COMMUNITY REORIENTATION COMMITTEE
(Kwamitin Da’a na Al’umma)
I visited the headquarters of the Community Reorientation Committee (CRC) at Lugard House, Nasarawa on 31 June 2012 to interview its Chairman, Alhaji Bello Magaji Toronke, on the activities of his organization.
Me: Can you please tell us the rationale behind the formation of this committee? Is it a fulfillment of a campaign promise or what?
Chairman: It started from the idea harboured by His Excellency in 1999 that there is the need to involve communities in governance. In this respect, there is a great difference between us and our counterparts in the South. Here, if a school is built, for example, and a storm destroys one or two roofing sheets, it is not uncommon to find that the headmaster would remove the remaining sheets and sell them to a carpenter without any resistance from the community. Instead of replacing the few destroyed pieces, people would simply resign and claim that government property doesn’t belong to anyone; that it is only the headmaster who has power over it; etc. It is this kind of attitude that led to the conception of the CRC.
The committees are composed of eleven people in each of our 44 local governments. It includes the district head of the local government, its chief Imam, the local government chairman, House of Assembly member representing the local government, and one each from elders, businessmen, National Union of Teachers, youths and women.
When it was constituted during his first tenure, the committees were given the mandate to repair primary schools, each in its domain. At that time, we repaired over 10,000 schools. We also fed a million school children lunch at that time, daily. Every year, government also provided two sets of uniforms for each primary one child in public primary schools. During those four years, they managed a program for women empowerment under which 40 women were assisted with 5,000 in each local government. The total number of women beneficiaries then was 73,000. Then the Lafiya Jari program was also introduced to empower youths who have completed paramedical schools to live on their own by opening “chemists” after they are trained in basic commercial skills. Each of them at the end of the training was given N80,000.00; N20,000.00 to rent a shop in his community, N60,000.00 to purchase drugs to kick start the business.
Now, satisfied with the performance of the program during his first tenure, the governor during the campaign promised to re-introduce it this time again if elected. That is how we were appointed to continue with it.
Me: Did the last administration continue with the program giving its laudable achievements and grassroots coverage?
Chairman: No. Everything was stopped. What is wonderful is that when the present governor was campaigning, he promised to give women loans, continue with renovation of schools, give children free uniforms, and empower women and youths in various trades. Just two days after he was sworn in, he reconstituted the committee and tasked each local government committee with the responsibility of surveying the extent of renovations required in its schools. We went round and found that the schools were back to their dilapidated state of 1999, with little repairs done in the past eight years. An estimate of N2.8 billion was prepared to cover the repair of over 10,000 classes which will be done by direct labour through joint effort between the community and the government. During the survey, we were able to establish that there are about 1,860,000 primary school children across the state.
On 11 November 2011, government disbursed to each of the 44 local government committees N5million to start renovating the schools, in addition to the donations they receive from their communities. Then On 28 November 2011, the governor commissioned the resumption of serving lunch in our primary schools and funds were disbursed for that. Under the old arrangement, the state government feeds children on Mondays and Tuesdays, local governments on Wednesday and Thursdays and the community on Friday. The arrangement is maintained. We received a lot of contribution from communities. Someone would give a trailer load of food, another N5,000.00, etc., though not all the local governments get the same amount of donations due to their disparity in economy.
The governor attended the reintroduction of the program in Kura on 28 November 2011. It was estimated that each child will be fed at the rate of N10.00 daily; now it is made N14.00. On 8 December 2011, the President sent a delegation under the State Minister for Education for the launching of the feeding program at Laska Primary School. At that event, the governor directed that 1,000 women be selected among those who filled the empowerment forms we distributed during his campaign. This gave us the total of 44,000 women.
Given that during our first tenure we empowered 70,000 women in three years, I initially wondered where we will get the funds to cover 44,000 as a start now. However, through the initiative of the governor to engage the community in government projects, we received a contribution of N600 million from Aliko Dangote. Though Dangote hardly gives cash donations directly to governments, he did so in our case because he believes in the transparency and prudence of our governor and the viability of his projects. The governor directed that N440 million of the amount be dedicated to women empowerment program. Every week, we train 400 women small trades and give them the capital of N10,000.00, free. The remaining N160 million is used to empower 1,500 youths through training them on animal traction and, in the end, giving each of them a loan of N140,000.00. It is an interest free loan that will be revolving. We have trained 900 so far in two batches of 500 and 400; each was bought two bulls and a plough. A discount of 20% is given on the N140,000.00 loan. The rainy season is here and these youths are there working the fields and getting paid by farmers for their services. They return N2,000.00 monthly such that they would pay back the loan in two years. Yesterday, another batch of 400 is picked.
