Honourable Dogo Danladi Shammah is the Nasarawa State Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism. Until his appointment, he was the State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Nasarawa State.
To mark his one year in office, he fielded questions from Eggonnews where he gave reviewed the activities of his Ministry as well as his principal, the Governor of Nasarawa State, especially so in the areas of Information, Culture and Tourism as to how Nasarawa State will fare in the nearest future development-wise.
When you took over as the Commissioner, of course it used to be Ministry of Information and Orientation. Lo and behold during your time it is the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. You are about a year in office. Perhaps you will just give us an overview about the journey so far, manning this big Ministry. I don’t think there is any State that doesn’t have such a Ministry. It is one Ministry that is in every State and at the Federal level. You know there are some ministries that you may not see in other States. So, it is a vital Ministry in the government. So, you being the Commissioner, you may want to give us an overview. So far, along the line, how has it been being the Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism in Nasarawa State?
I want to thank God and thank you earnestly for giving me this opportunity to speak to the famous Eggonnews newspaper.
I am barely a year in office as the Honourable Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism in Nasarawa State. And so far, the journey has been characterised with the good, the bad but not ugly.
The good part of it is that when I was appointed, I knew that I was crossing from one part of the world to another in the area of administration. I have been a practical journalist all my life. I had never treated a file. And when I came here, it was like a new beginning of another life.
But I thank God that we’ve been able to try as much as possible to be where we are today. There has been remarkable progress that we have been able to record despite the Covid-19 that came and completely halted the implementation of so many programmes that we wanted doing.
When we came on board, the first thing we did was to ensure we laid a solid foundation for easy flow of information because that is the major mandate of the Ministry. It is to propagate as well as to facilitate flow of information of the government’s policies and programmes. So, we embarked on tour to various media establishments in the State so that we can build a synergy for effective communication.
We believe that the media industry has greater role to play in the governance of Nasarawa State under the leadership of His Excellency the Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule. And that is because he believes in the media, having stayed for over two decades in the developed world. So, he knows how important media is. And that is why I think he brought me in as a practical journalist so I can help shape the relationship between the media and the government.
We went round and after that, we took stock and did a tour of the tourism and cultural sectors. These are some of the mandates of the Ministry too. We went round so that we can have a document that we will present before His Excellency for action. That we did. We visited so many areas of interest. We went to Maloney Hills in Keffi, we went to Farin Ruwa Waterfalls in Wamba Local Government. We went to Salt Village in Keana Local Government. We went to the Dyeing Pit here in Lafia. We also went to Doma. We went to the Akiri Warm Spring Water. We visited these areas and so many others. These are the major ones I just mentioned.
The government came up with leadership strategy called the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy. And it is to diversify the interest of government for the purpose of generating revenue and as well enhance the flow of dividends of democracy to the people. So, for the actualisation of this programme, at the beginning of this very year, His Excellency travelled to South Africa to woo investors to invest in tourism sector, particularly the Farin Ruwa Waterfalls which is one that is so unique in Africa because of its natural endowment.
We again came up with a medium. This one is like a social media platform called nass24 – Nasarawa 24 hours – which is an online newspaper that is meant to make Nasarawa part of the global village. It is an avenue for us to showcase our tourism potentials, agricultural as well as the mineral resources that abound in Nasarawa State to the world. It is an avenue like an investor’s guide, that when you click in, you will see what we have to sell to the world. And it is for the purpose of attracting investors to come to Nasarawa State.
And that project, the Governor has been so passionate about the project. And we have started reaping dividends from that project because within two, three months we have been able to make four thousand dollars ($4,000) from the project. It is just like you are buying data, once you click… So from anywhere in the world now, if you go to www.nass24.ng you will see us there. And that is one project we came and created and it is working for us at the moment.
Then we thought of the need for government to bring to bear its own might on the State medium; I’m talking about NBS. It initiated a step for the reorganisation of NBS. And thank God at the moment, renovation is ongoing at the NBS. And this one is being sponsored by his friends. I’m talking of His Excellency’s friends. Not a dime from the coffers of Nasarawa State is being used to renovate NBS and upgrade it at the moment. That is one of our achievements.
