The Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, said the state spent over N3 billion on this year’s pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia by Muslims from the state.
Mr. Ganduje said the expenditure covered subsidy on accommodation and medication of the state’s pilgrims in the exercise, and sponsorship of officials and medical personnel to the hajj.
Mr. Ganduje, at the hajj, spoke with journalists in his hotel room in Makkah shortly after the completion of the Hajj rites. Excerpt:
Question: What is your assessment of the 2016 Hajj?
Ganduje: This year’s Hajj is very successful because a lot of public enlightenment was undertaken. For example in Kano, we took a lot of time to ensure that all the pilgrims actually almost memorised how to perform the Hajj right from what they are expected to do in their houses, when they come to the airport, when they come to Medina, Jeddah, and when they come directly to Makkah.
All the principles of Hajj, all the sunnah of Hajj, they have been imparted physically; because they even created “Tawaf ” so that they will know where to start the Tawaf, what prayers to recite either in Arabic or in English or in Hausa and to also see what you are not expected to do while doing the Tawaf; because there are a lot of irregularities by some people who are not well enlightened. The same thing with Safa da Marwa. They made a depiction of it and learnt what they were supposed to say and also the stay in Muna, where they are supposed to be there to rest and pray. Then down to Arafat, when they are supposed to be doing some prayers and combine the Zuhr and Asr prayers, and move to Mustalifa immediate it’s Magrib.
All these, they were taught in Kano practically. We also constituted a Hajj tribunal for those who misbehaved here. When we go back, then we will take them to court. But, I am happy to tell you that the chairman of the tribunal told me that his book does not contain anything for him to report about indiscipline.
Question: Could that be because of the enlightenment of the pilgrims back home?
Ganduje: Yes. So, nobody was found wanting in the Holy Land. We also have a very good medical team for those who are sick, we have a very good team of Hisba; we have a very good team of preachers; that is the extension of the public enlightenment that we learnt.
Question: What about the authorities of Saudi?
Ganduje: Alhamdulillahi! Saudi Arabia too has tried so much with the infrastructure that we have seen; especially the tunnel, especially the light rail and the well-arranged movement of vehicles with direction, and so on. So, we can say that this years’ Hajj has been very successful.
Question: Are there any challenges that are faced here especially from your state’s pilgrims?
Ganduje: Well, the challenges we faced are very few with regards to accommodation and sometimes feeding. But you know, in the case of feeding, there is a lot of rushing, so it constitutes a problem, otherwise other problems are mainly Hajj-related problems, like getting exhausted and the government cannot do much about that. But even the accommodation, according to the National Hajj Commission, all our houses were graded as Grade A. Only one of them was graded as B; and A, B, C, D are acceptable. So, we got As and only one B, which means that we got houses that are containing thousands of pilgrims. You know we have almost 6,000 pilgrims this year. Some of the house contained 1,500, some 2,000, some 800. So, overall, there is really not much challenge from what we have seen because I visited them in Arafat, we prayed together with the Ulama that came along with them and then with the members of the board. I also visited all the Sheikhs with the pilgrims, including the women. We talked to them, we prayed together and we are so happy.
Question: But, there were complaints from the pilgrims about the distance of their accommodation from Haram (Grand Mosque). Is there anything you intend to do about that?
Ganduje: Well, some of them mentioned it. But, you see, the issue is very dicey because, one, there is provision for vehicles; two; the government had to spend over N700 million in order to top up what the pilgrims paid. So, let us not deceive ourselves; if we are to get a house very near to the Ka’aba, the state government will spend well over N1.5 billion extra. Hajj is not an easy thing. Hajj is for those who can afford it. But, we have tried our best to see that we put them in a clustered accommodation and also where it is easy to reach the clinic. And then, the Imams are able to enter the houses and do some preaching, and the welfare officers can easily reach the houses and easy evacuation of the pilgrims at a designated place so that they can be taken to Muna or any other place. So, it is also an issue of money, I don’t want to deceive anybody; and everybody knows that there is no money now. So, the services we are providing and the Pilgrims Welfare Agency officials we are sponsoring the Medical staff and all the medication, if you put it together, you will see that we spent over N3 billion. Kano is a highly populated place. But I assure you, even if you give them houses close to Ka’aba, some will still complain.
Question: Aren’t you worried that your visit to pilgrims in Arafat may be interpreted as playing politics with religion?
