State of the Nation: Nigeria ripe for full-blown fiscal federalism —Gov Bello

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in this interview spoke among others on the state of the nation, politics of Kogi, his achievements in the last seven and half years, why the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, will retain the state and why his successor will take the state to greater heights.

What has the state government been able to do in terms of reduction of poverty and unemployment in the state?

Since I came on board, we have employed workers more than the previous administrations put together did. We have also reduced poverty more than the previous administrations did. We have ensured that all those unintended beneficiaries on our payroll were weeded off.
That has made more resources available for us.

In fact, my administration has made more millionaires in Kogi State than the previous administrations put together by way of empowering our people, teaching them how to fish and not necessarily giving them fish.

What informed the choice of Usman Ododo, who is said to be your relation, as the candidate of the APC for the November 11 governorship election in Kogi State?

Usman Ododo and I have no blood relationship whatsoever. Yes, we might come from the same area but in Kogi and where we are headed to, we have tried to put aside the sentiments of ethnicity, religion or class as 19 years of ethnic sentiments brought us to where we were before I came on board as governor.

Today, we talk about merit as we have broken the jinx of ethnic and religious politics in Kogi State and of course class differences. Before. It is who you are, your father, your uncle or who you know that will determine whether you will be elected or appointed into various offices.

We have been able to raise people from humble backgrounds, and today, they are occupying important positions in the state. For Ododo, who is a very compassionate and wonderful person, he emerged in a keenly contested primary election. He won overwhelmingly in the APC governorship primary, and he is poised to contest the main election scheduled for November 11, and definitely, he is going to take over from me.

On reported cases of attacks on campaign offices of some of the political parties, and measures his administration is putting in place to ensure violence-free election.
I have received reports in that regard and the security agencies are up and doing to ensure that all political thugs and criminals, irrespective of the political party they may be working for, are caged and brought to justice before, during and after the election. I want to assure you that the election of November 11 in Kogi State will not only be free, fair and credible, it will be the most peaceful in the history of the state and Nigeria.

I have superintended over elections before the forthcoming one; I will continue to learn and improve every day in terms of performance and this next one is going to be secured. So, we are strategizing to ensure that all kinds of criminals are taken care of adequately before that day and I trust that all law enforcement agencies will do excellently well before the election and even during the campaigns.

We are going to also take the lead this time around, and by the grace of God, the election will produce Usman Ododo as the next governor of Kogi State. We are going to campaign on issues; where we met Kogi State, where we are today, where we are headed to, and I will tell you that the electorate in Kogi State are ready to elect Usman Ododo on November 11.

On what he has done to grow the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the state and how far Kogi State can go without Federal allocation.

When I assumed office, the IGR of the state was within a paltry sum of N250 million and N300 million. The state Internal Revenue Service was operating from a two-bedroom office. Of course, accountability and mobilization were issues then, so we sat down and reviewed the situation we met on ground. We blocked all the loopholes hence one of the reasons for the hues and cries then.

Secondly, we ensured that we expanded the tax net and the revenue base of the state. There were so many revenue sources that were not harnessed before then. We also made use of legislation because there were no rules and regulations that governed revenue generation in Kogi State before we came on board.

But we came up with several legislations to ensure that people pay their taxes and that tax deductions from civil servants and political office holders were remitted to the coffers of both the state and federal government. These interventions by my administration are the reasons the state’s IGR jumped from N300 million to N1.5 billion monthly and we are going to do better before we leave office having identified more loopholes.

And because we have a lot of solid minerals in Kogi State, we have embarked on a policy that will ensure that we benefit from the mining of these solid minerals. As it stands, there is no record of how these solid minerals are mined on a daily basis.

Last August, I had an interaction with one of the investors in a coal deposit in Ankpa Local Government Area of the state. There were issues of illegal and legal mining; the big man came and told me to drive away all the illegal miners, but we have a policy that recognizes artisanry miners.

To cut the story short, we discovered that this man has about eight companies mining coal in that local government area, and they are not taking away anything less than N15 billion monthly, but if you go to the area, what you will see is an eye sore. And what have they paid in tax? I don’t think it is up to 0.001 percent of what they are making to both the state and local government.

So, we are going to come up with a policy that will ensure that both the communities, artisanry miners, the state and federal governments will have full records of what is being taken away from the area, so that the people and the government will enjoy the benefits of their resources.