Again, we have been able to go into sensitization programmes to educate people on the need to support government, especially during the pandemic. We initiated that programme and we went round the Local Governments, used local languages to send messages to our people about the pandemic. And that was a success. I believe it is part of our achievements.
Recently, we happened to organize – because of the peculiarity of the cases of kidnapping and rape in the society. It is becoming very common and worrisome too. So, we initiated and embarked on aggressive enlightenment campaign so we can educate people on what the crime stands for and how people can avoid it. That was a success because we got resource persons and stakeholders in the security network to discuss on that. That is an ongoing achievement that we are going to step down at the Local Government level and lower levels. These are some of the achievements we have been able to record in the Ministry.
We tried to ensure we have a consistent relationship with members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. When I came in, I called on the leadership of the Correspondents Chapel as well as the leadership of the NUJ in the State. We held so many meetings. And that is why there is relative peace in the area of reportage on the activities of government. We have a very cordial relationship and I am so proud and happy to say that I have never regretted being a journalist. And I have never regretted – since I assumed office – any of the reports that journalists have written from Nasarawa State. And this is because they know that I am their ambassador here and they need to do the needful.
We as a government believe in the press. And at the same time, we believe in criticism. Let the press criticise us. We are not afraid of criticism. But let it be constructive so we can say definitely, what the press is saying is true, let’s tilt our attention to do that thing so that we can better the lots of our own electorate.
We believe that any journalist that is here, he is a journalist that is supposed to promote peaceful coexistence, a journalist that is supposed to support the government so that we can provide dividends of democracy to the people. Governance is all about bettering the lives of the people. And that is what we have been able to do. So, I thank God and thank the press for their support in their reportage.
We believe that as journalist, globally, journalism is tilted towards developmental practice and not destructive. But even if there is any negativity, let it be informed. Because the journalist is an artist, let it be in the form of positivity so that we will now be able to key into correcting ourselves.
Talking about the tourism industry, I am aware that recently you tried to have a focus on the hospitality industry, particularly so the hotel industry in Nasarawa State. You may wish to give us the result of that tour. Why did you embark on the tour and what did you find out in the course of the tour? What will you want the public to know concerning the hospitality industry in Nasarawa State?
That is one of the achievements we have been able to make as a Ministry.
You see, the hospitality industry is one aspect of developing the economy. It is one aspect of diversifying our interest to ensure that we benefit from that very sector. And it is an industry that is really in vogue at the moment. Anywhere you go it is about hospitality. And frankly, some countries even live on the hospitality industry. They don’t have any resources as we have here in Nigeria and in Nasarawa State. But they live on the hospitality industry.
So, when we came in, we discovered that there has never been on record, the number of hotels we have in Nasarawa State and the types of hotels that exist in Nasarawa State, and at the same time, recreational centres or good eateries or restaurants in Nasarawa State. And we believe that as a State that has the closest proximity with the Federal Capital, as a State that is just one second into the Federal Capital, we believe that tourists will love to come in. But they can’t come in without hospitality, without them knowing that we have good hotels and at the same time, security is there for them to come in.
We have ambassadors of over 50 countries that are in Abuja. Sometimes they find it difficult to even stay at Abuja over the weekend. And we believe that Nasarawa State can be a window that can become open for them to say ‘o, this is weekend. I will take my family down to Nasarawa State. It is just a stone throw.’ And that is the advantage we want to take. That is why His Excellency asked us to register all hotels in Nasarawa State.
Secondly, before the registration even commences, we are supposed to go on an assessment tour. And that brought about the tour that we embarked on. Up till now we have not been able to complete the tour, but the experience that we have already gained from the Keffi axis is very enormous and it is a positive development. That in Karu alone, we have over 150 hotels. And when we went round some of them, we discovered a lot of challenges that we feel some of the hotels may not be registered. I’m sorry, I am not supposed to bring it up but we are going to make recommendations that some of these hotels be closed down because their environment, the type of furniture and other facilities they have on ground, I don’t think they are good to show our image.
