Jun 30, 2008

Verbatim with Nuhu Gagara

Mr. Nuhu Ishaya Gagara is the Plateau State Commissioner of information. Recently he granted an interview to the News Tower magazine on some issues related to the activities of the government of Plateau State.

Sir I want to congratulate the administration for clocking one year in office. The thing I want to find out is that… will you say that it has been rosy for the government.

Certainly, not. It has not been rosy. This is a new government and any body that is starting something new must face a lot of challenges. Before our coming in there were a lot of problems in the state: Problems of insecurity, lack of peace, there was disunity, disharmony throughout the state, religious crisis, political crisis everywhere. People became suspicious of one another and the worst thing was that no project was executed for eight years. Money was given by the Federal Government to the state but there was nothing to show for it and the money was not there. When the new government took off there was nothing in the treasury. So these were some of the challenges that we met. So on this note, nobody will say that it was rosy; nobody will say it was a smooth take off; it was rough. But thank God that shortly after that, the governor, who is talented, was able to study the situation fast and adjusted himself and normalized the situation. These problems are now history. They are no longer there. You can see that we are running a stable government.. There is peace in the land, there is security. Security of both life and property and you can see government activities are going on. Though we have one or two problems with labour, every thing is now okay.

The next thing I want to find out is that yesterday during the hearing on this electoral matter there were people who gave submissions saying that the state branches of electoral commission across the country should be scraped. According to them it gives room for manipulation. Since they are funded by the state government and those who work there are also recruited by the government.. Sir, do you buy that idea.

Well…. Everybody is entitled to his own opinion. I know that there are states where the electoral bodies do the bidding for the government. It is often said that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. But I also know that there are a few states where the state electoral bodies do well, living up to its expectation. So it all depends on the leadership. Where you have somebody who is not honest, a leader that is not interested in doing what is right, he will pocket the body and do whatever he wants to do with it. There are instances in some states where even before the elections are held, results will have been prepared. But I want to assure you that in Plateau State having come out of the little crisis we had with the state electoral body, we now have a formidable team manning PLASIEC and I know that these men of integrity will organized a local government election that everybody will be happy with. I believe they will be neutral, I believe they will be fair to all manner of people. They will be fair to all political parties. In my case, I will say there is no cause for alarm.

There is this issue I torched a part of yesterday. You know that in Nigeria we seem to depend so much on oil revenue. As a matter of fact up to 90% of the income that Nigeria generates comes from oil. Recently it has been experiencing an increase because of the problems in the Middle East and the Niger Delta, making the price to go up. Now we are getting used to this money and there is no guarantee that the price will stay up. Do you entertain some fear whether the price of oil will go down in the future and then we begin to have problems with our finances? Do you entertain fears?

Let me tell you. As a state we are not entertaining any fear. What is it that we get from the oil revenue as a state in Plateau? Plateau is one of the least beneficiaries of the oil revenue. With or without oil I believe states will survive. Before we discovered oil, before we started making money out of oil, there were certain things that were sustaining the national economy. The western region was sustaining the economy through the production of cocoa which was being exported, the eastern zone had their palm oil, and they had coal. These things were revenue earners at that time. In Plateau State we had our tin and columbite. That is why you have all these mining pits all over the place. In the core northern states, they had groundnut and cotton. All these put together sustained the economy and it is this money that was used to explore and develop the crude oil deposits that we have in the Niger Delta region. But today people are beginning to think that it just rained crude oil on them and so it is only them that should have access to the resources.. Plateau State, I want to tell you that with or without oil we believe we will survive. The Governor has already put in place a machinery to generate revenue internally. Right now the Board of Internal Revenue is being investigated. At the end of the investigation that place will be re-organized and it will play a role in revenue generation. We will get a lot of money. Many people don’t want to pay tax. Government can get a lot of revenue from taxes. Apart from that we have our tourism potentials that have not been tapped. The government of Jonah David Jang is interested in visiting the issue of tourism. That aspect will be tapped. Tourism alone can sustain the economy of Nigeria not just Plateau State. So on our own we have many things. Solid minerals, we have a lot of them on the Plateau. If these minerals will be tapped, I tell you that nobody will even mention oil here. Talk about agriculture, Plateau state is agrarian. That is why a lot of money is being sunk into the agric sector. Fertilizers have been bought, tractors are available. They will soon be distributed to Local Governments for hire services to enhance agric production. So before long, I tell you that Plateau State will have so many sources of revenue generation. So the issue of oil is no threat to us.

