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Mid-Term Scorecard: How Far Has Gov. Ishaku’s ‘Rescue Mission’ Fared?

Mid-Term Scorecard: How Far Has Gov. Ishaku’s ‘Rescue Mission’ Fared?

     “Give me peace and I will give you development”- Darius Dickson Ishaku

The above statement is the Taraba State Governor’s most cherished statements and the social contract between him and the people of the State. He does not fail in emphasizing this each time he has the opportunity to meet with his people.

Taraba, ‘Nature’s Gift to the Nation’, is coming from a turbulent past occasioned by the fatal accident involving former Governor Suntai mid-way into his second term. Apart from that, there were a lot of anomalies in the entire system which include but not limited to, Executive recklessness, Ghost workers syndrome, Ethnic clashes and low morale in the Civil Service.

All these have stunted the growth of one of the youngest States in Nigeria and almost completely taken it off the development trajectory.

Consequently, as this administration has discovered, a greater percentage of the meager earnings of the State has been going down the drain due to sharp practices in the system. For instance, sometime last year, the State Universal Basic Education Board (TSUBEB) was able to save about N52 million after a verification of teachers carried out to get rid of ‘fake’ teachers. In fact, that was a tip of the iceberg compared to what obtains in the Local Government system.

However, the coming of Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, was perceived by Tarabans as a welcome development, having weathered the storm after the general elections which came with a rerun against his opponent, Hajiya Aisha Alhassan, the current Minister of Women Affairs.

The Court cases that trailed his victory which stretched up to the Supreme Court even labelled Governor Ishaku, the Governor with the most litigations in Nigeria.

However, as part of his plan for the State, the Governor came with a policy thrust called the ‘Rescue Mission’. The vision of the Rescue Agenda ‘is to transform Taraba State into one of the top two leading vibrant Economies in the North – East Sub Region by 2025′. The mission is “to create and maintain an enabling environment conducive for the optimal participation and sustainable engagement of key stakeholders and partners, by developing a sensitive and responsible political class, a vibrant and purpose driven bureaucracy, a veritable resource base, and a broad based economy”.

Indeed, the vision and mission are ideals which carry with them great challenges considering the political and Socio-Economic situation the State found itself.

A comparative analysis of what Taraba State earned before and after the coming of this Government, may give an insight into the economic challenges the current Government is likely facing. It is also supposed to be a wake up call to explore the huge potentials the State has in agriculture, tourism and mining in order to meet those challenges. (January 2014 and February 2017 were taken as a case study).

A data by the National Bureau of Statistics and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, shows that the revenue allocation to Taraba State for January 2014 was N4,807,942,732.70 compared to that of January 2017 which was shared in February 2017: N2,525,965,659.07. The difference is over N2 Billion and an over 100% drop.

Governor Darius Ishaku, an architect, a former Minister of State for both Niger Delta and Power, must have mustered the experiences gained in the organized private sector where he was before, to achieve the present gains in the State. Some of the values that make the organized private sector stand out are: discipline, profit- oriented goals, hardwork and excellence, which to some extent he has instilled in the system.

Some of his achievements are the revival of the AfDB/ World Bank funded Jalingo water project which has been there before the coming of the administration. His partnership with the Greater Nairobi Water and Sewerage Agency, is yielding fruit as 67 Tarabans are presently in Kenya on a hands- on training.

The Jalingo-Kona-Lau road was dualized up to Kona and would subsequently be extended to Lau and up to Karim Lamido- a great rice farm belt along the Benue river axis.

Incidentally, the Government recently signed an MoU with Dangote Group for the commencement of the Dangote Sugar factory in Lau thereby justifying the road construction to Lau. The factory will no doubt create employment opportunities.

The Greenhouse Project is an agricultural masterpiece which was established in August 2015 at the cost of N2 Billion. It is presently at 70% completion.

In addition, for the first time in a long time, fertilizers were supplied to farmers before the commencement of the farming season.

The sum of N1.5 Billion has been expended for the digitization of the State TV while that of the radio is on going.

Governor Ishaku has introduced e-governance in the State with the active collaboration of his wife, Barr. Anna Darius Ishaku. To this end, a functional ICT office has been established and the Government Website, reactivated, to fully track Government activities and showcase the potentials in the State.

This is setting the pace for the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to key into the policy. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on ICT, Grace Amaefula, there was a vacuum that needed to be filled since the Government Website then was either not functional or outdated.

Government activities were only carried on national newspapers which was not dynamic enough. In addition, she said an online news medium TaraVoices was also established to bridge that gap.

Adding credence to the innovation, Amaefula boasted saying, “ there is no government function that is not taken online. We have been able to reach 300,000 people. On the google search engine, we have grown with over 600,000 ranks in the last three months alone. We are the 19,000th most visited site in Nigeria”.

