Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State assumed office May 29th, 2015. It is now about five months since he took the mantle of leadership of the state. It is about time we gave an interim opinion evaluation of his performance.
Southern Kaduna in Diaspora (SOKAD) has been following the developments in Kaduna State since Governor El-Rufai assumed office with keen interest. One of the first actions by the Governor was abolishing the state policy of funding Christians and Muslims pilgrimages. Such state involvement in pilgrimages was largely a smokescreen for officials to enrich their pockets. SOKAD is very impressed by this action by the Governor. The millions of Naira spent by previous governments on these religious pilgrimages were counterproductive, wasteful, and needless. SOKAD, therefore, commends the Governor for this bold and decisive step. We hope that the money saved, will be put to good use.
The uncovering of N1.3 billion pension racket reported by various media on October 6, 2015, is highly commendable. It was reported that 2,484 ghost pensioner names were uncovered, and another 1,404 identified as probable ghost pensioners; it is an important economic loophole that has been blocked and will save the state billions. SOKAD hopes that all the perpetrators of this corrupt practice will be identified and punished to the full extent of the law.
Then, there is the ‘draft Fiscal Responsibility Bill’, which the Governor has approved. When the bill becomes law, it will “provide for an independent commission to monitor and enforce the provisions of the proposed law”. Also, the government abolished payment of fees for admission forms and processes in relation to Fiscal Responsibility. SOKAD hopes this will make room for fiscal transparency and accountability.
Furthermore, the government, while noting the resumption of schools this year, has reiterated that “its elimination of school fees and sundry levies in basic education will save Kaduna State parents N3.7 billion per year.” Again, this will be another financial loophole blocked. We commend the Governor for this as well.
On Sep 14, 2015, the Kaduna State Executive Council approved a draft bill for the establishment of the Kaduna State Geographic Information Service (KADGIS). Mr. Samuel Aruwan, the Special Assistant, Media and Publicity wrote: “When passed into law, this will create an electronic land registry for the state, and facilitate the electronic registration of land documents.” SOKAD hopes that if this Bill is passed into law it will truly make it easy for citizens to secure titles for their land; but SOKAD is cautions that it should not be an excuse to depose the people of their ancestral lands.
It has not been all roses for the state since the Governor took over the helms of power. Some of his decisions are of great concerns, particularly two important ones. The first is the Governor’s decision to abolish the settler/indigene dichotomy status, after receiving the report of General Martin Luther Agwai’s special committee on Southern Kaduna crisis. For one, the report was rushed because interested parties were not given enough time to provide input- significant number were not even aware of the existence of the Martin Agwai’s Committee, even if it were an offshoot of a previous one.
Second, while it is true that we need peace and reconciliation among all ethnic groups in the state, no ethnic group should be the sacrificial lamb for peace. Land is the only wealth for Southern Kaduna minorities and to depose them of it, by a “free Kaduna State citizenship status for all”, will not bring peace and is a violation of our constitution. The argument against this decision has been succinctly and forcefully articulated in an article by Tunga Lergo: Kaduna State Indigene Question and The Sociology of Claim of Place. The last paragraph of the article is relevant here:
Kaduna State should not be another guinea pig, at least not now. Kaduna State should not be an experiment on eroding ethnic boundaries and identities (even if that erosion is desirable). The people of Kaduna State expect the governor in his first four years to alleviate poverty, create jobs for our graduates, foster peace, advance education, and encourage development. Such goals are more transformative than the idealistic policy of making everyone a Kaduna State indigene. Such transforming goals cannot be met without justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Declaring that everyone in the world can now come to Kaduna State and enjoy dual indigeneship, and thereby disempowering ethnic groups, who have laid claim to spaces and places in the State for time immemorial, while all other Nigerians can claim ownership of their respective ancestral and historical spaces, is morally unjust. Until it is a policy in all thirty-six states of the country (Sokoto is an exception, to some extent), this policy should not be implemented. I hope our governor reconsiders. (08/27/2015), http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/articles-comments/90581-kaduna-state-indigene-question-sociology-claim-place.html;
SOKAD feels the decision is ill-advised and detrimental to peace and justice for indigenous minorities. We appeal to the governor not to implement it. Moreover, the indigene-settler relation is akin to guest-host relations and, frankly, does not lend itself to either legislative or executive intervention. Just as the behavior of a guest would endear a host to welcome him or her and make him or her feel at home, indigenes are likely to welcome settlers in their community- depending on how the settlers conduct themselves.
