Almajiri system fueling insecurity, says Gov Lalong

1 year 5 months ago #7314 by patrickd

It is over 100 days you were sworn in for your second term in office, you are yet to form your cabinet, why the delay? How are functioning without a cabinet?

Well, let me say that indeed it’s over a hundred days into our second tenure and we are almost concluding on the constitution of the cabinet. People say there is a lot of delay but to me, we had an arrangement to prepare well for the next four years. In doing this, we had to come up with a development plan. Now when people ask: Why the delay? My response is that it’s not about rushing and putting a cabinet in place. It is about a focus on what we want to do in the next four years. Now when I came in for my second tenure, I had to engage Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to develop a development Plan for the people of Plateau State. They have done that. I was waiting for them to come up with their report to enable me from their recommendations formulate policy in terms of economic empowerment for the state. Based on this, appoint my commissioners and what ministries, we will have.

I have already started. Immediately I got the preliminary report, I set the ball rolling and I quickly appointed the Secretary to the State Government and the Chief of Staff who are the engine room. So technically like I said during the swearing in of the Secretary to the State Government and Chief of Staff, I have list of my cabinet. I am only waiting for Mr. Speaker who travelled out the country to come back. As soon as he is back, I will submit it to him, you know the Assembly is a powerful place, you don’t submit to any one, you submit it to Mr. Speaker. So very soon, you will hear the announcement and screening of Commissioners.

The last time you nominated commissioners, concerns were raised by some people that portfolios were not attached to the names of nominees you presented to the House of Assembly. What should we expect this time around?

I was a Speaker for about 8 years. If you look at the laws, it didn’t say that you must attach portfolios before you submit to the House of Assembly. Sometimes we look at it also on performance. As a former speaker, I know some instances where we screened Commissioners with the Governor having almost made up his mind on where to deploy them, but after the screening, he changed his mind because based on the interaction with the law makers, the Governor came and said, this nominee should be in this or that place different from where he had thought of. So when nominees for Commissioner appear before the house, let everyone be judged by his performance. In my administration, anybody can be assigned anywhere except of course certain professional ministries like the Attorney General of the State which has exceptions.

You are now the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum and quite a lot is happening in the North, How are you tackling insecurity in the region?

That is another big challenge. When I was elected as the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, I said wow! I have a headache here in Plateau State and another one is being added. However, I said by the grace of God, I would do best by applying the wisdom that He gave us to deal with the challenge here in Plateau State. We would extend to the other parts of the North. And if you recall, from the very day I was appointed the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, I set up a Committee on Security chaired by Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari. Since then, he has also had to contend with insecurity in his State. However, that committee is working very well, I have also prepared that we will soon have a meeting of the Northern Governors Forum which will be my first meeting and formally receive the report of the committee and decide the way forward. Right now we have the challenges of banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping which are very prevalent in the North. So we shall be receiving the report of the committee and also preparing for a Northern Security Summit. Aside from that I have always been in touch with the IGP. He is doing well because part of the recommendations we made so far, they are implementing it. I attended the meeting of the North West Security Council and it was very wonderful. In some cases you need dialogue to succeed, because it is not always responding with confrontation. I will ensure that the success of such engagement is extended to the North Central. The IG has gone to the South West where he did the same thing. We are preparing to have our own in the North Central just like the North East is already established even as it is being taken care of by the Federal Government. One of the areas too that is a problem and needs to be tackled is the Almajiri System. We have set up a committee that will bring about how to address the Almajiri System. In a society where you have a large population doing nothing but roaming the streets, that is another cause of insecurity not only in the North but in the nation at large. So we have also set up a committee to look at it, and once we conclude on the issue of the Almajiri which also goes with the issue of employment, we shall have some respite.

During your first tenure, your heart was on Five (5) Point Agenda; Security, good governance, physical infrastructural Development and sustainable economic rebirth. Why are you pruning them from 5 to 3?

You should understand that the first tenure was also part of taking over from another administration. Why we created five was partly to look at what we inherited and then examine some of the challenges that were on ground. Therefore, the five – point Policy Thrust was to help us carry out a holistic approach of what we promised the people. During campaign, you promise the people many things and by the time you get into the office, you see a different picture which you were not privy to. In that scenario, we had to come up with the five – Pillar Thrust to help us settle down for governance.

Now after staying in office for 4 years and we are coming back for tenure, we realized that we have taken care of some of the challenges we inherited. Having taken care of such things, you now have to remain focused for the remaining four years as you cannot do everything, but at least you must do about 60% to 70%. I always don’t want to say I am perfect but I must strive to do my best to hit within the level of B, or A. If I get B, fine but if I get A that is excellent. Now we have reduced the five – Pillar thrust to 3 namely: Peace, security and good governance; physical infrastructural development; and sustainable economic rebirth.

Plateau State is being referred to as a Civil Service State. But since your administration has paid attention to economic growth and internally generated revenue between 2015 and 2018 recorded 100% increase. What are the strategies?