According to her the website is the fastest growing website of Taraba origin in the world and hardly would you not find any story about the State on the website. She assured that there are so many opportunities to be exploited in the State using ICT.

In another vein, one of his notable achievements was the creation of NGADA Special Development Area to give a people that once lived on the fringes of good human existence, a good life. Also he was able to conduct the Local Government elections when people at the grassroots could only make do with Caretaker Chairmen for over four years.

Besides these achievements, there has also been regular payment of salaries, rehabilitation of General Hospitals in Bali, Wukari and Karim Lamido, empowerment of 300 youths on Skills Acquisition, the employment of more nurses and midwives and subsequent lifting of ban on employment which was placed by previous governments in the State.

Also, the government approved the recruitment of 3000 teachers while for the first time in the history, several courses of the Taraba State Polytechnic, were accredited by the NBTE.

In essence, under the ‘Rescue Agenda’ is a grassroots mobilization and monitoring programme known as ‘Rescue Watch’. According to the Chief of Staff, Government House Administration, Rebo Usman, the programme is suppose to mobilize the grassroots towards maintaining basic Government facilities in the rural areas and ensuring service delivery.

“Rescue Watch is basically about trying to be in touch with our people at the grassroots level and we have been doing that consistently. The Governor has been receiving reports from the various teams in the 16 Local Government Areas and Yangtu.

“We are having a lot of progress in those areas through interactions that the various teams are having with our people at the grassroots. We have the team members going round Government facilities to see what is happening and then relate with pictures what is happening to the Governor.

“I mean it is something that people are saying has never happened in this country…they have the ward contact persons who visit them any moment and every month. The teams led by Special Advisers, visit them,meet with them to see what is happening. It keeps them on their toes”, says Usman.

As a private sector player, Governor Ishaku has revitalized the Kakara Tea Factory on the Mambilla Plateau, which perhaps, is the only major industrial presence in the State.

He has also initiated a Bill to establish ranches and ban open grazing, as a way of checking herdsmen/ farmers’ crises.

Of late, Communities have grappled with attacks by alleged ‘herdsmen’ in Gassol, Bali, Takum, Lau and Karim Lamido amongst others.

Even though farmers’/ herdsmen conflicts have become a national problem, some stakeholders feel the case of Taraba has been treated with levity for political reasons. They say the Federal Government is not interested in developing the huge potentials in the State.

One of such is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Affairs, Emmanuel Bello. In one of his articles, Bello stated that, “the State is decidedly PDP since 1999 and this is the first time it found itself in the opposition. This fact, it seems has pit the State against the center to the extent the Federal Government always now merely pay lip service and has not really taken it seriously on many fronts.

“If it were not the case, I am wondering why, for instance, the Federal Government is not currently going ‘gaga’ over Taraba State’s expression that it could feed the rest of the Country with rice. I wonder why the Federal Government has not tapped into the State’s abundant tourism potentials…the only thing that seems to excite the Federal Government about Taraba is how to ‘capture’ it in 2019”.

On the security issue, he painted the grim reality this way: “But beyond all these is the current insipid reaction of the Federal Government to the fears freshly expressed by the Governor of Taraba State, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku. The Governor was very clear about it when he declared last Thursday that the outlawed Boko Haram outfit is regrouping in Taraba.

“Now, that is a scary scenario on it own. But what is scarier is the mute silence and the unfeeling response from the Federal Government… Nothing, not even a whimpering Press Statement offering the usual sleepy assurances. The Governor must have explored other means to drag the attention of the Federal Government on this serious issue”.

But if the Federal Government has not looked the way of Taraba on the issue of security, it has done so in other areas with the Federal Executive Council’s (FEC) recent approval of N46 Billion for the completion of the Kashimbilla Dam and Hydro Electricity Project in Takum LGA of Taraba State.

Meanwhile, from the Civil Society point of view, the Government has done ‘extremely well’ in the area of water but they accused the Governor of not carrying them along in the scheme of things as is done in other parts of the world.

Joseph Gimba is the Coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society for Good Governance in Taraba State. He  expressed their concern this way: “He has invested billions into the water sector, but as an NGO, we have our own concern. Our concern is when you spend such a huge amount in providing water to the people, what is the character of the people in wanting such service?

“In as much as we say water is life, do people have the discipline, do they have the mentality, do they have the interest of managing this water that is so expensive? That is the area that we as Civil Society Organizations have a question mark on. They have been doing this and the NGOs are not involved, so I am not going to report to you what I did not see”.

On the way forward Gimba said, “I think the Governor should be more engaging. He should be accessible to different shades of people. It is not who he wants to see but he should also make opportunity for others who want to see him. The present trend the world over is that Government does not work alone.They bring in the services of NGOs.

“I will call on him to involve NGOs in most of what he is doing…because NGOs are making tremendous contribution to the development of Taraba that Government is not aware of. There are CSOs in Taraba State that expend money on development that is more than an entire ministry’s budget and we really want to let him know the areas we are working on, the amount of money NGOs are spending in trying to effect change”.

