Capt Idris Wada ,Governor of Kogi State Speaks on the measures embarked upon to boost tourism and other infrastructural facilities in the state.He laments the negative impact of prolonged litigations after elections and appeals to politicians to appreciate the fact that power comes from God.He spoke during an interactive session with editors in Government House, Lokoja.Danlami Nmodu was there for Newsdiaryonline.com .Excerpts:
Q:This is a historic city.There is so much that can go for tourism.Can you tell us what ‘s on ground and what are you going to do to boost the tourism potentials of the state?And on the bond recently acquired,how do you ensure that the money does not get lost within bureaucracy of the state ?How will you ensure that the projects are executed to your satisfaction?
A:..Before I answer your questions,I ‘ll crave your indulgence that we stand for a minute’s silence on the loss of two of your colleagues,Mrs Remi Oyo,former MD of NAN and Mr Dimgba Igwe of the Sun who passed on recently.(Silence) Amen…Thank you very much for the question.This is a historic city and what are we doing about tapping the tourism potentials?We are doing a lot.One of the first things we did was to map out the historic relics.We have a cenotaph, we have where the Royal Niger Company flag was exchanged.We have the first bank in Northern Nigeria, we have the first primary school in Northern Nigeria.Several very important historical sites here.So we decided to tidy them up,refurbish them,rehabilitate them.We have Lord Lugard’s residence on top of Mount Pati.We brought it to a very good state,reflecting what it was those days.We didn’t put any modern thing there.The way it was furnished.The way he lived there.We ‘ve tidied it up now.So it’s presentable to visitors or to tourists who are interested in coming to our state.We bought buses for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.We trained Tour Guides so that when people come they can conduct them round and explain all these historical sites to them .And we are promoting excursions by schools to come and see these places.We have the tomb of some emirs that were arrested and brought here by the colonial masters.All these thing have now been updated and refurbished.And for the Mount Pati,it’s a special property and we shopped around look for suitable partners to try and develop it into a special tourist and leisure site here where people can come and unwind and out of the hustle and bustle of big cities like Lagos and other capitals.And we are at the point of signing a memorandum of understanding for the investor to coming with their own funds and develop it in partnership with the state government.These are some of the things we are doing.We have Confluence Hotel.We are upgrading it,we are renovating it,modifying it.We are putting a Gulf Course and then some of the chalets are going to be upgraded in a very presentable manner.We believe that will also attract tourists who will come in either to play gulf, or to spend the night in transit to the east or northern part of the country .So these are some of the things we have done so far to promote tourism.And so far, the results are meeting our expectations.
The Bond:We applied for a bond of20billion (Naira).We are doing eleven projects with them.We’ve got the first tranch of the bond ,N5billion.And we have kickstarted all the projects.And in terms of prudent management, one thing about bond is, it’s not a loan that you use the way you like.The issuing houses monitor you.The Securities and Exchange Commission.SEC send a team periodically to come and assess where you are on a project,see the challenges you face,see how far you have gone, whether you have spent the money you are supposed to have spent and whether you are getting value.Because all of these would affect the release of the second tranch or the third tranch of the bond money.So we have a team of commissioners who are tasked with monitoring the bond projects to make sure that they are up to quality and they are at the correct pace.And we also have a team of consultants who go round these projects and write periodic reports to us to guide us on any challenges the projects may be facing.So Iam satisfied that the money is being used prudently,because all the contracts were awared through due process.So most of them are tested contractors and so far, they are performing well.Iam satisfied that the money is being used prudently….
Q;…We went out this morning, we saw the Greater Water Works and I asked a question:What value did you add to it because this project had been on since the previous administration.And when we saw it, quite beautiful,quite encouraging,but one would say that perhaps that was the handiwork of the previous administration.Then secondly,Kogi used to be known for political thuggery,so how did you battle it..?
