Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has explained why Kano State joined other states in opposing the proposal to grant autonomy to local councils in the country.
He described as a step in the right direction the Kano State House of Assembly’s opposition to the proposal, which is one of a 23 items in the effort to amend the Constitution.
Ganduje, a veteran in council administration right from his days in the Federal Capital Authority (FCT) and in Kano for eight years running as commissioner overseeing the 44 councils of state, told The Guardia in Abuja that it was proper to put the proposal on hold “since the local councils clearly lack the capacity to be on their own.”
According to him: “I have been in the local government system for long; in fact, I even wrote a book on local government administration. I know how it operates. I was Secretary, I was Chairman, I was Sole Administrator, and I was Commissioner of Local government for eight years now.
“What I want to tell you is that local government autonomy is very important but when you grant it, there would be a lot of problems in that tier of government. The capacity of the local government cannot cope with the autonomy that people are talking about.
“If you look at the people operating the local government, you could say from a distance that there is need to grant local government autonomy. But go and investigate what is happening in the local government, you find that there is a lot of corruption; the manpower lacks the required capacity to power the system.
“I know of some state governments that annex the resources of the local governments. That also is a problem. But for me, local governments at the moment should not have that sort of autonomy.
“There should be joint accounts, as we operate now. But state governments should not delve into the finances of the local governments to the extent of stopping them from operating.
“But if that joint account is operated in terms of financial regulations, the local governments would be better off because they are guided and evaluated from time to time.”
Ganduje recalled that local government autonomy was in practice, and the councils were given financial independence. “But we knew what happened; they squandered all monies allocated to them without having any projects on ground,” he said.
However, he noted that in Kano State, in order to ensure that the joint account system worked, “we introduced what we call joint projects so that the state government, in conjunction with the local governments, will identify particular projects and then the local and state governments would contribute to the account.”
“Let me give you one example. We are now constructing five-kilometre road in each of the headquarters of our local governments. And in each of the contract, which we did transparently and advertised, there is no contract that is below N1 billion naira,” he said.
“So, if you go to the headquarters of our local governments, you will see how they have been improved. They are wearing an urban outlook; they have dualised roads, with drainage, and streetlights.
“The state government is contributing 50 per cent of that and the local governments are contributing 50 per cent of the cost. But I assure you that, without that kind of cooperation, you can hardly find a single project worth N500 million that works but by introducing this joint account, it is working.”
Stating that some local government projects are worth about N2 billion and the cost evenly shared between the state and local governments from the joint account; Ganduje said the same thing is happening in the regional water scheme, and the feeding of pupils in primary schools.
He said: “You recall when the local governments were on their own, teachers’ salaries were not being paid. If you take them back to those days, teachers in Kano will protest because many of them will not be taking their salaries.
“Now, we are feeding all our primary school pupils, and the local governments are contributing to feeding twice a week, and the community is contributing once a week.
“So, in five days of the week, school children are getting food and that has increased school enrolments and sustaining the pupils in school. That has also increased the quality of education that we are seeing in Kano.
“Therefore, the time has not yet arrived in granting the local governments autonomy to manage their finances. That was why we kicked against it.
“Our legislators were free to do what they wanted, but they knew that, in the course of over-sighting these local governments, a lot of damages had been committed and that was why they unanimously decided not to vote for local government autonomy.”
Nonetheless, Ganduje expressed support for state police, noting it would help in stemming the spate of insecurity in the polity, even as he allayed fears that its establishment could be abused.
“Yes, I will vote for state police because we don’t have enough policemen to man everywhere. The policemen we have now, especially those not from their respective states, are not used to the culture, custom and nooks and crannies of the states (of deployment) and therefore find it very difficult to cope with the insecurity situation on our hands.
“I know people would say if you have a state police, it could be manipulated by the states governors; that it could be used to harass opponents from other political parties.
“But as a democrat, I think we have passed that stage. We should be able to give all other political parties a level-playing ground without intimidation.
“Also, there is the fear that if we have state police, some parts of the country could be cut off (secede). But I think Nigeria is so complicated for that to happen. So, if given the chance, I will go for a state police.
“The number of the police we have is too small compared to the challenges we are faced with. Go and find out the ratio of number of police to members of the public in advanced countries. You will find out that the disparity is too much in Nigeria.
