In his private capacity and as a public officer, Malam Nasir El-Rufai has always believed that officers paid from public coffers have a duty of continuous public engagement. That obligation of political responsiveness compels a response to a certain Kaduna Restoration Group, whose letter, dated 26th June 2017, was released to the public, without first being delivered to the person to whom it is ostensibly addressed. Since it was delivered in public, it is appropriate to provide a response in kind.
Shortly after Malam Nasir El-Rufai’s September 2016 memo to President Buhari was leaked, a signatory to the so-called Restoration Group letter, Alhaji Tijjani Ramalan addressed an email to the Governor.The Governor responded privately to Alhaji Tijjani Ramalan before he realised that Alhaji Ramalan had also released it as an open letter. A further detailed response, also in private by the Governor, prompted Alhaji Ramalan to say that he had resigned his position as APC state caucus chairman having had his claims thoroughly punctured.
The latest open letter is a mish-mash of accusations and claims that fly in all directions. It makes sweeping claims that it does not bother to prove. Couched in condemnatory language, the letter is written to play to the gallery. It is the codification in a single document of the slanders that the two signatories and members of their so-called group have indulged in,sometimesusing proxies and the anonymity of social media. Here is what can be distilled from their lengthy epistle:
1.In a rare moment of candour, the self-styled Kaduna Restoration Group admits that the APC government inherited decay in the polity but then claims that such ought to have been cleared in two years. The Kaduna State Government is proud of the governance reforms it has implemented in two years. With the Treasury Single Account, Zero-based Budgeting and a panoply of new laws covering taxation, investments, a digital land registry and public procurement, this government has remade the priorities of governance and anchored it on pro-people development. Raising primary school enrolment from 1.1m to 2.1m in less than two years is testament to the results that come from focusing on what matters to the common men and women that elected us.
2.The so-called Kaduna Restoration Group is fixated on where people come from. It has decided to cast KDSG officials who are not originally from Kaduna State as the “problem” because they see such persons occupying positions they feel is their entitlement. They even cite Section 14 (4) of the Constitution in defence of their parochial stance. That section of the 1999 Constitution offers no such justification for bigotry. The Kaduna State Government has always, and will continue to have in its employment, persons from all sections of the country.
3.It isunfortunate that in the 21st Century a media mogul and a person claiming to be a professor of law will remain so wedded to narrow notions. The signatories to the letter and their families visit doctors that are not indigenes of Kaduna State. Their children attend schools in which teachers from parts of Nigeria other than Kaduna educate their wards. Tijjani Ramalan employs people in Liberty Radio and Television that are not the’indigenes’ he claims to be fighting for. Why charity should not begin at home for the two signatories is not difficult to fathom. This hypocrisy looking for misplaced sympathy.
4.The Constitution of Nigeria is not an apartheid contraption that limits what services citizens can offer in the public service of any part of our federation. It is important to outline the inconsistency of the letter writers since their claims to “indigeneship” of Kaduna are spurious:
a.Tijjani Ramalan originally hails from Nasarawa State, and spent many years in Port Harcourt where he was appointed as an aide to Governor Melford Okilo of Rivers State during the Second Republic. His sense of “indigeneship” was not sufficient to make him reject the appointment and insist that he could only be appointed by the Governor of the old Plateau State which Nasarawa was then part of.
b.What are the antecedents and family roots of Yusuf Dankofa that entitle him to a superior claim to Kaduna than any other person? Yusuf Dankofa’s ancestry is not rooted in Kaduna, but Kaduna has accepted him as one of us. Having been accepted as part of Kaduna society, why should these same persons seek to exclude others? Should educated people of the 21st century peddle so much narrow-mindedness?
c.This government of Kaduna State rightly recognises and celebrates citizens of Kaduna State, even if some are more recent arrivals than others, and even when some think we do not know where they originally hail from. We do, but it frankly does not matter to the KDSG of today.