A :Well ,yes, the Greater Lokoja Water Project was done by the previous administration,but they had not completed the payments.So we have made substantial payments for the completion of the payments.And we have also been involved in the operations and maintenance.It’s one thing to build.The other is to maintain so that the project is of value.So that is the role we have played as an administration in the Greater Lokoja Water Project.
With regards to thuggery,we were determined during the election not to be involved in thuggery.We made very clear statements that our political aspiration was not worth the life of any person’s life.And that please nobody should fight for us to have votes.They should just allow us to canvass for votes in the normal way,talking about issues and the projects that we’ll bring on board if we get elected .And I think people trusted our sincerity and that posture that we will not tolerate thuggery.And when we came in, we mobilized the security agencies to handle those who were identified with such practice.And once you make example of a few people,most Nigerians are law abiding and they don’t want to get into trouble.So with the cooperation and efforts of our security agencies and the posture of our government and the grace of God Almighty, we were able to control the incidence of thuggery in the state…
Q:..Lokoja seems to me a bit choked up with a growing population.We saw people living dangerously on hills in the city.What is the government doing to expand the city beyond the surrounding hills.The second question has to do with your campaign promises.I read back where you promised if elected you were going to seek to unite the various tribes and the adherents of different religions in the state.Would you say you have achieved your target in this regard?
A:With regards to people living on hills and our attempt to expand the city,we have done a map of the city and we are doing proper layout of segments of the city along the Lokoja -Okene Road.They are new layout, where the Federal University, their permanent site is there.We have mapped it out.We have mapped out industrial area and we are also mapping out the by-pass that you saw.The new road by-pass.We are also laying out that whole area to ensure that people can live in an organized way, not building houses anyhow.We are also looking at the Eastern side of our statewhich is separated by the River Niger and Benue here in terms of construction of a bridge.We ve had Memorandum of Understanding on a Public Private Partnership Project with a company with the hope that if they are able to raise the funds, they will build Shintaku Bridge which will be from Lokoja here to Shintaku which is on the Eastern side of our state.And the Eastern side has very flat land.Unbelievable large amount of flat land so that we’ll have Western side of Lokoja and Eastern side of Lokoja.That will give us further opportunity to expand the state capital.You know many capitals of the World are separated by rivers like that.But the main challenge is construction of a bridge which is a very expensive project.So every strategy possible.We are doing Geographical Information System for this capital.It’s part of the bond projects and that will give us a clear satellite imagery of Lokoja and any area that we believe is habitable, people can build proper houses, we will map them out ,structure the and allocate them to interested investors or private individuals to build their houses,so that they don’t build on hills.So these are some of the steps we have taken so far to create suitable land for houses…(She is just reminding me about the embankment project,the ecological project along the road).Yes,by the river bank there.It’s a project that we have awarded the contract.They will soon mobilise.The water level now is about 8.6 metres.So it needs to go down a bit before the contractor can move on to site.That will also help to protect the shoreline here in Lokoja and give us the opportunities for development..
Q:..As a growing youth,I have concerns for the youth.First ,..I’m very impressed with the way you tackled political thuggery in the state.But if you ask me your excellency, that is not enough.If you are telling them not to do this, you have to give them something to do.What is the plan, what have you done for youth empowerment?Secondly, the state is lucky to have two of the biggest industries in Ajaokuta Steel and Obajana Cement.How has that been of benefit to the state?