The women’s program includes teaching them ten different things: rice and beans, weaving caps, groundnut oil and cake, danwake, koko da kosai, burabusko, masa da taushe and kunun tsamiya. The ninth category of women trainees are those who trained in poultry. At the end of the training, each trainee is bought 50 chicks, chicken feed and drugs, and N3,000,00. Finally, the tenth are those taught making taliya where each trainee is bought a bag of flour, a taliya making machine and N1,000.00.
We have admitted the second batch of 44,000 women among which the first set of 4,400 women were taught punkasau da miya. Just two days ago, the governor visited Madobi and launched the disbursement of N10,000.00 to each of them. Yesterday we have picked another 4,400. And so we will continue until we are done with the entire set of 44,000 women. Then the third set, then the fourth…and so on until the end of this administration when we hope to train about a million women and empower them with N10,000.00 grants each.
Our feeding program in primary schools is ongoing without any break so far…
Me: What do you serve the children with?
Chairman: Rice and beans, mainly. We have also bought macaroni from Dangote such that they can alternate. The federal government has also chosen Kano as a pilot state for its Sorghum scheme. We are discussing with Dala Foods on the packaging of processed sorghum such that it can be used for cous cous or burabusko. Sorghum is chosen for its nutritional qualities. Officials from Abuja came. We discussed with them and conducted around. Throughout the federation, only Kano State is feeding its primary school children (when we started), hence its choice as a pilot state. The success of the program has further convinced the federal government on partnering with us.
The feeding program has impacted greatly on school enrolment in the state. Before, there were difficulties getting children to enroll and attend classes regularly. The Emir and district heads had to be involved in enrolment drives annually. However, with the resumption of the school feeding system, we are now faced with a flood of children, some even below school age. This has made the government to register many of them in kindergarten and nursery classes. Children, likewise, return from holidays on time and remain in school throughout the term, unlike before.
Initially, we used to receive N91,325,000.00 monthly, but with the increment of N4 per child and the increase of the number of children attending the schools, we now receive N139,226,000 monthly. Aliko Dangote has also assisted by subsidizing the macaroni we buy from him N105 to N70, inclusive of transport to every destination in the state.
Also, when we were head counting primary one pupils, we arrived at a figure of 237,014. To provide a set of two uniforms for each child, we needed 2.5 yards for boys and 3.5 for girls, including hijab. This required N560,640,120.00. We defended it before the State Executive Council. It was approved and the funds have already been released. Thousands of tailors throughout the state are now involved in sewing the uniforms. This has provided a market for the indigenous company Tupac Textiles that has undertaken to supply the material and the thousands of tailors engaged in sewing. Some of the uniforms are already completed and they are distributed to the pupils.
The government releases our funds promptly and approves anything we apply for that will about the improvement of education and the condition of people in the state. We on our part are working hard to keep the trust, since these jobs are largely carried out through direct labour which can easily be mismanaged. Moreover, some of the funds are donations from the public. Just this week, CRC Municipal received a donation of N5million from Alhaji Sani Kwangila. Durbin Kano also gave N1m each to Makuda and Dambatta local governments. Many people give their contributions. If they do not see work on ground in the management of the fund, they wouldn’t contribute their monies. Aliko Dangote has also promised to give us another N440million very soon to finance the women empowerment program. When women are empowered, the society is empowered. N10,000 may sound small, but it is big in the world of small, local businesses. I recently heard that Katsina and Jigawa states is giving N4,000 and N3,000 respectively as loans to women on a similar program; our is N10,000, free. Through these efforts, the present administration hopes to fight poverty in the state.
These are the achievements of the government under this committee. To every ministry or department you go, this administration has recorded similar level of achievement in the past one year.
Me: Okay. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
31 May 2012