Honourable Ahmed Muhammed representing Ankpa 1 Constituency, Kogi State House of Assembly in this interview with ALHASSAN BAKO speaks on his political career, the workers’ industrial action in the state and sundry issues. Before he ventured into politics in 2010, Hon Muhammed was into marine and logistic support in Port Harcourt Rivers State. He was also the CEO Ahmedis Concern Nig. Ltd.
Recently, you promised the people of Ankpa 1 that you are going to embark on infrastructure and human capital develop-ment. Can you tell us where is this support coming from in terms of funding?
Well, it is something that I was really prepared for. I came into politics with my business experience. With the support of the government, I will be able to attract a lot of dividend of democracy to my people. In terms of funding, what we get as a member is very little. There is what is called social service allowance. This money belongs to the people.
As a business man, I know how I manage resources, which is why I decided to manage the resources of the people of Ankpa I constituency. We have a listening governor now who does not delay our allowances.
So, with that I was able to manage this fund and just as I said earlier as a businessman, the little I get from my business I add it up to see how I can move the constituency forward. I decided to embark on so many projects which were among my cardinal campaign in terms of youth empowerment, skill acquisition, provision of social amenities, propel legislation of welfare package for the elders and education.
So far, I have stayed for over one year six months and I have been able to manage resources that are coming so as to impact positively on the various promises to my people. The bulk money is not there but the little I have been getting, I used it for the interest of the people.
This is to ensure that I am able to make out something for the people of Ankpa I constituency. And so far so good, I am succeeding because I don’t want to do any personal project with the money of my people. So, I decided to put so much effort and just as I said the Governor of Kogi State Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello is a listening governor and has assisted me a lot to see that I grow.
I have been ensuring that the administration succeeds and since I am not selfish, he sees that I am ready to work and as I work, I project the interest of the administration to see that the people do not lack.
You can’t meet directly with the governor for everything but with the representatives a lot of things will reach the people because the Executive arm cannot cover all. This is the essence of separation of powers. In our constitution, it does not give you autonomy nor financial autonomy. So, you have to be very close to the executive to see how you can lobby and attract both finance and infrastructure down to your people.
As I said about the social service allowance they give us, we do a lot of youth empowerment programmes by giving out on welfare.
Sometimes, part of this infrastructure programme we do, each time we meet with His Excellency, we inform him about the contractor coming to work in our constituency and he is very comfortable with people of Ankpa. He has nothing than to say go ahead and do the job. So, with the relationship the legislature has with the administration of Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, a lot of things are going well in our constituency and so far so good we have been taking the lead.
What advice do you have for other members of the state House of Assembly to ensure Kogi State implements the govern-ment’s agenda?
My advice to them is to see their people first and not themselves. This is because if you just sit in your own view without considering that you have people as your followers. You can’t just decide to go against the government because of your personal interest. What about the people? I will advise them to make a lot of sacrifices to their people. It must not always be rosy or sweet every time but when you look back, you see that because of your people you have to take so many things for granted.
There is no way a government would not have its lapses, but the most important thing is that there is a direction. So, when money comes into the state, we see that the money is being spent judiciously.
Government needs to spread across, and does not need to focus in on one particular area. It needs to spread. You look at infrastructure, the youths and social amenities. On these three things, the government needs to be up and doing.
As I speak with you, in all the 21 local government areas, there is development going on which means the people are feeling the impact of the government.
What do you have to say about workers’ salaries not been paid?
If you look at this trend, it is a general problem and not only in Kogi State. We are not happy about it. I think we all met this situation. Before I came, I know that workers were not properly paid even the past legislators were not paid for four months but this administration cleared the debt.
Well, money has been coming but from what we’ve been seeing and records we’ve been going through, they have been paying workers but some are still left. The scarcity of fund is the challenge and I believe that as soon as fund comes the government must do something because it is a major challenge to government. It is something that government is determined to sort out.
Even recently, we approved over N1 billion soft loans that the government will use to pay workers’ salaries. The executive brought proposal for approval and we have approved it. So I believe as soon as possible, the issue of salary is going to be a thing of the past.
Before Salah, what we had in the wage bill over N1 billion from the Federal Allocation, so they are expecting that if the wage bill comes the way it is expected and they collect the N1 billion, at least they would be able to pay the salary. But the wage bill now dropped from what they used to get a shortfall of over N1 billion. So, even if they are collecting the money, it is like they are replacing the normal figure that used to come.
It is a very big challenge and something that His Excellency is not too comfortable with. But, I think some people still get their salaries except arrears. This I believe will be paid as soon as possible. A lot of workers have collected their arrears up till date. Those ones that are yet to collect, I think the government is very determined to pay. It is something that we need to pray about for recession to come to an end. The best way to deal with issues like this is to follow up with the Executive closely with pressure so that when the money comes, workers can receive their salaries.
It is not by going far from the government or by going to criticize government on social media that make them pay.
From all indication, I think your people are very comfortable with your style of representation. So far, what is your assessment of yourself and performance?
From what I told my people before I was elected and after my election, so far I think I am above average. And before the end of this tenure, I should be able to say “yes, you fulfilled them”. So, if for above 50 per cent I have been able to fulfill the promises, it is a pass mark.
I think before the end of this tenure, they will sing that they have never seen this type of a thing in their life. I promise before the end of my tenure, everything will be complete by the grace of God.