We have put in a lot of strategies. First, I told you that we engaged the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to prepare a development plan which they have done. After that, we are also planning an Economic Summit which I think would be the first of its kind in Plateau State.

Secondly in terms of Revenue, I have also engaged a consultant, the woman who did the magic for Kaduna State, Mrs. Ofueko Omoigui Okauru. She was one time chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). She is already in Plateau State to prepare and put in facilities for the improvement of our Revenue and that will take another 4 years, so we are not joking, when we say we are determined to take away Plateau from being a Civil Service State and that is why when we mention economic rebirth, we are talking about infrastructure and enabling environment. When you create this kind of environment for people, the private sector will invest. If you continue to say we are a civil service state and you go and sit down in your office and wait for 4:00 clock and then you leave after eating lunch that does not make the state productive. We are thinking out of the Box. As a civil servant you must be able to get something doing outside the office. That is why we are emphasizing on skill acquisition and a lot of other empowerment programmes.

Is the mindset of people is changing in that regard?

I must say I am very happy because without the cooperation of the people, we would not achieve what we are doing. So, I thank them for the level of co- operation particularly in ensuring that there is peace in the State but I am emphasizing that we should do more just as I am also doing my best.

In the recent past, Plateau State has witnessed crisis and violence, how do you intend to change Plateau people’s perception to the original Plateau as the Home of Peace and Tourism?

Yes, we have done a lot in terms of and addressing the causes of the problem and sustaining the peace. Sustaining peace goes along with dealing with poverty. You see, stomach insecurity leads to physical insecurity and we have a lot of youths out there who are not working. So we have a special package, you can see that I am the only State that created the Peace Building Agency. So we are developing that to sustain the peace and conflict management in the State.

As part of the scheme, we are talking we are also talking about industrialization. Plateau must become an industrial State by creating the enabling environment where people will come and invest in the State. I have always said that each time you sit down and you claim to be driving people away from your state, you lose. If Lagos was like that, Lagos will not be the way it is today. We should not drive people away from our state. We need investors to come to the State, why are we calling investors to come, if we then turn around to create unviable environment? It is the responsibility of Government to sit down and fish out criminals within us whether they are indigenes or not. We are doing very well with the security apparatus and we are also empowering and also expanding our Operation Rainbow in case we wake up one day and the Federal Government says we are withdrawing Operation Safe Haven.

We are also addressing volatile areas. You can see that we have already established a Mobile Police Squadron in Shendam, we have established Air Force Search and Rescue Unit at Kerang, Mangu LGA, and I am already preparing to complete setting up another Mobile Police Squadron in Gashish, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area.

Recently you were in Japan and you talked about accessing $300bn from Afri-Japan to finance some projects especially in the Rural Areas, can you expatiate on this?

Well, we went to Japan to attend the TICAD 7 Summit which is an investment summit for Africa, spear headed by Japan. It was my first time. I realized that the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari attended the summit in Kenya in 2016. We are talking about the fact that Japan is putting $50 billion for investments in Africa especially in rural development and so Plateau will also want to go in and see what we can get out of the 50 billion dollars. During the course of our attendance, we were able to interact with a lot of investors both African and Japanese Investors. I realize that instead of sitting here and talking through emails inviting people to come and invest, it is batter to go and meet them to discuss properly. Some people say you can sit down in one place and talk to investors. It is far different than when you meet them. Recently I had cause to address the Zumunta Association which is the body of Sons and daughters of Northern origin in the Americas, and they were asking questions that clearly showed that they are not in touch with the things we have been able to achieve in the last four years and the kind of opportunities that exist in the state. In fact when I heard some of their questions, I said look, it’s like you are out of this world because all these things you are talking about, we’ve gone pass them. They said but they don’t get such information as what they read on social media and the internet is different. This is the kind of problem we have and so when you go there and you explain to them direct, you give them complete facts and they look at it and they see, when I went there, I had cause to address some Japanese investors and I told them that is now the best in terms of SMEs in Nigeria, they said Ah!, how comes that Plateau is best on SMEs, technology, and skills acquisition. My young people are doing excellently well, every year we go to Abuja we are taking home all the prices, the best person in 2018 was from Plateau and second best in 2019 is still from Plateau. We will continue to produce the kinds of Jerry Mallo just like the Japanese. Why I have this passion for skills acquisition is to create a skilled generation that can solve problems. That is why I am reviving the Technical Schools in Kuru. I am going to expand and equip that school just as I am also putting the same in all the zones, there is going to be one in Shendam and the other one in Pankshin which will create opportunities not only for the Youth but even the Civil Servants because you can go there and do 2 or 3 or 6 months course, sometime, if your go there and do 6 months course in tailoring, that is an advantage to you, you come back and establish a tailoring shop, when you get out of work after 4pm, you are in your tailoring workshop.

What deliberate steps are you taking in this tenure to project the proper image of Plateau?