In the estimation of the government have you been able to estimate how much the state will be able to make from internally generated revenue.

Let me just take one aspect, the Revenue Board. When the Governor took over it is on record that, in a month, they were recording zero collection in the Board of Internal Revenue. He now called the management and told them to sit up or they will go. It is just impossible for a revenue board to say that throughout the month nothing was collected. They now started collecting money and government started seeing money coming in. Between June last year and April this year the Board of Internal Revenue collected about N2 billion and they are hopeful that as time goes on, they will be able to collect on the average N300 million monthly. So government is interested in the board and we know that the board will be able to collect revenue and in fact the three hundred million that the management says they will be able to collect from now onward is even apart from what the government is planning again. Very soon we are coming with a master plan for Jos and Bukuru metropolis. The plan is ready.. It will soon be made public. This plan takes care of so many aspects of our lives on the Plateau. For Jos and Bukuru, we will be able to know the number of houses we have, the number of business premises we have, and when you know this, you will be able to control taxes. Taxation will be easy. You know the people you are dealing with, you know their property. So it is just to assess them and then encourage them to be paying and I believe people will be willing to pay because if you enjoy government services, you will be willing to assist the government to provide more services for you.

Sir you mentioned something about tourism. There was a time we were doing a story about tourism; we realized that most of the facilities that are often quoted as tourist attractions, some of them are either abandoned properties or dilapidated structures. For example the Rockland International Hotel, Shere Hills Lamingo is a project that was abandoned a long time ago, the Mado Tourist Village is something that was though completed, has been abandoned and things that where inside have been removed. Sir, what do you think is the idea people should have? Do we need to be quoting these things as tourist attractions, even when they are not functional?

As far as this government is concerned, we will continue to mention them because the government will attend to them. Already investors both within and outside Nigeria have come. Hey have visited the sites, have assessed them and will soon come back with their proposals. Like the Rockland International Hotel you are talking about, so many people have come and indicated interest that they want to take over and, you know, complete it and run it. So we are on course, we will continue to quote them and before long they will become viable.

You have worked with the Nigerian Standard before. Can you give us a little biography of yourself?

Yes, I was a practicing journalist for almost two decades. I left active journalism practice and joined Benue Cement Company. I served as a depot manager for about nine years, and then I left and joined active polities. Before my appointment (as commissioner) I was the state’s Publicity Secretary for the Peoples Democratic Party.

Thank sir,

You are welcome.

Ten-Year-Olds Assemble Jincheng Bikes

Motor bikes have become one of the most convenient ways of commercial transportation in Nigeria. They have the ability to meander through heavy traffic with relative ease and take you to your door steps thereby saving time. The profession of Okada riding in Nigeria has provided jobs to millions of youths across the nation more than any government scheme in recent years.
In Plateau State, the most preferred brand of motorbike is the Jincheng brand, made from China. They are more durable, able to withstand rough handling of the Okada riders and the difficult rural terrain to a reasonable extent. Jincheng bikes come in parts unassembled, in large cartons and are assembled locally. If you have never being to an Jincheng assembly workshop, many of which are found along Bauchi Road, you will be ignorant of the fact that the bikes are assembled by kids as young as ten year-olds
Following recent revelations that heads of public schools in rural areas have enjoyed the habit of using pupils in their private farms during school hours, the Plateau State Government was made to realize that child labour is right here in its backyard and has henceforth, decided to act tough against the practice. Honorable Istifanus Mwansat a member of the Plateau State House of Assembly said as far as the Bauchi Road kids go to school but get involve in the bike assembly after school, it does not constitute any illegality to him. He added that there is a chance that these children come from underprivileged homes and will thus be doing that as the best chance for a brighter future.
Laws against child labour frown against the use of kids as they are liable to exploitations by employers who take advantage of their ages. It is also possible that the use of kids as labourers prevents them from normal emotional development that can affect them later in life. The proprietors of the workshops along Bauchi road say the children are mere apprentices and actually get engaged after school. The labour involved, as this writer observed, was not so serious as to make a child feel overworked and depressed. It is obvious that the kids find pleasure in what goes on at their workshop

