By Abdu Labaran Malumfashi,
these are not the best of times to indulge in much self adulation, what with the deadly twin challenges of pervasive insecurity and the covid 19 pandemic ravaging the northern part of the country, including Katsina State, a little appraisal of the Masari administration’s journey from inception to date, may just be what the doctor recommends. In fact, it’s the tonic needed to enliven the moody atmosphere, and move away from the gloomy narrative that has cast dark shadow onto the society by these debilitating adversities.
There could be no better opening than the vote of confidence severally passed on Governor Aminu Bello Masari by President Muhammadu Buhari who, impressed by the Governor’s performance, commended him for the exceptional quantity and quality of service delivery in the President’s home state of Katsina.
A very fastidious person, and one not given to frivolity, the President has this to say about Governor Masari: “Thank you, Governor Masari, for taking care of the people of my constituency”, during the commissioning of the redesigned and reconstructed Fago- Koza Road on Thursday, August 15, 2019.
And in his good will message on the occasion of the Governor’s 70th birthday anniversary on May 29, 2020, President Buhari also passed a vote of confidence on the Katsina State Governor, enthusing that “Governor Masari has done very well in revamping and repositioning the educational sector in Katsina State, with focus on the girl-child and almajiri, boosting infrastructure and health care services by initiating an upgrade and expansion of all General Hospitals, and other centres.
“Governor Masari’s visionary and accommodating leadership style, wealth of experience and penchant for seeking greater good for his people and the country are exemplary”.
And after the recent rescue of the 344 abducted Kankara Science Secondary School students, after one week in captivity, the President lavished yet more praise on Governor Masari for his uncommon efforts which led to the quick release of the students by their captors with no loss of life, thereby giving credit where it duly belongs.
Not withstanding these challenges, made even worse by the cynicism of incurable skeptics, the Masari administration has been able to make these appreciable interventions:
At the inception of his administration in May 29th, 2015, Governor Masari inherited a state rated the second poorest economically, and third most educationally backward. This situation was in sharp contrast to what should rightly have been the fate of Katsina, having, once upon a time, blazed the trail in education and agriculture in the northern part of the country. Katsina was home to the first post primary school in the north, and erstwhile leading cotton, groundnut and corn producer in the country.
Ever the optimist, he remains convinced that turning the fortunes of the state for the better is doable, steeped in the belief that “a problem remains only so to a mind lacking in commitment and conviction to surmount it”. According to him, even the paucity of funds cannot be sufficient justification for poor performance, because it’s not how much money is available, but how it is judiciously used from what is available. And these truths have been his guiding philosophy as he pilots the affairs of Katsina state from May 29, 2015.
It is an incontrovertible truth that no society can develop above the level of the education of its citizens. This is why for Governor Masari, education remains “the first, second and third priority” of his administration. The administration’s numerous interventions in the sector, especially at the primary and secondary school levels have been unprecedented in the state.
These interventions have not been limited to infrastructure development, as quality (training and retraining), quantity (recruitment) and welfare (promotion and payment of salary and other entertainments as and when due) of teaching and non teaching staff have attracted equal attention from the government.
With classrooms designed to accommodate a maximum of 50 pupils taking as much as 150 at both primary and secondary schools, the Masari administration quickly embarked on the renovation and construction of new classrooms across the state. 15,000 units of furniture, comprising double seater chairs and desks have been procured and distributed.
Primary schools :-
A total of 1,026 new classrooms were constructed, and 1,268 classrooms were rehablitated, bringing the total to 2294 classrooms in excellent condition in use.
Office accommodation for primary school teachers:-One Hundred and Thirty Five (135) new offices were constructed, whereas 532 were rehablitated. Similarly, 135 new stores were built, while 532 were rehablitated.
A total of 930 toilets were built in primary schools across the state.
Secondary Schools :-
Seven new secondary schools were built across the state at the total cost of N1.1billion.
Twenty Five (25) secondary schools across the three Senatorial zones in the state underwent complete rehablitation and upgrading at the total cost of N3.2billion.
Fourth Eight (48) secondary schools suffering from dilapidation and damaged by storm received partial repair and rehablitation at the cost of N7 billion.
Out of the Eighteen (18) Science and Technical Vocational Schools in the state, thirteen (13) were completely rehablitated and upgraded at the cost of about N2 billion.
Government has promoted, with payment of full areas, over 1100 primary and secondary schools teachers in the state, some of whom have had no promotion for upwards of 10 years.
All girls secondary schools in their state have been converted to boarding.
With over 2000 teachers already recruited for primary and secondary schools, 5000 more are currently being recruited under the S (tate) Power Programme.
Girl Child Education.
This is another area where the Masari Administration has placed high premium, encouraging parents, notably mothers,to send the daughters to primary school as against sending them on hawking errands.