And our intention is that after the registration, we are going to log the profiles of all the hotels, they are going to be logged into Nass24. So, if you are in South Africa or Cameroun and you want to come to Nasarawa State, you must not even come to Abuja and stay before you start looking for a hotel to stay in Nasarawa State. If you are coming in as an investor, you have your choice to make. This is our intention.
And for the tourism sector, I want to say that His Excellency is so passionate about developing that sector. Because he believes that it will create employment opportunities for our youth and it will at the same time improve our IGR. Because the tourism sector is an economic sector and we believe it will improve our IGR. So, he has interest and passion for Farin Ruwa Waterfalls in Wamba Local Government.
Last year when we organised the maiden cultural festival under the present administration, the activities were spread. And the last activity was the Governor’s Mass Fete. The Governor’s Mass Fete was organized purposely for he and his friends to come and dine and wine. And when he visited, he said ‘o, the place is empty’. He was not properly told. If he was informed, he would have invited his friends. He now said let’s perfect it for this year. Unfortunately, the cultural festival is not taking place this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But again, the Governor made emphasis on the Governor’s Mass Fete. He said that one should take place. And he wants it to take place in Farin Ruwa Waterfalls. He will want to bring his friends, well-wishers as well as friends of the State to contribute financially to build Nasarawa Film Village and Resort. This Nasarawa Film Village and Resort would be like a rallying point for those in the film industry. The actors will come in there because of the scenery we have, the natural endowment that abounds there. There is no any film that cannot be shot in that area.
So, we are planning and hoping that in the first week of December, 5th of December will be the day that the Governor is going to host his friends at Farin Ruwa Waterfalls so that they will see the beauty of the nature and the same time contribute for that very project. And that is our intention.
I took the organizers of the Governor’s… to Farin Ruwa so that they can see it for themselves along with another group of people from America. These are investors that want to invest Two Billion Dollars in the hospitality industry. When they came to Nigeria, they chose Farin Ruwa Waterfalls as the place where they want to invest. This was a result of their findings in Abuja when they arrived.
They are going to invest there. So, we went there and they saw it. The film village is different. It is just part of the development this international developers want to bring.
At the moment, we are perfecting plans for the MoU to be signed so that they will come and start. So, it’s going to be like a dual activity all through, commencing from the first week of December. It is going to be something that will overhaul the sector.
The Governor is also a lover of the State cultural troupe, that is the Isa Kungar Cultural Troupe. And it is because of his passion to promote them that he paid a visit to my Ministry. He came and saw them where they are rehearsing and he promised to upgrade the structure and at the same time provide facilities of international standard. He said he believes that if it is completed, it will be a place that if his friends from across the nation come, he will say ‘come, I want to take you to go and see how the State cultural troupe rehearse’. And they will come and he will not be disappointed.
Frankly, he has taken the restructuring of that very rehearsal hall, the gallery exhibition hall and at the same time the costume hall. He is going to overhaul the whole structure. And thank God yesterday the contractors arrived and they are commenced the work.
So, we can see how the Governor has been so good to the Ministry and he will want to ensure that he develops the tourism sector better.
Not forgetting the equipping of our pavilion at the Arewa House with modern as well as cultural artefacts in Kaduna. The Governor made sure that we did all we could to make sure our stand – it is not a pavilion. When you talk of pavilion, it is something that may be destroyed or demolished. But this is a stand inside the Arewa House. He has equipped that place and it is like a tourist attraction. Whenever you visit the Arewa House, if you don’t visit Nasarawa Stand then you have not visited the Arewa House in Kaduna.
Not forgetting the cultural troupe getting some of these awards. We got these last year when we attended NAFEST in the East.
