Mr. Bala Ibrahim is Jigawa State Commissioner for Information. He is also the chairman, publicity committee of the Governor Abubakar Badaru Governorship Campaign Organization. He thinks that given the enormous work governor Badaru had done in the state in almost four years, marketing the governor won’t a big problem. In this interview with select journalists, including Benneth Oghifo, Ibrahim argues that the governor has been managing the state resources judiciously
How would you convince a willing voter to cast his or her vote in the coming election for the continuation of the Badaru-led government?
Jigawa State is an agrarian state. It is populated by about five million inhabitants. About 89% of the population is living on agriculture. That is the main stay of the local economy here. The government, right from the creation of the state, depends solely on the federation allocation, meaning the government based its expenditure especially budgetary expenditure on what its gets from the monthly federal allocation. The state has a very low capacity of generating revenue because of so many economy factors. When this government came to power, this was a major problem that confronted my principal, Governor Abubakar Muhammad Badaru when he was sworn in as governor. The revenue of the state was almost nothing. This meant that if the price of oil goes down, the revenue of the Federal Government naturally goes down and of course, the state allocation too automatically drops. That was exactly what happened to the three tiers of governments in 2015 when there was change of guard. That affected the revenue of the state severely. And couple with that, our salary bill is about N2 billion every month. So you see that the little we had was not enough to take us home, and we had a lot infrastructure deficit and lot of services to render.
Meanwhile, we came with promises for the people. And yet we inherited huge contractual liabilities amounting to billions of naira, to be specific, about N130 billion contractual and financial liabilities. Believe me, the purse of the government was extremely low because the government only inherited N16 million when it came in. It was a precarious situation. But we were very lucky that we had a governor, a very successful business man, a veteran financial expert, a man who has the love of the people at heart, a man who also has the fear of God at heart. He studied the situation and he addressed the issue one after the other. The first thing he said as that we needed to curtail the cost of governance. The cost of governance was reduced drastically. The governor, you all know by now is not a spendthrift. He goes for value for money. His managerial ability during this trying period also surprised the opposition as to why and how the government of Jigawa under Badaru was able to pay salary the following month, not even month ending but 25th of the month. Since then, till this very month, for the past three and half years, everybody gets their salaries by 25th of every month.
Another thing the governor did was that he resolved with his cabinet that all abandoned project worth about N90 billion must be completed first before anything else, this was despite the fact that the state was and still a civil servant state. The internally generated revenue is just about N130 million per month which is nothing to talk about. He said the contractual obligation of the state must be obeyed respected irrespective of which administration initiated them. He said the state government would not embark on new projects until the ones his government met are completed. All the contractors were called for a meeting, there, he appealed to their conscience and asked for their understanding so that they all looked at the contract sum and see how the cost could be cut down without reducing the value fo the job.
Thankfully, all of them saw reasons with the governor. I must add that they were very cooperative. Some of the contractors gave a discount of 20%, some 25%, some less, within the total sum of the projects they are handling, all this done without compromising the quality and quantity of the job. As we speak, there is no one single project of the previous administration that has not been completed by the Badaru administration.
Another thing I want you to recognize is the fact that Jigawa is a salary economy state, meaning if the state fails to pay salary for one or two months, even our market will be affected, the markets depend solely on the salaries of workers. And that is how the money goes round the state.
Any impact in the agriculture sector?
For agriculture, the state has made giant strides in that area. We might not make noise, it is deliberate. Jigawa now produces its own rice which we now supply to other states. We produce our fertilizer too. The government has been able to attract private investors into its economy. Presently, the Dangote rice is here, Lee group is here, all functioning with their industries. Walcourt is also here and many other process and produce agricultural produce, all this within three years of this government. The governor has set the state on a sustainable economy growth path. The only way this can be consolidated is to return the government back to power, because if there is any change now, it could spell disaster for the state because new policies will come, new vision will come which retard the progression the state is presently witnessing. Presently, the government has raised the standard of living of an average Jigawa person.
Some will say that there is really no difference between the APC and the PDP, in the style of leadership in Jigawa?
That is not correct. The difference between both governments is like Coke and Fanta. The difference is very clear. This government is extremely prudence when it comes to judicious use of resources. You cannot compare apple and pineapplle. They are totally different. Here, public funds are used for public interest, not only that; when funds are used for public interest in terms of infrastructure, you will see them physically on the round. It is not on paper. Not only that, the infrastructure will be benefitting the large masses of the people, not infrastructure that would be abandoned because it has no value for the people. There are lots of infrastructure in the state that are not really generating any income for the state at the moment, the state airport for example, tell me what revenue it is generating to state, yet the previous government spent humongous amount on the airport. I am sorry to say, the previous government was a spendthrift, they were just spending money the way they liked.