Constitution Amendment Is A Waste Of Time, Resources – Kwankwaso

Nearly two years into his second term in office, Kano State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, speaks on his administration’s achievements thus far, constitution amendment, PIB among other issues in this interview with EDITOR, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, SADIQ ABDUlLATEEF

Can Your Excellency give us an insight into what your administration has achieved in office since 2011?
Let me take the opportunity to thank the good people of Kano state for finding us worthy of being elected or re-elected in 2011. I believe that was solely based on our performance during our first term that is between 1999 and 2003.

The years between our leaving office in 2003 and re-election in 2011 gave me an ample opportunity to reflect on what we did during our first 4 years. There were many things that we noted, which we would have done much better and there are things that we did very well. So by the time we came back in 2011. From day one we hit the ground running action and many people were surprised at how fast we have been moving.

But then we are in a hurry to perform because we have only 4 years to be in government before the next elections. So, the last one and half years have seen Kano being transform in many areas like education, health, transportation and water supply to mention but a few sectors.

We have built well over 1,500 classrooms, 750 offices several numbers of toilets in primary schools thus far. Recently we added another 90 blocks of Kwankwasiya classrooms. They are everywhere in Kano for all to see.

In addition, the Community Orientation Committees in all the 44 local governments are rehabilitating classrooms in the council areas. So far we have given them N10m each. People have also donated in cash and kind towards the schools’ rehabilitation.

Interestingly, ordinary people in these councils are using their donkeys to collect sands from streams and rivers in support of the ongoing work. Many artisans are also lending their skills to the school rehabilitation projects free of charge in the 44 local governments. Now education sector is owned by the Kano people of Kano. They no longer see the schools as government establishment they could strip of broken window or roofing sheets.

We are also feeding our children five times a week in these schools and give them two sets of uniform every year. This has encouraged them and their parents to embrace education, which has in turn bolstered the school enrolment drive in Kano.
Our teachers are also being encouraged in several ways. Teachers now get their salaries on the 25th of every month, they are being re-trained and they are very happy.

We have also established four additional mega secondary schools in the state.? We have what we call Zanbaki in? Ungogo, we have one in Albasu local government, one in Agwan and one Kano city, the one we call Governor’s College. We have also established boarding schools in each of the senatorial district.

We learnt that the state is building a school in Niger Republic…
Yes; we are partnering with the Niger government on this project. We are doing this for these children to go through Niger and have their education in French. It is a French-speaking country. We find this very necessary and very important in view of the place of French Language in the world.

We are also sending 100 teachers to China to study French in Chinese language. We want them to come back and establish schools here that will teach Chinese because Chinese is the future.

Does this mean that Kano does not need the federal Almajiri schools since your administration has done so much in the education sector?
Exactly! The Almajiri issue is a big nuisance to all of us. The best way to eliminate Almajiri syndrome in this part of the country is to establish so many schools and mobilize children to go to school. Everybody has now seen the danger of not investing in these children; they wake up one day and realize that they are rejected by the society and they take arms and fight the society.

We have also established the North-West University in addition to Kano University of Science and Technology, which we established? during our first administration . On top of all that, the state government has decided to sponsor anyone in this state who makes 1st class or 2nd class upper in his/her first degree for their Masters or doctorate degree.

What of the road infrastructure?
Each local government in Kano has 5 kilometres of dualised road with street lights and we have 44 local governments. If you multiply 44 by 5 you will get 220, which is more than the distance from here to Kaduna. Major roads entering the city are all being worked upon right now. We have a river that cuts across the city, and we intend to cover it completely and construct a road on top of it. We are also building flyover bridges.

We have also cleared Kano clean of refuse. We also have several water projects in Kano, with the aim of putting water in every household in the city. Even now just one and half years into our tenure, we have already made water provision a non-issue in the state as resident continue to gain access to pipe-borne water. We will ensure that Kano looks like real Kano not what we inherited in 2011.

What is your administration doing in the health sector?
Most of our hospitals are being rehabilitated. We are ensuring that nurses, doctors and all officials of the hospital go to work. We are buying? many equipment in all areas for the hospitals. we want to bring Gwarzo hospital to international standard and then we’ll work on others. We have also purchased 10 brand new mobile clinics that are moving around to give health support for our people.

Your Excellency, the general impression out there is that governors just junket about and that they are not really working…
A governor has the choice of sleeping and denying the people the sleep or you don’t sleep so that your people will have the opportunity to sleep. The choice is always there for every leader, every governors and even every president.? But I believe you have to work hard; that is the only way your people can get work, can go to school and have a supportive infrastructure.

If the governor does not work, there is no way any commissioner would work and there is no way that government can function very well. In Kano, we don’t sleep we are working very hard and the people are happy with the government.

In view of the on-going attempt to amend the Constitution, do you think that governors need civil or criminal immunity?
My personal opinion is that we don’t need constitution amendment at this time. What we need is constitutional enforcement. Our constitution is adequate. Most of the things in the Constitution have their origin in the constitutional conference of 1994-95. For instance the Issue of 13% derivation, I was part of the people that supported it and the military accepted it.