This department has generated many programmes that have mothers as beneficiaries, and the result has been a drastic reduction in street hawking by school age children.
Tertiary education :-
From 2015 to date, the sum of N7.32billion has so far been expended on scholarship to Katsina State indigenes as well as the provision of infrastructure and services at the four state owned tertiary institutions, namely, Umaru Musa Yar’adua University (UMYU), Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic (HUKP), Isa Kaita College of Education (IKCOED) and Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman College (YBUC).
The government has embarked on, with many already completed, the renovation, rehablitation and remodelling (by 70%) of the General Hospitals at Katsina, Daura, Funtua, Malumfashi, Musawa, Dutsinma, Mani, Baure and Kankiya. These are being complemented with state-of-the-art equipment to rival the best in the country.
In like manner, health centres in the rest of the local government areas in the state have received treatment commensurate with the status of the locality.
The construction of a Specialist Eye Centre at the General Amadi Rimi Specialist Hospital is in advanced stage of completion
So far a total of 993 medical and health workers, comprising 110 doctors (including 15 consultants), 250 nurses and 330 midwives and allied health personnel have been recruited, with another batch of 500 medical staff currently being recruited.
30 medical doctors have been granted full sponsorship to pursue residency/specialisation. The college of Nursing and Midwifery has recruited 13 Nursing tutors, five Midical Educators, and one lecturer. Full sponsorship has been granted for nurses:- 18 post-graduate Diploma (Nursing Education), four to study Degree in Nursing (BN.Sc), 11 to study Masters Degree in Nursing (MSc) and 3 Phd in view). Additional 200 health workers have been granted approval to undertake full-time and part time studies at home and abroad to build their capacity.
Governor Masari’s administration has not only renovated and upgraded but secured accreditation for Katsina School of Nursing, the first time since it was established in 1956, and doubled its annual students intake from 50 to 120.
The School of Midwifery in Malumfashi and the Schools of Health Sciences at Daura and Kankiya have also been renovated and upgraded.
Perhaps, the icing on the cake in the administration’s expansive intervention in the health sector is the plan establish a state owned teaching hospital by converting the Federal Medical Centre Katsina, with the support and approval of the Federal Ministry of Health. The project is so much on course that, all things being equal, would see the light of the day in the next couple of years.
The Masari administration has also constructed 10 health posts at Dajin Rugu Forest for Fulani communities in 10 local government areas (Jibia,Batsari, Dutsinma, Safana, Danmusa, Kankara, Faskari, Danja, Sabuwa and Dandume).
Also, 3 Zonal Cold Stores at Sandamu, Dandume and Kankiya were built and provided with 3 walk-in Cold Rooms, 2 giant generators and 7 number Hilux vans for direct vaccine delivery.
The Comprehensive Health Care Centre at Ketare in Kankara Local Government area was completed, while a similar one at Kafur was fully renovated.
Just when insecurity was putting too much strain on the lean resources of the state, COVID 19 pandemic reared its deadly head to put even further strain on what little is left of the resources.
Still, the government had but to be up and doing in ways whatever, and keep on doing so, to mitigate the deathly impact of COVID 19.
This single determination to control the rampaging disease saw to the establishment of a 260-bed isolation centre, in addition to other 20-bed facilities, 10 each at the General Amadi Rimi Orthopaedic Hospital, Katsina and the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina.
In view of the importance given to the sector by Governor Masari, his deputy, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu is given charge of the agriculture ministry as its commissioner, ably assisted by Dr. Abba Abdullahi, an internationally renowned consultant, as Special Adviser on Agriculture.
As a wholly agrarian state, Katsina state is an active participant in the CBN’s sponsored Cotton and Rice Anchor Programmes, with Katsina first in cotton, and second only to Kebbi in the production of rice.
Farming in Katsina has been given a new impetus with an unprecedented regular procurement and distribution of sufficient quantity of assorted fertilisers for both wet and dry seasons farming without the usual annual fanfare of public launching of the distribution of the commodity.
A reasonable quantity of tractors, now being assembled in the state, has been procured and distributed to farmers in the state on soft loan by the government.
The Masari administration has concluded arrangements with the Indian Tractor manufacturing firm, Mahindra Machines to assemble the tractors and other farming implements at the recently resuscitated Kankiya Metal Works factory.
A Faculty of Agriculture has been established in the Umar Musa Yar’adua University to give further impetus to the agricultural sector in the state.
The state has been an active participant in the CBN Rice Anchor Barrowers Scheme, with rice farmers in the state benefiting to the tune of N200 million. Thanks to the support and encouragement of the government, the beneficiaries have fully repaid their loans 100%. Katsina is second only to Kebbi state, in rice production under the programme.
