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With Agriculture, Katsina Can Be Independent Says Governorship Aspirant

The immediate past Managing Director, Nigeria Security and Minting, Abbas Umar Masanawa and gubernatorial aspirant for Katsina State, in this interview, gives insight on how Katsina will achieve financial independence. He also spoke on his political ambition and other issues . JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH presents the excerpts

by Jonathan Nda-Isaiah

The President gave directives last week that all political appointees and ministers must resign. Have you done so?

Absolutely, I have abided completely with the presidential directive. And I’ve resigned my appointment as the managing director, and chief executive of Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting. I sent in my resignation through the chairman of the board, who also happens to be the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. 

ou are aspiring to become governor of the home state of the number one citizen of this country, have you informed him of your intentions?

Yes. Like I said earlier, through my immediate boss, who is the governor of the central bank of Nigeria. The governor of the central bank is the chairman of the board of Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting. I have surely done that.

Why are you running for governorship of Katsina State and what are you bringing onboard?

Well, we’re not reinventing the wheel. But I believe as a Nigerian, and you know, they say every human being is a political animal. And all my life, I’ve been a banker for almost two decades. And then I became a technocrat, I started by being a special assistant to the governor of central bank, then moved to be the executive director of finance and strategy of Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting and then was elevated in 2018, to the managing director and chief executive of Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting.

Of course, I’ve never been a politician. I have never played politics in my life. But I believe every single person has something to contribute to the development of the society and I felt that I have initiative that I would be able to contribute towards the positive development of the immediate community.

How do you intend to improve the internally generated revenue of the state should you succeed in your quest to be governor of the state?

That is a very interesting question especially as a banker. You know that in banking, we have a lot of ways and means through which we can not only enhance the generation of revenue, but also to significantly or completely eliminate leakages. So number one is to eliminate leakages. That is to look for where the leakages are and block them. How can you avoid or prevent those leakages? I know that there are a lot of other areas that we can improve on revenue generation. So coming from a banking background, there’s so much I can do to improve and enhance the revenue generation of Katsina State.

If elected the governor of Katsina state, what are the Programmes/plans for the people of Katsina states?

There are so many things, basically, I would love to do if given an opportunity. But first and foremost, is the issue of education. I believe most of the problems that we have in this country today, even in the world, are linked to the issue of education. And I believe we have a lot to do, yes, of course the past government and even the present government, have been doing a lot. And I know that the government is a continuum. So we would continue where the current government stops, and what we need to do to ensure that at least people are literate, most importantly. All these issues of security, illiteracy etc are all associated with lack of education. And I want to ensure that at least people are educated to some level so that they would be able to know the difference between right and wrong. Because if you know the difference between right or wrong, there are so many ills of society that can be stopped. So my basic agenda is to see how I would enhance the issue of education in Katsina state.

And then of course, the issue of insecurity is also associated with the issue of education, the government whether at federal or state level, are already doing what they can to rid society of the ills of insecurity.

And then of course, empowerment, and economic development. You know we have the issue of redundancy. What do we do to ensure that our people are fully occupied, because as they say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So we’ll engage our people meaningfully so they would be able to contribute to the development of their immediate community.

Among all the aspirants, including the Deputy governor, immediate past SMEDAN DG and

SSG, what makes you stand out and are you confident you will emerge the winner at the primaries and go ahead to win the election?

Yes, the point is that it’s about contest, is about what you can put on the table. There are lots of aspirants. Of course, I’m not the only one and certainly politics is not about you being alone. It’s about competition and what you can do. And I think I can favourably compete with all the other aspirants in terms of the fact that, I have the capacity, I have all it takes, I have the experience and the knowledge to be able to govern my state given the opportunity.

You said earlier that government is a continuum and that you will improve on what is on ground. I’m sure your people will like to know your achievements in the places you have worked before now?


I didn’t work in so many places. When I graduated from university, I was employed by my university as a lecturer. And I lectured for some time. And of course as a young banker I rose through the ranks. I think I stayed at FSB for about two, three years. And then I moved to Zenith International Bank, where I worked for over 17 years. I rose to the position of deputy general manager in Zenith International Bank. I just want to mention because it’s worth mentioning that I rose to that position in Zenith International Bank because we all worked hard. I believe that I’ve done wonderfully well, I have contributed immensely, both in the public and private sector and have contributed significantly to the growth and development and enhancing the revenue and the income generation and the profit making of Zenith Bank. And that is why you see that Zenith bank is one of the biggest bank in Nigeria today. And I can beat my chest and say, I contributed towards that feat.