Jun 29, 2008

Da DB Zang (1927-2008)

Da D B Zang a top-ranking miner, politician, philanthropist and community leader died on May 29, 2008. Late Danboyi Gyel, as he was known at the dawn of his prominence, was born on 7th October 1927. He was one of the three males of seven siblings. Coming from a modest family background, he became his own bread winner early in life by hunting birds in the rocky hills and valleys of his Gyel home which he sold at Bukuru market in the present Jos South. It was not long before he found a job at the Amalgamated Tins Mines of Nigeria (ATMN). His natural inclination to hard work saw him rising up to become a mine overseer within a very short period
During the forties the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Amadu Bello came up with an initiative to empower the people of the Northern Region by giving out financial support to selected persons to start up businesses. D B Zang’s experience of working at the mines marked him out. He thus benefited from the empowerment programme. The resulting company, D B Zang Limited started operations in the fifties eventually becoming incorporated in 1962.
The company played a big role in boosting the popularity of the now mining entrepreneur to the point where he considered contesting for a parliamentary position. He lost however. The Parliament of the time was made up of elected and non elected members. He was lucky to find his way into the parliament of the Northern Region in Kaduna as a non-elected member of the parliament. There he headed the Parliament Committee on Mining. He added that role to one he had prior to becoming a parliamentarian, the President of the African Miners Association.
Da Zang who never had the privilege of formal education looked around his community to discover that if nothing is done generation after generation of his people will continue to remain in ignorance. This realization inspired Gyel Commercial College which he founded in 1966. The institution later evolved to become Zang Secondary Commercial School in 1976.
The military coup of 1966 ended his parliamentary responsibilities. He turned his full attention to D B Zang Limited and the school he founded. By the twilight years of the military junta of the 1970s, he became the chairman of the Nigerians People Party, NPP, in Plateau State. During the 1979 general elections the party won and set up government in Plateau State with Chief Soloomon Lar as Governor of the state. At the peak of his mining business he was said to have become so successful that he could be ranked among the fifty wealthiest Nigerians. The Presidency of the nation was however set up by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) which considered NPP as a threat. States where NPP set up government were denied subvention. He was said to have shouldered the financial burden of the party at the state.
The relevance of Da D B Zang continued in successive governments. In 1995 he became a member of the National Board of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). When the Plateau regional branch of the PTF was inaugurated in 1997 he became the Chairman until 1999 when the government of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo ended the PTF and its activities.
Da DB Zang lived to make obvious the fact that where there is a will there will always be a way. He remembered his modest educational background with a tinge of remorse but that never placed an insurmountable barrier in his journey towards greatness. He, no doubt, was one of the most outstanding Nigerians with four national honours to his name. the generation of youths of today can learn that education makes success easy but the lack of it does not stand in the way of big dreams.
When Sir Amadu Bello needed people to empower, he insisted on individuals whose past experience proved they can manage resources of the empowerment programme well. The late miner multiplied the resources in millions, benefiting many and the nation. This is a lesson that merit rather than nepotism works in the interest of the nation.
The secondary school he founded grew to become one of the most accomplished schools in size and quality of its products. The products of the school are found everywhere around the world and have played a remarkable role in shaping not just Nigeria but the world at large. The school, mining and other organizations he was involved in founded jobs for thousands of people.
Da D B Zang lived to be an octogenarian in a country where life expectancy is a mere 45. This in itself is an accomplishment in life. It is a mirror of the discipline that characterized his life.
He married twelve wives with whom he had thirty six children. He was able to sustain this huge family with great grand children and died of cancer in a London cancer clinic

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...