Jalingo Green House: The Silent Revolution Sweeping the Agricultural Sector.

Jalingo Green House: The Silent Revolution Sweeping the Agricultural Sector.

By Nick Dugba

Taraba, which is mostly an Agricultural State and prides itself as the ‘Nature’s Gift to the Nation’ is about to experience a turnaround in agriculture, thereby boosting its economic standing in the committee of States in Nigeria.

Green House Project

Green House Project

The reason for this revolution is no other venture than the gigantic green house project situated within the premises of the Taraba state University and the State College of Agriculture in Jalingo.

The project was initiated by the Rescue Administration of Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, with the initial capacity to produce four exotic crops- cucumber, lettuce, pepper and tomatoes.

It promises to be the first greenhouse in the entire north east sub region and the largest in the country. It sits on five hectares of land with an installed capacity to house fifteen greenhouses. Currently, eight of them have been completed while the remaining are still under construction.

The project was contracted to Onida Development Ltd, an Israeli company, which hopes to construct the project, train the needed personnel and handover the project to the owner- the Taraba state government, in the future.

Established in August 2015 by the Darius Ishaku government, the green house is worth N2 Billion and according to the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr David Ishaya Kassa, N900 Million has so far been sunk into the project which is about 65 to 70 per cent completed.

Does Taraba Need a Greenhouse?

A lot of politicking had characterized the establishment of a greenhouse in the state with some claiming it shouldn’t be a priority of government. But if we are to go by the business principle of need assessment, a greenhouse is indeed needed for several reasons.

One fact that can’t be debated is the fact that the state hardly produced vegetables which are basic dietary requirements for the people and a greenhouse can serve as not only a source for vegetables but create capacity for farmers who would like to engage in vegetable farming. Vegetables like cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cucumber and so on are mainly brought into the state from elsewhere and a greenhouse might fill that gap.

Secondly, it may serve as a source of employment for the youths and revenue generation for the state as the Commissioner rightly pointed out.

Cucumber from Green House Project

Cucumber from Green House Project

“Apart from supplying the vegetables of international quality, we intend to also take it to other cities. You know in this country, most of our vegetables are being imported. We want to replace those markets; instead of importing vegetables, let’s produce them in Taraba so that we can earn forex. Apart from that, if you go to the greenhouse, you will find out that over 200 of our youths are already employed. That is to say, part of the vision of this greenhouse is being fulfilled by tackling the issue of unemployment of our youths”.

Besides that, Kassa added saying “the location of the greenhouse is within the university and the College of Agriculture. Most a times, you will see our students going on excursion to see how crops are being produced. Now they have them at their backyard. Now they can come and see how these crops are being produced under very high and best agronomic practices. That’s why we say there will be technology transfer”.

Facts About the Greenhouse You May Not Know

Following the establishment of this development masterpiece, a lot of misconceptions, politics, rumours and ignorance have threatened the smooth running of the project.

Some people have speculated that the project is privately owned,while some workers at the site have complained of unfair treatment by authorities of the greenhouse. As a matter of fact, some of them who couldn’t cope with the condition of service of the organization contracted to run the project, have since looked elsewhere.

One of the newly employed workers who pleaded anonymity, complained of the N25,000 monthly pay as too meagre considering the labour involved in the greenhouse.

The mother of one and a HND graduate from the College of Agriculture, Jalingo, regretted the fact that there was no special consideration given to graduates as all workers irrespective of their educational status, are thrown into the greenhouse to do the same menial work. As a result of this circumstances, several workers had quited earlier than expected.

The Site Manager of the project, James Uchenna, however praised the governor for his commitment towards seeing that the project succeeded. He disclosed that the issues of water and electricity had been taken care of by the governor.

“He has delivered on the issue of water and power. On the issue of security, nobody has ever in any guise harassed us. So I must commend him for that. Then also the workers; most of them came here very raw but they were exposed and I can tell you now, we have three greenhouses and they are working there”, he revealed.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, David Ishaya Kassa, on his part debunked  claims of Ill- treatment meted on workers, stressing that the reason workers are having issues is because the government is not yet in full control of the project. He however gave the assurance that the future will be  bright.

“You know the greenhouse is not yet owned by the State. It is still under construction. It is the contractor that has the right to decide who would work for them. But by the time they have completed the work, that is when we would retain some of these graduates and they would do their professional work.

“But as it is now, you have to go by what the contractor would say. Most of them are on casual basis because they are still constructing the greenhouses. By the time it is handed over to us, any person working there would be under the terms and conditions of the Taraba State Government”, the Commissioner assured.

He attributed the claims and speculations to ignorance. “May be the people did not understand it very well. As it is now, they are under the contractor’s’ payroll, later on we would receive them and all the condition of service of Taraba State Government would apply to them”.