The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, said the state needs a $350 million loan from the World Bank to achieve its governance objectives in the “short to medium term.”
Speaking in his monthly media chat on October 29, the governor said the Bank agreed to provide the facility after checking the laws, accounts and performance of the state.
Mr. El-Rufai recalled that he had spoken about schools in the state not having roofs, doors, windows, water and toilets during the electioneering campaign in 2014 and early 2015 and promised to fix them.
“But as prepared as we were with our Transition Committee report, we still got a few shocks when we took office.
“In our first week, we took briefings from all MDAs in the state. That is when the then chairman of SUBEB told us that at least 50 per cent of our school children sit on floors because there was no school furniture.
“We declared a state of emergency in education and started to fix schools and buy furniture. After fixing almost 10 per cent of our over 4200 primary schools, we realised we would need a lot of money to fix everything and to actually build new schools that can have enough classrooms, staff rooms and other facilities.
“So, we compiled the pictures of our schools into an album, and I took it to Abuja and showed it to the Minister of Finance to explain the level of investment we would require.
“Then I shared the photos with our development partners, including the World Bank. The World Bank has scrutinised Kaduna State and they are convinced we meet their standards.
“We have healthy Fitch Ratings B” Credit Rating with Stable Outlook. (In November 2016, Fitch Ratings assigned Kaduna State a long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of “B” and a National long-term rating of A+(nga) with stable outlooks).
“The World Bank checked our laws, our accounts and our performance, they are convinced we merit their support.”
On his government’s pattern of presenting budgets early and getting it signed before the year ends, he said imposing a sense of order in the budgeting process enables government to make proper choices in spending decisions, and to have a proper window for implementing pro-people programmes.
“We decided that our budget year must run from January to December, just like the Gregorian calendar. By God’s grace, we have been able to prepare, present and sign each of our budgets before the new year begins.
He praised the State House of Assembly for its diligence “in examining, discussing and passing the budget, noting, “when they were considering the 2017 Budget in 2016, they even slashed it by N1 billion.
“Another factor that helps is the regular budget retreats that our state executive council holds every quarter. That way we know how the budget is performing and we are able to make adjustments.
“Then our Planning and Budget Commission issues the call circular early and our MDAs respond promptly. It is all team work”, he added.
Mr. El-Rufai said no state government has published as many tenders for capital projects like Kaduna State. He said this was because his government is ‘committed to open, competitive bidding.’
He said the government had started many projects in sectors like Education, Health, Roads, Water Resources, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development and does not have the resources to push some of them as strongly as necessary.
The Governor said priority would be given to completing the projects, to consolidate on the practical things being done to make change real for the people.
“There are schools renovated, hospitals being rehabilitated, built and equipped, roads being constructed, mining communities being given infrastructure, water works being rehabilitated or retrofitted.”
He explained that his administration would complete the equipping of 255 Primary Health Centres and 23 secondary health facilities.
“Across the state, we are renovating our secondary schools. Some, like Queen Amina and Government College, Kaduna, have been completed. Many more are ongoing across the state. For instance, as at mid-2017, there were 443km of township roads and 16 intercity roads with a distance of 414.8km at various stages of completion.
“In addition, 17 rural feeder roads with distance of 172 km are being constructed. There are many schools being rebuilt, hospitals being upgraded and equipped, water works being refitted, rehabilitation centres being fixed.
“We are very proud to have initiated these projects in the interest of our people. And we have been clearheaded enough to take on inherited projects that we consider feasible and viable!”, he said.
He further expressed confidence in the Kaduna State Roads Agency, KADRA, urging that the agency continues to help to deliver and maintain decent roads across the state.
When asked how his government will avoid the mistake of employing less qualified teachers after issuing notices to recruit 25,000 teachers in order to replace the 22,000 teachers that failed the competency test, Mr. El-Rufai said unqualified teachers entered the system because recruitment was politicised.
“The local government council chairmen and other senior politicians and bureaucrats saw teaching as a dumping ground for their thugs, supporters and other unqualified persons.
“Teachers were employed at local government level without adherence to standards. In many instances, no examinations or interviews were conducted to assess the quality of recruits.
“Political patronage, nepotism and corruption became the yardstick, thus giving unqualified persons a way in. Teaching jobs were given as patronage to those connected to politicians and bureaucrats.