These ones (showing Eggonnews) are some of the trophies we were able to come home with when we went to Bauchi. You can’t believe it. Nasarawa State came second runner-up in ICT Infrastructure Development. We came first runner-up in ICT Human Capital Development out of the 36 States. Apart from Lagos, we were second to none. These are some of things we have been able to do since I assumed office.
Talking about these awards, I recall years ago when Nasarawa State won back-to-back when they featured at NAFEST, when they featured at the Abuja Carnival. Along the line, Nasarawa State was almost absent for quite a while. I don’t know what the present government is doing. With these few awards won, I don’t know what your plan is. Do you intend to see how you can win back some of these awards? Because at some point I had cause to interview the then Director of Culture, that Nasarawa State was losing. And he promised that Nasarawa State would win back those awards that had been taken away from them. What is the plan of this government to ensure that you recover those awards and make sure you feature prominently in all these festivals; the NAFEST, the Abuja Carnival and any other carnival you may be invited to.
What happened in the past, I think we should let go of the past because it is a bygone! But you can see that barely five months in office, the Governor supported the participation of Nasarawa State in the NAFEST because of the political will of the Governor towards the troupe, to go and showcase our abundant cultural endowment to the outside world and we won this. So, this is the beginning of another life in the history of Nasarawa State. We are coming back. And we are not coming back to be behind the scenes. We want to take over, to go to the front burner and show to the world that Nasarawa has rich culture to showcase.
At the moment we are preparing for the 2020 NAFEST which is taking place in Jos, Plateau State by the third week of November. The Governor has given us that very support. We are only waiting for the time. And we assured the people of Nasarawa State as well as the Governor that we are going to win much more than what we did last year. Then we just came in for five months. Now, we have been given the time to participate and take back our position as people that were being reckoned with in terms of culture.
Let’s get back to the Farin Ruwa project. Before we talk about the film industry and those aspects of development, we noticed the State Government is doing some activities around the Farin Ruwa axis. You may wish to talk about it because when you talk about tourism, the road matters. The facilities that would make life better would also matter. What is the government doing to improve on those aspects – the road and other social amenities – to better the lives of people there?
You will agree with me that when this government came on board, one major road project that was awarded was that of Sisinbaki-Mama-Kwarra 15 kilometers road. And the aim was to ensure that there was easy accessibility to the resuscitated hydropower project that was abandoned since the era of Abdullahi Adamu.
The government believes that when that project is resuscitated and completed, it will not only be for us to have constant light in Nasarawa State, but it will also be a source of revenue because Nasarawa State will not be able to consume the power that will be generated from that hydropower plant. So, that was why the Governor awarded that very contract.
And that road has opened easy access to the Farin Ruwa Waterfalls. And from Mama to the falls is 11 kilometers. The road is very, very bad and the government is very much aware.
When I came into office, I took the Governor to Farin Ruwa on the 28th of December last year. We went to Farin Ruwa. He saw it and he promised he was going to give contract for the construction of the road from Mama, through Marahai to Masengi then to the waterfalls. And he has kept to his promise.
In the first week of December, because of the interest of the investors now, and at the same time the proposed Nasarawa Film Village… the road construction will commence. And I believe that even if it is not tarred, accessibility is going to be easier because it is going to be graded before the occasion comes up. So, this is the plan of the government.
And we believe that the investors, since it is going to be a PPP project – because we don’t have money to fund it and thank God, we now have investors that want to do so.
When we visited that place, on our way coming when we stopped at Sisinbaki, they now said though the road is almost at 90 percent completion, they said if things work out as planned, they are going to dualize the road from Sissinbaki to Farin Ruwa Waterfalls. Because they know with what they have seen, this is what they have been looking for. And they want to make it much better than Sun City in South Africa. They said they were the ones that constructed Sun City in South Africa some 20 years ago. But what they are going to do here is second to none in Africa.
So, you can see that the government’s interest will go before the capital projects by the investors will follow.
Thank God that up to Massange community – that is the last community – we have constant electricity supply. I think these are some of the facilities that are needed; road, electricity and water. And you know, water in rural communities is always borehole.
