By Mohammed Mohammed
A common saying among politicians and their foot soldiers is that “One good term deserves another.” This saying, to a large extent, reflects the good performance of elected officials especially governors who have been able to transform the lives of the people that elected them through delivery of dividends of democracy.
For us in Niger State it is no longer news that the administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello inherited a state that was bastardised by previous administrations a situation that was made worse by the last Peoples Democratic Party government.
Apart from the inability of that government to execute people-oriented programmes and projects it went on the expedition of leaving behind white elephant projects which have no direct bearing the needs of the people of this state.
Some of these projects are the Minna City Centre Tower, the multi billion five-star hotel the Three Arms Zone. These projects among others are now relics depicting the financial mismanagement and profligacy of the previous government as a result of which the state has been plunged into huge debt that the present administration is contending with.
The immediate past administration also left pensioners in abject poverty and penury, some even died prematurely while waiting for their pension and gratuity whereas that government compulsorily deducted from these workers salaries most of whom were registered under the contributory pension scheme. As at the time the government left office in May 2015 it had bequeathed a whopping N6 billion debt which was the contribution by workers.
This amount disappeared into thin air leaving the Governor Abubakar Sani Bello-led administration to contend with how to source for funds to settle the pensioners and reduce their plight.
These problems coupled with very poor township and inter-state roads which hinder easy movement of goods and services and the huge debts occasioned by the over N27 billion bond collected by that administration made the new regime to “start slowly but surely.”
By putting square pegs in square holes especially the appointment of Alhaji Zakari Abubakar as the Commissioner for Finance the state started finding its feet. It is on record that Alhaji Zakari Abubakar has been able to find the appropriate vaccine for the pension virus in the state in addition to ensuring regular payment of salarg and allowances of workers.
Interestingly, within a spate of three years the government has been able to settle all backlog of pension and gratuity.
Some relations of dead workers who had waited for over 10 years for the gratuity of their departed loved ones were also made to smile as they received their cheques. It is now the policy of government to pay pension and gratuity to retirees before other workers.
Due to the prudent management of the lean financial resources of the state put under the watch of the Commissioner for Finance, the government made history by being the first administration in the state to increase workers pay by 25% without the organised labour making such request. Similarly while workers in other states are owed several months of salary, government employees in the state receive the bank alert for their salary on or before the 25th of every month.
No wonder the organised labour had to throw their weight behind the second term bid of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello and the APC.
The organised labour made this pledge at a recent solidarity visit to the governor at Government House where the state chairman of the NLC Comrade Yahaya Idris Ndako said workers in the state will vote massively for the governor and his party.
Ndako Idris told the governor ” we will surely work for your reelection, we the workers of this state are happy with you and your government.”
There is no doubt also that the ability of the state government to regularly and promptly pay workers and pensioners salaries has had and is still having positive effect on the general economy of the state. As a result of this, prices of goods and other services have remained stable in the market.
The government of Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello has also been exploring other avenues to boost the income of the state which is mostly dependent on money from the federation account.
Several Memoranda of Understanding, MoU, have been signed with reputable local and international investors among them the Dangote Group, the African Finance Corporation AFC among others. The Dangote group alone is to invest billions of naira into sugar cane production which would lead to the employment of more than 100,000 people directly and indirectly.
The government has also been able to boost rice production by more than 60% by bringing into the cultivation of the crop new set of educated farmers and providing them with modern farming tools and agro chemicals.
The state chapter of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria through its chairman Alhaji Adamu Abini recently attested to this when he said the state intervention in rice cultivation will soon make Niger state to become the largest rice producing state in the country.
With the establishment of the Koica and Onyx rice mills in Bida area of the state Adamu Albini said more people will be engaged in farming rice which will translate to bumper harvests and improved income for the state and the farmers.
The administration has also been laying a good economic foundation for the state using agriculture as the catalyst that will move the state to the next level economically.
Within a spate of a little over three and half years Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has laid a solid foundation for the economic and industrial growth of this state. What is left is to consolidate on these modest achievements.
This is where the people come in. We have to believe in the government and its plan for our state. This is the time to give our action governor a resounding ovation. Continuity should be our decision so that in another four years our state will arrive the destination that other states have already reached.
Mohammed Mohammed, the immediate past chairman of the NUJ Niger State Council sent this piece from Minna Niger state