National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) rating of Sokoto State as the poorest in the nation is faulty. So declares Sokoto State Commissioner of Information, Mallam Nasiru Danladi Bako. In this interview, he lamented that NBS might be using estimated indices of five or ten years ago and advised that it be reviewed. Bako also spoke on foreign debts and the extent of sokoto State indebtedness or otherwise, he spoke on other national issues.
Recently the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) rated Sokoto State as the poorest in Nigeria. What is the State position on the rating?
Well, with all due respect to the Statistician General Dr Kale and his people, I strongly believe that something is faulty with that report. It is either that he is sitting in his office in Abuja or the people he sent out probably did not get the right statistics or did not do their job. As you know, it has happened many times with most of the agencies. Take PHCN for instance, somebody sits in the office and make estimate when they are coming to your house. They can give you a bill that is called estimates without looking at what you have consumed. PHCN will look at your house and assume most time depending on how big or small is the house or better still even the location of the house, to give estimated bill that ordinarily has no correlation with the energy you may have consumed for the month under review. I think the NBS are simply making estimates of five or ten years ago. Because, I think the quality of life in Sokoto today is far beyond what the bureau of statistic has given. Yes, I will tell that with all confidence because I am very sure that as you live in Sokoto today, you know that former President Shehu Shagari, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad 111, Alhaji Alhaji former Minister of finance and High Commissioner to England lives in Sokoto. Endless number of very important personalities, retired and accomplished civil servants, traditional rulers, religious leaders and talented individuals lives in Sokoto.
Let me tell you also that, the only airport in Sokoto is the one that services, Kebbi, Zamfara, and people fly in to Sokoto to go to their villages. Now, it is extremely difficult for anybody to say that with all the work that has been done in all the rural areas almost in every local government, ward and village the governor has visited and there are projects in every one of them. There are eleven wards per local government and out of the about 253 wards that are in Sokoto State none of them has less than twenty (20) boreholes, none of them has less than fifty (50) villages that are electrified. None! When you have water, schools, electricity, and free access to health facilities what else would you say you are not satisfied with? Therefore, I do not know what statistics the NBS are using to measure their poverty. Today, as I speak, by the time you give seven thousand Hajj seats to Sokoto State, before you finish counting seven thousand all the seat would have been bought and they share in all the twenty three local governments and they buy them up as fast as possible. Therefore, when NBS say the State is the poorest I think the indices they are using need to be reviewed or better still am offering to even invite the Statistician General himself and all his staff to come to Sokoto State. I will take him round the nooks and crannies of the State and then sit down to do a face-to-face interview to gather these statistics. I did my Masters in University of Lagos in1980 and part of what we did at that time was survey and scientific sampling. I can go with him and do scientific sampling together in each of those villages and we will come out with a different result. Therefore, am appealing to the Bureau of Statistic to review the parameters they were using because these parameters are faulty. They might just be some World Bank or IMF parameters. They should come back, we will go round the State, and we will come out with a different and better statistic than that. I have been to all the 36 States of this country, and every State I have been to three major towns in it. Everywhere from Genbo in Taraba to Gokana in Ogoni land in River State, to Igbokoda in Ondo State to ijanikin in Lagos to Katinsole in Katsina to Oturkpo in Benue, Bodensadu Kwara, Ankpa in Kogi. I have been to towns in Jigawa, Bauchi, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Benin, Imo, Anambra and the host of others just to mention few. So I know this country very well and I am in position to say that Sokoto is not one of the poorest State and they should cancel that report and apologize to all of us and come back and do a better job.
Sokoto is regarded as the most peaceful State not only in the north but also in the entire nation. How does the State manage to sustain this in spite of the current insecurity ravaging the region?
Well, we have a strategic policy of engaging almost everybody from the top to the bottom. His Excellency Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda wamakko has very good relationship with all the security agencies. He keeps a tap on them. The arm forces, Police, Civil Defence, SSS, Immigration, Customs, Prison and all of them. He also has a unique way of engaging everybody on regular bases. Therefore, he does not miss information. He does not miss the relationship that keeps security alive. He makes sure that all the traditional rulers of the 66 Districts in Sokoto State are properly engaged. He has a wonderful relationship with the Sultanate and the masses like him. Therefore, crime has become literally none existent in Sokoto State. You can stay in Sokoto for three months and not hear of any burglary. You can stay in Sokoto for six months and not hear of any shooting or arm robbery. In fact, indeed I do not know the last time I heard of arm robbery in Sokoto State maybe about five years ago. Once in a while yes, petty thievery in the market or something else because we are in a complex society and human beings are very complex to manage because of individual difference.