But again, the Governor, because of his passion to see that he develops especially the rural areas, he has started the construction of secondary and primary schools. And they have been completed, just waiting for commissioning now. These are some of the facilities that the government is trying to give to the community so they can feel a sense of belonging.
Giving them a sense of belonging, there is also another aspect that people may want to express concern. When you bring such projects, the people of the community are deprived of some of what they will consider their heritage, maybe land and all these. How is the government taking care of such interests so that the people tomorrow will not regret giving the government their land for development purposes?
At the moment, we believe that the land is a government reserve. They call it Marhai Government Reserve. It is a government reserve. And thank God nobody is living on the reserve apart from the Marhai and Massange communities. The Massange community are the ones living at the belt of the falls, on the rocks that are there. They are the last community. And fortunately, they are only farming on the reserve but it doesn’t belong to them. Because the land was laying fallow, what they did was to encroach into it and they are farming there. So I don’t think there will be any reason for compensation of that nature. It is my property. You have been using it but now I want to use it. That is how I see it.
Talking about the film industry, what is the capital outlay involved in setting up such an industry? And what are the benefits of starting such an industry? How much is the government involved in it?
We are targeting 300 million for the film village and resort. We are targeting 300 million and we believe His Excellency’s friends will do the needful so we can get this 300 million for that very project.
And the government already, we have gone with experts from the Ministry of Lands and Survey and they have carved out the two hectares of land that the project is going to be constructed. They asked for 1.5 hectares of land. But we were able to get up to two for them and it is okay for them.
That has taken place already, so we don’t have much problem now than to wait for that day when the money is realized. If we don’t get enough, we will start from somewhere and be able to get another support.
There was this day I saw you with Tar Ukoh. How is he involved in all this?
We visited Abuja last week for the purpose of meeting people in the culture and tourism industry. And we know Tar Ukoh is a naturalist. We believe that he will add glamour to the occasion. Even by his outfit, even if he doesn’t speak, if you see Tar Ukoh you see a cultural personality. That is why we visited him.
We visited some other people that have interest in the sector. And His Excellency gave us names of friends that we have to see so that we can extend invitation to them. This is one of the letters I am delivering tomorrow to the Minister of Information and Culture so that he will be able to be part of the activities.
So, that was our mission to Abuja. We went to see stakeholders in the industry so that we will be able to develop a synergy with them.
Will Nasarawa State actually be able to pull out of this? I am talking about the tourism industry generally. Of course, you mentioned how some countries rely on the tourism industry wholly and they survive on it. Over the years, we keep talking about Nasarawa State endowed with so many tourism endowments. Over the years we’ve not explored such. We’ve talked about Farin Ruwa but there are other tourism sites that can be developed that can also bring Nasarawa State to further limelight. Can Nasarawa State actually harness these tourism potentials to be a source of revenue that Nasarawa State can beat its chest, that we have a veritable source of income that can boost the IGR of the State?
We believe as a government that we will leave Nasarawa State better than we met it in the area of culture and tourism. We believe so because we as a government know the importance of the sector. And we have just started. We are barely one year, six months in office now and you can see how far we have gone. We must lay a solid foundation. And it is when the foundation is strong – which we are trying to do now – then we can build up.
We believe that, like the development of Farin Ruwa Waterfalls by the investors from America, it is not going to be a one- or two-years project that will be completed. It is going to be a PPP and once the MOU is signed, even after we leave, somebody is going to come and complete the project. It is not going to be a small project. It is going to be a gigantic project that they will turn over the place with diversified tourism facilities that may be required.
Apart from the Farin Ruwa Falls, we have plans to develop a 5-star hotel. And we believe that if that is developed… Hospitality industry attracts investors. Because as an investor when you come in, he is coming in with his money. What does he want? The first thing is security. The second one is where to stay. If it is secured, where will he stay? So, we must meet up with the international standard in provision of all these facilities so that the investors will now feel comfortable whenever they come.
