OPINION: To our Govenor, Right Honourable Aminu Bello Masari, on the $110 Million Loan – By Dikko Muhammad
Your Excellency Sir, it is with profound respect I write to join other concerned people of Katsina State on the title of this piece, the loan debate. I appreciate your decision of calling for Town Hall Meetings to discuss crucial issues that affect the lives of our people. It is a way of carrying people along in a democratic government. I sense the urge by you and your team to develop Katsina State despite the shortfall of the revenue you experience coming to power. However, some of the measures being taken are alarming. I believe that we have a moral obligation to speak on these measures as a way of playing our roles in making this State better for ourselves and the generation to come later.
Your Social Media aides have done a great job in explaining the motivation behind the loan. Some of the reasons provided are renovation of One Hundred and Thirty Six primary health care across the State, and the upgrading of General Amadi Rimi Specialist Hospital into a University Teaching Hospital and numerous other important projects. These are laudable projects BUT taking loan to finance them, at this economically critical stage, is not just wrong, in the opinions of many of us, it is also unwise and badly timed.
The first reason being that the first time we witness projects being financed by loan since 1999 is when you came to power in 2015. There were no loans sought by your predecessors. Your immediate predecessor made some mistakes but he deserves an applause in leading the State for 8 years without loan. Now, our utmost fear is that, when your predecessor left you an empty treasury, you may end up leaving huge debt for your successors, for us and our children yet to come. I implore Your Excellency to rescind this loan because you would be more commended when you succeed in handing over a debt-free Katsina State to another person in 2019 or 2023. This is more important than these projects you intend to execute with the loan.
I don’t intend to belittle the importance of health care, especially the primary one. But this loan requires us to be very diligent and explore all the sides of it. Loans come with repercussions. The idea that one can borrow to build his community is a farce from an economic point of view. It is one of the Neoliberal policies created and imposed by the West to truncate African development. Banks are not charity organisations, they are interest-based, call them whatever, but they are out to make profits. don’t claim knowledge of Maynard Keynes but I know one does not need to have cancer to tell its symptoms.
Above all, before you intend to borrow money and renovate hospitals, you ought to think of how to pay it back. Right now, States receive less and less from the Federation Account. Your Excellency Sir, right now the price of oil is still falling in the World market. We cannot guarantee ourselves that the allocation will increase in the near future. Besides, France have just said it will stop using oil by 2040. Any thinking society that relies on oil price ought to start preparing for the worst. Venezuela is already feeling the pain. I doubt if our IGR can pay that loan in the future. I don’t want sound pessimistic but I want us to face reality.
Sir, the recent dangerous call for RESTRUCTURING the country is, simply put, a call for economic autonomy of oil producing States. The North is considered a parasite to the oil money. Instead of thinking of how we can survive in the event of the country’s break up or restructuring, we decide to live into the past delusions that groundnut money was used to dig the oil wells. We should be thinking of surviving without Federal Allocation, not borrowing money to renovate structures.
Your Excellency, even if you succeed in renovating primary health centres, we need to be convinced that you have the financial strength to pay the workers working in them. Right now, most of these places are administered by casual staff. The allowances for the casual staff are also becoming a burden you can hardly settle. So, if the trend continues in this way, you may end up renovating places to be occupied by lizards! Please sir, take few steps back and restudy the situation.
Sir, I want to reiterate the first point. In 2015, you came to my village, Wurma in Kurfi Local Government to campaign for the seat you now occupy. You promised us that you will construct a tarred road from Birchi to Wurma to up to Marina in your first budget. There was no provision for our road in all your budgets so far. The road has become completely terrible. But I did not write anything to say that you failed in your promise. I reason with you that there is no money for that. So, don’t rush us into debt to renovate hospitals please. We are patient enough and we are praying hard that the revenue generation will improve so that you can do these things without borrowing any penny from anyone.
I want to conclude by saying that your social media aides have shown professionalism in responding to people’s anger about the proposed loan. In a neighbouring State, when people rejected their Governor’s proposed loan, he retorted by reportedly saying, “ubanku zai biya!” (Excuse my language, I am just reporting). Allah Rayan Jihar Katsina. If they are telling you the truth trending; they must have told you by now that Katsina people are not happy with this loan proposal.
Dikko Wurma Muhammad.