Monday, November 1, 2021

There Was No Rift Between My Chief Of Staff And Sanusi Lamido, We Reshuffled Our Officials To Make Govt Stronger – El-Rufai

Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state at the 27th edition of Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, where he was a panelist on Security and Mobilising for Political and Economic Development.

Last week, you made some changes to your cabinet, where some commissioners swapped ministries and others were re-assigned. What necessitated these changes when your administration is almost winding up?

Like most people are aware, the mandate that the people of Kaduna state gave me for the second time, is coming to an end. It is now close to 19 months to the end of my administration. Since the beginning of this year, I told my commissioners and senior government officials that I will effect some changes because some appointees have remained in one position for a long time and this is having an effect on their productivity. But I didn’t tell them when I will effect the change. There are others that I wanted to assign to some other ministries or agencies so that they will have enough experience in governance. We are preparing our commissioners and senior government officials for higher responsibilities in the future. So, there is the need for them to experience different facets of government to prepare them either to be governors or something higher someday.
But when I informed them of my intention to swap some of them to other ministries or agencies, I made it clear that none will be dropped. All of them are capable and they have been working very hard. It took me some time to make the changes because I was waiting for the enabling law that will back the creation of the three Metropolitan Authorities. The Administrators of these Metropolitan Authorities will be of the same rank with commissioners and indeed, I felt that some of our commissioners should actually be deployed to head these Metropolitan Authorities.
A lot has been said and written on social media, criticizing these changes. There are some that alleged that I redeployed a senior government official to a ministry because my friend, His Highness, the 14th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II took offence because he referred to him as ‘’former Emir’’. All these are unfounded rumour. The changes were made to enhance the running of the government.
We had problems in budget preparation since Muhammad Sani Abdullahi left the Ministry of Planning and Budget Commission and became Chief of Staff. There was an undue attention on him when he was made Chief of Staff, he was under enormous pressure. Some people think that I appointed him Chief of Staff for a special purpose. So, when I reviewed the problems that we have been having in preparing our budget since he left the ministry, I decided to redeploy him to the Ministry of Planning and Budget Commission. Our 2022 budget was supposed to have been subjected to a Town Hall meeting, for citizens of Kaduna state to make inputs, before its presentation to the State House of Assembly. But time was running out, so we had to present it to the Assembly. In the two years that Muhammad Sani Abdullahi was not in the Ministry of Planning and Budget Commission, we have noticed some changes. So, we decided, along with him, that he should go back to the ministry.
The light-hearted banter that ensued between him and His Highness, the 14th Emir of Kano, should be seen for what it is; a standing joke that exists between the people of Zazzau and Kano people. In Hausa folklore, there is a ‘joking relationship’ between us, the people of Zaria and Kano people; you know they are our slaves (laughter). So, people who reduce the serious business of governance to mere banter between a master and his slave, which will necessitate the removal of a senior government official, don’t know the challenges that we face. We made those changes so as to strengthen the State Executive Council and deploy officials where they can add more value to governance.

Your relationship with the leader of the Khalifa of the Tijanniyya Movement in Nigeria, His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, is raising concerns that he interferes in the running of Kaduna State Government. What is the truth of the matter, does he offer advice? Is Kaduna state solely run on the basis of decisions of the State Executive Council?

I used to think that the people of Kaduna state are saying that one of the problems that they have with me is that nobody can tell me what policy or programme to undertake and how to go about it. They say that I don’t have a godfather and no one can dictate to me what to do. This is the problem that most of the elites of this state have with me. So, I will be surprised that it is my friend that will dictate how I will run my government. My relationship with Khalifa Sanusi is well known. And his position in Kaduna State Government is also well known; he is the Chancellor of Kaduna State University. He has been helping with his versatility in the education sector. Secondly, he is the Vice Chairman of Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA). These are the two areas that he offers advice to the state government and he has been helping us in these regards. Everyone knows that Khalifa Muhammadu Sanusi II is an expert in Economics. He gives me advice on this matter. But I don’t consult anyone on the way and manner I design and run my government, except members of my administration. We sit down and take a decision.
Like the redeployment of commissioners and appointment of some government officials that we did, we did it will the Deputy Governor and the Chief of Staff, Muhammad Sani Abdullahi and the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Balarabe Abbas Lawal. If Muhammad had objected to be returned to the Ministry of Planning and Budget Commission, he would have said so at the meeting. So, people make all sorts of insinuations without recourse to how government is being run or the weight of the burden of leadership that God has placed on me. Effective leadership is not done based on whims and caprices of a leader. You have to weigh the options; what will impact positively on the people and what will protect their rights.

The creation of Metropolitan Authorities is somewhat new in Kaduna state, what is their relationship with Local Government Councils as we have them?