So, the 5-star hotel is being proposed and it is going to be a PPP project. Because we don’t believe that if it is a government project, we will be able to complete it. A lot of bureaucratic issues will come to play. But if it is a PPP project, we definitely know that it is something that is realistic. We will bring in our portion but he is bringing the larger portion of money and he will manage it. We believe that it is going to work out.
Like I mentioned from the beginning, if we have a 5-star hotel in Lafia, and we have maybe a 3-star hotel in Akwanga or Keffi – we can have one in Keffi and one in Akwanga – you should know that we are good to go. Because they are sustainable projects that we believe once completed, the dividends will start coming in. The IGR will improve. That is our mission.
Let me come back to the media industry now, and particularly so the State-owned media outfits. Let me start with the NBS. How digitalized is it?
NBS is fully digitalized except for the fact that there are challenges that abounds. That is why we can’t reach out to a distance. But we do know that when it was digitalized the first tenure of Almakura, we were heard at a distance almost five or six States away from here. Our signals were reaching far. And we should not forget that NBC has regulation too guiding the signals of every media house.
But we have a problem. And that challenge is being attended to at the moment because His Excellency asked us to write and we have written. And it is based on that that his friends are in now, trying to do the physical upgrading and then equipment upgrading will come up. Once that challenge is attended to, we are good to go.
Me being a newspaper man, I will certainly have to ask concerning the State-owned newspaper The Newsday. Is it gone and gone for good? In those years when Newsday was there it really projected the image of the government. But for years now we have not seen the Newsday at the newsstand. Should we conclude that Newsday is gone forever?
You will agree with me that the issue of Newsday was attended to before we came on board. I think it was liquidated completely. There is nothing that was left. Even the staff were dispersed before we came into office.
As a media man too, I believe that the resuscitating of the newspaper will do us a great deal because even though globally people are tilted towards social media and more electronic than print media. But the print media is very important for the State. That we can survive without a print media, I think it is not too good for us.
We as a government are thinking towards that direction but a decision has not been taken firmly whether to bring back Newsday or to float another newspaper with a new name. We have not come to that level yet.
But I believe that His Excellency is fully aware of the need for us to have a newspaper and then together, we could have both print and electronic media.
You are almost one year in office now. What will you consider as the greatest challenge you have encountered so far being the Commissioner of this Ministry?
The greatest challenge to me was that when I assumed office, I found it difficult to start administrative work, with the administrative language, treating files the way I am supposed to. But again, I believe that I must learn. I must learn from the management; I will learn from the casual and learn from even the messenger. And that has really helped me. It has really shaped me. I didn’t forget the fact that I am a human being and if I don’t bring down myself, then I will not learn. That was one of the challenges I faced but I thank God we are on the move at the moment.
And the other challenge that is still on me is the issue of casual workers. I think this Ministry has the highest number of casual workers. We have 42 casual workers. And when I came in, I met the casual workers being paid 7,000. And this is out of the imprest that is normally given on a monthly basis. And I asked the management, how much money is left after payment of the casual workers from the little that we get from the government monthly? And they told me about 209,000 left for us to service the Ministry up to the end of another month. Within me, I took the bull by the horn without even consulting my management, I called for a meeting with the casual workers and I told them from this very month – that was January – I have increased your stipends from seven to ten thousand. And you could see the joy that they showed.
It was a challenge to me because my management were not so happy. I said yes, you are on level 15 and you are receiving your salary over a hundred (thousand) and then you have imprest. And these persons, some of them have been here for 14 or 15 years on casual basis receiving 7,000, I feel we should show some level of humanity. Let us assist them. So, that was one of my problems.
Apart from these, I don’t have any problem because His Excellency is really supporting us to do what we are doing here in the Ministry. And the management team are very supportive too. They have never let me carry a burden on my head without them sharing in it. And we have adjusted.
Because I made the move to improve the casual workers’ welfare so I will bear the cross. I never complained if there is no kobo. But I feel satisfied and fulfilled that I have made some people happy with the little 3,000 that we have added for them.
