Cutting of own salaries by govrs can’t solve financial crisis
•Say NGF’ ll be repositioned
ZAMFARA State governor, Alhaji Abdulazeez Yari, in this interview states that the decision of some state governors to reduce their salaries will make no difference in the financial situation of the states, adding that blocking the various channels of leakages is important in getting the economy back on track. Yari, who is also the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, also spoke on
By Charles Kumolu
√ Your emergence as the NGF chairman triggered mixed reactions, how do intend to reposition the group and perhaps redeem its image?
The forum had not been meeting as we
used to in the past 14 years. Therefore, my first and perhaps most important task is to make sure we unite the forum and ensure that it remains united for the benefit of our respective states, the governors and Nigeria at large. I want to provide
a leadership that gives all members a sense of belonging irrespective of political affiliations so as to ensure that
the forum remains one indivisible body that is focused on good governance for all Nigerians. I know some Nigerians are of the view that the forum is unnecessary, I believe that the forum is important because it is a platform where key national issues that affect various states and Nigeria at large are always being discussed. You know governors are key members of the National Economic Council. The Governors’ Forum has provided us a platform where we discuss issues before the National Economic Council meeting with the president. We always brainstorm and share ideas on national issues such as economy, security and others. We also discuss how best we can carry out our responsibilities according to the needs of our people. Part of our plans is peer-review, whereby state governors exchange visits so as to see and learn how other states are executing their mandates.
Through such visits, we will find ways of improving what we are doing in our various states. This is also a way to see how we can provide better governance across Nigeria.
√ You led your other governors to President Muhammadu Buhari with a basket of requests which prominently among them is how to assist most insolvent states. Are the demands feasible in your estimation?
Yes, the response of President Buhari was very positive. We are hoping that in the next couple of days, we will make progress. As I have said in various fora we are all aware of the situation of Nigeria. This challenge is not limited to states, but also the Federal Government. I know we are being accused of being reckless by some Nigerians, but it is not only the state governments that owe salaries. I am aware that Federal Government cannot pay salary even.
√So what do you call Federal Government that gets 52% of monthly allocation?
State governments share only 26%. Let me say that some of these challenges are caused by economic imbalance in the system. And we are going to work with President Buhari to address it.
√ You and some of your colleagues from Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi and Katsina met in Kaduna on insecurity in the area. Going forward what should the people expect?
The issue of security is top on the agenda of every state. That is why we are very serious and committed to it. As you can see also, since President Buhari was sworn in he has focused on security more than any other issue. That was why he visited Niger and Chad to seek their cooperation and support in the fight against Boko Haram.
Already we are seeing positive impact of the visit. In that wise too, we have taken steps to proactively address security challenges in our various states. One of the steps is the meeting we had in Kaduna to address our domestic security challenges.
The meeting was at the instance of Governor Nasir El- Rufai of Kaduna State. It was a discussion that concerned security in five frontline states of Kaduna, Kastina, Kebbi, Niger and Zamfara. We have made series of requests on how we can tackle some of these challenges in the past administration without any positive response. Our concern is a forest that cuts across the five states. And we are being proactive now so that the forest does turn to another Sambisa forest in the future.
Our suggestion to Mr President is to order the military or through a joint operation, clear the forest so that it will no longer serve as safe haven for armed groups.
We have cases of cattle rustlers and other criminals all hiding in that forest. When we complained then to President Jonathan, we were asked what we will contribute and we agreed to provide funds and Federal Government agreed to provide equipment. But nothing was done. We were told that because of the commitment in the Northeast there were no equipment such as helicopters, and therefore surveillance could not be provided.
The situation is different today. Already, we have been assured that helicopters and other equipments would be provided for surveillance. Even Nigeria Custom’s helicopter would also be used to trace the route of the criminals so as to clear them and make the place habitable for law abiding citizens of the states.
√ Governors have been accused of promoting profligacy. And many want the cost of governance to be reduced as to discourage financial recklessness. What is your take on it?
First and foremost, a government that is less than a month in office cannot be assessed. So you cannot say whether the government of President Buhari is simple or otherwise. It is really too early.
