Comrade Munnir Muazu Haidara is the Chairman of the Northern Youths Assembly (NYA) and also Zamfara State Coordinator of Arewa Research and Development Project. He is one of the very few active members of the Civil Society Organizations working to improve accountability and inclusion in governance in Zamfara State. In this interview with the Managing Editor of Thunder Blowers Online News Medium Dahiru Samaila Mafara, the activist discussed in details, issues around assessment of Governor Matawalle’s one year in office, performance of the national assembly members from Zamfara state and the challenges faced by the state assembly members among others:
As an active member of the Civil Society Organizations in Zamfara, what is your assessment of the present state government almost a year after its inauguration?
Like many people say, it is too early to assess a one year old government, but for me, I have different views. Once a governmenr is inaugurated its assessment begins. Governance does not stop because there is a change or shift in the mantle of leadership. Provision of water to the people for instance does not stop because there is a new government in place, the same thing with education, health and agriculture.
Again, in my view under the present circumstances, I have less to say because when the governor makes his one year anniversary speech, we can be able to assess him and find out if he has a sense of direction or not.
But to be fair to this government, we can point some areas it has developed, for example, Canteen Road Gusau, Gusau hotel road, emir of Gusau palace road, Danmarke/Ruwan Doruwa/Kanoma/Anka road, Dosara road in Maradun, renovation and construction of primary schools, building of women and children hospitals, renovation and upgrading of Zamfara government house and the renovation of Zamfara government lodges at Kaduna and Abuja among others
But like I said, let’s wait and hear from the government so that we can assess whether it has a sense of direction or not.
Are you satisfied with its development plans?
I think to be fair to this administration, I doubt if it has a document called development plan and this problem did not start with this government. Since its creation, Zamfara State does not have any strategic planning document and that is why things are done not the way they are supposed to be done.
The governor inaugurated a Strategic Development Planning Committee saddled with the responsibility of mapping out strategies for the development of the state are you people not carried along as members of the civil society organization?
Actually I have a reservation with the membership of that strategic planning committee. Firstly, the governor has the power to constitute a committee of that nature and at the same time proper consultation needs to be carried out by the governor to integrate the right people, my reason is that, the committee I am sure is non political and that, majority of those in the committee I am sure are Zamfara people but non residents of Zamfara area.
I expected the Governor to integrate some selected Civils Society Organizations and NGOs who have been working in various thematic areas of socio-economic development of the state so that they provide on the line data that will be very useful in the planning and projection for the committee.
Secondly, even the government seems not to be serious on this strategic planning committee because the last time we spoke with the Chairman of the committee, Prof. Yusuf Chafe in Sokoto, he said, they were still at the planning stage and this is one year already.
The governor needs to expand the committee and integrate members of the civil society, seasoned but retired civil servants, as well as some selected development partners to build the capacity of the members. If that is done, I think we can forge ahead, but like I said time is of the essence here.
Which sector do you want this government to prioritize?
The government as demanded by several people should as a matter of public interest declare state of emergency in the education sector, let the government do the needful in the health sector and also empower the state Ministry of Commerce so that it can boost the revenue generation drive of the state.
The governor should also revive the ZACAREP programme and enhance it more by integrating the irrigation component of the project. This will help keep our millions of farmers actively on the job all the years round.
More importantly, government should do all what is possible to secure the state from bandits’ activities and make the state more attractive and friendly for the investors.
Recently the governor sent some state indigenes on scholarship abroad to study science related courses that would be beneficial to the people, how informed is this strategy?
For me, that exercise is a wasted effort and misplacement of priority. You cannot invest huge billions of naira as scholarship project to just 200 people when your primary and secondary school education is almost in comatose.
If I were governor Matawalle, I will use the money to embark on reforms of the basic primary and secondary education, boost the morale of the teachers by paying them their entitlements and increasing their salary.
There are universities in Nigeria where these 200 students can be enrolled to pursue their first degrees in sciences with minimum amount of tuition fees. When you abandon your own system and take huge amount of money to invest on another person’s system then what are you trying to project?.
Alternatively however, since the Governor is willing to continue with the state university project, why cant he invest this huge amount of money he is investing as tuition on these 200 students for massive infrastructures and p
rovision of basic facilities at the state university.
For me the decision is not wise enough and is still not convincing and this is the more reason why government needs to consult adequately and widely before committing itself into taking a critical decision like this. Now the state university is about to takeoff and huge amount of money is required to make it work perfectly what do we do?.
Are their other projects the government has intended to do which you people are still not comfortable?
Yes we have made our positions known as members of Civil Society organizations after the governor presented the 2020 appropriation bill, Zamfara people do not need cargo airport, we don’t need new government house because the old one has been renovated by same government and it has wears a new look, we don’t need the twin three star hotels and indeed the RUGA projects.
Our argument is not that, Zamfara does not need these projects but our concern is the timing. We need more realistic investment on education, health and total overhauling of Gusau township roads so that it can take the new outlook as capital city of Zamfara State.
When the economy improves the government can go ahead to do anything which it feels is of public interest but for now we need more projects that have direct bearing on the lives of the common people.
Recently there have been cases that the EFCC is investigating regarding unexecuted contracts awarded by the immediate past administration what is your take on that?
This has been our projection when we were telling the immediate past administration of Governor Yari that look, do things the way they are supposed to be done so that after living office, issues should not come up and be chasing you but the former Governor Yari did not listen to us and this is where we are today.
Now imagine a government awarding contract and paying the contractor beyond the job he has done and funny enough the contractor collected his money and refused to do the job.
