Why are you at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
It is for routine consultation. This is the national headquarters of my party. I am a very strong party adherent. I believe that I should respect the platform that has brought me into prominence and that platform is the APC. I come here regularly for routine consultations with the top echelon of the party.
Before the election, you spoke about what you would do if you won. After nine months in power, how far have you gone?
I believe everybody is aware of the state of the economy of Nigeria. The dwindling price of oil in the international market permeates through the society; the federal government and all the state governments, with the possible exception of a few states, may be like Lagos which has quite a sizeable Internally Generated Revenue. But the situation we found ourselves when we took over was a very sorry one. For example, in my state, civil servants were owed four months’ salaries and my state is essentially a civil servants’ state. Everybody depends on the civil servants. So, the very first action we took was to pay one month salary to assuage the situation.
When we came in, it was like a keg of gunpowder. Things were ready to explode at the slightest provocation. But we were able to calm things down. The federal government intervened via the bailout. When we got the bailout, Bauchi State paid the entire salary backlog. Today, except the delay in the payment of January salary in respect of teachers of local governments, because of the reasons I gave you and the delay in the payment of the February salary of the entire workforce of the state because of an exercise I have embarked upon to determine the credibility of the payroll of the state, I am not owing anybody any salary.
What is the latest on the ghost workers discovered during an earlier exercise in the state?
Within the entire payroll, which is made up of the state and the local governments, slightly above 19,000. The exercise is ongoing. What the accountant-general reported was as a result of physical verification. I added another aspect to the verification with the use of the Bank Verification Number (BVN). I gave an order that, starting from February, no person who is either an employee of the local government or the state in Bauchi will be paid in cash. Everybody will be paid through the bank and that person must supply us his or her BVN. I have done that and it is yielding fruits.
People are not even aware that I have not stopped at that. Right now, as I am talking to you, there is a further verification of the BVN supplied because Nigerians are very smart. When we said BVN, somebody sat down and calculated that since the BVN is an 11 digit code, so, let him go and concoct his own BVN and send it to Bauchi State government. He thought he had scaled through. But what I have done with the entire BVNs that have been supplied is to give it to a bank. The bank is using the CBN platform to cross check all these BVNs. So, I am expecting additional revelation.
Fight against corruption was a cardinal campaign point of the APC-led administration. Is the present government probing the last administration?
Actually, we are probing the last administration and a lot of revelations have so far been made. But what I want you to understand is that we are not an investigative outfit. We have not been elected to investigate. Right now, I have a high-powered committee that is investigating all contracts from 2007 to 2015. This comes after I have set up a public property recovery committee under a retired Air Commodore who has succeeded in recovering a lot of properties that were earlier carted away.
So, we are investigating. But our attitude towards investigation is that any discovery we make, we will now take it to the investigative authority, that is, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for them to carry on and do a thorough investigation. Then, the commission moves against the culprits with a view to retrieving the ill-gotten wealth. So, this is what we are doing in Bauchi State.
It was reported that your convoy was attacked on your way from Gombe. Your media team issued a statement. What actually happened?
Don’t jump the gun, you will hear from us. One, don’t believe anything you read about Bauchi State in some online platforms. They started by saying I gave my son N950 million contract. Everybody in Bauchi State knows that that contract does not exist. They now said I would appoint my wife as the Commissioner of Finance, and my sister as the head of Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB); I have made these appointments and that rumour has not come to pass. They said I am making plans to move to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in fact, that people should wait and see my commissioners – that my commissioners would come mainly from the PDP of the last regime.
I have appointed my commissioners. So, there are some people who have not accepted the will of God; people who contested election with me are sponsoring these kinds of publications. I am a Muslim and I do engage in fasting, Wallahi, tallahi! Nobody pelted me with anything on my way back from Gombe. It is a blatant lie. Unfortunately, the way things are in this country, I cannot go after them because they are faceless. If I could, you would have heard us in court by now. But, because they are a faceless body, there is nothing I can do.
What will be the fate of those found guilty in this current investigation in Bauchi State?
I assure you that every culprit who is found to have a hand in the sponsorship of ghost workers in the payroll of Bauchi State will face the wrath of the law. It’s a promise.
Recently, you were at the Presidential Villa. You talked about the need for the federal government to refund some money expended on some work by your state. What was the response of Mr. President?
An airport has been built by Bauchi State government. The last government that built the airport through their ways and means were able to obtain all the necessary approvals of the federal government for refund of the money expended. What I did was to write a reminder to Mr. President to see if he could revalidate the approval of the former president and for the refund to be given to Bauchi State.
It’s about 10 months since the APC assumed leadership in Nigeria but people seem to be disappointed with your party…?
Let me say that it is unfair to judge the APC government so far. People have forgotten that the party that held sway before governed for 16 years. If there was any rot it took 16 years to do; people should not expect magic from the APC. But we are committed. You can also see that from the time we took over power, oil price has been dwindling. You can see that from the effort of Mr. President, oil price has started to pick up. So, people should not be impatient. People should give us at least 16 years and see if we cannot turn around all the rot that the PDP has caused. They should not judge us in nine or eight months. It is not fair. So, I am assuring Nigerians that we are on course. The APC government at the centre is on course. All the APC governments in the states will deliver In sha Allah!