However, I take it to be a compliment. Nigerians are in a hurry and we require patience.
√ Sometimes, I hear some governors say they have cut their salary by 50% and I ask how much is the salary of a governor?
May be N900, 000, therefore even if you are giving 70% of it that is just N700, 000. If this is multiplied by 48 month it is just about N30, 000, 000.
√ What can that amount of money do in an economy that needs billions of naira
What we need to address is the huge leakages in the system. I can tell you categorically that once the right step is taken, which I am very optimistic, the leadership of President Buhari has the political will to take; Nigeria does not even need oil revenue to survive. In the past 6 years 15 trillion has been spent out of the budget by MDAs and this is not backed by the National Assembly.
√ Nigeria as a country has a budget of 4. 5trillion naira, while MDAs have 15 trillion naira. What kind of economy are we managing?
And the Federal Government is comfortable with that situation. To get the Nigerian economy back on track, all MDAs must follow due process in remittance of accruing revenue to national coffers. The Nigerian Constitution is very clear on it. It said that all monies should go to the consolidated account for sharing to all tiers of government.
√ Why should an individual constitute him or herself as a parallel authority and spend Nigeria’s money anyhow?
We are happy with the pronouncement of President Buhari that even if a law will affect the Federal Government negatively, he will implement it. Once we block all the leakages, the Nigerian economy will flourish again because trillions of naira spent outside the budget is not from oil. This means that once we block the leakages, Nigeria will be saving its oil revenue for rainy days.
We will work with President Buhari to ensure that all MDAs fulfill their obligations in terms of revenue generation and remittance as required by law.
√ Do you share the view that the impasse in the National Assembly is slowing down governance?
The right person to answer the question is the Chairman, APC Governors Forum, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state. I am Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum which have members from APC, PDP and APGA.
√ Your state is among those that receive lean funds from the federation account. Given the current nationwide financial crisis, how do you intend to cope?
I know that Nigerians are concerned about Internally Generated Revenue of state governments. But states can only generate revenue when and where there is an enabling environment for such to happen.
For instance, Lagos is an outstanding example of a state that has been able to generate revenue very well, but Lagos has been in existence for more than hundred years- it was a colonial capital, then federal capital and it has remained an economic hub to date. It has infrastructure provided and existing factories and companies that generate revenue for the state and federal government.
Therefore, you cannot compare Lagos with Zamfara state or many other states in terms of how each can generate revenue.
For instance, the Human Capital Index that says that a Nigerian lives on one dollar per day is not even tenable in Zamfara state. I know that by average some people in Zamfara state live on less than one dollar a day. How do you tax that kind of person? And it is the people that pay tax.
One upon a time, Zamfara Textiles situated in Gusau was employing over 15,000 workers, but it was closed down in 2002 and today the workers there are not up to 200. So if the textile mill were to be working, certainly Zamfara state would have been generating revenue for the state. We have about 27 ginneries in Zamfara state, but no enabling environment and required support from
the federal government.
All the ginneries have been closed down. It is a huge challenge.
√ What should Zamfara State people expect from you in your second term in office?
Let me say that despite the challenges of meager resources, we made meaningful progress in the provision of dividends of democracy to the people in my first tenure. It is on the account of our modest achievements and our promise to do more that the people of Zamfara State gave us the mandate to lead the state in the next four years.
We have provided some infrastructure for the people in all the nooks and crannies of the state. We are happy with our modest achievements.
We are also very aware that a lot needs to be done. But we still have a long way to go in the area of education, health, youth empowerment and other areas.
My focus now is to ensure that ongoing developmental projects that are about 70% to 80 % levels are completed. Also during the campaign, we made a basket of promises and I believe it is doable. We are going to start work in earnest to implement all government policies that will have direct and positive impact on the people.
As you know the people are our primary constituency. Now, that you have a central government which is being led by APC, it is envisaged that you will not have challenges funding your projects. It is not about that. Even, Federal Government has funding challenges. I think what is important is synergy between the Federal and state governments to improve Nigeria’s economy.
This is by ensuring that all leakages are blocked so that there will not be wastage in the system. Through
that we will have a full basket that will reach every one…