â€¢ Education, agriculture sectors coming back life
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Governor of Katsina State, Hon. Amina Bello Masari, has said his administration has successfully reduced government expenditure byÂ as high as about 40 per cent in the past two years.
He also said the state was able to recover lost grounds in several critical sectors including education and agriculture through careful implementation of highly rewarding initiatives.
Governor Masari spoke atÂ a town-hall meeting for Katsina indigenes living in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja yesterday, during which he also gave account of the stateâ€™s utilisation several intervention funds meant to help assist the government in meeting its obligations to the people.
Speaking on the efforts being made by his administration to save costs, Masari said his administration has literally banned foreign travels except for few occasions where its officials were sponsored by external bodiesâ€
â€œWe have made a lot of savings. We hardly go out of Nigeria officially except on sponsorship. None of us at leadership level has so far done that except where interested parties sponsored government officials.
â€œWe also cut cost of going abroad for medical treatment for all of us. And we also cut cost of how much we take from treasury for travelling, even internally. We cut more than 40 per cent. There are so many areas in which we make some savings that made it possible for us to reach where we have reached.
â€œWe havenâ€™t reached where we plan to reach. Because of the constraints of resources, we are highly limited in our efforts to look for other sources of revenue,â€ he said.
On the state governmentâ€™s effort to revamp the education and agricultural sectors, Masari said progress has been made in trying to restore the state to its past glory.
â€œIn our restoration programme, we have been to restore confidence in our education sector, because we believe that no society can develop beyond its education capability. Katsina State was noted for its educational capacity in the whole of then northern Nigerian and the state had a lot of indigenes with competences in various areas of endeavour.
The governor said that with the introduction of a number measures, the education sector has witness significant improvement, especially in the areas of performance in WAEC and NECO examinations.
He also said in the area of agriculture, his administration has been able to revitalise the sector by emphasising on the use of irrigation for farming.
The governor also provided details of the utilisation of the funds obtained by the state inform of bailout for development purposes.
â€œWe have four interventions. One was the issue of bailouts. In the case of Katsina State, we collected this money because when we were campaigning, we promised those who retired from service that if it means borrowing to pay them, we will do that because some are already dead with unpaid gratuities and pensions.
â€œFrom N11.8 billion we collected, we were able to pay all the state civil servants up to December 2015. The money we got was on the basis on July, 2015. But when we came, we really set up a committee to audit the figures to verify the claimants.
â€œWe were able to get five months, that is, from July to December, 2015 for state civil servants. For local government, we were only able to get up to September, 2015. They may be omissions or some mistakes. But about 98 per cent was paid up to these two periods I mentioned.
â€œThen, the second intervention was N10 billion to each State so that after the payment of salaries, government should be seen to be doing some capital projects. It is only through capital projects that you can create employment opportunities. From our N10 billion, we took N3 billion to education; N2.5 billion to health; N2.5 billion to water resources; and N2 billion to agriculture.
The governor said the Katsina governmentÂ also got N1.1 billion from the Â federal government as budget support which was given toÂ every state to pay salaries and allowances of staff.
On the controversy over the intervention fund from the Paris Club obtained under the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he said: â€œThe money was taken from federation account. Some states did not borrow. I think there was a case up to the Supreme Court. But the present government promised to pay back. We, in Katsina, have $226 million. Initially, the government said it would pay 50 per cent because of fear of inflation and other things.
â€œSomehow, it was scaled down to one-quarter in November, and the other quarters in February. We are still waiting for the other quarter, it hasnâ€™t come. Katsina got N14.2 billion. Out of this, about N7 billion for local government and N7 billion for state government. We were advised that all those with outstanding claimsÂ in terms of pension, gratuity and salary to please use the money to pay them.
â€œIn Katsina State, we revisited out committee again. And as at last count, we are going to pay out of this money, about N6.7 billion as gratuity for both state and local governments, with the latter getting the lion share of over N4 billion.
Masari said his administration has already started payment of pensions and gratuity, adding that it is now about make the third trench.
â€œThe last trench will come before Ramadan so that we would have been able to settle all claims of pension and gratuity, where we stopped in December 2015 in the case of state civil servants and September 2015 in the local government civil servants,â€ he said.