However, generally I think Sokoto is a relatively peaceful State and most importantly, people of the State have things to do to sustain themselves. People have food to eat. People do the things that make them happy. Therefore, people are engaged in either menial job, farming and of course, the fear of God is supreme in the State and the love for humanity and accommodativeness is alive. When you fear God, the religion teaches you about how to make sure that you keep peace and you fear God because anything you do in terms of crime you will be rewarded accordingly on the D.Day of judgment. Therefore, people know that and they know that it is not rewarding to have criminals within their society or to be criminal themselves.
What will you consider so far as the major achievement of the government of governor Wamakko in Sokoto State?
The achievements are endless. I will require about 24 hours or more to list them. However, let me start from education. His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko was a teacher and a civil servant. Therefore, education occupies strategic position in his agenda. All the primary and secondary schools in Sokoto that are owned by the government have all been fenced. Books are acquired and distributed free of charge to the tune of three (3) billion naira annually. Education is free for everybody that is resident in Sokoto whether you are an indigene or not. Education from primary to secondary school has been free for the last five years. Irrespective of where you come from so long as you are resident in Sokoto and your child is attending public school it is free from primary down to secondary and all the books to be used are given to him or her free. His Excellency has also increased the number of public secondary schools by building more of such schools where they are hitherto non-existence. In fact, in Sokoto State we have the first Tsangaya School that was even in existence before the one built by the federal government. The one that was built by the federal government in Gagi came after the one the governor built in Shuni. Therefore, the Almajiri School that is called Tsangaya was built in Shuni about five years ago and that school is doing very well in terms of taking care of the Almajiri even before that of the federal government started.
To crown it all in the education sector, the government is paying scholarship to over thousands of students that are from the State studying both within and outside the shores of this country. Let me quickly remind you that it is only in this administration that we have the largest number of Sokoto indigenes studying abroad and their scholarships are paid by the State government. The governor has also crowned it with School of Developmental Studies that prepares students for tertiary education. It is like a remedial pre-Degree school. Now he has established Sokoto State University, which is about one of the best in Nigeria right now. If you take a look at the structures you will be amazed seeing what is on ground there. In terms of infrastructure, the governor has done more than a thousand kilometer of roads. About seven hundred kilometers of roads are in the rural areas. He has built the first major fly over bridge in Sokoto State, which transverses the ever busy and traffic difficult areas of Ahmadu Bello Way and Maiduguri Road. That Central Bank, Union Bank roundabout has always been a mess since when I was a kid in Sokoto. When I was age, four/five I always see that roundabout as a troublesome area but now the traffic flows. If you move around Sokoto today, almost all the streets have streets lights and all of them are working at night. These are major achievements.
He has set up the first twenty (20) million gallon water tank project that will supply water to the State. It is in Asare Wamakko local government. It is almost ready and it is being done by the Chinese ( Ganzu China Limited). That project is designed to provide twenty (20) million gallons of water per day and it is built on forty motorize boreholes all feeding water from the aquifer under Wamakko and it pump all the water to the tank and supply to the adjoining areas. When the governor took over Sokoto was consuming nine (9) million litres of water every day but now he has increased it and we are now consuming about thirty (30) million litres of water every day. Indeed, these are major achievements. Because of the complexity of electricity, the governor has embarked on an electricity project. All the equipment is on ground now for the Independent Power Project (IPP). Just the other day, the contractor promised that they would start coupling the equipment. Magnamara Ltd would build the base for the turbines and God’s willing in the next six months the State should be able to produce thirty (30) megawatts of electricity.
