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North can’t pay minimum wage –Zamfara Gov Yari

Governor Abdul’aziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State is at loggerheads with his predecessor, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi. Yari lamented that he inherited a whopping N42billion debt without any handover note. Shinkafi, however, insisted few days before he left office that he left substantial amount of money that would finish all ongoing important capital projects in the state.
In an interview, the governor explained why he sought N5billion loan, minimum wage and his threat to sack sharia court judges in the state.


Yes the challenges are numerous, more especially a state like ours, which is a rural state that relied on about 80 percent of its revenue from the federation account. The demand is high and the resources are meagre, therefore it requires extra intelligence to meet up. Thank God, we are facing the challenges. After my inauguration, I did not meet a kobo in the treasury to even buy a pen. We met two accounts, main and local government joint accounts. The latter was overdrawn with over N54million and the former was overdrawn with N24million. I did not meet a penny to start with governance. Immediately we were inaugurated, the first challenge came from the Ministry of Education, when the permanent secretary said there was no food to feed students at a particular secondary school.

N18.000 minimum wage
Let us be sincere to ourselves no state in the North can implement N18000 minimum wage, even Kano. We said it that we are not like Lagos State. Lagos generates about N23billion Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) monthly. Zamfara generates only N120million, so how do you go about it? Kano generates about N1.8billion, followed by Kaduna. We are going to do it when we sit down with the top leadership and see how we can get a way out if sincerely they want us to work harmoniously with the labour. Today, I pay N1.1billion as my wage bill and I inherited about 28000 workforce. By the time you multiply N18000 by the number of workers ,we are talking of N3billion. The total income of the state is between N2.3 and 2.5billion.

Threatening shariah court judges
If you are to sanitise the society it is through justice, equity and fair hearing. If the society is not receiving justice at the court of law then the government has no value. To sanitise the society the judges must do justice to everyone irrespective of where he belongs. But where judges act to dictates of who is in power then it is not in tandem with sharia. That is why I hammered them, to rise up to their responsibility. I have told them (sharia judges) to be just to all and if anyone is found wanting, we will show him the way out.

Agricultural equipment
The equipment were brought in by a company called Waste Management Company, an American firm through a contract awarded by the first civilian administration. The idea was to boost agricultural productivity and tackle unemployment and facilitate food security. But when the equipment arrived, it was at the tail end of the Yarima administration and with the view that the Shinkafi government would continue with the programme. But the administration did not consider it a priority, hence the equipment lay fallow for four years. This is a multi million naira project. We inspected them in a bid to look at how we can derive optimum benefit from the equipment. According to the plan we imported about 15 equipment of different dimensions. Since they were procured we did not test run them and that is what we are about doing now. In fact, the idea was sold to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. We have paid almost 90 percent of the cost and by Gods grace during the 2011 dry season we are going to start irrigation farming with the equipment.

Debts and loans
During my campaign I promised that fertilizer would be made available to farmers. When we were inaugurated, if we say we should settle for issuing out contracts for fertilizer procurement, we will default as per our promises considering the fact that farming season is already on course. What I did is to invite business friends to supply us the consignment even before we took over. Most of them agreed and by now we have about 27,000 metric tones of fertilizer without a single paper commitment on payment. They trust me and we are about to formalise the documentation and payment.
I committed myself to that extent is because of the promise I made to the farmers. I knew that the in-coming administration would get May allocation. Unfortunately, it was given to the former government and ironically they spent all. They received above N3billion, they expended everything and left over drawn account. Without a prior knowledge of what was in the offing, I promised the people to supply us fertilizer in the first week on assumption of office, and here is an empty treasury.

There was virtually no option left than to call stakeholders, and tell the House of Assembly the financial position. I said look I need to go and borrow. My position is that I will not issue out a job to any contractor without adequate provision for hundred percent payments. Part of the loan will be used to settle the inherited Gusau bypass road at a highly reduced cost of N750million against the initial whopping sum of N1.89billion. Water supply to Gusau and environs will be reinforced with rehabilitation of modern laboratory and equipments. Again we will need to provide working tools for in-coming cabinet and members of the state house of assembly.

Are you handicapped?

Yes, I opted for a shortterm loan payable within a short time in accordance with our revenue. Many people would wonder I inherited debt of over N40billion and yet I took more debt burden to the state, there is nothing I can do because I am handicapped. I must go through this process, but the important thing is to use the resources judiciously and that we have assured the good people of Zamfara State.

On assumption of office, I was not handed a sheet of paper as my take-over document. Nobody gave me any document indicating anything. I am taking inventory of ministries and agencies to know their positions and staff strength. I have covered about 14 ministries. I need to know who will work where and would deliver our programmes. I will not put wrong persons even when I am convinced. Also I will not put somebody in Ministry of Finance whereas it is glaring he will fail. We are not serving our party but the general public. I am assessing the state before forming a cabinet. By God’s grace very soon you will see the list of commissioners.


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Posted by on Jul 14 2011. Filed under Anthony A. Kila, Headlines, State News, Tochukwu Ezukanma, Zamfara. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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