Already, the consequence of the idea to abolish state citizenship, is manifesting in appointments where an unprecedented number of non-indigenes have been appointed- giving the impression that the Kaduna State does not have qualified sons and daughters to help run the state. This has been called into question by a coalition of 13 groups from Sothern Kaduna (http://odili.net/news/source/2015/oct/16/47.html). Granted that some of the appointments may have international connections that potentially can be beneficial for promoting business in Kaduna State, but the integrity of those appointed should be above reproach. Anything short of that undermines the anti-corruption message that the Governor is preaching. It is one thing to reward those who supported and voted the Governor, but they must be men and women of integrity, even if they APC loyalists and donors.
The case of Jimi Lawal, the Kaduna State Investments Advisor to the Governor merits specific mention. If the allegations of conviction in 1996 by the Failed Banks Tribunal are true, over serious charges of swindles involving millions of dollars, then his appointment is rather unfortunate. It is doing incalculable damage to the image of the administration, especially as serious concerns were raised at the time of the appointment but were ignored.
Another decision by the Government that SOKAD is concerned about, is the action by the State Security Council on September 15, 2015, to close the property: 2 churches, an hospital, a college, and a seminary, belonging to the Assemblies of God Church in Saminaka, in Lere Local Government, because of perceived security threats and fear of “total breakdown of law and order in the area.” An intra-leadership squabble in a harmless religious community, with no history of violence nor even threat of it, should not warrant such an exercise of power by the state. There could have been a better way to address the issue, such as bolstering security and improved surveillance.
SOKAD concords with the “Group of 13”, in the words of its leader, Mr. Kanyip, that, “while the insecurity challenges in Birnin Gwari area of northern part of the state had since been tackled on assumption of office by the governor, many people were still being killed in the Southern part of Kaduna State with little or no attention from the governor” (http://odili.net/news/source/2015/oct/16/47.html).
It is sad to note that violence against defenseless and peace loving people in the southern part of the State has not received the serious attention that it deserves. We want the Governor to succeed as a transformation leader for the State. But not being there for the people who did not overwhelmingly vote for him is not the way to achieve that status. We urge the Governor to focus like a laser on this matter so that real peace can return to that part of the State.
SOKAD welcomes the determination of the new regime at making Kaduna State a safe and secured state. The determination, as reported by the Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Mr. Aruwan, that the government “will not tolerate the use of religion and ethnicity to cause crisis in the state”; and that it “will prosecute anyone, no matter his or her standing, that is implicated in fomenting crisis in whatever form in the State”, this is music to the ears. However, it is rather strange that the government would make a harmless Christian church the first example.
SOKAD is all for the success of Governor El-Rufai’s government. The interim opinion evaluation card is mixed; much good has been done, with many more crucial issues that need to be addressed. We intend to issue such reports periodically to alert the government on issues they may be inadvertently blinded to. As restful citizens of Kaduna State, we will continue to give opinion on the administration, as we did on the previous one, and act as watchdogs for the benefit of our people.
As we look forward to the next months-to-years of Governor El-Rufai’s administration, SOKAD prays for better days for our dear State.
The Executive Committee, Southern Kaduna Diaspora (SOKAD), U.S.A
Aminu Likita, MD, MPH, President
Freeman Kamuru, PhD, MD, Secretary General
Ibrahim A. Maikori, M.Ed. Financial Secretary