Now most importantly, agriculture is one of the major interests of this government. The Turkish companies have embarked on a project with Sokoto and Kebbi State government on a project that would take care of agriculture from Silame right down to Audi in Kebbi State. It is a completely vast Fadama land, and let me tell you now that sixteen (16) of the twenty three (23) local governments in Sokoto are based on Fadama land. Therefore, there is God’s given provision for agriculture. Finally, about four years ago, Wamakko gave two billion naira to traders in the State to invest in their trading. Note that, when he gave out the two (2) billion it boosts peoples businesses. We use to have one or two car dealers in Sokoto then but today we have over thirty car dealers in the State. Before now, we only hear about five Sokoto businessmen going to places like China, Japan and England to buy goods but today more than two hundred (200) Sokoto business men travel to Japan, Korea, Dubai, Uk, China, Italy and the host of others to buy goods. That is a major achievement. In the health sector, the foundation of Murtala Mohammed Hospital that is Augwan Rogo was laid in 1991 when he was the Permanent Secretary. Nobody finish the project. All the governors that came since then since never cared to finish the project. As at that time, it cost only Seventy one (71) million naira but today, about twenty years later governor Wamakko has completed that project. That hospital (Murtala Mohammed) is one of the biggest in this part of Nigeria. He has built an orthopedic hospital in Wamakko, he converted many of the health clinics in the State to major General hospitals. These are just a summary of the achievements of the governor.
To what extent has the 2012 budget of the State been implemented?
I would not risk saying exactly the exact level but I belief it must be somewhere around 70 to 80% because almost all the projects were aggregated. Remember, he is a governor that doesn’t take loans so we don’t have debts. The few debts that we are paying are some of the loans that were inherited from past military and civilian administrations. But Sokoto State government as a policy and the governor in person does not believe in foreign loans and debts. Therefore, I believe that the 2012 budget of the State has so far met 70 to 80% implementation level.
The State government was said to have so far sponsored over 150 indigenes of the State to study outside the shores of this country despite harsh economic realities. What do you foresee as the long and short-term benefit of such project?
Many of the students that are in abroad courtesy of the State scholarship are mostly children of the poor. From every local government we make sure that somebody is taken. We also make sure that such people are very intelligent and that they such that can come back and make an impact. We make sure that they go there and study marketable courses such as engineering, medicines, aviation, aeronautic engineers, pharmacy, architecture and so many other science courses where we need a lot of them. We have so many of all the other professions such as personnel management, banking and finance, accountancy, lawyers, business administrations. What we are slightly lacking is what we sent our children to go and study in abroad, and many of these students are in places like Russia, Bulgaria, England, Uk, Dubai, etc. They are all over the world studying these science courses and they are doing very, very well because their sponsorship is paid on time and as at when due. Am also assuring you that when they return they will have positively impact on the State.
Which area do you think the State government need to invest more and why?
Agriculture, because we are going into a situation where with sixteen Fadama land within the State mechanized agriculture is going to help you employ more people. Mechanized agriculture will help the government and people of the State to do so many other things. In fact, every State of the north has rich agricultural land. As we speak now I know that Sokoto State government is planning an agricultural plant. Let me tell you that, every State government in the north spend nothing less than two billion naira to buy fertilizer every year. If the nineteen northern States should spend 38 bn annually, I often wonder why they cannot fund one fertilizer company with that amount. In fact, they will even get counterpart funding from so many other places. I think the government of Sokoto is going to embark on agriculture intensely because that is the best way out. Agriculture is so important because it will provide food, employment, provide export and you earn revenue. That revenue is not like the oil that might finish one day but the revenue will always be with you.
What is the State government doing as regard industrialization considering the abundance of mineral resources in the State?
The State government has just only April last year set up Ministry of Solid Minerals. The former commissioner of Information, Dahiru Maishanu is now the commissioner and they have mapped out a work plan on how to harness these minerals. In addition, even when we went to the International investment forum in Russia last year September, one of the things we looked at was mining possibilities. And I can assure you that many miners are beginning to head to Sokoto. You will see that before the end of this year you see that so many miners will come to Sokoto to collaborate with the State government and explore all the mining possibilities. Remember also that we have just been discovered to have oil deposit in commercial quantity too, so it is going to be a fantastic future for the State. Therefore, Sokoto State is certainly going to attract more people because we are going to do everything humanly possible about agriculture, we are going to explore the minerals we have as well as the oil. Therefore, Sokoto is a place to be.