And I asked them a question, how long have you been receiving 7,000? They said for over five years. Where will 7,000 take you to?
Hoping that you will have all the support from the government, the management, the staff, what should we expect from Honourable Dogo Shammah in the next one year?
Definitely it is my expectation that we will record remarkable achievements in areas of ensuring our mandate is achieved in this Ministry.
And for the staff, I told them from Day One that I am going to organize an annual appraisal award for the staff. And I am on it. I am going to keep to my words. This will encourage staff to give in their best.
I am not talking about the management staff. I am talking about the lower cadre that I believe if you do something small for them, they will appreciate and it will ginger them to do more.
And I want in the next one year, we should be able to celebrate the goodness of God in our lives. That is one.
Secondly, we should be able to celebrate either the commencement of some of these capital projects we intend doing or we should be commissioning the Nasarawa Film Village and Resort. It is my great expectation that in the next one year we should commission it.
After your tenure, will you still go back to journalism?
Yes. Journalism is already part of me sir. There is no how one can detach yourself from the profession that brought you to…
After all, my tenure is temporal. I know that one day I will exit. So I will go back to where I am coming from. That is where I will best fit.
To round up, as Commissioner for Information, what is your message to the people of Nasarawa State?
I want to really appreciate the good people of Nasarawa State for the support and commitment they have shown to the present administration. It is just one year, six months now but people are already saying ‘second tenure’. That they will not bring any person to contest because of what we have been able to do within this short while, not up to two years. We still have about two and half years to complete the first tenure. That is to say, the people watching and they are seeing what the government is doing and they are happy.
We believe that the hard times were there but we are a government that really means well for our people. Our great expectation is to penetrate the grassroots, to make sure we provide all that is needed for the common man in the village so that it will even slow down the issue of migration from the rural to the urban centres. If you have electricity supplied to the common man in the village, and you give him borehole and then you give him good road, I see no reason why he will want to migrate. And then it will pave way again for easy conveyance of goods and services to the people.
Definitely, that is our plan. And that is why the current government has come up with a bureau – the Rural Roads Development Bureau – so that their concentration will be on the rural. We know that the major problem with the hinterlands is accessibility, road networks. And that is the focus of this government. By the time the roads are constructed, any other service can go in.
Despite the high level of insecurity, and other challenges including scarcity of funds – because we have had to be relying on the statutory allocation from the Federal Government every month which hardly goes anywhere. That is why this government has made efforts to ensure that our IGR improves.
And I want to tell you that we have performed greatly in that aspect. When we came on board, in barely seven months we were able to improve our IGR from the 400 million naira that we took over to 500 million naira. Then by February we shut up to 900 million naira. Then in March, before the heat of this pandemic, we crossed over to 1 billion naira. Then the pandemic slowed us down, we went back to between 300 and 400 (million naira). We floated like that until July when we started bouncing back. In July we were able to record over 500 (million naira). Then as at September, we hit over a billion in our IGR. And that is to tell you that if we have this revenue that is being generated, definitely we will be able to move this very State forward without waiting for the statutory allocation that over 80 percent goes into salaries.
We as a government want to remain committed to the speedy actualization of our administration’s programmes and policies for the people of the State. We will remain committed to the principle of transparency, accountability, due process and prudent management of our resources. In fact, our administration will want to adhere strictly to fiscal discipline, grassroots development and inclusive governance. We believe that by the time we allow people participate in governance, then we will move in the right direction.
Our administration cherishes the ambience of peaceful coexistence. And that is why when we came on board, with the pockets of crises that were ongoing, mostly cross-border crises. These crises affected us greatly. But when we came on board, we said we must build bridges with our neighbouring States. We must reach out to other Governors bordering us so we can have peace. And then the peace summit came early this year and the North Central States participated in it. That I think, brought about some succour in the area of crisis.
I am calling on the people of Nasarawa State to support the government as we are committed to protecting our people in the area of security and at the same time, fast-tracking development by the provision of dividends of democracy to the people.