Gov Ishaku is determined to ensure safety of all

Bala Dan Abu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Executive Governor of Taraba State on Media and Publicity


Bala Dan Abu is the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor of Taraba State on Media & Publicity. In this interview with our Christiana Babayo, he spoke on the wide range of issues that are lingering in the state’s socio-political circle.

Recently sir, the national bureau of statistics named Taraba among the six states in the country that are going bankrupt. How did you receive this news and what are the measures put in place to salvage the situation.
I will like to say that I don’t know the statistics that the National Bureau of Statistics used in categorizing Taraba State amongst those states. But be that as it may, I want to acknowledge the fact that is a major economic down turn in the country as a result of so many economic factors that have been complicated by the Covid19 pandemic that has crippled virtually every economic activities.
For example, there has been a down turn in revenue generation and that does not refer only to Taraba state. Most people are not into good business, most people are not doing anything. There’s poverty everywhere and that limits their ability to pay taxes because their businesses are not doing well. That also affects the income of every Government including Taraba State. And apart from that, most states depend on the revenue generated from oil, so they depend on the Federation Account for most of the money that they use in financing their activities and that source also is greatly limited by the fact that covid-19 is devastating the whole place,
So these are some of the factors and Taraba is not an exception. But that is not to say that we are giving up, but we are trying to make sure that we correct whatever loopholes that are on the part of correcting the revenue generation. We are doing more but there’s a level to which you can push people who are already suffering due to the general down turn. We have the interest of our people at heart and we will not do anything that will emasculate them but we will also make sure that the government does not collapse.

The issue of insecurity is one of the major challenges in the State, we have kidnapping, armed robberies and recently we have also noticed elements of banditry, how is the State Government tackling the issue and how has it affected the state?
I’m sure you will agree with me that these vices you have mentioned have gone down. The number and frequency has gone down drastically. It is not like before and that is because there has been a lot of public enlightenment, deployment of forces, soldiers and other security agencies to help check these activities. But that is not to say that it has completely come to an end, but we have not heard of any cases of kidnapping and killings on the road or fighting. Even the Tiv/Jukun crisis, the frequency of clashes have been minimized and that is because of the ongoing sitting of the commission of inquiry and we believe that it is going to be a way of resolving that issue but generally the security situation has improved. But it is not yet up to the level we want, we want a situation where there will be no fear of going around, travelling along the roads, fear of going to the farms by our people, we want to get to that stage. On the part of government, His Excellency Arc Darius Dickson Ishaku has been out there providing support for the security agencies to do their job.

Talking about crisis, the named party in the crisis which is the Tiv have decided to boycott the sitting….
That is very unfortunate, I think it is the misunderstanding of the intention of the Taraba State Government. First they are complaining about the name given to the commission of inquiry. I don’t think there’s anything in the name and there is nothing wrong with that name because, we are talking about the people who are involved in these crisis. It is Tiv group on one side versus several other ethnic groups on the other side. All the other ethnic groups are not going to be mentioned in the name of the commission of inquiry. That is why it is proper to say, Commission of inquiry on the crisis between the Tivs and their neighboring community. It’s an immaterial issue because it is not going to affect the outcome of the job of the commission. There’s nothing to that, I think the Tiv group should reconsider the opposition to the commission on the basis of the name. The name is not going to affect the outcome.
Secondly, the going to court is their right but I think we are at the stage where everyone involved should show maturity and show of understanding because without it we cannot achieve. If we question every step the government makes to resolve this issue it means we are not going to go far. So I am asking the Tiv group that has been out there protesting every step taken to bring about peace to reconsider their attitude. It is not fair to be suspicious of every step taken by the government and it is also unfair for them to continue to accuse the Governor that he has unfair to them. The governor has no reason to be unfair to the Tiv people. He is a friend of the Tiv people, he is married to a Tiv woman and he’s children are partly Tiv and as we are talking, he is in the process of giving his daughter to another Tiv man. We must all support the moves that he has started so that this commission will arrive at the conclusion we are expecting for, that is peace between Tivs and all the other groups in Southern Taraba.

Are you not worried that this move could jeopardize the aim of setting up the commission?
We are asking them to reconsider their decision to oppose the commission of inquiry because the ground that they are citing are not fair, they’re not right because there’s nothing in the name that is wrong that will make them withdraw and then to say they will go to court to stop it and disrupt the entire exercise. It is unpatriotic. It shows that they are not interested in these crisis coming to an end. The panel members were carefully selected to make sure that there’s no bias. I don’t think anyone one of them is even from this state, they are carefully selected so that they can be fair to all the concerned so that the outcome of whatever they are doing will also enjoy the support and legitimacy that can lead to lasting peace between the Tivs and other people in the area.

Talking about communal clashes and insecurity in the state, for two consecutive years now farmers have been displaced and even those who are not are afraid of going to farms for fear of attack. Do you think there’s is fear of insecurity in the state and what is the government doing to curb it?
There is a big threat to food security in the state. In fact, one of the focal points of this administration is promotion of agriculture. Farmers have been given a lot of encouragement through financial and material support in order to be able to produce more food and those policies have been working well. Today Taraba state has become the hub of rice and vegetable production and exportation. Most of the rice that are bagged and sold in Nigeria as local Rice are from Taraba State but we feel that the agriculture industry is greatly threatened by insecurity and that is why Governor Ishaku is very concerned and determined to ensure that there is peace so that people can feel safe and go to the farm and produce more food for the people of Taraba and the people of Nigeria, that is why we are also pleading with those who have taken the position against the commission of inquiry to reconsider their position. We all need to work together to ensure that the peace we are pursuing, we secure it in the interest of our people.