1.The signatories to the letter allege that there are contract scams, latching on to the Sahara Reporters story to which KDSG has provided a detailed response, explaining the suspension of the drainage works since January 2017, investigations and disciplinary action against the officers found to have messed up a direct intervention project.
1.The letter claims there are violations of extant laws and due process without citing any single instance. But KDSG can mention instances where it has refused to allow Messrs. Tijjani Ramalan and Yusuf Dankofa to benefit from violations of what is either lawful or ethical:
a.In 2015, Alhaji Tijjani Ramalan submitted a claim for N89m as 50% of the Consultancy fees due to his company, ATAR Communications, for the digitisation of the Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC), purportedly awarded him by the previous administration. Careful scrutiny of the documents forwarded to support the claim revealed that ATAR did not have a valid contract with the Kaduna State Government. In a good faith effort and in recognition of Tijjani Ramalan’s assertion that he had incurred expenses connected to the contract, the government offered to pay N17m in full and final settlement. But the government rejected his condition that ATAR be appointed as Consultant to any subsequent programme to digitise KSMC. Alhaji Ramalan has since collected the money offered.
b.The Chairman of ATAR Communications, owners of Liberty Radio and Television, Tijjani Ramalan,not only expected this Government to honour a contract that did not exist, he saw no conflict in his firm being the Consultant on the digitisation of KSMC, a competitor.
c.In December 2016, the Kaduna State Government decided to withdraw the Assets Register component of a tender under its facility management agency, KADFAMA. This was sequel to technical observation and advice that software in possession of the state government under a World Bank-funded reform programmecould do the job. As chairman of the board of KADFAMA, Alhaji Tijjani Ramalan resisted this cost-saving move for reasons not unconnected with who would get the KADFAMA contract. He resigned by email as KADFAMA chairman once the government insisted that it would not buy anew what it already has.
d.After Tijjani Ramalan resigned, KDSG discovered that the contract to renovate KADFAMA’s head office was awarded to Tijjani Ramalan’s son when the father was KADFAMA chairman, in violation of the Kaduna State Procurement Law. This violation is being further investigated.
e.Yusuf Dankofa was acting as a debt collector for a bank against three of our local government councils, which doubtful debts were incurred before this administration came into office. Partial payment was nonetheless effected, but Dankofa continued to put pressure for additional payments beyond what the liquidity of the local government councils involved could justify or what is fair, just and reasonable.
f.Yusuf Dankofa’s credibility was questioned when, prior to the nomination of Commissioners in 2015, he attempted to suborn a government official into an illegal deal with one of his Chinese partners. This was after he was nominated to the APC Transition Committee, but failed to contribute in any significant manner.
2.Normalisation of District and Village Units: bold steps are being taken to reform the local governments. Key to this is freeing them from burdens imposed by the state government, such as over 300 extra districts and the cost of maintaining the staff of those districts that did not exist prior to 2001. This government was elected to do what is consequential and significant. In acting to restructure the districts and villages, the government is consciously relieving the burden that was placed on local governments in 2001 without their consent or that of the State House of Assembly.
3.False Claims of Non-Consultation: The State Council of Chiefs was duly consulted at ameeting held on Tuesday, 25th April 2017,given the report of the inter-ministerial committee, and time to review and respond to the proposals. The Council accepted the decision after further deliberations, and the Executive Order giving effect to the 77-district structure has already been signed by the Governor and duly gazetted.
1.Use of Consultants: Again, there is no specificity here. Perhaps Tijjani Ramalan wishes by this open-ended accusation,for his company,ATAR Communications,to be the only consultant to KDSG. But KDSG is obliged to use the best expertise available to it in any sector from anywhere in the world. For instance, we engaged Mrs. Ifueko Omogui-Okauru, the former chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, to make the new Kaduna Internal Revenue fit for purpose. We have no apologies for that as the performance of KADIRS so far has shown.
