By Joseph Edegbo:
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria has urged the people to work together to advance and uphold peace in the state. They are also encouraged to usher in 2019 with hope and determination to make it a year of positive attainments.
The Governor, in his New Year message to the people, said they had witnessed sad episodes of violence, including the loss of lives and property in the outgone year.
He noted that over four decades, violent conflict in the state has taken an awful toll in lives lost and shattered hence the need to resolve to make 2019 the year that they overcome the baleful legacy of strife.
“Let us pay tribute to the suffering of people by saying never again. Violence shatters, but only peace can build and develop societies.
“2019 is an election year. Peace is an important condition for enabling our people to express their democratic preferences in a free and fair manner. I urge everyone to conduct themselves peacefully and responsibly during the campaigns.
“Election is a democratic exercise. It must not be construed as an exercise in division. We must all respect the right of our people to choose and vote freely.
“We therefore assure our citizens that Government will deploy additional policing and military assets throughout the state to enhance security and surveillance from now until the end of the election season to enable everyone to canvass for support, campaign and vote freely and peacefully. We will vigorously apprehend and prosecute any person that plans, executes or sponsors any disruption to the orderly conduct of the campaigns and elections in 2019.
“Preserving the peace is a collective undertaking. Citizens should report all suspicious conduct to the law enforcement and security agencies. The government is determined to arrest and prosecute anybody, no matter their standing, that threatens the right of our people to live in peace and security.
“This government takes seriously its security obligations, even as it reminds our citizens that the ultimate guarantee of peace is the willingness of our communities to live in harmony. In the last three and half years, the Kaduna State Government has provided vehicles, communications and other logistic support to our security agencies.
“After decades of clamour, there are now permanent security detachments stationed in the southern part of the state. The army has a forward operating base in Kafanchan, with another battalion planned for the Kachia-Kajuru axis. We have also provided accommodation and facilities for a mobile police squadron in Kafanchan. We are building more police stations, security and Civil Defence outposts across the state.
“In addressing the sources of conflict and violence, we have established the Kaduna State Peace Commission under the chairmanship of Reverend Dr. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the former Anglican Archbishop of Kaduna, and current Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. To deal with the menace of gangsters, we have gazetted the Unlawful Societies Declarations which prescribe a seven
year sentence for people convicted for membership of unlawful societies like the El-Zakzaky movement and the Sara-Suka gangs.
“Conscious of the challenges imposed by the shortfall in police numbers deployed to our state, compared to requirements, we are strengthening community involvement in policing and security through the Kaduna Vigilance Service, and our traditional institution at all levels. The civilian security volunteers were especially helpful in maintaining order during the recent crisis in Kaduna metropolis and environs.
“In the same period, we have been relentless in implementing our governance agenda, which has at its core Putting People First. This government is promoting equality of opportunity by building human capital. We have made tremendous investments to improve access to Education and Health care.
“We have recruited over 25,000 qualified teachers for our public primary schools, of which we have renovated hundreds. In areas of high population density, we have commenced building high-rise schools using pre-cast concrete to enable faster construction. We have supplied more than 200,000 units of furniture to solve the problem we inherited where at least 50% of Primary School pupils sit on floors due to absence of desks and chairs. For our secondary schools, we are recruiting 7600 new teachers, to join the over 2000 Science, Mathematics and English teachers we recruited in 2016.
“To reduce maternal and infant mortality, we decided to strengthen the primary health care system. We developed a programme to renovate and refit 255 primary health centres, one in each political ward. We have upgraded, equipped and staffed about 150 of the 255 PHCs we planned. Many of our 23 secondary health centres have received their delivery of General Electric equipment to ensure improved diagnosis, treatment and safer surgery.
“Our health management system is improving coverage in delivering safe, affordable and timely medicines and vaccination to citizens, particularly children. Pregnant women and infants under the age of 5 enjoy free care in our public hospitals, and we provide cash cover to treat senior citizens above 70 for hypertension and diabetes.
“The government has recruited 1200 professionals to strengthen the health system. The State Primary Health Care Development Agency is preparing to recruit over 3000 more health professionals.
“Across the state, we have expanded infrastructure. We have built township roads. We have constructed feeder roads. We have expanded rural electrification. We have delivered on the 150m litre per day Zaria Water Treatment Plant and will fully commission the entire project in 2019. We are refitting several water-works across the state to provide safer water.
“This government has created a digital land registry for Kaduna State. We have provided a pathway for our people to secure valid titles to landed property in quick time. We have brought investments and jobs, and our efforts have attracted deserved local and international recognition. The World Bank Doing Business Report ranks Kaduna State not just the most improved place to do business, but the easiest in Nigeria. Our state proudly took its place at the Open Government Partnership in Tbilisi, Georgia.
“In doing all this, we have injected into the state economy record levels of capital expenditure in each of our full budget years. We have more than doubled Internally-Generated Revenue without raising tax rates. We have done much to lift our people because we have put them and their concerns at the heart of government. We have devoted public resources to the needs of voiceless, ordinary people, rather than to the insatiable greed of a few selfish and vocal elite. We have stood with our people and taken decisions for the long-term. Every time we have had to make a choice, we have chosen sound governance over petty politics.
“As is customary at this time of the year, we have decided to make a gesture of mercy to some of our convicted compatriots. Upon the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, I have decided to order the release of 12 convicts and to commute the sentences of two others to five years’ imprisonment. This is in line with powers granted under Section 212 of the Constitution. The details of the beneficiaries are spelt out in the official release from the Ministry of Justice.
“We have been privileged to witness a new year. We can make 2019 a year of peace and progress. Let us embrace the possibilities a new year offers for renewal in our individual lives. Let the new year help us strengthen mutual understanding and uphold harmony in our state”, he concludes.