Igbawase Ukumba was among a group of journalists who interacted with Governor Abdullahi Sule on issues of political and economic development in Nasarawa State
With the gale of defection from opposition political parties into the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa State, the state is presumed a one party state. How do you intend to manage all the stakeholders?
One person cannot take the credit for that. I think since we came in as an administration, we have worked as a team and we have displayed fairness as an administration. We have been very truthful. We don’t have anything that we are hiding. What we say is what it is. We don’t deceive people; we don’t say anything untrue. We just say everything from the heart. I think that has helped us.
What I mean by that is we keep saying we are an inclusive government. And since we are inclusive, it has to show that we are inclusive. We have had areas; we have the records that did not vote for us but they are citizens of Nasarawa State, and we have qualified people from there to hold certain positions, we gave them the positions. So that is our own way of inclusiveness.
Anytime that there is an opportunity to discuss about the interest of Nasarawa State, we invite beyond our party. We invited people from other parties. Anytime an opportunity for some kind of intervention comes to Nasarawa State as a result of either the challenge of the economy or so, we share with everybody. So, we have indicated in words and actions that we are actually a government for all.
Therefore, if something like that is happening; where people are leaving other political parties to come to us, we thank God that we have seen this. And also in our own part, we believe very strongly in our display of action of what we say.
In recent times, you advised APC to look at the direction of the defunct Congress for Progressives Congress (CPC) and Nasarawa State for the position of its national chairman. What efforts are you making to realise that?
When you advice, then you start to campaign. I think we have gone beyond advice now. We are campaignning. I have encountered the major stakeholders in the APC that we strongly believe that what we are asking for is fair. What we are asking for is not too much for the party to do. What we are asking for will actually keep the party together. So that is what we have been saying.
I will tell you I have gone far beyond just making a plea. I have gone to stage of making consultations, speaking with the right people who are supposed to be part of this. Speaking with all the decision makers. Speaking with the highest authority of the party, especially speaking with my colleagues, the governors. Some of them who went to Abuja will tell you I had a meeting with them to towards midnight. And it was all connected to that. I have been trying everything to ensure that we plead for this position to come to Nasarawa State.
Apart from agitations that the APC national chairmanship position should go to Nasarawa State, CPC is agitating that the position be zoned to the North Central before coming to Nasarawa State. Are you also on the same page with the CPC or otherwise?
Yes, I am going on the full swing. I didn’t want to go half and stop. I am saying that I strongly believe it should come to North Central and Nasarawa State. I always add that. I didn’t want to stop at coming to North Central without mentioning Nasarawa State, because that is why I said am going full swing. And we have justification for that. We are not just saying that for the sake of saying it.
APC is actually a product of an alliance. An alliance between three former independent political parties. The ACN, ANPP and the CPC. The two former members of the alliance have all produced twice the national chairman of the party. But the only one that has not produced so far is the CPC. And if you are talking of the CPC, Nasarawa State is the only state with the CPC that went into the alliance. So, that is the justification that we have.
But I don’t want to just stop at that. I keep saying let it come to Nasarawa State because I don’t want people to feel that the person I am looking for the position, may be because of one reason or the other, is not the right person. So, let it come to Nasarawa State. Give us in Nasarawa State. You have to be fair to CPC first because it was the only state that joined the alliance. When it comes to us we will look for it. Right now I think we have gone out full swing; we are campaigning for people. We want people like Tanko Al-Makura to take it. And we are not hiding it.
You are one of the governors in the country to embrace the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP). What is the reason for your embrace of the Programme?
Let me correct that impression. Actually what people didn’t understand is that the livestock was there before our administration came in May, 2019. Before we came in, 24 states had already indicated interest and Nasarawa was one of those states. What I did was to align with everything of the administration of Tanko Al-Makura. Everything Tanko Al-Makura has started, I didn’t abandon. I tried to build on it. The NLTP was one of it. Nasarawa State was one of the states that was there.
