In this elaborate interview, Zamfara Information Commissioner Ibrahim Birnin Magaji here explains the rationale behind the expenditure of 2.7b naira on Ramadan gifts.
At a time when Zamfara state’s infrastructure are begging for attention, the state government blew N2.7bn on Ramadan gifts, why and how was the money spent?
The state government purchased and disbursed 84,000 bags of rice, 33,600 bags of sugar, 12,600 bags of millet, 8,400 bags of maize and 8,400 bags of sorghum. In each of the 2,516 polling units of the state, we gave 170 women six yards of wax and 110 men five yards of brocade to assist them during this period.
This gesture was conceived as part of the government’s efforts to assist the people of the state to perform their religious obligation well. There is nothing bad in spending the state’s money on food stuffs for distribution to the people of the state. The money is for them and as such the state government will continue to use it to meet their needs and aspirations.
This expenditure does not stop us from embarking on infrastructural development. We will continue to empower the people of our state even as we work hard to fast track the development of the state irrespective of what the opposition are saying.
Aside from these food stuffs, we have also established feeding points and we are spending over N100 million on it for the whole fasting period. We have 150 centres in Gusau, the state capital and in the remaining 13 local government areas, we have three each.
Was this expenditure captured in the 2012 budget?
There is no how a state government will embark on expenditure of this magnitude without it being captured in the budget. It was under social sector in the budget. The project was approved during the state executive council meeting.
Few days to the commencement of Ramadan fasting, you said the gifts cost the state government N1bn and now you are saying N2.7bn, why the sudden increase?
In the first instance I didn’t include the clothing materials for both men and women in all the 2,516 polling units in the state. Under the arrangement, 170 women and 110 men were targeted in each of the said polling units.
A 13-member polling unit distribution committee drawn from all the political parties that have structure and physical presence in the state was set up to ensure even and just distribution of all the items provided.
How much are you going to budget for this gesture next year?
Wait until next year and if you go to the social sector of the budget you will find where it was provided for in this year’s budget.
Where were the items purchased from, especially the grains?
From within, our indigenous contractors made the supplies. It will interest you to know that the contract was awarded during the state executive council meeting. It was a well thought-out programme.
How many persons benefited from the gifts?
At the end of the exercise, we expect about 1.2 million people to benefit from the two programmes, that is, the Ramadan breakfast and essential commodities distribution across the state. And the beauty of all these programmes can be seen on the faces of the majority of the people of the state who were our targets including orphans and less privileged. Those who are castigating us for this singular act of honour and courage were doing so because they don’t want to see people live humanly and transformed infrastructural-wise.
Report had it that only ANPP members were given the gifts in the 14 local government areas of the state?
There was nothing like that; all the people of the state were carried along irrespective of political differences. For instance, in my local government area alone, Birnin Magaji, the PDP chairman of the local government as well as the State Secretary of PDP who incidentally hails from the area got their deserved share of the items. We, therefore, deserve commendation from the opposition and that’s why about 90 per cent of the leadership and entire members of PDP across the state are decamping to the ANPP.
It was his (the governor’s) magnanimity that saw the unification of all the political blocks in the state and it was his directives to all his party men and women to treat all manner of people irrespective of political affiliation that facilitated the distribution of these items to all the people of the state. In fact, not only members of other political parties benefited but also their leaders at polling unit, ward, local govt and state level.
Trucks of grains were allegedly used by the ANPP-led government as a bait to cajole PDP members, true or false?
This is the equity and justice I am talking about with which Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar administers the state. These things belong to all the people of the state and even the state secretary of PDP was a beneficiary in the distribution of the commodities in his local government. Then what’s wrong with giving out such items to citizens of Zamfara State who left the PDP because of uncertainty?
What of those who refused to decamp to the ANPP?
Even those who are in the PDP and other political parties got their fair share of the gifts. The opposition in the state should not be blindfolded when reacting to issues of governance in the state. Since the inauguration of Governor Yari 15 months ago, he demonstrated a high sense of maturity, equity and justice in all his official and personal dealings with all manner of people in the state.