‘Niger State is Relatively Safe’

Nseobong Okon-Ekong dialogues with Abduba’qi Usman Ebbo, Director General, ICT and Public Enlightenment, Government House, Niger State on some of the issues of public concern about the administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello 

What are you doing about the increasingly bad state of one of the major roads in the state; Minna-Bida Road?

You’ll agree with me that the state has sunk some reasonable amount of money into maintaining that road. The truth of the matter is, that road can no longer take maintenance, it requires total reconstruction and there is a process in place already to ameliorate the condition of the road with the aid of the Islamic Development Bank loan.

The government feels that maintenance could be done before the dualization of the road by Islamic Development Bank. And efforts are in place to ensure this is done.

Why is there no gainful success on agriculture as can be seen in many northern states?

It is wrong to say that there’s no record of any success in agriculture in the state.

Bobi Grazing Reserve is one of the biggest investments in agriculture in this country. It is the fist indigenous milk center to be situated there, construction is already ongoing by WAMCO company.

The reserve, which will offer jobs to thousands of residents across the entire state, will be fortified with facilities, including electricity supply, modest accommodation for inhabitants of the reserves, toilet and ancilliary conveniences some of which are already in place while others are ongoing.
The veterinary clinic has already been completed.

This administration has purchased, so far, over 230 tractors since assumption of office and same were given to the state farmers at subsidized rates.

Fertilizers are also made available to farmers at reduced rate and also easily accessible unlike before.

The government has also keyed into the DFID ,Fadama III project, CBN-Anchor-Borrower scheme amongst others for the benefit of farmers in the state.

In 2016/2017, Niger State was recorded as the highest rice producing state and this feat has been maintained till date.

Dangote Group is set to commence work at Wushishi Local Government. The rice mill project being built by the Dangote company is said to be one of the largest of its type in West Africa. The UBEC building in Wushishi is already housing over 100 containers and equipment in readiness for kickoff.

BOA group has also carried out its feasibility report in Lapai lLocal Government for a similar project and would soon transport necessary equipment to the site.

In Borgu Local Government,the Swashi Rice Farm is already producing rice on an industrial scale.

The introduction and training of green house farming in the state has produced young green house farmers in the state and they are all now independent farmers.

This administration also started a reactivation and revitalization exercise on six irrigation schemes within the state. One of which is currently on lease to AFEN company, an Abuja-based company that produces rice. This is located in Loguma Local Government.

The state has also keyed into Agricultural Accelerated Development Scheme (AEDS) where over 350 youths were empowered last year through provision of agricultural tools, seeds and land in Akare, Wushishi Local Government Area.

Among the reactivated irrigation schemes are the Edozhigi, Zara,  Loguma and Lioji.

A recent statistic by STATISENSE (@statisense), a data company with expertise in data analysis, market survey, training, research and data advocacy,  placed Niger State as the highest contributor to the agricultural economy in Nigeria.

In addition to the above, 574km rural roads were constructed in conjunction with RAMP to link the rural farmers and ease the process of transportation of agricultural products to the urban cities.

The government started so well with renovation of school buildings, but why does it look like that effort has been abandoned?

The government has not abandoned the school renovation exercise.  About six schools were captured in this year’s budget, among them are;
Bahago Secondary School,
Government Day Girls Secondary School, Lapai; Suleiman Baro Secondary School, Suleja and Government Secondary School, Eyagi-Bida.

What happened to the civil servants leave grant that the government gave its word on?

The process is in batches. The first and second batch of the civil servant leave grant has been paid. The government is working on payment of the third batch. There is no refusal to pay the leave grant and only mischief makers would say payment has been abandoned.

Why is the governor going back and forth on the initial agreement to complete the assembly quarters, city mall and stadium?

I am not aware of such agreement.
However, on the issue of assembly quarters, this will have to be completed as the old state assembly quarters were sold to the old members. The new members, who are residing outside Minna need a place within Minna,and as such, having a state assembly quarters to serve as residence to members is not misplaced.

The city mall project was sold to Jaiz Bank. This is because, the business of buying and selling is always more productive in the hands of private investors.

Jaiz Bank is an Islamic financial institution which, until the purchase of the mall, did not have any branch in Minna. So, acquiring the structure will enable them own a branch in the capital, Minna. And those who’re interested in non-interest banking can now do their transactions with ease.

The construction of a stadium in the state is of economic importance. Not only will it attract sporting events to the state, but it will enhance the economic activities within the state. For example,if the state is to host the National Sport Festival,it will attract economic growth to small scale businesses within the state and also boost other social activities.

Therefore,this is a good project. Although the bond taken by last administration to build the stadium was squandered but the current governor has already set up a committee for the stadium.

The issue of adequate housing has been highlighted for some time now, how is the governor addressing it?

A sample of one of the housing projects the state has embarked on is in Chanchaga.

Brains and Hammers Limited is also constructing a 200 housing unit samples in Suleja Local Government.

We are hoping to expand and replicate these projects in other local governments within the state.

Would you say the state has made any gain on its investment in the life of this administration?

When I discussed agricultural achievements in the state, I mentioned the Dangote Rice Mill, WAMCO is setting up the indigenous milk center in Nigeria, the BOA projects,the AFEN rice production, Adaminna is an indigenous company that’s into production of Rice, Maize, Beans; all on industrial scale. These are investments in the state. There’s currently a cashew producing company located in Suleja.

The issue of insecurity is becoming worrisome in Niger state, how can the governor nip some of these issues in the bud before an embarrassing malaise?

The security challenges in the state is under control and this is based on the proactive approach and measures in place by the state government. These measures, I cannot discuss publicly as security measures aren’t meant for public. The government can’t reveal its security strategies. However, You can find out from the residents that Niger State is relatively safe.

The section of the road between Bilkebab and COE is deteriorating fast, is there a palliative measure that put can be urgently implemented to redeem it?

The Road section between Bilkebab and COE is what the State Road Maintenance Agency can handle,and have tried to maintain, but unfortunately, heavy duty vehicles keep plying the route even before completion of works on the road.

This has been been a major problem. However, a lasting solution is underway as the government will resume enforcement the law regarding the movement of heavy trucks in the state.

 It looks like the governor has lost touch with the people completely.
We were told contracts were awarded but there doesn’t seem to be any  work to justify these contracts. The governor’s  frequent travels out the state and out of the country is also not helping his image. The initiative to curb wastage by bieng meticulous with approvals and payments is being mismanaged. When payment for legitimate work is not being paid, the wheel of progress will grind to a halt. An example is the Bida Basin project

The Maitumbi Road was previously awarded to a contractor and work actually commenced. However, it was discovered that the guidelines and terms of the contract of award was breached by the contractor, consequently, the government has halt the work until the contractor reverse to the original agreement or the work may be terminated by the government. This was why work was paused on the road.

The Governor definitely hasn’t lost touch with his people. And I’ll use this opportunity to address the issue of his traveling.

I want to categorically state that,all of the governor’s travels are official outings and not some private vacations. And all other state governors do this.

I’m often amazed when people make this a big issue, I sometimes tell people to take time out and research about this with other state governors and maybe they will have a better understanding of the matter.
The Governor did not truncate Bida Basin, and the project hasn’t stopped.