Ganduje: (Silence ….Laughs) Somebody who is not a politician can say that, somebody who is not well-versed on Islamic knowledge can say that. As you know, there is leadership in Shari’a. Do you know there is visitation by leaders to their subjects as part of Islam, whether in the pilgrims lodge or at home? So, how can we interpret that as political? So, a leader should just hide himself, governor should just stay in his hotel and not see his people because they will say it is political?
The other part is that, supposing it is political; what is the problem? (Laughter). Who voted for us, is it not the same people? So, even if it is politics, yes.
But, one thing we have done is to see that we abolished government sponsorship, for a long time even during our last administration, because we discovered that government was spending billions of naira to sponsor some people to come. So, during our last administration, we cancelled it. In fact I was the one who made the announcement and some people thought heavens would fall because we cancelled it. And when I came in, we did not have problem because people are used to it. So, the only people we can sponsor are stakeholders, medical team, the Ulamas who are preaching here and the civil servants from the Pilgrims Welfare Agency.
These are the people that have to be here. So, whatever you take it, I think it’s okay for me.
Question: Presently, states have to be given bailout to pay salaries, what is the situation in Kano?
Ganduje: Well, right from the beginning, we inherited a liability of over N300 billion and we have an amount of less than N30 million. So, we were in the first group to go for the bailout. So, we received bailout in order to pay liabilities; retirees’ pension. That was the only problem. So, if you look at that problem, the first thing I did was to dissolve the Internal Revenue Board and advertise the positions nationally for the job so that we can get competent hands, experienced hands and also honest young people, well educated in different fields of tax collection. That is how we started. We reviewed all the laws so that they can conform with what we intend to do. And immediately we employed and inaugurated them, they went into action. First by meeting with all the stakeholders, the rich people, the industrialists and commercial people, the market people, the banks, and institutions in order to discuss with them that a new law is now on the ground.
We also employed technical officers from different fields. Some specialized in reconciling bills disbursements, both for the state and the local governments. Some are specialized in pursuing Pay As You Earn by other organizations like Federal Government organizations, like commercial banks and other institutions. So, they go to various organizations to reconcile to see how much we are supposed to be given. Some on motor vehicles, some on landed property. They said that of land; we have to make another law in order to capture everything well. We also harmonized the taxes between local governments and the state so that we can avoid multiple taxation and to reduce double effort. By so doing, our revenue started increasing. We shall succeed to capture almost every house within the city and the local governments. But, we are on it now.
Question: By what percentage do you think the IGR will grow with all these projects put in place?
Ganduje: I think it is up to 60 percent.
Question: So how much was generated before and how much are you generating now?
Ganduje: It had a peak at one time and whenever major contracts are awarded, because of the part we used to take from the contractors. We were collecting less than N1 billion. Unless if we awarded a lot of contracts that we can reach that stage. But now, we collect over N2 billion and are still at infant stage.
Question: Lagos in the first quarter got N101 billion. As an industrial hub in the north, despite the problems, is there any benchmarking with Lagos, for instance, that Kano can learn from?
Ganduje: I sent my board to Lagos and they spent almost two weeks. They also went to Edo State when we learnt that they too were doing well. The team gathered a lot of information; so we have to review our laws or something like that.
Question: What is your target?
Ganduje: Our target is up to N30 billion. We want to reach 10 billion monthly, but eventually we are looking at N30 billion per month.
Question: How far about the proposed introduction of female artisans in Kano?
Ganduje: Well, 75 students were sent to Peugeot Automobile Nigeria, PAN, and they are graduating in October. We have now started recruiting both male and female. We want to send at least 100. If we can get up to 50% women to go and learn different trades, that will be good for us. But, in order to actualize that, we are building an ultra-modern Skills Acquisition Center, which His Excellency, the Vice President, has laid the foundation stone. The building is going on now and very soon we shall award contract for the equipment. About 24 different trades will be taught.
We had to carry out a survey to identify those trades in Kano to see what is the manpower gap, both in government and in the private sector. We have to make some kind of innovation to see the skilled areas which is dominated by people not from Kano. We have to include such areas into what we intend to do. By the time we complete that center, we will have all what we require in terms of skills acquisition and I am sure every youth will benefit from that. For the time being, before the completion, we are using different areas like the PAN you have mentioned.