mismanagement in the council. The chairmen don’t have reason to pay certain percentage of money to their staff as salaries except there are ghost workers which we have insisted that a biometric exercise should be conducted to know the actual and genuine staffers of the councils. The report of the biometric has been submitted to me, but it is not yet implemented because of some political reasons and sentiments attached to it.
I have also set a committee of high reputable people within the state to look into LGAs, take complaints of the people , investigate and address any genuine complaint after which the result of the biometric exercise will be implemented.
I am optimistic that with this measure in place , the wage bill will go down to the level that they will be able to pay salaries conveniently.