That is exactly why I have appointed one of you Dr. Macham Makut as my Director of Press. He is from the media and is already doing his best. I have given him matching order and I told him, we have done a lot of things here but many people don’t hear about it because it is not being exposed outside. From what we have done, try to expose it to people outside. That is why I appointed a Diaspora liaison officer for Plateau State in the UK and in the USA.

How far have you gone to ensure that the state of emergency declared on the tourism sector transforms the sector to generate revenue for the State?

You know tourism thrives in peaceful environment and we have all the potentials. Plateau State is endowed with a lot of potentials – the very beautiful weather, the scenic beauty, rich culture and friendly people. All these things attract people to Plateau State but what was driving people away was insecurity. That is why we are emphasizing and concentrating on creating an environment of peace and tranquility, people will start coming without any prompting. That is why we have done so much to bring peace back. A policy document has been done from the Ministry of Tourism and I accepted it. So right now we are moving towards developing some of those facilities in order to realize the objectives of the declaration of the state of emergency on tourism sector in Plateau State.

You saw me pay a visit to the wild life Park established by our late Governor, J. D. Gomwalk of blessed memory and because of wild life in Jos, people where coming for holidays here. A friend of mine came from Lagos to spend Christmas here before I became the Governor. After Christmas they decided to visit the zoo with his children who had heard the story about the popular zoo in Plateau State. The children said they must see Peter (a Baboon) and give him bananas. During the visit, Peter took banana from all except the youngest child. That was trouble for them, because they had booked their flight to leave that day. The little boy started crying and said he was not going to leave. They had to change their schedule to return with the boy the following day. When the boy came back the following day, Peter was jumping at him and he collected the Banana and that was when they were able to leave for Lagos. When he went back, my friend told me that because of the experience of his family, there was no need to go to the UK because Jos is our UK in Nigeria. So that is the spirit and that was the picture of Plateau State. It is possible return to that status. That’s what we are doing, we are doing our best to see that tomorrow, when we leave people will not be going to the UK for holidays, people will come from the UK for holiday in Jos.

Could you explain to us the issue of livestock management in Plateau State, because there seems to be a lot of misinformation about it?

You remember I am a member of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) which is headed by the Vice President. I am representing North Central, I cannot go and start doing something that is not in favour of Plateau State or Benue or Nasarawa or Kogi or any part of Central Zone. Now part of the document was not brought by President Buhari. It was initiated during President Goodluck Jonathan. So it is that same document that was represented to the NEC (National Economic Council) because we were looking for solution to farmers-herdsmen crisis. A budget of N100 billion was approved for that same scheme. So when I came on board, I saw open grazing, I said the choice was either open grazing or ranching. I said, no we cannot go for open grazing because when you are talking of open grazing you will also be concerned with the problem of cattle routes and the tendency for clashes with farmers.

So, on my own, I came back and set up a 12 man committee headed by Prof. Ochapa Onazi, traditional rulers were involved, religious leaders were involved, CAN and JNI, the Civil Society were involved as well as Representatives of Youths. They were the ones who developed the scheme, they went to Abuja, they came back and the recommendation was that Plateau should adopt ranching. When we finished the ranching we went to the local governments for sensitization apart from all the various stakeholders in Plateau State. At the end, the conclusion was for us to go with ranching. Now the first issue was to go and get the land. Because Federal Government is going to sponsor the pilot scheme, it does not mean that Federal Government is the one carrying it out. Now a budget for Pilot Scheme was announced for those states that wanted to do the entire livestock business according to their own peculiarities as a voluntary initiative. No coercion. So we also said any local government that wants to establish in her local government should provide land, some local governments agreed and provided land and that was when political manipulation started. Some said we are grabbing land, we are doing this, we have done that, at the end of the day, we suspended land from the local government but we have a grazing reserve in Wase, we have a grazing reserve in Kanam and from the archive they brought out to us, the number of grazing reserves that we have in Plateau, are eight (8). Out of the 8 grazing reserves we have in Plateau, six (6) were taken over.

If I embark on recovering them it will create another problem because past leaders especially military shared all the land within themselves and the ones that are left are just Wase and Kanam. If we leave it today, another regime will come and we will not see it again and I said nobody should go to these areas. They are grazing reserves owned by Plateau State Government. If this is the case, we would make sure we use those grazing reserves not for real grazing reserves now but for investors to come and invest in ranching and diary. While doing that, we started hearing the issue of RUGA, and people said Plateau is doing RUGA. I said, no, we are not doing RUGA on the Plateau.

Here we stand on livestock production through ranching. I have continuously explained to people and said, look! Don’t put religion or ethnic sentiments into investment. Don’t! Because it will scare away investors who want to bring in their money. My plea to people is if you have a concept, listen to it and understand it. As for RUGA, whatever it is, those who want it in their states let them do it but for us, we are talking of livestock production which is not restricted to cows. It includes sheep, piggery, poultry and everything. If there are incentives or palliatives or subsidies for this item from Federal Government, I have keyed into it and we are waiting for the subsidies, which will help our people, to empower our people. People should not take it to the mosque and start preaching or take it to the church and start preaching against it. It is business.


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