This is the excerpts of an exclusive interview with Engineer Sarki Labaran. He is a governorship aspirant in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He is one of the frontline commissioners during Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau’s government. He bares his mind on his candidacy, the present government’s performance, and other contemporary issues. Excerpts;
The African Monitor: We will like to know who Engineer Sarki Labaran is?
Engineer Sarki Labaran.: My names are Engr. Sarki Labaran, I was born 64 years ago at Soron Dinki Quarters in the ancient city of Kano. I attended my primary school from 1960 to 1966 at Gidan Makama primary school. I proceeded to Rumfa College from January 1967 to December 1971. I proceeded to Kaduna Polytechnic where I obtained my OND and HND. I served my country (NYSC) in Ondo state and started working with Water Resources Engineering and Construction Agency (WRECA) in the year 1977 as a Higher Technical Officer. I later went to United Kingdom for a professional course where I became a British chartered engineer. I returned to occupy the post of workshop manager at Tiga in charge of 13 dams at the same time. I left government service in 1991 to establish my own outfit working with many clients ranging from government agencies, quasigovernment agencies, insurance companies, banks and others.
In the year 2002 a very good and close friend of mine came to me in the person of Mallam Dr. Ibrahim Shekarau and motivated me to serve my state while I still can. He was then contesting for the governorship seat. We did our best and with Allah`s grace we won. I was not part of the government initially, later at the invitation of the government I came on board especially to build a confident, robust and Sharia compliant system within and outside Kano.
TAM: What motivated you Sir, to join politics?
ENGR.: I have been wondering why things are deteriorating day by day. During our youth days, things were beautiful. Suddenly especially after the year 1979, there was a sharp decline in the quality of resources and services. I took it upon myself as a duty to bring a repair machinery that will bring decency in the system. Secondly is the issue of moral rectitude among the people, dishonesty, restive youths, drugs and a sundry of issues. That is why we must participate to bring about the change we need. KA no is a historical and commercial city and we must do something to repair the outlook of Kano.
TAM: You are one of the best commissioners during your regime, what are your achievements Sir?
ENGR.: I can’t say I am the best, that is for the people to judge. I am grateful to God for that. We had a vision at my ministry of Transport Housing and Works. The vision is overhauling the transport system of Kano and making it Sharia compliant. We also built houses in Kano that are affordable to the general public. We are very serious with issues regarding, we always put respect and protection of women and their rights as our top priority. Our moral values regards as illegitimate contact between a man and a woman that are not married or related by blood. We introduced the Adaidaita Sahu tricycles. We first started with 500 units of these vehicles and now only God knows the number plying the streets of this country. We achieved 3 things; first we sanitize the transport system making it is safer, cheaper and more convenient, evident by massive fall in road traffic accidents. Secondly, there is empowerment of people that were given these vehicles. Thirdly, there is protection and maintenance of the sanctity of our women.
We planned on building houses that are cheap and affordable to the public at the rate of not more than 3 million naira per unit. We embarked on a massive housing program, first by purchasing six land units across Kano, planning it effectively and signing contract with private partners. When a new regime came they jettisoned all that and brought expensive projects, the Kwankwasiyya and their likes. The prices of those housing units run in millions that are only affordable to rich people. As we all witness the effectiveness is only handful. A lot of our money been put to nonjudicious use.
We introduced the transportation project for conveyance of schoolgirls to and from school. I told you that we take seriously women and girl child affairs. The number of school girls was enormous, in Nassarawa zone alone we have up to 40 thousand students. It was a pilot program that ensured that schoolgirls are under the custody of authorities from their going to school to their coming back home. We engaged the private sector in the program in what is called public private partnership so that the transport will be as cheap and as convenient. Unfortunately when we left it was shunted to the trash basket. Insha Allah if we com we shall pick up where we left.
TAM: you started Kano electricity power supply, at what stage did you leave the plant?
ENGR.: Kano cannot play its role efficiently without stable power supply. Companies and enterprises are on partial shift, use generators etc. as a result there is low productivity, increased cost, and local products cannot compete with imported goods. We have to have a sustainable domiciled electricity power supply. There was a partial feasibility study been conducted on the two dams we have. Jointly they can only produce 12 megawatt of electricity. There is also issue of distance to the metropolis, it can only be used to electrify the neighboring local governments while the plan is electrifying Kano city. We gave that to private sector in a public private partnership, that is more economical.