The Metropolitan Authorities are newly created but at the same time, the concept has been in existence before. It is new because they have never been created in Zaria and Kafanchan towns. But it has been in existence in Kaduna city since its creation. It has always had an Administrator who superintends over the town since when Lugard created Kaduna, like how Abuja was created as Federal Capital. Kaduna has always had an Administrator because it has never had an Emir. Even during the times of the Native Authority, it had an Administrator who functioned with the traditional head, who was the Magajin Gari, down to when Sir Ahmadu Bello was premier. It continued even after the creation of states. In 1976, when local governments were created, that was when towns were carved into local governments. But even as at then, Kaduna metropolis was one local government area. Later, it was split into four local governments.
So, the question is, who administers Kaduna metropolis? Who bears responsibility when there is a problem in the Kaduna town? Who is supposed to build township roads, to ensure that drainages are functional, ensure water supply, refuse disposal? Most people don’t even know the demarcation between Kaduna North and Kaduna South local government areas. Even me, I didn’t know that the railway line is the boundary between Kaduna North and Kaduna South local governments until I became governor. So, Kaduna is one town, there must be someone whose responsibility is his mandate.
Most of the township roads that we are expanding in Kaduna town, whose responsibility is it? Who maintains them after there are built? Which tier of government should look after the streetlights? Is it the local governments or state government? If it is the state government, should it be the responsibility of the governor? These are some of the things that we considered before creating the Metropolitan Authorities.
Abuja is the only city in Nigeria that is being administered as a unit. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory is solely responsible for the running of Abuja. I have been Minister of FCT before and I know the importance of administrating a town as a unit. So, most of the township roads that we are constructing in Zaria and Kaduna and Kafanchan towns are beyond the capacity of local governments to undertake, even though they are constitutionally required to construct them. That is why we went back to history and brought back Administrators, like Kaduna used to have, to administer Zaria, Kaduna and Kafanchan towns. What most people don’t know is that close to 70% of the people of Kaduna state live in these three cities.
If you look at the big cities in the world, they have mayors. London has a mayor who looks after London city but there are counties which are like our local governments. Likewise, New York has a mayor. So, the Metropolitan Authorities are not local government areas. Local governments will still perform their functions of taking care of primary education and so on. The Metropolitan Authorities will take care of roads, make sure that streets are named, ensure that street lights and traffic lights are functioning.

In your explanation, you talked about the functions of the Metropolitan Authorities. But the crux of the matter is, where will they get the funds to execute these functions?

The enabling law specifies that they will get funding from two sources; the state government will provide for them in the yearly budget. Government will provide for 60% of the funds required for capital and recurrent expenditure while local governments will provide the rest 40%. There are areas where the Metropolitan Authorities can also raise funds from grants and development partners.

Will there not be overlap of functions between local governments and the state government on one hand and the Metropolitan Authorities on the other hand?

Well, some of the road projects that we are doing within the towns are actually the functions of local governments as specified in the constitution, but did they execute the projects? For how many years have these roads been in state of disrepair? So, they have to contribute to funding some of these projects which will be done on their behalf. So, I don’t envisage any problem.

Did the creation of these Metropolitan Authorities follow due process? Was there a bill presented to the House of Assembly? Was it debated and passed before it was signed into law?

We conceived of the idea since the inception of this administration. But we consulted very senior lawyers who told us that creating them will not be in conflict with the constitution. Thereafter, the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with other lawyers, drafted the bill which was presented to the House of Assembly. The legislature passed the bill which authorized the creation of Kaduna, Zaria and Kafanchan Metropolitan Authorities. So, their creation followed due process and it is in line with the constitution. The civil servants that will run them will be drawn from Kaduna State Government and employees of local governments, so new workers will not be employed. The workforce of the government will not increase with the creation of these Metropolitan Authorities.

Will the Metropolitan Authorities be run like the Federal Capital Territory?

There is a difference; the difference being that the head of Federal Capital Territory Abuja is a minister. But the heads of the Metropolitan Authorities are equivalent to commissioners. Apart from this, they will be run in similar manner. In fact, I got the idea of creating these Metropolitan Authorities from my days as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. When President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed me, there was Ministry of Federal Capital Territory but after administering Abuja through the ministry for some time, I brought the challenges to his notice. A routine issue like changing the streetlight in Abuja at that time, required a lot of bureaucracy but a city cannot be run that way. So, we created the Federal Capital Territory Administration. The minister then became like a Sole Administrator, like what we want to do here in Kaduna state.

You have also sworn in members of Interfaith Preaching Regulatory Council. Why did you create the council?