I hope you are aware of the recent seeming feud between the Kogi State government and one of the richest men in Africa. It is a situation that is unpalatable if you hear the peoples’ side of the story. I know that before the end of my administration, we will put in place a policy that will ensure that our people enjoy the benefits of the solid mineral deposit in that area.

But to address this issue, I think it is better we look towards true fiscal federalism, and I am advocating that. In Nigeria, mineral deposits, solid, liquid and gaseous abound everywhere, so we should not be lazy in taking actions. Mr. President has been wooing investors from around the world to come to Nigeria. There are several areas to be invested in in this country and we have no reason whatsoever to be poor.

Still on the issue of solid minerals, especially discovery of lithium deposits in Kogi, Nasarawa and Zamfara, which is said to be fueling insecurity in the states. Is there any plan to partner with the Federal Government to ensure that the situation does not escalate?

Let us tell ourselves the truth. Like I said earlier, true fiscal federalism is the way to go for Nigeria. You cannot be in control of your resources as a state and allow crime and criminality to fester because that is where your resources are generated from. You will man it; you will face the criminals; you will not allow any foreigner to come and arm your citizens.

You will secure your state, so that you can attract investors. So, let the states control their resources and pay royalties to the center. This will reduce the heavy burden on the Federal Government and free more resources for the states and local governments.

Most roads leading to Kogi State are in bad shape; what is your government doing to make them motorable?

We have made several attempts to get the Federal Government to come to our aid after various interventions and palliatives by the state government. You will agree with me that before now, one has to hold one’s breath travelling from Abuja to Lokoja because of the poor condition of the road.

Also, there were kidnappings and robberies along the federal highways, which were manned by agencies of the Federal Government. But we intervened by doing some palliatives on those roads hence we recorded breakthroughs in security in those areas but there was no refund to the state government. Somebody who manned the roads at that time said that Okene-Lokoja and Lokoka- Abuja were not economically viable.

That was what we were told. Aside from my visit, the then-state legislators also visited the ministry. Federal legislators, both senators and members of the House of Representatives from the state also visited. Our traditional rulers equally visited but nothing substantial was done.

Thank God Almighty, we have a new administration, and we are looking forward to having some relief even as there are interventions already by the present government. A day after President Bola Tinubu inaugurated his cabinet, the Minister of Works, Engr. Dave Umahi visited, and we took a tour of federal roads leading to and within Kogi State and promised immediate intervention.

As we speak today, there are interventions going on those roads. In fact, Umahi immediately asked the acting managing director of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to take a tour of federal roads in Kogi State, which he did immediately. That is how responsible and responsive the present administration is. So, our roads in Kogi are going to wear a new look very soon. For the state roads, you will be shocked over how we have been able to utilize the resources available to us to fix them.

Kogi State is one of the states that perform badly in the area of Foreign Direct Investment, and the state is one of the states with high rate of food inflation according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). How would you react to these?

In 2020, which was the year of COVID-19, we had the highest inflow of Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria, over $1 billion, even surpassing Lagos State.

On the issue of food crisis and inflation in Kogi State, some of the figures being churned out are false. I challenge whosoever that is churning out such figures to come out with the methodology employed to arrive at such figures. What was the sample size involved in the research to arrive at such conclusions. We have curbed insecurity in Kogi State and our farmers are back to their farms.

In Kogi State, we did not shut down because of COVID-19. In Kogi State, we pay more than many states in Nigeria in terms of salary, and we are not owing anybody. In Kogi State, we are utilizing our resources for the benefit of a majority of our people, and we have been honored by the World Bank and other rating bodies for ensuring accountability, yet some people will be churning out figures against the state government.

How would you want to be remembered by the time you leave office as governor of Kogi State?

There is nobody who has occupied office that wouldn’t want to do one thing or the other but what is important is: am I satisfied with my achievements and successes? I thank God Almighty for all I have achieved given where I met Kogi State and where I have taken it to.

No government can solve all the problems 100 per cent but I thank God for my successes so far and commitment. My belief is that Usman Ododo will build on the foundation I have laid in Kogi State.


True fiscal federalism is the way to go for Nigeria. You cannot be in control of your resources as a state and allow crime and criminality to fester because that is where your resources are generated from.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top