Now from the Chinese company alone, EFCC is to secure about 65 billion naira Zamfara money paid waywardly by the former government.
There are many contracts as captured by the EFCC Zonal director Sokoto which are being investigated and this has helped brought a setback for the state. This should serve as good lesson to the present administration. Governance should be seen as a serious thing and we should not do things that are abnormal just because we want to please someone.
What is your take on the performance of the national assembly members from Zamfara state?.
In all honesty, these people are not doing enough to deserve our commendation. I don’t know, may be they were not prepared when the Supreme Court upturned the victory in their favour but in actual sense they have performed far below our expectations.
With the exception of may be one Senator and one House of Representatives member, the rest are just national assembly members by name.
There are multiple issues that can form significant part of their agenda at the national assembly ranging from Zamfara being the least in Nigerian poverty index, least in terms of unemployment index, worst in terms of insecurity, the last in terms of educational backwardness, among the leading five in terms of high maternal mortality and morbidity ratio in the country.
These alone should call for formulation and presentation of more bills and motions that will attract federal government attention towards Zamfara state but unfortunately, majority of them are not thinking along that direction.
The most unfortunate part of their actions and inactions is that, they have turned to be playing politics of money and asset sharing and that has further worsened our political culture of request for money not services.
I wonder what a national assembly member got to do with distributing cars, and buying houses for people, this is completely irrational. Your job as national assembly member is to propose bills on educational reform, health care reforms, poverty reduction, job creation, and improving the lives of the people not distributing cars and buying houses for the people.
This unwanted culture only increases redundancy and making our politics and political system more costly.
What about the state assembly members are they doing up to the public expectations?
I think this is where the larger part of the problem lies, because one, majority of those at the state assembly are first timers and inexperienced people and that has helped compound the situation. Many abnormal things are happening in the state system which these state assembly members should have blocked but unfortunately, they have failed.
Projects are for instance allegedly executed in Zamfara without legislative appropriation, the status of the government agencies and departments are subjected to unnecessary changes without due consultation and amendment by the legislature. If we are to go on mentioning them you will understand why I said these state assembly members are inactive.
Last time I watched an interview with the Speaker of the State House of Assembly on Standard Voice Television, I was like going crazy. He could not mention a single bill the state assembly had passed almost a year now apart from the 2020 appropriation bill. This is shameful because one may wonder what these guys are doing in the state assembly with the huge amount of money they are being paid.
So actually we have a long way to go in Zamfara and except something is done to change the way we are handling our development agenda, I doubt if we can get the needed results as a state.
Are you satisfied with the federal opportunities enjoyed by the people of the state especially in the area of job creation?
Not really, bec
ause up to now Zamfara has the lowest number of civil servants in the federal service and I don’t actually know what the function of the federal character commission is because I doubt if our people are not getting federal appointments because they are not qualified but I believe something is wrong actually.
This challenge should be a wakeup call to our federal house of representative members and senators to as a matter of saving Zamfara people, follow up on this sad development with the Federal Character Commission and make sure that all opportunities due for Zamfara state indigenes are given to them.
It will also surprise you to note that, the former acting National Chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Amb. Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi who just retired from the service is also from Zamfara state and this alone should have helped Zamfara people access their quota of the appointments but unfortunately like I said, the system has failed Zamfara people.
But Zamfara has one of the best ministers in Buhari’s cabinet are you not proud of her?
Yes we have one of the luckiest ministers, Hajiya Sadiya Umar not the best let me correct you. She is lucky because she was assigned to a ministry that can be used to change the poverty narrative of Zamfara, she can be used also to create more employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths of Zamfara state but sadly, she has taken completely a unilateral direction which is of more disadvantage to Zamfara people.
I read recently that, she refused to release funds for the payment of the beneficiaries of Conditional Cash Transfer in Zamfara state a program under her ministry. I learned also that, Zamfara as at that time I read the news, was the only state whose beneficiaries were not paid.
Secondly when the release of the parliatives for the Covid-19 started, Zamfara state was almost abandoned under the watch of the same minister because majority of us have not seen what the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry has done for Zamfara people.
Before now if there is any state that suffered from the shackles of armed banditry in this country, it is Zamfara state. This Minister whose local government is under the bandits threat did not see reason to establish a case for the vulnerable people in Zamfara, it is both sad and unfortunate.
This has risen our fear that if Zamfara APC is reminding the minister that the people she is representing at the federal executive council are owing her a lot. The party needs to call her attention to the fact that, there is life after power and she needs to change her pattern of supporting people especially those from her constituency.
What do you want the minister to do specifically for Zamfara people?
We are not saying the minister should give Zamfara people what is not due for them but at least she should understand that, every minister cries for his people and every minister tries to do something impressive for his people and she should not be an exception.
When Bashir Yuguda was a minister representing Zamfara, we can bear witness to his personal commitment to the Federal University, Gusau project, federal secretariat project, TeTfund interventions for tertiary institutions in the state, and we have witnessed how he led NEMA team to distribute intervention and relief materials for the victims of the insurgency in the state.
Same thing with Mansur Dan-Ali, he has helped in the establishment of a military barrack for us, Air Force base barrack for us, army schools at Gusau, Talatar Mafara and Kaura Namoda among many other things he was able to do.
This Minister should sit up and create more opportunities for her people so that we can be proud of her after living office. She should strengthen synergy with her party to be able to bring moredevelopment for us in Zamfara.
We don’t want a situation whereby after she leaves office history would remember her in a very negative note.