Well, like what everyone knows, one of the preoccupations of the two dominant religions of Islam and Christianity is to bring peaceful coexistence amongst people of different faiths. They preach justice and how to relate with fellow human beings. But in Kaduna state, some people have used religion to cause crises. Most times, it is preachers that are the worst culprits. That is why, in 1984, the military government of Air Vice Marshall Usman Mu’azu enacted this law, which stipulates that before someone can start preaching, he should be very knowledgeable, he should deep understanding of the society and should have enough experience to preach in a manner to will bring about peaceful coexistence within the state. Such a person should not be someone that will incite violence and these are the kind of preachers that we have around.
This law has been in existence in Kaduna State Laws but it has not been put into use. So, we dusted up this law and sent it to the House of Assembly to streamline it in line with the ethos of democracy, and get inputs from Imams and Pastors. The legislature took its time and consulted widely and in the end, it passed the bill which has been signed into law. So, that is why we swore in members of the council who will oversee the activities of preachers.
The council will have to certify whoever wants to preach in Kaduna state as having the requisite knowledge, temperament, experience and foresight to do so. He or she must be someone whose preaching will not incite violence in Kaduna state. This law also forbids playing of a preaching audio at say, around 3 am in the mosque, with a high volume and disturbing neighbours, in the name of religion. Not religion preaches the inconveniencing of neighbours in the name of preaching. The council will also have committees at all the local government areas. The screening of preachers will start from the local government level before the preacher ultimately gets a preaching license. Anyone who doesn’t follow this procedure and begins to preach without authorization, will be liable to pay a fine and may even be imprisoned.
This council has an enormous work before it. What we don’t want in Kaduna state is for people to use religion to foment crisis and this has been recurring in the state for 40 years. But we want to see to the end of this phenomenon. We are praying for God’s guidance for the members of the council because the assignment is a daunting one. But we are confident that the head of the council, the Madakin Zazzau, Alhaji Munir Jafaaru and other members will be equal to the task.

Who are the rest members of this council? Is the membership drawn from the different religious sects or is it just composed of government officials?
No, the commissioner of police is a member, the Director of State Security Service is also a member. All other members were drawn from our two dominant religions, Islam and Christianity. In Islam, the members are from Izala, Fityanu and all other sects are represented, likewise Christianity. There are members who are government officials and they are Commissioners of Justice and that of Internal Security and Home Affairs as well as the Director General of Bureau of Interfaith. All others are either security agents or people outside government circles.
Like I said earlier, the head of the council is Madakin Zazzau, Alhaji Munir Jafarau and he will be assisted by five clerics and clergy men and they include Sheikh Kabir Qassim, Sheikh Ishaq Yunus, Engr Iliya Duniya, Rev (Dr) Simon Haruna and Comfort Bangoji. The rest are Commander of Vigilant Service and the Director of DSS. But in every local government, there will be a committee that is similar to this one, who will be screening preachers.

There is a saying or Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), which enjoins Muslims to ‘’extend the message even if it is by one verse’’. Some people interpret this to mean that every Muslim can preach. Is the preaching regulatory law not at variance with people’s interpretation of this saying of the Prophet (SAW)?

Apart from this Hadith, there is a similar verse in the Holy Bible that says that every Christian should spread the gospel. But the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who said that people should spread his message, didn’t say that non-Muslims should be killed. So, when you advocate violence, you are not spreading the message of the Prophet (SAW) and you are not spreading the gospel if you say that non-Christians should be killed. Secondly, the law doesn’t prevent anyone from practicing his or her religion but if you should mount the pulpit or minbar, the council wants to determine whether you know the religion on whose behalf you want to preach. Do you know what message the Prophet (SAW) or Jesus Christ wanted to spread? Or you just woke up one day and say that you dreamt that God said that you are a Bishop or you are an Imam? Is this what the religions prescribe?
Even during the time of the Prophet and Jesus Christ and the Caliphs and Apostles that came after them, a person is qualified to preach if he is knowledgeable and has undergone tutelage under other clerics or clergy men. So, all these steps have to be followed, failing which you are not spreading the message of the Prophet (SAW) or gospel of Jesus Christ. In any case, Imams are in categories, it is not everyone that should preach. Some can just lead people in daily prayers, others can lead Friday prayers and so on. Not everyone has the wisdom to preach.
For example, some people will go and study in Saudi Arabia from their first and second degrees and become fluent in Arabic and so on. Upon arrival to this country, they will just be made Imams and begin to preach but in Saudi Arabia where they studied, this will not be allowed. Most people return from Arabian countries with all kinds of interpretations about Islam. When they are asked to undergo tutelage under an older and more experienced Imam, they often refuse. However, in the countries that they schooled, they dare not do what they are doing in this country under the guise of preaching. Likewise in Christianity, some people will just wake up and say that they have been called, that God has asked him to become preachers. But have they read the Bible from beginning to the end and fully understand what is in it? Where did they study, who taught them? How can they deliver the message without injuring other people’s faith?
Your rights to freedom to practise your religion doesn’t include the right to infringe on another person’s rights. Our constitution also said that anything that will bring a breach in security or threaten peaceful coexistence, the government should avert it. That is all that we are trying to do. In Kaduna state, we know how people have been using religion to cause crises; they have not been to any religious school, neither did they get training of any sort, some are even substance abusers who just talk anyhow and cause crises in society, leading to losses of lives and property. We have seen these kind of people and we have read reports of committees of inquiry, indicating this. So, we have to take steps to stop the recurrence of the use of religion to foment trouble.

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