Despite the persistent agitations for autonomy for local government, the chairman Gwarzo Local Government in Kano state, Engr Bashir Abdullahi Kutama, says it is no issue Kano since the state and local government Joint account has never created hiccups between them. Bashir Mohammed brings excerpts.
How do you assess the APC-led administration in terms of grassroots development in the last 5 years?
If you compare the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and others I must say it has done a commendable job and we are happy to be part of the government. Especially with the introduction of the NFI which helped many local governments. If you look back at what happened in the past, you will notice that this has brought many changes to the administration and management of resources for the overall development at the grassroots. Within these five years we have seen massive improvement in the local government administration and we are hoping and waiting for the full autonomy of the local governments.
During this current administration we have seen how the government has encouraged farming through fertilizer subsidy to farmers across the 774 local government areas in the country. A lot of programmes have been put in place to revive the moribund cotton farming through the distribution of improved variety of seeds to cotton farmers.
The government has boosted rice production in the country and today Nigeria is fully independent in terms of rice production unlike before where most of the rice we consumed as a country were imported from other countries. This is a very giant stride this government has recorded in its drive to achieve food security for the country.
Also, the production of soya beans has tremendously improved and the government has brought a lot of improved seeds to boost the production of the crop.
In the Northwest we have some problems with insecurity including banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping, and perhaps the Boko Haram. But this government has achieved a lot and we are praying for more to be done.
Your local government shares a boundary with some parts of Katsina state affected by insecurity, how have you been able to protect your people from attacks?
Gwarzo local government lies between Malumfashi, Kakuru, and Musawa local governments. So actually we are the only local government that borders Katsina state, especially the troubled side Gwarzo which is not far from Kankara local government.
Let me thank the governor of Kano state, Dr Abdullahi Umar , because he boosted the security of Gwarzo local government. The presence of security in Gwarzo local government actually is hundred percent because we have DSS, JTF which headquarters in Gwarzo, NDLEA, FRSC with its zonal head office there for two years now.
We have some sort of community policing strategy involving our local vigilante groups, hunters and other groups within the community to secure the border with Katsina. With those strategies we have been able to secure the lives and properties of our people. If you go to Gwarzo today you will see joint patrols, troops of the Nigerian Army, the police, vigilante groups and hunters, NDLEA securing the villages so that our people can sleep with their eyes closed. . So we have achieved a lot.
You identified the Almajiri system as one of the factors responsible for the underdevelopment of the North. Can you shed more light on that?
I told you that this old system of Almajiri is a drawback to the North because we have a lot of intelligent kids among them that could excel in other facets of life. But we have wasted these intellects on the streets that is why mostly they grow in abject poverty. If you assess the whole country the poorest state is in the North.
Everybody has zeal to go to school to build a career in various aspects of life but most of the time if you look around critically you will notice that the well-to-do in the Northern society did not go through that almajiri system. That was why I described the old almajiri system as a draw-back to the North. So we are hoping and praying that the Northern governors will stand on this decision to salvage the country from this menace. Once that issue is addressed there will be reduction in crime and even the insecurity we are all talking about.
How were you able to execute all the projects you mentioned earlier with the meagre resources coming from the federation account?
I don’t want my fellow local government chairmen from northern states to begin to confront their governors because of what one local government chairman from Kano said. We don’t have problems with the issue of joint accounts. Besides, the money we are getting from the Kano state government is even more than what we are getting from federal allocation because whatever we are doing we are following due process. Whatever you need you have to apply for, it is processed and it will be released.
So we don’t have much of a problem with the issue of joint accounts with the state. Secondly, our governor always encourages us to focus more on how we can generate revenue internally and our IGR has helped us a lot to be able to execute a lot of projects across our local governments. I can tell you that most of the projects I have executed 60 percent are from the IGR we were able to generate.
What efforts are you making to ensure that the drift of Almajiri children from rural communities into your local government is minimised or stopped if possible?
Before the decision was taken banning the Almajiri system, the government of Kano state had built many Sangaya schools across the state. Even in my local government we have more than 140 Sangaya schools, so when we enrol them in these sangaya schools we will minimize their migration from rural areas to the cities.
Already, we have decided to enrol each one of them in his community. That way we intend to tackle the issue. Besides, we have provision for vocational training centres, so with these vocational training schools we will help the children to acquire skills that will help them for life.
Is there any package for youth empowerment in your local government?
We have a school of midwifery, immediately the school started off, we bought a bus and donated to the school then we rehabilitated the government secondary school one of the government secondary schools in Kano state where two of our governors had their secondary education. Both Kwankwaso and Ganduje attended the school so we totally rehabilitated and fenced it.
We reconstructed their dormitories, class rooms and even their faulty cars. Now, we have purchased necessary equipment and materials for the vocational youth centre for more than 150 trainees. This has assisted many youths. Also, we have given scholarships to 450 students and I can tell you we are the only local government to do so.
Lastly, the market built in Gwarzo local government is meant to tackle economic challenges among the youths and the general economy of the local government. We allocated the shops free of charge to 470 youths across the local government just to encourage people and it is yielding results. So we have that provision and now even our neighbours from Katsina state are coming to Gwarzo to do businesses.
Gwarzo is one of the political hubs of Kano state, how do you assess the performance of APC in the area?
I don’t want to speak about the performance of APC, I will rather speak on the performance of the local government because the local government is the backbone of the APC as it directly affects the grassroots. The deputy governorship candidate of the opposition party in the last election is from Gwarzo, and it also produced the former Chief Whip of the senate, former deputy governor of kano state and it has two commissioners now, three MDs and special advisers. These caliber of persons are well-vast politics. Anybody in Gwarzo, no matter how he distances himself from politics, is politically conscious and can easily analyse politics including who will likely becomes what in the political cheese game.
Does that you do not have issues from the opposition?
Politics goes with opposition; when there is no opposition there is no politics. The opposition is meant to identify the lapses in the government and the government takes note of the lapses through criticisms of the opposition to improve on its service delivery.
Personally, I believe in opposition, when there is no opposition nothing moves well. Remember I told you that the deputy gubernatorial candidate of the opposition party in the last election is from Gwarzo that tells you that we have strong opposition in Gwarzo local government.
What is your challenge as local government chairman?
It is poor funding. We are hoping that the federal government will review the federal allocation to enable us deliver more dividends of democracy to our people. But the money we are receiving from federal allocation is not sufficient to even pay the salaries of primary school teachers and local government staff. So funding remains our major challenge.