Born in 1963, a certified Electrical Engineer, Alhaji Aminu Usman was until his appointment as commissioner of Works and Transport in Jigawa state, the project manager of the multi billion naira Gwarimpa Housing Estate, Abuja. In this interview, the Gumel-born politician said but the for the coming of the current administration under Governor Abubakar Badaru, the state would have been littered with abandoned projects. Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, reports.
NIGERIANS will like to know what the Abubakar Muhammed Badaru administration has done in the almost four years in charge here in Jigawa?
So far so good, it is still work in progress. We inherited a lot of projects. And one of the resolutions of the governor at the inception was that all the inherited projects must be completed before starting new ones. So what the governor did was to pass the instruction to all of us to key into that vision. So far o good, a lot have been achieved. We inherited about 476 kilometers of roads which were awarded from 2012 to 2015 amounting to about N54,5075,222,82. That is for the rural roads.
On the feeder roads, we had 97.4 kilometers of roads inherited amounting to N1,652,180,700. On township roads, we inherited about 142 kilometers amounting to N32,12,342. Then we had road at the airport which was about three kilometers of runway in the airport and access road of the airport, we had some scanning machines, fire trucks, field lightings inherited as well amounting to N10,291,711. These are were some of inherited liabilities we met on ground.
During the transition, a committee was set up by the government to assess all the projects after going through the hand-over notes, we went round all the projects listed in the notes. We went across all parts of the state and analyze the projects, look at the scope of work done, amount paid b the previous administration. We then called all the contractors, ministries responsible for the projects, verified all the projects.
After all this, we advised the governor to call on all the contractors if they were ready to continue with the job because there were some jobs that were 85% completed, there were some 20%,some 0%. There were certain amount of money that were paid by the previous administration and there were some that the outstanding balance as shown through the vouchers with the finance ministry, have not been paid. We called the contractors and appealed to them to give certain discount on what is being owed so that it could help the government to take off as the treasury was empty when the administration took over government.
We met only 16 million naira in the government coffers. From the records, it was obvious that there was no money to do all the basics like payment of salaries, pension, commitments here and there like the government contractual obligations. A lot of them accepted. Some gave 20%, some gave 15%, some gave 10% of what they are having on the outstanding balances owed by the state government. From this action of the government, out of about N55b, the government was able to save about on roads, out of N1.6b, we were able to save about 91m on the feeder roads.
On the township roads, we were able to save N3b out of N32b. the outstanding balance that were supposed to be paid from regional road, we had N32b to pay to the contractor but we eventually paid N22b. Out of the balance of N491m on feeder roads, we paid N445m. out of almost about 15b, this government paid about 8b to all these contractors. These were some of the breakdown of what was owed and paid. Presently, we have about three projects remaining from the previous administrations.
Every other ones from the last government have all been completed. And the contractors have all been paid fully. Then, shortly after, we started awarding new contracts in 2016. We awarded 174 kilometers of township roads at N16b. Presently, the road projects have been completed. N20b has been awarded for the length of 366 kilometer of road, that is about 20 roads. 2017, we didn’t award any projects. April 2018, we award 149 kilometer of road at N23m, that is about 9 roads. By the end of last year, we awarded another 260 kilometer of road, about 22 roads at N22b.
Were all the roads awarded last year township roads?
Governor Badaru decided to award contracts for the construction of 18 roads. These roads project consist of different types that are regional, feeder and township. And the total amount for these contracts was over N22.4 billion. Let me explain that the contracts were awarded to different contractors that bided and complied with the rules of due process. This administration accords special priority to the provision of good roads across the state.
According to the governor himself, the government embarked on the projects to boost economic growth through transportation of goods and services. These particular roads and many others across the state are also meant to open up the state for agricultural development and enhance easy movement of farm produces to markets. This, we believe, will also make farming attractive to people, particularly our youths.
You talked about downward review of the amount of the contracts, how does that affect the quality of projects?
Where it affect the drainage system is usually where you have the township roads. In the township roads, of course there would be drainage system in the road construction. Any township road awarded by this administration must have drainage system. And talking about the quality of the job, of course, it was not reduced, never. The discount given from the contract notwithstanding, the quality of the projects still remain. The quantity and quality must be the same. Nothing was tampered with and most of the contractors were all mobilized with the 20% to move to sites.
Are these contractors indigenous of foreign?
We are doing a lot to encourage our local contractors here in Jigawa state. We are very concerned about quality still. We have lot of indigenous contractors here in the state doing quality works. We have about 18 slots for contracts, out of this 18, the local contractors got most of them. And those contractors we inherited, they continued because of the quality of job they exhibited.
What is the commercial viability of the state airport because it appears the traffic is not much compared to other airports in he country?
That is true. However, I also need to remind you that there is an airport in Ibadan, there is one in Akure. You cannot compare the level of traffic of these two airports with say for instance, Lagos, Enugu, Port -Harcourt or even Abuja airports. These are national assets. In as much as our airport is been built, there is nothing we can do but to maintain it. Yes, it may not be our priority as a government, but it is still ours nevertheless.
It has to be maintained. Look at all the roads we met on ground, they were not our projects, but we ensured that we continued and completed it because ultimately, these projects are for the good people of Jigawa, not the governor or former governors or me, not it is the people of Jigawa that owns it. So the airport is there, well maintained and functioning. Yes, it might have the kind of traffic flow but it is still functioning.
Why is it that some roads here does not have no streets lights?
Whichever road you see here that has no street lights are mostly federal roads. On all the federal roads, you can see that there are no street lights. However, we are still working on ensuring that we see what we can do to attend to such roads. Some of these federal roads built more than 16 years ago had street lights in the contracts. From Shuwari to Gumel, the contractors are presently working on the roads.
The street lights are supposed to be there. But unfortunately, it is this Badaru administration, because of the importance of the light to the roads, to the community and more importantly, for security purposes, that wrote the federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Power severally, to allow us install the street lights. But they are yet to reply us. Nonetheless, the governor decided to go ahead and install the lights in some of the federal roads in the state.
But governments in Jigawa always complain of lean purses. How are you able to do so much?
This question is not meant for me but the governor. He is the manager of this government. Well, I think it all boils down to the governor. He is an accountant by profession. Whatever we want to do here, he plans ahead for it. It is not about getting money and then begin to look for where to use the money. That is why I said he would be in best position to tell you how he is able to sustain the state such that debts are not owed, those owed are paid and still being paid.
Salaries are paid on the 24th of every month. Similarly, pensions have never been defaulted and more projects are being established. Like I said, it is the governor alone that will be able tell you the how all of these came about in a state with lean resources. But I can tell you that his background as an accountant and an astute administrator who understand what the people want and how to prioritize, contributed to this success story.