When I came and saw the reality of our treasury, I saw the reality of our security, I felt very strongly that this will help Nasarawa State greatly. There are other states that didn’t have to wait for NLTP. Like Kaduna for instance, like Zamfara for instance because they have the resources. They have gone beyond waiting for NLTP. They went ahead and started. And when they started in reality, it is the same with what NLTP is doing.
We are going to develop a site. And this site we are going to have abattoir on the site, we will have schools for the people, we will have police stations for the security of the people. We will have different kind of grasses and we will have water on the site. Everything that they will have. And everything cost money. And that is what NLTP is about to do anyway.
So, since we didn’t have the money and we still don’t, instead of waiting until we have the money then I became more interested and more aggressive for NLTP So that the NLTP will come. And when those who are inspecting the site to recommend whether they should do it, we impressed them more than any other because we were prepared for it. We became very, very committed to it and we are more prepared. That is why they selected Nasarawa to be the pilot.
Your administration entered into an agreement with a private entity in respect of the Peninsula Estate. This is coming after 30 years. What are the derivable benefits of the partnership?
With the Peninsula Estate you have mentioned, we came actually and inherited a site with a lot of controversies. And it didn’t start with the first executive governor of the state, that is Abdullahi Adamu. It started far before he became the governor; in fact, it started from Plateau State. Some of the areas were been allocated to multiple owners. Then there was an area that some of them were not compensated. So, many different problems.
But you see during the era of Tanko Al-Makura, he started by constructing road networks there so that it will operate more like another site of services. So, that large pieces of land were going to be partitioned and allocated to individual owners for them to pay. It is similar with what we inherited with the Orange Market.
When we came, the Orange Market was about to be partitioned, we completed it. And in line with the policy of the government at that time, we allocated them. After the allocation that we had done, it wasn’t a very good experience in the sense that the development is not ongoing right now. So, in two years after the allocation, a lot of the people are looking for other people to sale the allocation to. I think only about three or four people out of over 100 plots of land are actually constructed.
So, in reality the state government is still burdened in the fact that they are the ones that continue to pay for the maintenance of the place and we had already allocated. A lot of the allocations, the people have not yet come to pay the fees to collect the allocation papers. These are the situations we found and we say we won’t do the same.
So, that is the driving force by us saying that let us look for a housing developer who will come in and build all the houses and sale to people. You know if it is a housing developer, most likely he will borrow the money so he better build houses that can easily be sold. By building the houses we will now begin to generate revenue for the state government.
If we had done site and services at the Peninsula, we would have been generating roughly about N2 billion. With this particular arrangement we have, by the time they finish building the houses and all the houses had been completed, all the houses are sold at the rate they are giving, we will be generating about N9 billion.
So, it is either we collect N2 billion now and put in our pocket or to wait a little bit further and generate N9 billion. And we say we will wait a little bit for the houses to be completed and be sold because we believe that our land is now developed. Nasarawa State has set up the houses, citizen of Nasarawa State can go and work in those houses. The commercial area that can be developed, people from Nasarawa State can go and work there and things like that. That is what we are looking forward to.
We are looking at the economic exercise that is going on there rather than just the monetary part of it. So, that is the idea of carrying it out that way. From all indications now that we have finished and we are in the process now of getting the facility, fencing the place and starting the construction, so it will most likely go fast. Most likely it will be developed before seeing Orange Market being developed. So, that is the situation.
Recently, there was a government statement that your administration was to construct road network and a centralised secretariat. What is the position of the projects?
On the road network you have mentioned and the secretariat, the secretariat is actually a dream for us. This administration has a dream. Just like we have a dream to complete the banquet hall, we have a dream to have a secretariat.