A:..Thank you for the question actually,it helps me to complete the question about thuggery because when we came in,one of our first programmes was to create opportunities for youths and we have a programme we call Youth Advancement Programme for Kogi,YAD4KOGI .And this programme is across the 21 local governments of the state.Every three months, we take 1000 youths to the NYSC camp in Asaya.It’s in Kabba/Bunu local government.We bring in resource persons from universities, Polytechnics ,some consultants to reorientate the youth, to increase their morale.We also involve the military,they wake up at 5.30am, they do marching,so within three weeks, you will be amazed at the transformation of these youth from people who look hopeless and fed up with life to people who are very excited and proud of what they can do by themselves.After that ,we deploy them on public works or sanitation duties and pay them a stipend per month.We also ask our local governments to pay them an additional stipend .And in the course of the year,we expect them,we advice them to save some money.And what they do during the day is between 8 am and 12 noon.After that,they are attached to any vocation they choose.If they want o do tailoring,theywant to do motor mechanic, anything,hair dressig or whatever they want to learn, we encourage them and attach them to people in such business.And at the end, they get trained.If they are able to save let’s say N30,000 or N50,000 at the end of the year and they now want to set up their own business,the state government will now give additional funds,double it for them to set up and give them and have working capital to start their own business.And we have another programme where we give graduates after orientation and training N250000 to start business.Some of them go to agriculture.Some make trinkets,all kinds of things like that.They start like that.And some of them today,some go into livestock farming.And some of them today are net employers of labour.Apart from themselves being employed, they also have their own workers now and they are able to pay them.So there is that multiplier effect.So these are some of the things we are doing for youths.So far we have trained over 7000 in such programmes.And every local government you go to during visits you see them in their uniforms.They are very excited..She was just reminding me that I forgot to talk abaout what we are doing to unite the ethnic groups.Iwill will get back to that.But your second question was on the industries that we have-Obajana Cement and Ajaokuta.Ajaokuta is the hope of Kogi state.We are doing everything we can to get the federal government to intervene in a big way in Ajaokuta.The Ajaokuta Steel Company will revolutionalize Nigeria.In fact,our transformation cannot go the full course without Ajaouta being operational.Mr President has pronounced several times that he will get Ajaokuta working.That he will make sure that Ajaokuta works.I have put a lot of pressure on the Federal government .Recently, I worked with the minister of industry, trade and investment and the minister of mines,solid mineral development.We went there to see how far they are going,prepared a report which we’ll submit to Mr President very soon.I have encouraged the management in Ajaokuta.I have visited them.I have visited there about four times since I became governor.And their morale is rising.They have gone into partnership agreements with some investors who are opening line:the flat sheet, the power project, machine tools facility.All those are basically operational now.I think very soon,they will start rolling out iron rods and all that.So Ajaokuta now is really alive.It’s not fully operatonal because as I said four or five lines are working out of 25 lines that exist there.But Iam confident that the federal government wil intervene at some point.And when it becomes operational,we’ll derive much from it.For now,we are just getting trickles…Some employment of our people,that’s what we are getting.
For Obajana, the biggest cement plant,we derive a lot of benefits.Alhaji Aliko Dangote has helped our state a lot.Recently,we signed an agreement with him to build a vocational training centre for us to train our young people towards self employment.And the project will take off very soon.He has already budgeted some money for it.So he pays tax to our government and he is employing a lot of people from our state.So these are the benefits we are deriving from Ajaokuta.
Now on the issue of effortsto unite our people ethnically or religious,yes we made that commitment and we have worked hard to implement it and our state is very peaceful.There is religious harmony.We have inter religious council in the state.They meet regularly.And it has helped to foster unity between the two religions in the state.
With regards to ethnic balance,we have ensured equity in our projects.We have ensured equity in distribution of appointments and projects . So people can see that we are operating with fairness,equity and justice in many of the things we do and that has helped to bring ethnic harmony.Since I came there has not been any ethnic clash.People may have boundary issues and things like that but not because Iam this tribe and you are the other tribe,no,that is not how we live in Kogi State.
Q:..Going round some of the projects today it appears your excellency is just trying to lay the foundation and it also appears that you have an idea of what you want you want to do but funding may be part of the challenges. May we know what the government is doing to improve on the IGR of the state. Two sir, we are aware of some of the legal battles you were faced with upon your assumption of office. And I am also aware that you have once complained that some of those battles are unnecessary distractions. If that also is part of the reasons why the foundation is just being laid, what will be you appeal to politicians who always find it very difficult to accept defeat.