“The Kaduna State Executive Council has approved the recruitment of 25,000 primary school teachers. Recruitment notices have already been advertised by the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
“This time around, there would be standardized tests for the recruits and a further training programme before the new teachers take over the classrooms. No unqualified person will scale through. And we will vet certificates very closely and very often. The future of our children is so important that we will not take chances. We will be vigilant in ensuring that only good people teach in our public schools”, he said.
He said the June 2017 competency test in the state was administered to measure the impact of several training and retraining efforts by ESSPIN and the Teacher Development Programme, stressing that teacher training is about improving the capacity of a teacher to impart knowledge.
“What the competency test showed is that many of the teachers do not have the knowledge, so how can they impart what they do not have? Are they saying we should send primary school teachers back to Primary Four? If you have knowledge but are deficient in teaching skills, we can train you to acquire the skills of a teacher. But when there is no knowledge, what is there to teach?.”
He said despite that the previous government gave primary school teachers a five-year grace to acquire NCE, many teachers still don’t have it.
Reacting to the threats by the Nigerian Union of Teachers to go on strike should its members be laid off, he said, “everybody knows that we will not be deterred in doing what is right for the future of our children.
“This is not about politics, or people making a public show of opposing what they know to be right. Shouldn’t everybody be embarrassed by the test results? Where is the sense of shame? I hear some people say the pass mark for teachers in a Primary Four exam should be 60%; the same people say the state government has no right to test the competence of its employees.
“One evidence of the crisis in our society is that a union whose members failed a Primary 4 examination thinks it can create problems over the issue rather than be a part of the solution. We are not people that bow to threats. We will respond appropriately.
“What will be point of the threatened strike? To force us to violate our oath of office and knowingly retain as teachers those that are not qualified? That will not happen! We will recruit as many qualified teachers as we can find. We will not keep unqualified teachers on our payroll.”
On his reduction of ministries from 19 to 14 and commissioners from 24 to 15, he stated that his government was committed to reducing waste, eliminating fraud and cutting costs, saying he believes that most of the resources of government must be devoted to serving the needs of ordinary people, building schools, hospitals, roads and delivering other public goods.
“You cannot do this except you reduce the cost of running government. We started from the Executive branch. We inherited 19 ministries, but now we have only 14. The previous government had 24 commissioners, but we have only 15. We have fewer special advisers and special assistants than the government before us.
“Next, we verified state civil servants. We gave each ministry what its maximum establishment can be and signed an Executive Order to effect this. Surplus staffs above the establishment of each Mmnistry have been posted to the office of the Head of Service pending subsequent steps in our public service reform and renewal programme.
“We have now moved to the local government level. Remember that we reduced districts from 390 to 77, so that our local government councils will have fewer district heads and staff to pay and have more money for development”, he said.
He said part of the reason why many local governments are broke is that they are overstaffed. He made reference to the admin department of Zaria local government with about 300 staff, adding that this overstaffing was why many of the local government councils cannot pay salaries without the support of the state government.
“So, we have prescribed personnel figures for all the 23 local government councils in Kaduna state. Direct council staff will now be less than 7000 in total. This excludes teachers under SUBEB and primary health centre staff who have been moved to the State Primary Health Care Development Agency. I have signed an Executive Order directing the Administrators of the 23 local government councils to comply with the prescribed personnel levels”, he added.
Speaking on the unity of the All Progressive Congress in Kaduna State, the Governor said that the APC is united around its manifesto and its leadership does not view power as an excuse for a bazaar or focus on sharing offices among politicians, adding that the reason for being in politics is to influence policies and programmes, not to share appointments.
He said the APC in the state would stay together to deliver concrete change for the people and pledged commitment of the party to serve the people.
“We are proud of our record as a job-creating government. We will create as many direct jobs as are necessary for our MDAs to work well, inject youth and be more efficient in achieving results.
“But all the direct jobs will be smaller than what the private sector can create. That is why we are pursuing multiple initiatives to attract private sector investments.
“Apart from the successes already recorded in agriculture through Olam, Sunseed, Vicampro and others, we are bringing Mahindra to assemble tractors. Peugeot France is also coming to build a brand new factory in Kaduna to assemble cars.
“They have already cleared the site in Chikun local government area. We are guided by the need to find jobs, jobs and more jobs for our teaming youth”, he said.
Governor El-Rufai said the state raised a record N23 billion as IGR in 2016 and hoped to do better it in 2017, urging residents to pay their Land Use Charge and Ground Rent.