1.The Governor’s Part-Time Ph.D. in Governance and Policy Analysis: Contrary to their assertion, Malam Nasir El-Rufai has never left the country without a formal notice to the Kaduna State House of Assembly transferring power to the Deputy Governor. In a couple of instances when both leaders are outside Nigeria at the same time, the Speaker has stepped in as acting Governor. The Governor decided to fit in a programme of higher studies into the time he has allocated for his annual vacation. And the sheer workload he has undertaken in the last 24 months is immense.
1.Sale of Government Houses: the letter criticises the sale of government residential quarters, but carefully avoids citing the specific Supreme Court judgment which supposedly renders it illegal.Why is a professor of law afraid of citing the litigants,‘ratio decidendi’ and the names of the Justices of our Supreme Court in this important case? The houses were valued and sold at their open market value to the highest bidder. The bidding process was supervised by Deloitte, and bids were opened in the presence of representatives of the federal anti-graft agencies. Each bidder was allowed entry to the venue without restriction. Earlier, the state legislators had bought their official quarters at open market prices.
2.Claims about State House, Kawo and Lagos Liaison Office: It is utter falsehood to claim that State House, Kawo, and the liaison office in Lagos have been sold. Indeed, this government deserves praise for recovering the Lagos Office from illegal occupants, and working on steps to restore its glory and extract maximum value for the people of Kaduna State.
Regarding the suggestions for improved governance in Kaduna State, the government responds as follows:
I.Stop privatisation, the investment conference and school feeding: There is no need to respond to a suggestion that lacks any policy rigour or the slightest superiority to KDSG’s investmentpromotion programme that has attracted at least USD 300m to the state.
a.The fetishisation of comatose state-owned enterprises has passed its sell-by date. These enterprises will make impactonly through the jobs, quality products and taxes they produce, not by the nature of their ownership.
b.School feeding is part of the national programme of the APC as a political party. The Federal Government undertook to reimburse KDSG the cost of feeding pupils in Primary 1-3. The programme was suspended when theFGN reimbursements were not made. We have since received N3.4 billion as part-reimbursement and are exploring resuming the primary school feeding programme. Till date, no tier of government has come close to matching the undertaking we did of feeding 1.5m primary school pupils every school day.
c.It is noted that since Tijjani Ramalan, Yusuf Dankofa and their co-travelers are recent joiners of the APC and were not members of any of its predecessor components, their respective commitment to the party manifesto and platform may be virtually non-existent. However, we assure the group that the more than 14,000 women that cooked four days every week for these 1.5m pupils hear you loud and clear. The many pupils from parents not as privileged as the Ramalan and Dankofa families appreciated the primary school feeding programme while it lasted.
II.Local government elections: this is the responsibility of SIECOM. The state government has firmly supported the decision to commence Electronic Voting in Kaduna. SIECOM will announce a date for the local council elections when the commission is ready. It is easy to shout ‘conduct elections’ but those with the responsibility to plan, organize, legislate, fund and carry out credible elections are not armchair critics but distinguished public servants who have been working round the clock to do the needful. Those that cannot help SIECOM with suggestions should kindly find something else to keep them occupied.
I.LG funds, markets and taxes: The letter betrays ignorance of the laws of the state which have vested revenue collection in one agency since March 2016. LGs and other agencies of the government are mandated to generate and serve on members of the public demand notices for fees, levies and rates due to them, and the monies are to be paid to KADIRS. KADIRS then pays each LG and agency its entitlement under the applicable laws. The so-called Restoration Group are still dwelling in the past; they wish to regress Kaduna State back to that sorry past of multiple taxation, cash collections, citizens’ harassment, leakages and corruption in tax administration.
