The Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has explained why he has been unable to commission most of the projects his administration embarked upon since he assumed office seven years ago.
The governor, who came into power on May 29, 2011 said though he inherited a state that was enmeshed in the ongoing Boko Haram war, he was able to roll out several people-oriented projects before the conflict worsened.
Mr Shettima spoke during an evening breaking of fast session with journalists in Borno on Sunday.
He tailored his speech in response to the pleas addressed to him by the director, radio and public relations, University of Maiduguri, Danjuma Gambo, who led the media delegation to Government House, Maiduguri.
Mr Gambo, who spoke on behalf of the media executives and journalists after meals, begged the governor to leave behind legacies “that will be directly beneficial to the people of the state.”
The don said he was aware of the numerous projects that are either ongoing or at the final stages of completion.
He said “by the provision of the Constitution of Nigeria, your Excellency has only one year to spend as governor of Borno State. And on behalf of the entire working journalists in the state, who have so far sacrificed their safety to stay in Borno despite all the security risks, that you should try as much as possible to leave behind projects that will be directly beneficial to the people of Borno state.”
Mr Gambo asked the governor “to try as much as possible to commission some of the projects so that change of policy due to change in government may not render the project inaccessible to the people of the state”.
He also pleaded with the governor to ensure that the housing projects that are yet to be commissioned or completed are considered.
Mr Gambo, who commended the governor for being the first to invite him to a Ramadam (Muslim lent) breaking of fast at the government house “in his over three decades stay in the state” also called on the state government to allow journalists access to projects being carried out in the rural areas.
“As journalists, it is our duty to follow the money as well as projects in every nook and cranny of the state,” he said.
In reaction, Governor Shettima commended the resilience of the journalists in Borno State even as he sought for their “forgiveness”, in any way his actions or inactions may have offended them.
According to Mr Shettima, “this might be the last time I may have the chance to have this kind of gathering with the respected creme de la creme of the media in Borno State.
“And this occasion behoves on me expressing my gratitude for your partnership which I so much value and appreciated. And I also want to apologise to everyone of you here as well as the people of the state for whatever way I may have wronged you. I am human and not immune from making mistakes,” he said.
Mr Shettima then explained why his administration had not been able to officially commission projects, mostly housing projects, since he assumed office.
“At the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, people may not appreciate some of the efforts of this government. We embarked on massive construction of houses in Maiduguri; we constructed houses along the four major routes leading to most of the local government areas, we never knew the insurgency would degenerate to that level that such houses would be used as a saving grace.
“We just felt that by engaging the youth through such projects; by diverting their attentions from all sorts of social vices, we will be able to ‘immune’ them from being co-opted into Boko Haram.
“Unfortunately, the security situation deteriorated; IDPs were moved into the houses under construction and it became morally difficult for us to tell them to get out of those houses. That was the moral impediment we had in not commissioning those houses.
“But be rest assured that, especially as we move on with the emerging peace we are enjoying, in the next two to three months, we are going to commission all our existing projects,” he said.
The governor said his administration also invested in the education and industrial sectors with the aim of empowering the youth.
“For the industrial estates, about 11 industries are coming up. There are primary schools that we are building in Maiduguri that are even better than some of the state universities. In the next two to three months, there will be a true change in the face of Borno State.
“Within the span of 5km in a particular location in Maiduguri where we have large population, we are building five mega schools. In Maiduguri alone, we are building ten mega schools and some of them have up to 60 classrooms that can accommodate 2500 students and we are going to feed them (pupils) one meal per day.
“It is not all about building schools, but also the issue of human capacity is key. I am sorry to say that we are intellectually malnourished and we need to salvage our situation through education.”
Acknowleding that the state may not have the wherewithal to pay teachers with the increased number of schools in the state, the governor pleaded with residents to join him and other public office holders to render free teaching serving in the public schools.
“I plead with anybody who has the flair or the capacity to teach, even if it is for an hour or two, to let’s get into those classes to teach,” he said.
“I promise to lead by example in that respect by going into the classroom to teach. The students could be inspired to achieve even greater academic feat if they see a governor coming to their class to teach. It is not all about money, but community service.
“If we want to live in this part of the country called Nigeria, we have no option than to invest in education. The world has left us far behind; we are at a time when people are talking about artificial intelligence, or kinetic engineering and we are still struggling with how to build classrooms or get students to learn.
“By 2050 Nigeria will be the third most populous nation on earth with a population of about 440 million; and by 2050, 70 per cent of Nigerians will live in northern Nigeria. So if we want to live in this part of Nigeria in peace we have to invest in education.”
He also spoke on strides in agriculture.
“In the area of agriculture, we have invested so much. Recently, I asked one of the state governors if his state has up to a hundred tractors and he told me that honestly we have not even started buying tractors yet. We have invested more than N30 billion on agricultural equipments that are state-of-the -art and also in all the agricultural value chain. And this will be deployed massively into the rural areas once the security situation improved. ”
He also spoke on how he had been able to ensure religious harmony in the state.
“The beauty of Borno is that in spite of the crisis that we went through, the pains and losses that the conflict has caused us, we have refused to let it assume a religious dimension. We have lived as brothers and sisters confronted with a common problem.”
Borno State, rocked by an unending insurgency did not mark the May 29 Democracy day that was observed in most states across Nigeria.