Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari has a dream for the state and is beginning to live it, writes Ibrahim Shuaibu
Coming back from a business trip to China and India a fortnight ago, where he had gone to attract investors as well as showcase the potential that abounds in Katsina State, Governor Aminu Bello Masari said he had been better prepared on how to boost the economy of his state. Masari, a former Speaker of House of Representatives also said he was not unaware of the fact that boosting the economy comes with commensurate infrastructure development to enhance the Internally Generated Revenue through agriculture, power, education and standard health care delivery.
At a recent economic summit held in the state, Masari, before President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic team, reiterated that Katsina was endowed in both natural and human resources and called on the captains of industry and other investors not to miss the opportunity to invest in a promising Katsina with a view to laying an even solid foundation for the growth of the state and also have value for their money.
“Now, in the health sector, we have already placed order for equipment for three general hospitals. We have also made an advert for the recruitment of over 600 medical staff. And right now, we have employed them in our Special Hospitals to offer professional services. Now, we are doing that, even in other sectors.
“For instance, in our own University – the Umar Musa Yar’Adua University wants to start offering medical courses and you cannot operate a department of Medicine without a standard Teaching Hospital. For this reason, we wrote to the Federal Ministry of Health, because Gombe was given a Federal Medical Hospital and it was updated to Teaching Hospital.
“Ebonyi was also given. So, on the basis of these two experiences, we wrote and the Federal Ministry of Health replied us that they could not, because they also have a federal institution right in the future in need of services of a Federal Medical Centre. Now, I came back home, and say to myself: why can’t we start looking at what we have and see how we can upgrade them.
So, we invited our own professionals, and again, we have also invited international consultants, that will come and see how we can harmonise working with their own professionals because like I told you, once you have somebody who was a Managing Director of a Teaching Hospital for eight years, and as a Vice Chancellor of a University for eight years, he is sufficiently equipped.
“You have somebody who is managing a Teaching Hospital now in Sokoto who is also from Katsina; we feel he is sufficiently experienced to offer advice. And we have a Professor, also from Katsina, who was the immediate past Vice Chancellor and has headed the ABU (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria), Teaching Hospital. These three and from between them, they can give us a report that nobody can beat. And the good part of it is that it will be free-of-charge because they are Katsina indigenes. So, we are working.”
Continuing, he said “we are also looking at upgrading the Dental Clinic in Daura to international standard. From what we have done to that Dental Clinic already, we can even do a Degree programme there on Dentistry. So, if we look at raising that Department; and with an Eye Centre as a department, we can have a very good Teaching Hospital that can serve our own University, which we believe is better. It may take us two to three years, but it is better, and that is what we are starting now. We are projecting to have a Teaching Hospital that we can call our own, that can work with our own university.”
On Agriculture, Masari said “We are making serious progress. The Deputy Governor is the chairman of the Agriculture Team. He is also the Commissioner in charge of Agriculture. We also brought in a professional, who was a consultant to various international organisations on Agriculture, Dr. Abba Abdullahi. I must tell you that I am impressed by what they are doing now. They are doing a ground work.
“You know, agriculture is not all about fertilizer because mere distribution of fertilizer is all about ceremony, which the governors are very interested in doing so that the cameras and media will capture them. Here in Katsina, we are doing the most important work now. We are doing the census because we want to know who-is-who. We are identifying the real farmers; we are identifying the farm lands; we want to know which type of fertilizer is suitable for the farmlands and which implements are suitable for the farmlands. We are doing the basic ground work, we have sufficient money in place; and when we are through with the ground work, we will also start rehabilitating some of the smaller dams.
“When we were campaigning, what we were saying was that given the availability of resources, it is our intention to provide a dam in each of the Wards, intending to open the availability of small steam that can engage between 30 to 50 farm lands on irrigation agriculture. So, for us, we need a comprehensive study.
“Like we said several times, this government is not, and there is no intention of approaching any project blindfolded so that we can achieve quick and unsustainable political gain. That means we want to play to the gallery. No. We want to be realistic, we want to true to our words. Basically, we have to do what is right; we want to lay a solid foundation for a more sustainable agriculture in Katsina State.”
The governor hinted that they had started discussing with some interested people about wood farming, being a new arm of farming. He said people are yet to know that with two hectres of wood land with annual harvesting, “you make more money than the farmer. There are certain types of trees that you plant that will give inexplicable returns. So, we are introducing wood farming so that people will know the benefit and the dangers of falling trees without re-planting them.”
Specifically on rice production, he said “Just like you observed that Katsina is one of the leading states in rice production, and you know, there is a serious drought on rice. You know that Nigerians have been cultured into eating rice. It is unlike when I was growing up, the stable food then was guinea corn and millet.
“Later on, maize came. In fact, maize was more of a ceremony food during our time, but as time moved on it became a stable food with the coming of the Funtua agricultural project in the 1970s. So, really, I think it is better to eat what you have and what you can produce than to depend on somebody to give you. So, I believe, there are some difficulties initially; but when we are able to cross over the difficulties of this year, by next year, there will be abundance in rice production in Katsina state.
