Northern Nigerian Breaking News

SCORECARD: Controversial expenditures, emirate crisis, others colour Governor Yusuf’s 1st-year performance in Kano

Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf’s first year in office in Kano State has been marked by controversies, including questionable expenditures and an ongoing emirate crisis.

Despite his promises to address issues from the previous administration, Governor Yusuf’s performance has been coloured by these challenges. As the sole governor of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), he faces the task of navigating through these issues while striving to fulfill his blueprint for improving the lives of the state’s citizens.

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The governor’s blueprint has 13 thematic areas and places emphasis on education, healthcare, agriculture, infrastructural development, security, environment, and information technology amongst others. He promised to make the North-west state a commercial hub second to none in Sub-Saharan Africa and revive its numerous comatose industries.

Mr Yusuf said his administration is an offshoot of that of his father-in-law and political godfather, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who concluded his non-consecutive two terms in 2015. He berated Mr Ganduje for abandoning the initiatives of that administration despite serving in it as the deputy governor.

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The new governor wasted no time in reversing some policies of his predecessor. His immediate focus was the revocation of land titles and demolition of properties said to have been illegally allocated by Mr Ganduje.

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On 3 June 2023, his fifth day in office, Mr Yusuf sent a demolition team to pull down a three-storey building with 90 shops located at the Race Course in the Nasarawa GRA of the capital city. In the days that followed, more properties went down in the Kano metropolis.

They include the iconic Daula Hotel that was just rebuilt on public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement, a commercial building at Hajj Camp, and many shops at the annexe of the Kantin Kwari Textile Market owned by Incorporated Trustees of Masallacin Eid Shop Owners and Traders Association.

The demolition frenzy was extended to buildings in Salanta Quarters, a residential neighbourhood in the Kano metropolis, amongst others. As he had promised, the governor was only retracing the footsteps of his godfather. A few weeks after returning to office for his second term following an eight-year break, Mr Rabiu Musa Kwankwakso in July 2011 ordered structures built on land allocated by the administration of his successor and now predecessor, Ibrahim Shekarau, to individuals including business mogul Aminu Dantata, at the highbrow Kofa Na’isa area of the Kano metropolis, to be demolished.

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The new government has since slowed down in the exercise, since reaching an out-of-court settlement with some property owners, after the Federal High Court ordered the government to pay the owners of Masallacin Eid Shop N30 billion as compensation for the illegal demolition of their property. On 14 December, the state government agreed to pay N3 billion to the group after the court froze 24 bank accounts of the government for failing to comply with its order of compensation.

While the owners of the demolished property have been compensated, their tenant shop-owners, whose goods were looted by a mob while the shops were being demolished, have not been lucky. The stream of customers from neighbouring states and countries to the market has also dried up.

Controversial expenditures

Mr Yusuf’s policy choices and priorities have also drawn criticism of his government. For instance, on 13 October, the administration organised mass weddings for over 1,800 couples at events held simultaneously across the 44 local government areas of the state.

The government spent over N800 million on the weddings, but some commentators condemned the expenditure on the populist programme as wasted, citing the state’s many challenges requiring more urgent attention, such as its high number of out-of-school children.

The government was also criticised for some allocations in its 2024 budget. These include N5.32 billion for meals and the renovation of the governor’s lodge and some other buildings at the Government House, and N4.6 billion on post-graduate scholarships for students in India, at a time the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the state-owned Yusuf Maitama Sule University, Kano said the institution was on the brink of a financial collapse due to years of inadequate funding by the state government.

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The union’s complaint in November came just two weeks after Mr Yusuf and his political godfather bade farewell to a group of the students awarded foreign scholarships while handing them dollar notes as they boarded their flight.

The foreign scholarship scheme has always been controversial and opaque as the state government engaged consultants to get the students into little-known Asian universities at high fees.

In March, there was also intense criticism of a public feeding programme during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

The State Commissioner for Information, Baba Halilu Dantiye, said the governor approved N6 billion for the programme. But after a backlash, the governor countered Mr Dantiye, saying he only okayed N1.1 billion.

The scheme came under more controversy after the governor was captured in a viral video describing the meals served at the feeding centres as “nonsense.” The governor, who was on an impromptu visit to a feeding centre, accused the managers of the programme of mismanagement of public funds. He immediately set up a committee to investigate the matter but the report of the committee has yet to be made public.

Another project that set many tongues wagging is the proposed construction of two flyovers in the capital city at a cost of N27 billion. The governor had announced that the state and 44 local governments would jointly fund the project on a 30/70 ratio.

But a former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in the state, Muaz Magaji, immediately described the projects as a misplaced priority. In a series of Facebook posts, Mr Magaji, who served in the administration of Mr Ganduje, queried the cost and said Kano no longer needs flyovers, anyway.

What residents say

Mixed reactions greeted the celebration of the first anniversary of the governor in office.

Ibrahim Siraj, a senior lecturer of Mass Communication at Bayero University, Kano, praised the governor for the payment of school fees for less-privileged students in the state.