A:When we started as an administration we set up a think tank that came out with a blueprint of what we should do during our tenure to move Kogi State forward ,moving to a higher level than what we met it .And we came with a clear vision and a mission for the state.It was drawn up by 23 eminent citizens of our state who had actualized themselves in various endeavours .So we knew from the beginning where we want to go as an administration…You are talking about the foundation. I think most of them are the bond projects ,because when the funding came in ,various processes came in before we could award the contracts and commence those projects. So I think that why they are at the foundation (level).My predecessors had done a lot. So I built on their foundation and I committed that I would complete most of the projects that were started by my predecessor.Very laudable projects.The funding is a big challenge .That is why we went to take the bond.But in IGR improvement,we have done a lot of work in that regard.Our IGR has gone up.From the time we came to now, it has gone up by about 250%…And we did this by enumerating those taxable businesses,taxable population and we digitalized it.We don’t give paper receipt now ,it’s electronic type of receipt.It is not hand written where people can put carbon and put one figure on top and put another figure in the duplicate.It’s digitalized.We also encourage people to pay direct to the banks.We are seeing improvements in IGR month by month.and I believe we’ll continue to see such improvements.
With regards to legal battles,they are very unfortunate.Iam two years,nine months now (in office) and I still have three cases in court.It’s unfortunate because it means that throughout one’s tenure ,you are fighting one legal issue or the other.They are distractions, no doubt.My appeal to politicians is that power comes from God Almighty.And He gives it to whom He pleases and removes it from whom He pleases .They should be patient,tust the grace of God.Whenever is there turn , they will get it.This will be my appeal.That this type of cases could slow down development and the country or our state is the loser.So if one is fighting to serve the state, then you shouldn’t do anything that will make the state the loser.That is my appeal to them…
Q..The Challenge we have in Kupa land is the challenge of infrastructure.It is a land that is still locked up from the entire country the way I see it.The two major roads from Aiyetoro (Gbede) to Akutukpa to Abugi and Eggan and( the second one ) from Jamata to Mami ..to Abugi.These roads have not been completed and the people are just practically relying on Niger State for commercial activities,crossing the river (Niger).Even yesterday… I learnt a boat capsized while coming from Katcha(Niger State) to Kinami (Kogi State).So there is a problem of failure of successive governments to open up the entire land.Sir what promises are you giving to the people and in practical terms what are you going to do to open up Kupa land.Two,what is the philosophy behind the 6-lane road project I understand your government is..
A : (Interjects) It’s 4-lane
Q:Oh , it’s 4- lane, right?…Let me limit my questions to these..
A:Well ,thank you for the question about Kupa land.Yes, it is true that not much infrastructure has been done there.I have had requests from the leaders, political leaders in the area and I have promised them that I will take those roads one by one.Particularly, the one from Felele. And I told them that by the grace of God, soon after the end of the rainy season , we will do everything we can to award some contract for a portion of that road.It is a long road and it’s very expensive.So we cannot bite more than we can chew.I have told them that it will be done in phases.Hopefully, God willing, we’ll award the first phase.And then after that, we’ll do another phase before we go to the other roads.But there is no deliberate policy to neglect Kupa land by us.Funding and various challenges make it as if that is the case but that is not the case. Ok?
The other question:4-lane road.That road is the main road is the main road through our capital city.And we came up with the idea that we should do it properly.Every time that road was completed,within a year, you will see that because of its topography and the water close to that road, it starts developing potholes,craters and things like that.So we thought that it should be done properly this time with pedestrian lanes to be like a signature road into the city and enhance the beauty and aesthetics of our capital city with proper lighting and all that is necessary to make it a reference road when you come to Lokoja.We believe that it will change the face of Lokoja and it is a worthwhile project.And we have awarded the contract.We approved the payment of mobilization today(2nd October 2014)And I believe that the contractors will mobilize to site very soon.And as a citizen of Kogi state, you will be proud of that road by the grace of God….