Abdulfatai Abdulsalam, Sokoto
Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state has reacted to spurious allegations by the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its protagonists that his administration recent approval to borrow N28.7 billion will further make the state one of the highly indebted states in the country.
According to him, nothing could be further from the truth as his administration only borrows for the implementation of capital projects due to paucity of funds accruing to it from federal allocations and little internally generated revenue (IGR).
Gov. Tambuwal stated this at a stakeholder’s town hall meeting on the implementation of the 2021 budget and public inputs into the making of the 2022 budget held at the International Conference Center, Kasarawa in the state capital.
Issues discussed during the more than three hours gathering include: demand for the increasing of budget for health, training of doctors, family (spacing) planning, shelter for victims of sexual abuse, support for accreditation of health institutions, implementation of capital budgets and payments of salary.
Other issues were the granting of autonomy to the state board of internal revenue, optimization of Sokoto state Geographic Information System (SOGIS), upgrading of Lugu dam in Wurno local government area, building, operation and transfer of a new onion market by an undisclosed firm to the state government, cattle breeding and consolidating of gains attained so far.
“Someone, somewhere, sitting in the corner of his room, by name Dr Abubakar Alkali. I think he is an indigene of this state, and went to say that Sokoto is badly indebted. And, I don’t know where he got his figures. He muddled everything and made it sound as if Sokoto is the worst state that is debt bedeviled,” Gov. Tambuwal said.
Contrary to Alkali’s submission, a participant at the Monday stakeholders meeting had indicated that the domestic debt profile of Sokoto state as at June 2021 puts it at 21st most indebted state out of the 36 states of the federation.
For this reason, the participant suggested that the state government should avail itself of the opportunities available in the global economic platforms through acquisition of bilateral loans so as to enable it complete many of the laudable legacy projects it has started.
“I know they (APC and its supporters like Dr Alkali) cannot be happy,” noted the Governor, who said: “I know him. He was a CPC member, now an APC member. He is trying to politicize the issue of borrowing for development.
“Even America is borrowing. They are borrowing till today. So, what are you talking about? What is important is that do you really apply the money you borrowed to the development of your people or are you doing as some people are doing-they borrow money from China and neighboring Ghana will borrow less amount of money for a better project; and then, here in Nigeria we borrow higher money for lesser projects.
“We’re not doing that in Sokoto state. We borrow and we implement. It is not everybody that you go to the Assembly and seek for approval, that you actually have a draw down. Some of the approvals that we have are still there. No draw down has been actually done. We are not borrowing for personnel costs. We are not borrowing for recurrent expenditure. We are borrowing for capital expenditure, which is allowed and healthy globally,” he added.
He appealed to the APC to tone down its virulent “dosage of partisanship when it comes to issues of security and development. If people are doing well, say it,” he stated, citing the commendation of the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, who commended the accomplishments of the state government when he visited recently.
“Are you more APC than him? He came and saw what we were doing and he commended the government of Sokoto state,” the Governor pointed out, emphasizing that: “For goodness sake, those in APC in Sokoto should calm down. Let them be fair and fair minded; and, accept the fact that the government of Sokoto state, by the special grace of God, is doing well.”
On the suggestion that the state government should embark on the procurement of bilateral debt, Gov. Tambuwal explained that it “will require going to the Debt Management Office (DMO), the Federal Ministry of Finance- a lot of processes and procedures.
“And, you know that when you are not friendly with the government at the Center, there is a lot of politics in this issue about borrowing,” he said.
He however, hinted that his administration is managing and working around political considerations “to make sure that we are able to access some bilateral funding.”
“We’re currently engaging the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and World Bank. But it is a very tedious process. We’re on it. I’m sure we are not doing badly. I’m sure we’ll get some results,” he assured.