Governor Abdullahi Sule is the chief executive officer of Nasarawa state. Over two decades since its birth Nasarawa state is gradually inching its way into national consciousness as a state with big dreams.
In this interview, governor Sule an engineer by training speaks about his vision to turn around the fortunes of the state and make it an industrial hub not only in the North-central region but in the entire country. He spoke on the heels of the 100 days of his administration
What can you easily point as a major achievement in your first 100 days in office?
I think the first thing is the issue of peace and stability that we have been able to find in the State and the level of unity and cohesion going on in the State. I strongly believe, starting from our primary election; it is only in Nasarawa State that the 11 aspirants that stood for the primary election, and the 10 who lost stood as members of the campaign council for the candidate that won.
We have seen some level of unity and stability in the State. In the area of education we have seen the completion of most of the projects, especially in skill acquisition centres, special education and technical education. Most of the primary and secondary schools that are initiated by the former administration have been completed while some are near completion. On the road network, most of the projects started by the former administration, we have been able to complete them, while some are still under construction. But we have new ones that we have started; this is one big achievement that we have.
We listed about 14 areas of interest when we were coming in that we will embark upon. One of it is to ensure we promote our agricultural sector, which is the major trade in Nasarawa State. With this, we are already working with the federal government to give a facility of N1.5 billion to empower the youths (through the compressed earth brick making and laying project). Right now they are undergoing training and we have identified land areas where those farms will be situated.
Another area of our achievement so far is the completion of special education for the disable started by the former administration and there is none like it in the entire nation. The real achievement is that even State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) wants to replicate what we have been able to achieve in that space.
On the area of power, we have already identified three major areas, starting with solar power… today all the new street lights that were installed are the brand new technology of solar with one unit solar system and most of the boreholes built in the various schools are also solar powered for the system. The major problem of power has been identified and we have started working in ensuring that the core deposit we have in Nasarawa State will be converted to be the source of power for the core fire turban.
On the hydro power we have successfully got the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to start the process of constructing a dam at the water fall. On our own part we have awarded the contract to construct the road leading to the major highway to the site.
For the agriculture that I mention earlier, Nasarawa State is selling fertiliser lower than any other State in the country. We are giving fertiliser to our local farmers at subsidised price. We are supporting our farmers to have a bumper harvest, while attracting major commercial farmers in the industry.
We have set up a 15-man ‘Investment and Economic Advisory Council’, to chart the way forward for the economic development of the state headed by Prof. Kanyisola Ajayi, as Chairman, Ibrahim Magaji as Secretary. Indeed we have so many other prominent Nigerians in various field of the economy on the board. They all believe in the economic agenda of the state.
During your electioneering campaign, you hinted of plans to establish small and medium scale enterprise to empower 3,000 women, youths and physically challenged persons annually. How far are you towards achieving that target?
First and foremost we have gone round the State in carrying out a sensitisation programme on SMEs in the area in agriculture, mining and trading. In addition to that we have gone far to give forms to all prospectus beneficiaries of the programmes. 48 hours after I was sworn in as Governor we started by distributing sewing machines, grinding machines among other things. Most of the things we did is for them to go and create an employment opportunity for themselves, so that they can earn a livings. We have already started that and we are going far on this. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is going to offer to Nasarawa local farmers about N1.5 billion and the money will be used to empower the youths in growing the small scale businesses.
The issue of debts has been a recurrent decimal ever since these new class of governors came on board. Can you tell us what the volume of debt you inherited from the former administration? Secondly, how is the executive arm of government treating FAAC allocation to local government?
Nasarawa State is one of the least indebted State in the whole nation. We are very lucky. The past administration since they came took one major debt through a bond and before we came in they paid off. But they had inherited debt like contractors’ fees and some other debt from banks. But we didn’t have a major overdraft from any banks. Since we came in servicing of debts have been the least of our concerns.
One issue that has remained a subject of controversy is the issue of disbursement to local government areas. How is the executive arm of government treating the disbursement of FAAC allocation to local governments?
Let me start from the second part you mention about the autonomy of the local government area you have mentioned. Nasarawa State is one of the first few States that decided to embrace autonomy of the local government whole heartily.
In June, we allowed the local government to set up their committee and distribute their own funds and separate what is meant for salary and capital projects. We have encouraged them to do that. So far they have been able to pay their salary for June, July and now they will pay for August. Not only salary, they are also paying their pension too. We welcome the autonomy 100 per cent and we are working on the area of the autonomy without any problem. Right now most of the local government areas are going to do the screening of their own beneficiary not only for salary but also pensions.
Is Nasarawa State looking at sourcing for funds through the bond market?
Yes, we are looking at that, since the last bond has been fully paid off. We are trying now to find the possibility of taking a new facility on infrastructural development, like market development, transportation, among others.
What is the State doing in the area of security?
When it comes to security, even from the federal level, government is taking a very bold step. At governors meeting we have with Mr. President, the discussion was on security. Security has been a big concern for not only Nasarawa State. But for Nasarawa State, we have seen some level of stability on the area of security and peace. On the State Police matter, the issue is at the level of Governors forum meeting and at the federal executive council. State Police is of interest to us, but we have started something at the lower lever for instance, most of us engage one form of security unit or the other, vigilantes and the rest of them. In Nasarawa, we have the one called Nasarawa State Agency For Youth Empowerment Scheme (NAYES), it is actually the equivalent of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) in Lagos but the difference is that ours concern security while more of theirs (Lagos) concerns roads or traffic. What we did also, the Civic Defence, is very aggressive in Nasarawa State and luckily for us the majority of the officials in the Civic Defence are indigene of the State. They go to the local communities and engage the youths from the areas and this had worked in the State. State Police, when it is completed and agreed upon, I think it will be adopted.