Right now, our ministries and other boards and agencies are distributed all over the places. You ask where is the Ministry of Local Government? You hear it is there. Where is the Ministry of Works? You hear it is there. So, we are all over the place, all over the town. So, as a government, let us have a secretariat and say this is the site. Once you go all the ministries will be there. And even the office of the SSG and even the small one will be there. And then you can go in and see that one and follow up. And even the correspondents’ chapel you ask where is there office? You will see it is there. So, that is the whole idea of having it.
Like you said, the money was mentioned. You know the way press report their matter and say that is N14 billion. Nobody say I am going to take N14 billion right now and spend. So, what we did in the budget, we provided N1 billion so that we can start. We may be the ones to finish it. Just like the banquet hall, it may be another administration to finish it. But what we estimated is N14 billion. By the time it is completed in two years, three years, four years and may be seven years from now and if it is still N14 billion or may be even more than that. I think that is the idea.
As you are a government, you design something and present. But a lot of people were making a mistake. Instead of A.A Sule spending N14 billion on secretariat, we don’t have N14 billion anyway to spend. It is going to be a process. I don’t think press will take out time that way to start explaining things because it will take a lot of space. Press will just give you the bullet point. N14 billion will be spent and everybody will be worried about where the N14 billion is going to come. I think that is what happened on that.
The dualization of the road, that one is something that Nasarawa State deserves because every state you go to, the road leading to the Government House is a dualised road. So Nasarawa State cannot be left behind. One of the things delaying it is because Shendam Road is a federal highway, so before you begin to touch federal highway, you must begin to talk to Federal Ministry of Works.
So, we wrote to them. They said they needed to see the design. We sent the design. They said they needed to see the working drawings, we sent the working designs. We asked them from the beginning that since it is a federal highway, if we finish will they be able to pay us back. They said no, we will not pay you and we said no problem. And they said what else do we need. We said we need approval. So, now we are waiting for the approval.
You recently raised the alarm with President Buhari that Boko Haram was regrouping in Nasarawa State. What steps have been taken so far to curb the situation?
Well, I have tried as much as possible to expantiate and to explain what we meant in that area so that people don’t panic that Boko Haram have just moved from Borno to Nasarawa State because that is not what happened. What happened was that around 2016 a group Dar ul Salam actually sent parking out of Niger State and they didn’t find any other place to come and settle but Nasarawa State. So, they came to Hutu in Toto Local Government; a very virgin area. The village where Bassa used to be. Since Bassa are no longer there, they settled there. That is what happened.
I think Mohammed Shafa is in better position to give you the direction to the village. So, that is what happened.
Then they now started to sympathize with Boko Haram and they entered some kind of agreement and they started paying allegiance to Boko Haram. That is what happened.
How did we hear this news? We heard it directly from the captured women and children when they were dislodged. They were the people that told us the entire story. When it started and their allegiance to Boko Haram and the rest of them. Like I said, luckily Mr. President came in strongly and supported the state and we had a joint operation of the Police, the Army, the Airforce and the Navy and they were able to dislodge the people. That is why we captured their families that we brought in.
But unfortunately, some of them, the same Dar ul Salam that started paying allegiance to Boko Haram started gathering in some other locations. Again the Police, the Military that we spoke with came in and they were able to dislodge them.
Are they completely out of Nasarawa at the moment?
I will not say yes yet because from time to time you hear they no longer gather in large numbers like they used to have because they were over 3,000 in Hutu. Now do we even have up to 100 of them in one location? Most likely no. Are they still in Nasarawa State, here and there? May be. But majority of their leaders that we were tracking have left Nasarawa State completely and returned to other states in the country. That is the position.
I have tried as much as possible to expantiate and to explain what we meant in that area so that people don’t panic that Boko Haram have just moved from Borno to Nasarawa State because that is not what happened. What happened was that around 2016 a group Dar ul Salam actually sent parking out of Niger State and they didn’t find any other place to come and settle but Nasarawa State. So, they came to Hutu in Toto Local Government; a very virgin area. The village where Bassa used to be. Since Bassa are no longer there, they settled there. That is what happened