The global community had been hit really hard by the Covid19 pandemic, how’s Taraba state coping.
Taraba state has been very proactive as far as covid19 is concerned. Gov Ishaku was one of the first Governors in the country to take proactive steps by deciding on a lock down. That lockdown prevented people who were in the high risk states from coming into Taraba State. Several times that net that was set at the border caught up with many people who were infected and they were quarantined and treated. That proactive step is the reason the case of Taraba has been very minimal. We have not had an overwhelming number of people as other states have had. We have had some cases but they were few. And We have lost the fewest number of people which means the management of even the cases we had was very effective so all these things were achieved as a result of the proactive steps taken by the governor through the committee on the control of the pandemic in the state.

Talking about the party, some keep stakeholders were absent at the Congress and some have expressed grievances. What is the state of the PDP in Taraba now and is the party under threat?
Well, first of all let me say that it is not expected that every party stakeholders must be present at the Congress. It is not possible, some people for whatever reasons they have may not be able to attend. We are saying all the party stakeholders were in attendance but that does not in any way, I say this with emphasis, it does not in any way diminish the value and authenticity of what happened during the Congress.
The Congress was well attended by the important party stakeholders. Only a few people were not in attendance and they did not say they were not attending in protest of any issue. There was no public announcement by any of them saying that they are not coming because they’re protesting. There was no protestation, I am sure they were just not disposed to be in attendance and I believe they agree with what happened there. The outcome of the Congress has not generated any controversy. I am not aware of any condemnation of what happened there. The only thing I know is that a lot of horse trading took place in the weeks to the Congress and that It how it should be.
We must not come into the open to begin to fight for positions, if there are ways that we can minimize conflicts, differences, open fighting for positions, then we can do it and that is what the PDP did on the occasion and it worked out very well that is not to say that the outcome of that Congress was one hundred percent accepted by everyone. There’s nothing you do that will be 100percent acceptable to everybody especially where whatever you are doing is not only in the interest of one person. If it is an issue in which many interest are involved, there must be disagreement. But the disagreement was not enough to threaten the position of the party in the state and as the new party chairman has pledged and as his Excellency Gov Ishaku has also promised, whatever differences there are, as a result of that Congress or any other issue relating to the Party, they will be tackled and they will be tackled as brothers and sisters. It is not something that we’ll go into the public to discuss. But there is not threat to the position of the PDP in Taraba statement PDP in Taraba state is totally in charge of the politics of the state and it is going to remain so for many years to come.

Does Taraba state has the capacity to pay the current minimum wage approved for workers in the country?

Well, discussion are going in and very soon, it will be determined what the state government will pay. The law does not say that every state must pay the same minimum wage. States are allowed to negotiate and agree with workers on what they would pay. We are in that process of negotiating with the workers. Our resources are not in the best form and therefore it is going to affect whatever financial commitment we are going to get involved in. The minimum wage is one of such things. We need to be very careful with what we agree to pay because this is a salary paying administration. We are totally committed paying salaries regularly and before the end of every month.
As we speak, today is just 26th but the salary for this month has already been paid, in fact, it was paid two to three days ago. That is how committed we are to the payment and welfare of workers and it is going to continue like that. But if we take up too much more than the finances of the state can support, it will become a problem. So we are expecting that workers will show understanding. It is better to get something little but realistic that to be promised some much which you may never get. This is the attitude they should adopt.

Recently, the leadership of Local Government Chairman has announced the revocation of certificates of indigenes, issued by past administrations, insisting the new one that the state has designed. What can you say has prompted this decision?

You see, we are talking about the problem of insecurity which is partly as a result of influx of strangers whose loyalty to the cause of the state and sincerity of purpose we are not sure of. We have been talking about kidnapping, robbery, and all other forms of vices that have made life unsafe in the state. So this is part of the reasons why the government has decided that you don’t just grant indeginship to just anybody without thorough screening. And I am sure that in the past, we must have made some mistakes by giving this certificate to people who should not be given. That is why the process is now been scrutinized to ensure that only people who are bonafide indigenes of the state are given the certificate. So we are calling for understanding from the part of everybody to cooperate so that the certificate does not get into the wrong hands.

What is the situation with the dualization of major entry and exit road to Jalingo and the proposed new government house projects?
The dualization of the road into Jalingo has become the priority of this administration. We are committed to it and resources are fully committed to it as well. It is not going to be affected and it will be completed. The only thing that affected is the COVID-19 lockdown when people could not go out to work on the project. That was the only problem that we encountered at the beginning but since the lockdown was lifted, workers have been back to work.
We see that project as a priority and have given all attention to it. We believe that it will be completed in time. Any delay would not exceed the six months that were wasted at the initial stage due to the lockdown. The government house project is another project that is dear to this administration. It will be embarked on very soon and once it is started, it will be pursued vigorously because we want to leave a legacy that people can point hands to in addition to all the things that we have already done, we still want to do more in this phase of this administration. We know that we are already going out and the speed with which we would prosecute the rescue mission is definitely going to be a lot faster than when we started. So there is no doubt that the government is committed in delivering on all these projects before the end of the administration.


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