Mr. Imam Dalhatu Imam, the Special Adviser to Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, speaks on the governor’s priorities in the last one year, in this interview with Anayo Okolie. Excerpts:
How does it feel to be in the executive arm after four years in the legislature?
The adjustment has been gradual and the experience worthwhile. However, the demands of the two offices are not similar largely because in the National Assembly, we were representing a constituency from far away in Abuja. But in the executive arm, as the number one citizen of a state, we are presiding over the affairs of the state from the state capital. We are working from within the midst of the people at all times. This gives us the opportunity to feel their pulse and work together with them to find lasting solutions to issues.
What sector do you think has been closest to Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s heart since his assumption of office one year ago?
From the word go, we streamlined and zeroed in our plan of action on five areas, namely, education, health, agriculture and environment, women and youth empowerment, job creation and development of solid minerals. In terms of revenue generation, we looked at our areas of competitive advantage and decided to explore it for the benefit of the citizenry. Within the first few days in office, we outlawed denying any child education in the state and put in place mechanism to punish any parent that refused to send his child to school. We followed that up with the declaration of state of emergency in the education sector and so far, visible impact has been made in that regard. We’ve built school infrastructure, recruited more teachers and ensured massive enrolment of new intakes into schools. For the 2015/2016 school session, more than one million children were admitted into schools for the first time. That is a massive number considering the lackadaisical manner the people handled past enrolments.
On health, we revamped the state primary health care development agency and implemented the PHC under-one-roof policy, which streamlined all policies in that sector for easy implementation. Such proactive measures were implemented in all the sectors. We felt we must approach governance with every idea, energy and resource at our disposal because our people deserve only the best from us.
How would you describe the relationship between labour and the Tambuwal government?
We have enjoyed a cordial relationship with labour unions in the state. They have been of tremendous help to the government and we have not failed in fulfilling our obligations to them. We have remained consistent in payment of staff salaries, retirement benefits and other remunerations to workers. In fact, all demands made to the government by the Nigerian Labour Congreves have been met. We have particularly ensured payment of accumulated life, death and contract gratuities and pension arrears of retired civil servants in the state. Recently, we paid benefits to beneficiaries for the period of December 2011 to August, 2015, amounting to well over N2.6 billion, and 1,901 former civil servants benefited. We have also sustained payment of regular monthly pension to retired civil servants. The sum of N1, 247,703,547.43 has so far been expended from June 2015 to May 2016, with over 5,000 pensioners involved.
How would you assess the state government’s attention to agriculture, especially in this era of diversification and pressure to increase internally generated revenue?
Our farmers will testify to the fact that this administration has impacted positively in the sector in the last one year. We have purchased about 20,000 metric tonnes of assorted fertilisers, worth over N1.2 billion, for this year’s cropping season. The state government has also intervened in the provision of water pumps, seedlings, drilling tube wells and machineries at the cost of N1.66 billion. Similarly, we have procured 1000 units of Tiller Machines for distribution to farmers.
We recently visited China to particularly explore areas of cooperation for agricultural development of our dear state. Accordingly, an MOU was signed on Distance Aid Training to essentially train students on Grains Food Security with Henan University of Technology via Polytechnic of Sokoto State. There is a similar agreement on the construction of Agricultural Science and Technology Park in collaboration with Henan Province. The state government has also signed an MOU with Camaco China – Africa Machinery Co-op to provide access for the state to concessionary Chinese funding on the platform of the China-Africa Development Fund (CADF). Currently, Data Base Census is being conducted for all farmers in the state with a view to identifying real farmers and their categories to enable the state government empower them correctly, and put in place proper budgeting for long-term planning.
What are some of the greatest challenges of the Tambuwal government?
Basically, we have challenges of funding. Revenues from the Federation Account have dropped and that has made us to look inwards to generate internal revenue to execute many of our projects. We have challenges of expectation because the people expect miracles to happen at the shortest time possible. It is within their right to do so, even though realities on ground point to a different direction. We are working assiduously to meet such expectations even in the midst of dwindling resources.