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Thursday, 5 October 2017
Why governors want to take over federal roads –Governor Yari
Zamfara State Governor, Abudal’aziz Abubakar
Yari, was one of those on the delegation of President Muhammadu Buhari to the
72nd United Nations General Assembly, in New York. He rates it the best of his
outings to the global body since he came into office in 2015. He also explains
why governors are seeking to takeover federal roads, saying it would be a
win-win situation for everyone.
How will you appraise President Buhari’s
UN outing vis-a-vis the reactions of Nigerians?
This is my second time of accompanying Mr.
President to the United Nations General Assembly. I was there with Mr.
President last year and if I have to rate the two outings, I can tell you that
this year’s outing was very successful. We all know that Mr. President was away
on medical vacation for more than 100 days but on his return, he was adamant to
meet with his colleagues on the global stage in order to interact and address
outstanding issues affecting our country.
At the general debate where he highlighted
the issues concerning Nigeria bothering on security, our economy, he frowned at
so many decisions that have been taken that were not implemented by member
states. At the bilateral meetings too he did not disappoint. He pushed for
Palestine to have its own state side by side the state of Israel. He recalled
that the decision was taken in 1967 but up till now it’s not been implemented.
The President also used the opportunity to
thank world leaders and friends of Nigeria that have contributed immensely to
the fight against Boko Haram, especially Niger, Chad, Cameroon for their
support against terrorism. He also thanked United Kingdom, the United States,
France, Germany and others for supporting the fight against terrorism by
supplying intelligence, equipment, training the military among others. He was
particularly grateful to Jordan for the supplies of over 200 units’ military
hardware to support the anti-terrorism war. He reiterated that though he cannot
say that the war on terror is over but the military has made tremendous
progress and have reduced the menace of Boko Haram. He also called for more
support from global leaders so that this fight can come to an end. So sincerely
speaking Mr. President’s UN outing this year was excellent.
Nigerians are concerned that most states
in the country are not viable which is responsible for dwindling resources for
developmental projects. What are you and your colleagues doing to change the
There is no state that is not viable. We
are blessed in this country. For instance, in Zamfara State, I’m even thinking
that we should stop taking money from the federation account. Let’s face our
internal economy and see what we do and I believe that we can do it. A state of
over four million people, I can tell you authoritatively that less than one per
cent of them are paying their taxes. If four million of us can pay our taxes or
even two million of us because it is believed the four million include women
and children, you will see the difference.
In the United States you pay tax on a
bottle of Coke. How many people drink coke in my state? If on each Coke you buy
at N100, N17 from it is for tax, can you just imagine what we will be
generating? How many loafs of bread are being sold on a daily basis in my state
and imagine if we tax that no matter how little it is what it will translate
to? Imagine the number of pure water that are being sold on a daily basis, how
many bags of rice are being sold in my state? All these are taxable items that
can generate funds for us. We want to be like the United States and yet we
don’t want to pay tax. We have relied so much on our oil and we thank God that
the warning has been sent that in the next 10 years, oil is not going to be a
commodity you can rely on, so we have to find alternative means of getting more
monies to develop our states for the betterment of our people.
One of the things we discussed at NEC is
the warning that in the next 10 years we will no longer rely on oil. India has
said by 2030 they will not use injector but calibrator vehicles, they will stop
using fuel. They are sending us a signal that we are going to stop buying your
oil. So if they stop buying our oil, what will we then do with it? Eventually
it will be just for domestic consumption and no longer foreign currency
earner. So, this is the time for us as a nation to live 100 per cent on
the thousands of resources that God has blessed us with.
Are you saying the states have resolved to
look inwards and rely less on federation account for survival?
We are saying we are not just going to
look inward but we can rely on what we generate inward. For now we are relying
on federal government’s formula to survive but I think it is time for us to
draw up our own formula and work out the modalities ourselves and the sooner we
start the better for us.