As far I am concern, the general feeling is that we want to see practical things on ground. I belief that the people of Kano state are good, Nigerians generally are good, they are not worried whether it is party “A” or party “B” that is government or whether a Christian or a Muslim is ruling. All what the people want is who will come and make life better for them.

Constitutional amendment is just diversion, a waste of time. I thing all this is coming from the National Assembly because it would benefit the federal lawmakers. That benefit, in my opinion, is that they would put the cost of the exercise in the budget and nobody will query them. Even if they are queried, they will still have the final say. Not only do they allocate money to themselves, they decide agenda.

Now we hear that they have promised some zones that they would create additional states for them. But we say bring the criteria: is it by population, landmass, resource?
Now that I have mentioned the National Assembly they will say we don’t know what we are talking about. We know what we are talking about. Some of them have reached out to state assemblies; they have so much time and resources to talk to our speakers to tell them what they want. Now they are talking about autonomy for local governments.

They say that governors have been oppressing local council through the joint account system, abusing it, and that that is why the local government can’t deliver.

But I would say that in this part of the country, the right calibre of people are not going into the politics of becoming councillors, chairmen and so on.

The Opening balance of each of local government in this state is an average of over a N500m for 2013. Before we came, local governments were not paying salaries, they were just sharing the money. Now for you to say we should send money directly to the local government in Kano is to destroy what we have already build with the local governments in the state. And who said local government are complaining?

That means you are in favour of the joint account system?
Yes of course, I have to be in favour because if I am not in favour and somebody should cancel it I don’t see how a local government together with us will do 5 kilometres of dualised road in addition with other projects we are doing with them.

But they should be an independence tier of government?
No! there are two federating units – federal and state. Only God can moderate what they are doing in the National Assembly. When Mr. President sends a budget to them, they include what they call constituency projects – roads, water, hospital – the National Assembly constituted themselves into another executive arms of government competing with Mr. President, competing with governors and competing with the local chairmen.

A legislator has no business constructing a road in his constituency. I have over 100 primary healthcare projects in Kano, every member of the House of Representative or and senator is coming to do health facilities some of them are not even paying compensation, they will just build it and abandon it.

The other angle of the budget as far we are concern is the money for the legislators. National Assembly members have the final say on their own remuneration, not the President. It shouldn’t be like that. They should not sit down and decide how much they should be paid.

But they are independent of the executive…
We as governors are also independent of the National Assembly. I am a governor, I don’t do what they call security vote here whether is right or not we don’t believe it here. A salary should be determined by a body. What they want to is try and transfer such things to the state assembly.

That means, I will sit here and because they have independence they should give themselves whatever allowances and salaries. If they bring it to me, whether I approve it or not doesn’t matter, they will do it. That is very dangerous.

Many Nigerians do not understand why governors oppose autonomy for local governments…
If you give them autonomy, they would decide what salaries and allowances to pay themselves like the National Assembly members have decided for themselves. Some say National Assembly members earn N45 million per quarter. N45 million is N15m per months, and is half a million per day for every member.

Whether you are in the beer parlour enjoying yourself you are to get half a million every day. Now which business will you do in this country that you will give you such amount daily that is in addition to other things?

My concern is that if we are going this way we are running into crisis and we are endangering the political class.

A similar accusation of dictatorship has been levelled against governors…
I was governor between 1999 and 2003. That was when the Governors’ Forum was truly governors’ forum and no member of the National Assembly had the guts to abuse governors. But now the National Assembly is too powerful because they decide everything for the country. The most powerful person today in the political circle, in my opinion, is in the National Assembly.

They decide what everybody in this country should get. They want to decide what the state assembly and the local government should take, that is the problem. I foresee a situation where we run into a serious crisis. There must be checks and balance. I understand they take $75 per barrel, now it is $79. Now what about that $4, who is using the rest?

Still on the issue of immunity, is it civil immunity or criminal immunity?
There is need for immunity at this particular time in our history, because people have turn themselves from opponents to enemies. But that is not to say that if you have petition you cannot lay it against your governor. So immunity for now I think is okay so that governors can concentrate. When they finish, take them to court.

What is your take on the power sector reform?
Although we support the principles of the power reforms, we are against the way and manner the Kano distribution company was sold. We were not properly consulted and we believe that those who bought the disco are not competent. Because electricity is so important to us, we wrote a petition to the BPE on the sale of this asset.

What is your view on the Petroleum Industry Bill?
PIB is part of the game. This part of the country is so weak to the extent that every sort of rubbish is good for us. I was a member of the onshore-offshore thing where some people were looking for from 13% to 50%, even 100%; all sorts of figures.

Now when we mention the issue of onshore/offshore bill which was wrongly done, many people were not happy and they said we should shut up. The PIB and any other law that will amount to taking more money from the treasury against the interest of the poor will not be acceptable to us. We should caution the National Assembly in this regard. They should protect our interest; they shouldn’t be afraid.

The north is currently at its lowest ebb in history, everybody is calling us names, including parasites, that we have nothing to offer, that we should go and sell our goats. This is the time we should come together and work as a team to fight against these challenges so that we can have a better Nigeria. I believe in one Nigeria. We have to come together and make sure the system works. Otherwise, if we take this route of selfishness, I don’t think we will make any progress.