By Wale Akinola
Democracy seems to be yielding huge dividends in Katsina State where lodgements made by the Shema administration in banks provided the funds to build a new Government House. The state Commissioner for Works, Mustapha Kankia, tells the story in this interview. Excerpt:
The Ministry of Works appears to have the biggest chunk of the state government budget. Why?
I think it is so because of the nature of what the ministry does,mostly capital intensive projects. Of course, capital intensive projects would take a slightly larger percentage of the budget. This is so because a single kilometre of road can cost so much.
This ministry is not only into roads, we are in charge of housing, transportation and road maintenance. For all these three, we have agencies, parastatals. We have the Katsina Housing Authority, there is the Katsina State Transport Authority, and we have Katsina Roads Maintenance Agency; so if you put all these agencies together, under the ministry, you find that it is quite a huge amount of resources that go into our activities.
What were those challenges at the time you came in?
When I came in two years ago, there were quite some challenges and, naturally my target was to improve on the situation. My major drive is to leave here a much better place. We are dealing with a large number of contractors. My target is to deliver projects within time, cost and specified quality. These are the targets I set for this ministry so that we deliver our projects within stipulated time.
There is a section that supervises quality and ensures prompt payment. At the moment, we have projects that have been completed and awaiting commissioning by His Excellency. This is the only state where a project stays on queue for it to be commissioned. Just last week, we finished phase 10 of the ring road projects. By this week, we are finishing another one.
The new Government House, why is government building a new one when there is a functioning one?
The current Government House, as you can see, is one inherited from the colonial masters. It was actually the district officer’s residence then. Then successive governments were just adjusting one thing or the other. As a matter of fact, the office of the deputy governor, that was the exact office of the district officer at that time. So subsequent governments were just adding one structure today and another tomorrow. At the end of the day, it is a collection of structures done by different people with different thinking.
Sometimes, there is a conflict like accommodation, power supply, quarters and government activities are ever expanding. For example, among the first generation universities, University of Ife appears to be the best because it was the only university that started from a virgin land, a development concept from the beginning, therefore it could go in any direction it wants to go. That is why it is better than most of the other first generation universities.
Now we have a chance here to do it (new Government House) properly. We have a governor who is not thinking about now. We are thinking of the next fifty years. As a matter of fact, all our projects here are in for the future. They are there to provide the platform for growth and development. We are not seeing now and immediate solution. What the government is doing is to have a platform that next government can build upon and the movement continues. The new Government House is about to be completed.
There are 28 projects within the Government House going on now. We are going to complete it in another few months. The new Government House is to provide a befitting place and impression for the state. Why do you think we like to celebrate the entrance of our towns? The first impression lasts longer. But, more importantly, a working environment that will get the best in whoever is working there. If you look at the design of Aso Rock, the position itself is designed as a confluence. Again the entire funding of the Government House is free of charge. Funny isn’t it? But that is the truth.
My principal is a manager of resources. He manages men and materials so that he gets the best for the state. The way the funding of the place is done is like this. We receive funds just like any state from the Federation Account, we manage it such that accrual from the investment is now pumped into the Government House project. The governor has generated over N8 billion in the last six years accruing from constant generation of the investment. So the Government House is being given to the people of Katsina free of charge. The target of the project is about N5 billion but we have spent about N3 billion.
Why build another Governor’s Lodge in Abuja when you could possibly manage the former one?
The condition we met it was not just habitable. It had developed cracks and was in a dilapidated condition. It had reached a stage where the Governor’s Lodge was no longer Governor’s Lodge because the governor could not really spend the night there and at, the same time, repairs go on, because it is not only about sleeping there but also working there and attending to state issues. So it became uninhabitable. So it was now either to completely knock it down or remodel it. And so we remodeled it.
So it is not a new building as you claimed, it was a remodeled building. We spent about N400 million on it. And don’t talk about the cost because that amount is something that can be spent by the governor for a couple of years in a rented building. If you calculate the amount you would have paid on rent for say four years in Abuja, you will agree with me that it is a wise financial decision on the part of the governor. The lodge is now in place such that all his staff can lodge there comfortably. Even the Northern Governors Forum and the Governors Forum meetings are held there sometimes, that tells you how habitable it is now.
There have been arguments over federal roads in Nigerian states. What type of collaboration do you have with the Federal Government in fixing the roads in your state?
Generally, the state government is interested in partnering with any agency that will bring development to the people. Let me give you a classical example of the extent of commitment of the state government towards that policy. You will recall that the president established 11 universities recently, one of which is in Katsina State. The one in our state was the first to matriculate students. The reason is simple. The governor committed over N1 billion on the project. He gave them a secondary school to take off. It was remodeled as classrooms, staff quarters were added. He provided hostels and immediately gave them certificate of occupancy.
He pumped over N1 billion into the project as the state contribution to the federal school. The students are in their second year. Another one was the expansion of the Katsina airport. It was an aerodrome. The previous administration started the expansion programme. My principal completed it with a new runway of 3.6 kilometer long, 100 meters wide, enough to carry any Boeing 747, which is the international standard. He told the Federal Government, ‘I can do this and refund me later.’ Of course the approval took time but that is the kind of commitment I am talking about.
Currently, the state government is looking at the Zobe Water Dam Scheme. The dam is one of the largest dams we have. It was started more than 30 years ago. And Governor Shema has been trying to convince the Federal Government, ‘come please, let us talk, I can do this and then you reimburse me later’. There is another one, Jibia Irrigation Scheme. It is Federal Government owned. It was lying fallow and it could be used for irrigation but, it had technical problems of pumping machines as channels through which you carry water to farm lands were broken.
The governor came into the picture, supplied the generators and, as I speak with you now, it is working and thousands of thousands of hectares of rice is being grown there. We have done eight township roads which are Federal Government owned. There are two bridges as you enter Katsina that collapsed recently, the state government offered to construct another one but the Federal Government turned it down . I guess they saw our request as a challenge and insisted they would do it themselves. They are presently doing it. So the state government is ever willing to collaborate with any government agency provided it is about development.
What are you doing on housing?
My ministry is saddled with the responsibility of providing affordable housing through the Katsina State Housing Authority. From 2007 to date, we have so far built 1,772 housing units which were segmented into three. There is Makira Housing Estate of 272 housing units. There is Barin Housing Estate of 500 units and there is each local government area housing units.
We have 34 local government areas here building 30 housing units each. And, in the next two years, we intend to build 2,000 units more. All these houses are discounted by 50% so that a two-bedroom for example which should cost N4 million is going for N2 million and, out of the N2 million, you just pay 10% and the remaining will be deducted from your salary for the next 20 years.
How have you been coping with pressure of the office?
Of course there is pressure of the office, no doubt about that, but there are some basic management principles that if you adopt, it will ease the tension . I am here hale and hearty. I have treated all the files on my table today. When you give limit of authority and responsibility, all you have to do is to make sure you cross check all the time. This is also my principal’s style.
He is very prudent in management and disciplined in terms of budget implementation. If the project is not in the budget, don’t just bother your head taking it to him, because you will be wasting your time. He won’t look at you. And his style is working. When you adopt such style, you can achieve a lot within a short space of time. We have not borrowed a Kobo both within the country and outside to execute all these projects.
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