Northern Youth Assembly (NYA) is one of the Few Non Governmental organizations in Zamfara that is active in questioning some of the Anti-people policies of the current administration of Governor Yari, especially the attempted move by the state government to sell the 19Million units of shares jointly owned by the state and fourteen local government councils. In this interview with DESERT HERALD, the Chairman of the Assembly in Zamfara, Comrade Mannir Haidara, opened up on so many issues surrounding their ongoing court litigation against the state government and other issues on the state of affairs of the state. Excerpts:
NYA is always hammering on Zamfara State government to open up its financial transactions for public accountability, are you not satisfied with the way the state budget is being implemented?
NYA’s position on some key issues regarding accountability and transparency in Zamfara State governance system is always done in the interest of the generality of the people of the state. Yes there used to be an annual budget for the state but for the past three fiscal years 2/3 of the state resources have been cornered to one single sector that is road and you cannot tell me that real development can be attained with road construction alone. You cannot tell me that states like Zamfara will develop to compete favorably with its peers when critical sectors like education, health, agriculture and rural transformation have been neglected. So the problem with Zamfara State is actually not the resources but focus in the governance drive. It is true we need roads network, we need school renovation but that does not mean we should completely neglect other critical sectors I mentioned earlier because you cannot drive development when you opted to move one sided in the allocation of state resources especially at the detriment of those sectors that are considered critical in the socio-economic development of the citizen. You mentioned critical sectors like education, health and so on, are you saying the administration is not doing anything in those areas? Let me give you some examples, recent findings indicate that Zamfara State has the worst Patient/Doctor ratio all over the country. Look at our approach in managing Maternal and Newborn child health system in Zamfara State, where is the Primary Health Care Development Agency Bill which was drafted by the previous administration? Are the citizens of Zamfara not entitled to free Primary Health Care services? Zamfara has the worst remuneration for the Health workers and this is why we are day-in-day-out losing our quality health workers to the neighboring states that are ready to pay them better. Can you go to any health facility in Zamfara and get drugs free for children and pregnant women, so what are we saying? As I speak to you, some primary school teachers have not been paid their September salary and there are other pending industrial disputes between the government and the teachers in the state including the mother union NLC. So how sincere is the government? And don’t forget year after year, the annual state budget takes care of some of these problems itemized, so where did the problem lies? This is the more reason why we are all out to agitate for accountability from the government, agitate for transparency and justice in managing the state resources through proper budget implementation.
So are you faulting the budget document presented to the members of the State House of Assembly or the executive arm?
To some reasonable extent, the budget document is perfect but the problem is the political will by the executive arm of the government to implement it right and the problem you need to note is that budget is the heart of the planning for the state and the moment you do away with the planning then count yourself to be part of the losers and this is the exact scenario in Zamfara State. When as the Chief Executive of the State you failed to use your state budget to pay your workers well and boost their morale don’t expect perfect service delivery; and once the public service delivery is poor all other component parts of sustainable development will be missing completely. So you see how important a budget is for the state.
In recent times you have been pressurizing the state government to account for the state share of the Sure-p Funds collected from the Federal Government. What do you think is the problem in Zamfara? You see what baffles NYA Zamfara much about this Sure-P issue is that the State Governor was among the leading Governors that supported the removal of fuel subsidy; everybody in this country knows this and when the Federal Government comes up with the idea of Sure-P as a relief to the Nigerian masses, our Governor could not show clearly how much the state government collected over the years and what developmental projects have been executed with the funds. We have seen what other states have been doing with their shares of Sure-P Funds and the impact is visible among the citizens, but the case of Zamfara State is different. That is why NYA took it upon itself to keep mounting pressure on the state government to as a matter of public interest account for what has been collected from the Federal Government on behalf of Zamfara people. The end result of our struggle led to drafting of a bill currently outstanding before the state Assembly to that effect and you can see how people of Zamfara have to be knocking on the doors of those in the position of authority seeking for accountability and justice in relation to the management of their resources.
It is public news that NYA drags Zamfara State government to court seeking for an order restraining the government from discarding the 19M units of shares at Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC). What is your stake in this issue?
First of all we are citizens of Zamfara and we have no other state than Zamfara so we must have a stake on any matter or decision that affects the life of Zamfara people. When the government declared its intention to sale out these shares, the first question we raised was for what purpose? Because, the previous administration made the wise decision to secure these shares for us looking and in consideration of the future economic needs of the citizens. So from there we took up the struggle against that decision. When the government said it wants to sale these shares to fund the shortfalls in the state budget we asked shortfalls where? Because based on our findings we don’t see any shortfalls in the state budget. We then approached the court to seek for an order restraining the government from discarding the shares because our investigation shows that even the local governments that jointly owned the shares with the state have not been consulted. And at NYA level our understanding of the plan to discard these shares was just meant to execute the hidden plan of funding a supplementary election budget because the government failed to redeem all its pledges to the women, workers and even the poor ones. Our argument with regards to this issue of the sales of shares is very logical; let the government explain to the citizens what it is going to do with this money if the shares are allowed to be discarded. If the government, for instance, is selling these shares to build an international airport or expand the Gusau water barrage to the capacity of producing 200M gallons of water per day no reasonable citizen of Zamfara will contest that because the impact of the projects are visible. But when the government fails to offer the citizens good explanation on some of its actions, then you expect nothing than reaction of this nature. And the interesting part of this struggle remains that some partners in the NGO and Civil Society work including political pressure groups have joined the NYA to kick against this action and we will continue to pursue our court case till we succeed.