“The only way to bridge that is by allowing the states to have their police. If we do that, we will be in a better position to tackle the insecurity in our hands. And, off course, the monies being voted for the police can be redistributed to the states to cater for their police.”
ON how Kano State is coping with dwindling income from statutory allocations due to a drastic fall in oil revenues, Ganduje said: “Definitely, it is a big challenge but the foundation we laid in terms of blockage of leakages, in terms of prudence, in terms of transparent transactions through due process, in terms of increasing the internally generated revenues, we are going to cope with the situation.
“Maybe what we can complete in two months may take us three months to complete because of that. But I assure you we have to adjust; we have to tighten our belts.
“It is not going to be easy because we would have to block more leakages. We would have to surrender some of the benefits that we enjoy, especially on items in the recurrent expenditure.
“It is a matter of political will, commitment, planning. With prudent management of the resources we are having and also with increased internally generated revenue, we should be able to cope. There is no going back.
“Already, we don’t have security votes; so, that is the importance of continuity. I was involved in the decision to take away security votes. I have seen the benefit of not having a security vote and I have no reason to bring it back.”
In terms of continuity in governance, Ganduje indicated what he intends to bring to the table if he wins the governorship in the 2015 polls.
He said: “First of all, let me tell you one important issue in administration. If there is a transition between one government and another, the most important issue is continuity and that is why in many states, you will find a lot of problems.
“Even at international level, you will find a lot of problems because any governor, who comes, will decide to do his own thing and abandon what had been started by another governor.
“In Kano State in particular, we took a lot of time to plan to have a rolling plan, to have a budget for improvement, and for the provision of critical infrastructure.
“However, not all of those mega projects that we have started will be completed within the lifespan of this administration. But if I win the election, by God’s power, my intention is to ensure that all those capital projects are completed.
“Then, depending on the areas, like in education, we have taken education to be a very serious issue in Kano State because, being the most populated state in the country, we have some challenges.
“In order to make our population an asset, and avoid making it a liability, education was to be given a very good attention. So far, we are doing that and I assure you when I win the election, by God’s power, I will work very hard to improve on the quality of education.
“You know that quality of education has gone down all over the country and it is my responsibility to make sure we increase in the quality of education. Of course, the quantity is very important and we are working on it.”
Ganduje noted that many other areas needed attention such as empowering the youths, giving them opportunity to go for higher education, and to develop their skills so that they can employ others.
“We will see how we can empower our women; how we can make our industries that had been closed down, and those partially operating, especially with the new regime in power generation, to work,” he said.
“We will ensure that we get enough power. Already, we are working on hydroelectric power generation in Kano but that may not be completed with our (current) tenure.
“So, I will work very hard to see that it is completed and also examine other sources of power so that our industries can pick up to pave way for maximum employment opportunities.
“It’s the same thing with rural development — integrated rural development in terms of agriculture, in terms of social facilities in health, in terms of rural urban migration. How do you introduce a lot of economic activities in the rural areas so that our people can stay at home and still earn their living?”
Ganduje also pointed to unlimited areas of improvements, so many issues of innovation, improved transport system, and security, which, he said, was very vital to the survival of the state, as regards investments in Kano.
“There must be a level of security and this is a very dynamic issue that continues from time to time,” he said.
“So, there is no enough time to what type of things one can do. But what I want to tell you is that we will work with the people, and study the environment, to know the needs of the people.
“I will work by studying the environment regarding the needs of the society; what are the gaps; what are the shortfalls; how can we come and improve the living standards of Kano people?
“How can we make Kano, a very populous state, a mega city not only in terms of population, but where things are working?
“There has to be adequate water for the system; adequate electricity for the system; adequate social services for the system; adequate educational and transportation system and security must also be in place. So, all these things put together would move the state forward.”
To Ganduje, the Northern part of this country is backward in terms of education compared with the other parts of the country, especially the Southern part.
“And this is a challenge to leaders in the Northern part of this country and Kano State is not an exception,” he said.
“So, we must work very hard to ensure that we catch up with other parts of the country. Since we have no moral justification, no legal rights to hold back other states from going further, then our only option is to double our speed to catch up with other states of the federation, especially the Southern part of this country.
“If they are going 100 kilometre per hour in terms of education, then Kano State must go 200, 300 kilometre per hour in order to catch up.
“And definitely, that is what we are doing, and definitely, that is what I will continue, to increase speed in terms of the quantity of education and in terms of the quality of education.” The Guardian