On a scale never undertaken before, comprehensive rehabilitation and upgrade of the Ajiwa Dam and Water Works (for Katsina township and environs), Malumfashi Dam and Waterworks (for Malumfashi township and environs) and Mairuwa Dam and Waterworks (for Funtua township and environs), as well as the Daura and environs water works, have been embarked upon by the Masari administration, with many already completed.
Also, thanks to the collaborative efforts with the Federal Government, the hitherto abandoned waterworks at Zobe Dam in Dutsinma town, Sabke Dam in Daura town and Jibia Dam in Jibia town are all but completed, with only a few finishing touches before commissioning.
Efforts have been stepped up by the Masari administration to expand the utilization of these dams, which are among the largest man made bodies of water in the country for irrigation purposes.
Many earth dams have been rehabilitated, several are under construction in all three senatorial zones for irrigation and animals uses.
The biggest intervention yet is on the Ajiwa Water Works, which is the major supplier of pipe borne water to Katsina town, the state capital and environs.
Every facility has its capacity doubled to ensure fair daily water supply, especially to institutions like schools and health facilities.
A new department, Katsina State Investment Promotion Agency (KIPA), headed by a Director General, was established by the Masari administration to drive the industrialisation programme.
The agency has hit the ground running, organizing, withing its first couple of months, an economic and investment forum with participation of leading Nigerian and foreign business persons and companies with Dangote and BUA groups among the local participants, with other participants coming from China, India, UAE, US, and UK.
Governor Masari administration has liberalized the space and created a conducive environment for investors to do business.
Governor Masari has revived some industries that have remained moribund since they were established in 1979 by the administration of Governor Balarabe Musa of the defunct Kaduna State during the Second Republic. These include Kankiya Metal Works, Kankara Kaolin, Funtua Burnt Bricks and Daura Tennery, among others.
While the Chinese have already set up shop in Katsina State, Dangote conglomerate has acquired land to establish a tomatoes farm and processing factory.
The BUA group has also approached the state government to acquire land for the establishment of a textiles factory and allied products.
A huge industrial park, the like of which exists nowhere in the neighbouring states, has been mapped out by the administration to encourage investors and other entrepreneurs to open shop in the state in a one-stop business environment.
ROADS, HOUSING AND TRANSPORT:
Contrary to the jaded narratives regularly churned out by enemies of progress, Masari administration has added significant mileage on the road infrastructure in the state, the lean purse at its disposal notwithstanding.
The Masari administration has completed all the unfinished road projects inherited from the immediate past administration, most of which were hastily awarded but barely started on the eve of the preceding administration’s departure in May, 2015.
To date, the Masari administration has constructed over 510 kilometres (and counting) of roads in almost equal measure in the three Senatorial zones in the state. Thirty nine (39) rural feeder roads with a total length of 461 kilometres have been constructed across the 34 local government areas in the state.
Flooding in many urban centres had hitherto been a perennial menace, with many a resident dreading the commencement of the wet season.
Not unmindful of flight of many during the rainy season, the Masari administration from its inception in 2015, rose to the challenge, spending no less than N2.5billion on a deliberate policy to tame, and save Katsina State from the fury of flooding.
On a more ambitious scale, are ongoing projects in Katstina (the state capital), Jibia, Malumfashi and Funtua in a gigantic multi billion naira Storm water and Drainage Management scheme, under the State and World Bank jointly funded Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP).
The Katsina and environs project involves the construction of an 11-kilometre-5m wide concrete-lined drainage stretching from Kofar Guga through Sabuwar Kofa down to Shinkafi Bridge.
These projects are being handled two reputable construction companies, Mothercat and Triacta, with the former handling Katsina and Jibia, while the latter handles Malumfashi and Funtua.
So far, the Masari administration has undertaken (some completed and others in various stages of completion) the construction of flood control structures in 122 locations covering over 150 communities.
These projects include:
(i) 88,537m of combined reinforced concrete-lined, block-lined and mansory-lined drainages,
(ii) 1,910m of retaining wall,
(iii) 360m of drift,
(iv)104 culverts, and
(v) 1,550m of dyke/embankment.
In the state capital and environs, alone, the intervention saw to the construction of 21,139m reinforced concrete-lined, block-lined and mansory-lined drainages, and 24 box culverts.
Three housing estates with a combined strength of 450 units of houses are currently under construction and in various stages of completion. The 200 housing units near the Federal Medical Centre are all but completed.
With Funtua as the commercial melting pot of the state, the Masari administration has expanded and upgraded by almost 50% the Funtua central market and mortar park.
The state government has also expanded the transport authority by replenishing its fleet of vehicles with 30 no. Toyota Costa and Hiace buses.
With about seven different MDAs involved in various empowerment programmes, over 15000 youth have received training 11and empowered in various trades and crafts, at the ratio of 60%/40% in favour of women.
The agencies tasked with this all important programme include Ministry of Science and Technology, Katsina State Economic Empowerment Directorate (KASEED), Women Affairs Ministry, Department of Girl Child Education and the Department of Youth And Women Empowerment.