We brought into place real power stations which operate on fuel. There was efficient gas supply for the plant. We conducted feasibility study in conjunction with a reputable Korean company that has handled projects of this nature in Korea and many other countries in the name of PASCO. There were some setbacks when Obasanjo left. We entered another partnership with a Chinese company CIMEC, they are well known and have good track record together with Kaduna during Namadi’s time. A 100 megawatts station would be built. We sought financing from ECOWAS Bank, we got approval from the state House of Assembly, we purchased land near Challawa dam so that water supply will not be a problem, in fact nothing was lacking. We will produce power to Kano and also neighboring states Jigawa and Katsina.
Now all this project is been abandoned. They instead embarked on a white elephant project of hydro power of that 2 dams consuming 17 billion Naira only to produce 12 megawatts of power. How on earth will you spend more than 10 billion naira to produce 12 megawatts? This expenses excludes cost of building dams because they have been built long ago. The water does not belongs to us in isolation, rather all state that it has passed through up to Lake Chad. It is a colossal wastage of money and when we come on board we shall review it and take the necessary action.
TAM: what is your legacy?
ENGR.: Some of our works are noticed by the public while some is only by the beneficiaries of the scheme. My greatest legacy and Sardaunan Kano Mallam Dr. Ibrahim Shekarau is the Adaidaita Sahu tricycles. We have sanitize the transport system in Kano. When we brought it that was the first time it is been used all over the country, now all states have borrowed a leaf from us. In the north eastern part of the country there was a ban on okada motorcycles, tricycles became the only alternative. These tricycles have proved to be more than a substitute for Okada motorcycles.
TAM: Are there other things you will have wanted to complete before you left government?
ENGR.: Yes, there are. When I was at the ministry of Ministry of Land and Physical Planning I personally issued certificates for the Dongo/Kanawa market. The idea was to make Kano the biggest and most profitable commercial hub in the West African subcontinent. It will have decongested Sabon Gari and Singer market. Kano is historically Trans Saharan commercial route. The work is still in progress though slow.
Secondly is the girl child transport system, we will revisit it and see means of salvaging the situation.
TAM: People have calling on you to contest, will you answer their call?
ENGR.: I want to state publicly that I have answered the clarion call of the good people Kano state. That cannot be without reasons. It is extremely disheartening to see a 70 year old with a stick in his hand in a proposed fight in his party, his state when he should be the chief security officer of his state.
We all saw what transpired in recently conducted local government elections. Many parties withdrew from the exercise yet they went ahead conducted it. We all saw how small children lined up to massively dot the ballot papers. It was very ridiculous yet they pulled fantastic results, 2 million votes and have promised to give him 5 million votes in 2019, we shall see.
There is no single gigantic capital project that has originality that had been executed by this government to completion. Where it is not copying of previous government’s work, then it is completing what better governments have done.
When we speak of Kano we talk of commerce not shop keeping. They are two different things. They have utilized every space to erect shops. They have littered spaces and blocked roads, this is hazardous in fire outbreaks and emergencies. What happened at Kwari market where billions are lost is a classic examples. I want to warn all those building these corner shops that when we come on board we shall review them all and most of them will be demolished.
There is no single project executed by this government that is of benefit to the man on the street. Local governments are not allocated their dues. They have been turned forcefully to beggars, they are handed out chicken change which they lavish at the expense of public good. This was entirely different from our modus operandi. Not a single kobo was deducted from the allocation. As it came from the federal government as it is passed to them. Their funds are domiciled in their hands. We are going back to those good days if we come back.
Kano supposed to be an economic giant just like Cairo that is the giant of the desert.
TAM: Do you think you can take Kano to a higher level?
ENGR.: Insha Allah, I want Allah to do his best for Kano state through me and my colleagues. We shall take Kano to unassailable heights.
TAM: We are much grateful for granting us your precious time for this interview.
ENGR.: I am really proud of you and appreciate your efforts. Some show timidity and lack of professionalism. But your case is different. I wish you the best in your endeavors.