I.Southern Kaduna tertiary institutions: this is a security matter. But nobody is being held back. KASU management temporarily moved students from its Kafanchan campus to Kaduna to continue their studies. Special arrangements were also made for students of the School of Nursing, Kafanchan, to write crucial exams. When security challenges emerged in three LGs in Southern Kaduna, the ‘concerned leaders’ that now call themselves Restoration Group were not only silent but unconcerned. Government has successfully contained the situation because of access to superior intelligence and security assets. When the State Security Council advises that the risks to lives and property are at a minimal and acceptable level, then KDSG will promptly open closed facilities.
I.Paris/London Club Debt Refund: Kaduna is the first state to go on record about receipt of the refunds. Speaking at the signing ceremony of the 2017 Budget on 13th December 2016, Malam Nasir El-Rufai said:
“I wish to inform our legislators that we shall be submitting a Supplementary Budget to enable us capture the debt refunds we have just received from the Federal Government. Fifty-five percent of these funds belong to the state government, and the balance is for the local governments. We propose to apply 50% of the funds to settling the inherited arrears of gratuity and death benefits for state and local government workers. Some of these unpaid arrears date from as far back as 2010.”
Indeed, the Supplementary Budget was enacted by the State House of Assembly and implementation had begun in March 2017. We have captured the expected second tranche in the 2017 budget and will apply the funds to settle outstanding gratuities, death benefits and on-going infrastructure projects all over the state.
I.Rejigging the cabinet: the government has duly noted this persistent plea for jobs by the signatories of the letter and their co-travelers.
I.APC stranglehold: the signatories to this letter either know better than they are letting on or think the APC is like their old party, the PDP, where governors control everything called the party! The APC constitution requires deputies to act in place of the substantive officers until the positions are properly filled in special congresses. It is the duty of the national leadership of the APC to organise processes to fill vacant party offices, and not the governor. This is a point that the erstwhile caucus chairman failed to grasp, neglecting to call state caucus meetings while he kept blaming the governor.
a.Tijjani Ramalan was appointed Chairman of Caucus by the State Executive Committee of the APC. But he decided to play to the gallery, sending his letter of resignation to the Governor, instead of the party that appointed him.
b.Throughout Tijjani Ramalan’s tenure as chair of the APC State Caucus, he did not complain once that he received any directives from the Government House, or was subjected to any stranglehold of the Governor. Indeed, the Governor has always insisted that party caucus meetings should be held either in the party headquarters or any other place other than in the Government House to recognize the supremacy of the party over political office-holders.
c.Tijjani Ramalan is a beneficiary of KDSG contracts in the security sector, providing and maintaining communication equipment, and never once did he consider this a stranglehold.
d.But his expectations and his sense of entitlement are so immense that it appears that neither KDSG nor Malam Nasir El-Rufai can satisfy them. First, Tijjani Ramalan wanted to be a minister and then chief executive of either NIMASA or NPA. He is embitteredbythe serial disappointments in this quest for federal appointment,but he forgets that it is the President that makes such appointments, not a state Governor!
I.Keeping Promises: As per sending his children to public schools, the governor does not have any child of school-going age resident in Kaduna.
The open letter of the so-called Kaduna Restoration Group is an epistle of elite frustration, lengthy on lame lamentations but short on substance and facts. It is like a union of the disaffected, the discontented and the disappointed telling a government that all it needs do to be good is to settle them or go back to the old days of sharing state resources to the few professional politicians too lazy to work for a living like other hardworking citizens.
The doors of this government have never been shut to anyone. But this government believes that constructive criticisms and frank exchanges that are rooted in facts are helpful to improving public policy and governance. The signatories to the Kaduna Restoration Group letter know that their document does not meet this standard.Despite this, and their plagiarism of our “Restoration Programme” for their self-styled alias, and their questionable motives, we are obliged to respond as an elected government.
We hope that next time the group chooses to write an open letter, they will come up with facts and specifics, framed within a clear public-interest agenda. This first outing is nothing more than an attention-seeking effort,a poorly-articulated morass of ambiguitybypersonswho are unhappy that KDSG has elevated overriding public interest above their personal interests and ambitions.
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor
(Media and Publicity)