Given the priceless nature of good education and security, no amount of money and time spent on these sectors is too much, in view of the of the alternatives.
To appreciate the ground covered by the Masari administration in the area of security, an appraisal of the state of insecurity, pre the APC government in Katsina state may help do that.
The issue of acute insecurity that came in the form of cattle rustling, killings, kidnapping and rape which seriously affected farming and commercial activities had been common, in especially eight local government areas in the state. These local government areas are contagious to the vast and deep Rugu Forest, which serves as permanent ‘hideout’ to the bandits.
So acute had been insecurity in Katsina state, that on a day in March, 2014, with then President Gooluck Jonathan and national chieftains of then ruling PDP in town, bandits cold-bloodedly massacred 142 people at a community nestled between Faskari and Sabuwa local government areas, in an operation that lasted upwards of five hours with no presence of security personnel.
On coming into office, Governor Masari initiated a joint security action by the seven North West states of Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi, as well as far way North Central state of Niger.
However, this was short lived, as all but him decided to go about it individually within their state jurisdiction. The governors were to later come back in a United front to fight the menace after some quality time was lost to the bandits.
He negotiated an amnesty programme for repentant cattle rustlers, who handed over their fire arms and ammunitions to government in a ceremony attended by the top hierarchies of the security agencies, notably the Military and the Police and the Department of State Security, in return for forgiveness, reintegration and provision of aminities like schools, clinics and water points in their settlements. Ten primary schools and ten clinics, as well as earth dams and other water points were built in the affected areas as promised by the Governor.
He also initiated, in collaboration with MTN, the launching of Animal Identification and Management Solution Programme (designed to track stolen animals) at Runka in Safana Local Government, Katsina state on Saturday, 2nd December, 2017.
One key demand Governor Masari made of the bandits before the peace deal was sealed, was for them to eschew banditry for good everywhere in the country, not only in Katsina state.
Another effort at reaching a permanent peace deal with the leadership of the disparate groups of bandits hit a brick wall because Governor Masari had insisted that they must lay down and return all their arms and ammunitions and leave the forest and join their compatriots in the towns and villages for full reintegration with the larger society. The bandits balked, promising only to spare Katsina state in their dastardly activities, but continuing in other states.
The manifold increase in the permanent presence of the military and the police force in Katsina state is owed to Governor Masari.
Prior to 2016, there was only one military formation in the state, the Army’s 3 Battalion in Katsina tow with no Airforce presence. Today, Katsina state boasts of the Army’s 17 Brigade, two Battalions one each in Daura and Malumfashi, three Airforce formations, one each in Katsina, Daura and Funtua. In the case of the police force, four additional Area Commands have been created to bring the number to six, to complement the Katsina Police Command.
Even though the security chiefs in the state are not answerable to the Governor, the state government nonetheless shoulders a burden greater than its meagre resources can comfortably support. The state government pays the operational allowances of the duty personnel, in addition to the monthly financial assistance given to all the security agencies in the state. This is of course outside the frequent extension of logistics support, often in the form of operations vehicles like Toyota Hillux vans and motorcycles.
THE KANKARA SECONDARY SCHOOL BOYS ABDUCTION:
But for President Muhammadu Buhari’s timely commendation of Governor Masari for the hitch free rescue of the abducted 344 Kankara Science Secondary School students, some charlatans with debatable pedigree would have hoodwinked the uninformed into giving them unearned credit for the rescue efforts.
The relentless vigour expended by the Governor in the swift rescue operation, against the backdrop of global attention on Katsina State, has exposed the lie in the traducers’ evil narratives against some key actors in the state government.
SERVING AND RETIRED WORKERS ENTITLEMENTS:
SALARY AND OTHER ENTITLEMENTS:
Another area where the Masari administration has yet to be found wanting is the payment of serving and retired workers’ salary and other entitlements.
As Governor Masari is wont of stating, workers salary and other entitlements are rights not privileges, and settling them as and when due, is a duty not a favour.
Since the inception of the administration on May 29, 2015, the payment of salary has remained consistently on or before 25th of every month.
PENSIONS AND GRATUITIES:
From June 2015 to August 2020, the Masari administration has paid a total N71 Billion in pensions and gratuities for retirees of the state, the local governments and the local government education authorities.
From January 2018 to date, the various MDAs, with the exception of the education ministry have recruited a total of 3,080.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari is not your typical run of the mill polician, whose words are anything but his bond. In Rt. Hon. Masari resides a politician who walks his talk, shunning political correctness, the stuff for pretenders.
He does not believe in playing to the gallery to pander to the convenience of the ‘next’ election, his sole concern being what is right and good for the next generation; a conviction which gives him the courage to take what to some may seem unpopular decisions, once he believes in doing so the interest of the larger society is served best.