“The government has saved the studies of thousands of students of the state, especially those studying at Bayero University, Kano. Many of them couldn’t have afforded the almost 300 per cent rise in registration fees, a situation that could have forced many of them to withdraw from school.”

Mr Siraj also commended the government on the foreign scholarship scheme under which many indigenes are in India for Master’s degree programmes.

“This is in fulfilment of a key campaign promise that attracted many young people to vote for the governor,” he said. “The government has also largely redeemed its promise towards timely payment of salaries and pensions and stopping unnecessary unexplained deductions.”

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However, the university lecturer does not see the point of the flyovers, describing them as “a white elephant project.” He said the money would have been better spent on water supply and developing the rural areas.

“Rural areas and local governments outside the metropolitan area are suffering serious neglect. Many residents are saying they have been completely abandoned by the administration,” he added.

Mr Siraj also said the governor “spent too much time and resources on probing his predecessor” and that he “appointed more aides than needed.”

“Not much has changed in the last year in terms of education, healthcare, agriculture, roads and infrastructure, economic development, citizens’ welfare, poverty and unemployment, insecurity and youth restiveness, business and commerce,” he said.

“The governor has appointed more aides than needed or that he could cater for. As a result, there seems to be a lack of discipline and coordination within the government with complaints about the governor being inaccessible to some of his commissioners and appointees.

“Kwankwaso’s overbearing influence has effectively created another layer of authority above that of the governor, leading to inefficiency and a lack of clear direction for the government. He is often said not to be prompt in taking action without instructions from Kwankwaso. This is partly responsible for the government’s slow response to some situations,” Mr Siraj said.

25 litres of water selling at N150

The Campaign and Communication officer of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) in Kano, Ali Sabo, queried the government’s priorities and said its projects are not “pro-poor.”

Mr Sabo said addressing water scarcity in the state should have been a priority, not building flyovers.

“Getting water to shower and cook food is now a difficult task in Kano. There is poor hygiene due to the lack of water and there is a high risk for disease outbreaks.

“When this government came on board, people thought that they would focus on such issues that directly impact lives but unfortunately, they focus on things that are not a priority to the people. What people complained about in the previous administration is what is repeating itself now. Only the elite are benefitting from the government. They have released over N2.6 billion to procure vehicles for lawmakers. Such an amount of money will address the problem of water supply in the state,” Mr Sabo said.

Government flaunts achievements in health sector

However, the state Ministry of Health said in the last year they rehabilitated and re-equipped the Hasiya Bayero Paediatrics Hospital and gave free drugs/laboratory consumables to all patients attending the hospital from August to December 2023.

The state government increased the health budget from N40 billion to N71 billion and restored salaries of health workers (CONHESS) removed by the last state administration for more than seven years.

The ministry, in a statement, said the government employed over 70 nurses and midwives and deployed them to rural health facilities. It said the government, through the ministry, also did a review to ascertain the actual causes of maternal and child mortality.

It also rehabilitated and re-equipped the Accident and Emergency Unit of Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital and recruited 36 house officers and 70 medical officers. It listed other achievements of the governor in the sector as:

“Redeployment of the newly employed medical doctors to serve at both the primary and secondary health facilities in the state. Rehabilitation of Yadakunya Leprosy Hospital. Drugs and consumables were supplied for free distribution to the patients.

“Establishment of the Diphtheria Treatment Centres at Murtala Muhammad Specialist and Infectious Disease Hospitals. Securing 467 cartons of consumables from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support the fight against diphtheria in the state.

“Distribution of Free Maternal and Child Health Commodities (phases one and two) worth N63 million to both primary and secondary health facilities in the state.

“The Kano State Centre for Disease Control Bill was passed into law by the Kano State House of Assembly. Kano State is the only state with the sub-national centre for disease control in the country amongst other achievements.

Emirate crisis

Aside from the demolition of properties in the opening week of the administration, one issue that has put Kano State in the spotlight concerns its traditional institution. On 23 May, the state House of Assembly repealed the State Emirate Council Law 2019 under which former Governor Abdullahi Ganduje split Kano Emirate into five distinct units. The repeal of the law means the dissolution of the four emirates created in 2019 – Bichi, Rano, Gaya, and Karaye – and the sacking of their emirs.

The development restored Kano as the only state in Nigeria with a single emirate council, aside from Sokoto which also has the Sultan as the only paramount ruler.

After signing the repeal, Governor Yusuf immediately reinstated as the Emir of Kano. Muhammad Sanusi II was installed in 2014 by then-Governor Kwankwaso but was removed six years later by the then-Governor Ganduje. But the dethroned emir, Aminu Ado-Bayero, returned to the state on 25 May and has occupied a mini emirate palace at the Nasarawa GRA as he continues to challenge his removal.

The crisis highlights the division that some of the policies of Governor Yusuf have caused in Kano in the last year. Will he continue on that partisan route or take a conciliatory turn in his second year?

This analysis was originally and first published by Premium Times. 

 

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