“In fact, prices of rice have started going down because the new rice are already in the market and I am sure, between now and October, the prices of rice will relatively stabilise. You are also aware that the Central Bank of Nigeria is organising one project on the promotion of rice production, and in Katsina State, we have 50, 000 participants.”
Addressing the purpose of his trip to China and India, Masari said “We were invited to China by some companies that are doing business with the Katsina State Government and some that are interested in doing business with the government. The purpose was for us to see their offices and their capacities outside the country, and to see what connection we have in order to facilitate our development projects.
“Based on our invitation, we met with those companies that are doing business with the government and those companies who are in Nigeria and have the intention to do business with us. There are some of these companies that have their branches here in Katsina but are doing business with the federal government, but due to this visit, we have now opened door for business transactions with those companies.”
Importantly, he said, “We had interactions with the main company that is doing the rehabilitation of the Katsina Water Supply scheme. We will also continue discussions with them on how to revive irrigation water supply. This very project has been on the drawing board for a very long time. During our campaign, we were requested by the people of Danja about provision of dam.
“We promised that we would look into it, look at the resources we have and how best to go about it and that is what we are doing today. Initially, I was of the opinion that it was a small project, but when the report was brought to me, I realised that it is a huge project meant for irrigation and water supply.
“And you know strategically, Danja needs irrigation agriculture for two reasons: one, for Sugar Cane production, because in Katsina, Danja holds the highest potential in terms of Sugar Cane production; and you could remember that the federal government under the late Umar Musa Yar’Adua did a project for Sugar Cane refinery in Danga even though, like other projects of its kind, it did see the light of the day in the real sense of it. However, ours is to make sure that the farms, irrigation facilities and water facilities are ready; and most of the investors in our agricultural projects are showing interest in the Danja project.”
Masari spoke passionately on his desire to make Katsina a health-tourist state, linking the current economic situation in the country to insecurity.
“You know full well that we know the global current economic situation, it is not Nigeria alone; it is all over the world. We were in China, and we saw the situation. We know the pains and we have joined the pains and the ideas. We have gone through Dubai, and we also saw the pains and the ideas; and those far away in Saudi Arabia also confirmed to us that the place is idle; and that the prices of goods have doubled.
“So, what we have gone through is a global phenomenon, but our own has its own peculiarities. We have issues of security and the Boko Haram. Here, locally in Katsina, we are facing the problem of Cattle Rustling and kidnapping which is as a result of the pressure mounted on Cattle Rustlers.
“Now, the Cattle Rustlers have resorted to kidnapping, especially, in our two Local Governments – Dandume and Sabuwa; and also, at the national level, we are facing the militancy in Niger-Delta and the vandalism and destruction of oil installations and you see, even the Gas pipeline that is supplied to other West African countries also suffered in this act of sabotage.”
In rounding off, the governor emphasised that while on the business trip, “we met with companies that are doing business with our government and as I am speaking with you, we have a job going on in Zobe town. Also, we met with other companies that have their presence here in Nigeria—they spoke to us and we are thinking to know how we can start business with them and they signified their interest to come to Katsina to construct roads.
“However, what pre-occupied our mind was the foreign firms that invited us; and we have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on water, roads and power. So, the first step that we have taken is to revive this Danja Dam so that we can revitalise the Danja Sugar Factory that was conceived under the tenure of the late Umar Musa Yar’Adua and also for the purpose of all-year-round irrigation farming.
“A company has also signified the interest to take over the Sugar Factory and as I am speaking to you, the MoU is already signed and in the nearest future, Katsina will become a leading producer of granulated brown sugar. First and foremost, they will be here in Katsina to survey and conduct a feasibility studies on the area. So, what they are placing under consideration is the roads, irrigation and drinking water but our priority is on the irrigation project.”
He said plan was in the offing on how to embark on the massive tomatoes production in the state, saying those areas of concentration would be in Jebia, Sautai and Zobe Dams – where a Tomatoes Processing Plant could be established as well as introduce rice threshers for easy harvesting.
“Now, with regards to budget, you don’t include MoU in a budget. Honestly, we have projects that are going on, any project that we discussed are captured in our 2016 budget. They may not capture the whole money, but they have captured the seed. Now, let me speak the truth, there are projects that can be completed in three months, and there are projects that can take three years.
“It does not mean that you have to get all the money for the projects, before you start kicking. Politics apart, you cannot see all the money you may need, but if you have the money that you can start with; and when you are appropriating for next year, you draw a scale of preference. So, now, if you look at all the MoU that we have signed, they have some commercial and economic aspect attached to them; and some of them may end up in self-financing.”
At a recent economic summit held in the state, Masari, before President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic team, reiterated that Katsina was endowed in both natural and human resources and called on the captains of industry and other investors not to miss the opportunity to invest in a promising Katsina with a view to laying an even solid foundation for the growth of the state and also have value for their money