Using Zamfara as example what are the
steps you are taking in this direction?Before
now, Zamfara in the early 60s had its commodities it was viable in. Eighty per
cent of the tobacco exported out of this country is from Zamfara State, there
is what is called Britain Cotton Gin (BCG), right now as I am talking to you,
we have over 20 ginning companies all over Zamfara ginning cottons. We are the
biggest cotton producing state in the country followed by Gombe. We have the
Human Resources now and the technology that we can improve upon to increase
cotton production so what are we waiting for? Republic of Benin another of our
next door Neigbour, its total population which is seven million is not up to
that of Sokoto and Kebbi but what do they rely on? Cotton export. So why
shouldn’t we do the same?
brings us to the issue of prudent management on your part. You and your
colleagues have been accused of spending the bailout funds on things that have
no bearing on the lives of the people. How true?
Of course we have been putting the funds
into appropriate use but you cannot stop those saying nonsense about you not to
do so. Even the President is being lashed at daily, does it mean the things
they are saying about him is true? Of course not. People keep referring to
bailout funds, how much is it really? For instance, in Zamfara State we got N10
billion and that of the Paris Club refund is about N15 billion. Why are people
fixated on these two items? Since I became a governor to date, about N300
billion has come to the state which I control. So if you want to ask question,
first go and do your due diligence. You cannot just come out of nowhere and be
shouting governors are mismanaging funds. A person that is managing N3 billion
monthly and on a month things improves he gets up to N7 billion to manage, you
are accusing such a person of mismanagement, how? There are laws in this
country governing our management of funds. Any money that was approved by the
National or State assemblies you cannot say such funds were mismanaged and I
don’t think there is any governor that has spent money outside the budget.
If you say it is the issue of prioritizing
then that is something different. Your thinking and my thinking cannot be the
same. What is important to me cannot be important to you. Recently in Zamfara
State, we awarded a contract for the dualisation of a road and the bypass and
somebody started talking nonsense. According to him, that money should have
been channeled into building a State University. That is his own opinion and he
has the right and freedom to talk. But he is not considering the implications
of building a university. The extra overhead charges of employing those who
will manage the university, who is going to bear the brunt? It’s not only about
bringing about the infrastructure there is also the issue of sustainability.
For me, I prioritize projects based on the needs of the peopl
What is your take on restructuring and your advise for
those clamouring for it?
Well, only recently we were talking with
the Constitutional Review Chairman and that is the Deputy Senate President and
he said there are so many agitations. To some people restructuring means
resource control, to some other people, restructuring means independence of
states. So restructuring has different meaning to different people. For me, my
advice is let’s articulate how we want our country to be and set about
achieving it. To me, Nigeria is still a baby at 57 years with an uninterrupted
democracy of less than two decades. Those countries we are quick to refer to-
the U.K. US, France, Germany etc, their development didn’t come over night.
They suffered before getting to where they are including first and second World
Wars, but gradually with determination and focus, look at where they are today.
If we do same we will get there. So Nigerians should trust their leaders that
they elected and give them the required support to enable them succeed. The
days of rigging are over; today 80 per cent of those in office were elected so
Nigerians should trust their leaders, pray for them to do what is right.
How do you reconcile states asking for
bailout and at the same time asking to take over federal roads?
The governors are not saying we are going
to build the roads with our meager resources, we are saying we are going into
collaboration with the private sector. Globally, things are done through
collaboration. We are going to engage investors who are ready to dualised the
roads, toll it and recoup their monies from motorists plying those roads. The
federal government saw reason in our suggestion and has agreed for us to sit
down and draw up modalities on how we are going to go about it. You will agree
with me that our roads are terrible. Even in the well established economies,
you don’t find government building roads, whatever bridge or road you see they
are doing, it is in collaboration with private investors which we also intend
The Kogi State governor in his
contribution at that meeting noted that his state is gateway to South, to North
and the East. He said the only time one enjoys a smooth ride is from Abuja to
Abaji thereafter you are on your own. The road is so bad and it has been like
that for a long time. So we can understand the constraints of finances on both
sides that is why we want to change the narrative and take it up with the
private sector and fix these roads because we are all feeling the impact. But
we are being frustrated by the civil servants who feel we are going to take
away jobs from them. They want to continue to award contracts, do the
monitoring and carry out maintenance but that can no longer fly, that cannot
continue. We have to get into a new world order where things are done through
collaboration with private sector.
So we are telling the federal government,
this is too much for you, concession these roads to states so that the states
can get investors to collaborate with them and get to work for the betterment
of our people.