Of course, I left the banking sector in 2014. I worked briefly as the special assistant to the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, before becoming executive director in Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting, and then managing director in the same organization and then the chairman of Towada. I’ve done so much. And without being immodest, when we came on board of the Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting, we met a moriborn company, a company that was almost dead. And we were given the mandate by the president through the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Our mandate was to see how we can reposition Mint towards four key mandates. Number one, to enhance profit generation. The company was making heavy losses before we took over. Second, enhance the production capacity of Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting because when we took over more than 50 percent of Nigerian currency was printed outside the shores of Nigeria. And our core mandate was to ensure we achieve zero importation of currency, that is printing our currency in Nigeria. Thirdly, to enhance the welfare of our staff, because human capital is the most important asset in any organization. So if the people are not happy, they cannot give you their best.

So these were the core mandates that we were given. And without being immodest, we have achieved almost 100 percent of all those mandates. As I’m talking, I can beat my chest and say 100 percent of Nigeria’s currency is being handled by Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting. That is the first time since 2014. When I was being screened by the screening committee of All Progressive Congress (APC), I was asked where I worked last, and I mentioned Mint. And one of the panelists said what have we achieved when our currencies were still being imported outside the shores of Nigeria.

So after I was screened I was given the opportunity to say something. So I said, I believed that this is one of the most fundamental reforms that the Buhari administration has done and nobody is saying anything about it.

As of today, we have achieved zero importation of currency outside Nigeria. We don’t print one single kobo outside the shores of Nigeria. We have two complexes, one in Abuja and another one on the island in Lagos. And we have even achieved full flexibility. When we came in most of the currencies were either printed in Lagos or Abuja, but as I’m talking to you now, all the denominations including the polymer notes, 5, 10, 20, 50 and the paper notes – 100, 200, 500,1000 Naira, are printed either in our Lagos or Abuja factory. So in case there is anything, you can do troubleshooting, you can print our currency in Abuja, you can print the currency in Lagos, and I mean all denominations, every single thing. And there’s a fundamental revolution by the Buhari administration, because that was the mandate given to us and we were able to achieve that.

“And let me tell you the associated benefit of achieving zero importation. Number one, the issue of conserving forex, because we used to use a lot of our hard earned resources, foreign exchange to import these currencies but now we don’t do that. Two, we generate revenue for the company. As I told you earlier, Mint was moribund when we came on board. They were making losses, then there was no TSA, they had their accounts in commercial banks, and sometimes they had to go to commercial banks to borrow to pay the salaries of their staff. But we eliminated that and now it is a huge profit making company.

I am bold to say the Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting, as a government institution, is one of the most profitable and the most efficient institutions we have in Nigeria today and that you can easily find out. And then of course, we are able to generate employment because if we are able to print our own money, we can generate employment for our people.

As I’m talking to you now, we have a staff strength of 1,000, and there’s no single foreigner, no expatriate. All the people we have in Mint in Lagos and Abuja are all locals from Akwa Ibom, Warri, Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Anambra, Abuja, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Maiduguri. Both those who print the currency and those that maintain the machines. And that’s why even during the COVID pandemic lockdown, we never had challenges. We never had the need for expatriates outside the country to come and maintain our machines because our local engineers have developed enough capacity to be able to repair our machines.

And then lastly, of course capacity building. So our people are the ones maintaining our heavy equipment. So these are fundamental achievements that have been achieved by attaining zero importation of our currencies.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Katsina State. What will you do to enhance productivity and generate income?

Yes. Katsina is an agrarian state, no doubt about that. And there is wealth on the ground. I travelled across the world and there are some countries I’ve visited, I think their main stay is agriculture. The contribution of agriculture to the GDP is unprecedented. And that is the kind of opportunity that we’ll have in the north and particularly in Katsina. We have fertile land, where we can grow a lot of crops. And there’s so much you can do to harness the capacity of people. And thank God I’m even an agriculturist by profession, I read agric-economics in school. So I have a double advantage being a banker and agric-economist to see how we can harness the resources that we have in Katsina so that we will be able to enhance the capacity of agriculture.

Do you see Katsina being independent with agricultural revenue from oil revenue?

Your question has touched what I am very passionate about. Because I believe we’re in the 21st century, things are not the same again in the country. The revenue is shrinking by the day, and the era when people will rely on or come for handouts from the central government, I’m sorry to say, is almost over. You have to go and think outside the box. You have to be creative. What are the initiatives you are going to use, to generate enough so you will not rely on the government at the center? And I believe what we have to do with agriculture in Katsina State is enough to get us to be independent. And I believe by the grace of God, as I said, a lot has been done by the previous government, and even the present government, ours is to build on what they have done to ensure that we have achieved that independence.

What are your chances? How confident are you that you will emerge the chosen one amongst the heavy weights?

This is a great question you asked. Talking about the confidence that I have, I’m very confident. I have no doubt in me, I’m just waiting for the swearing in by the grace of God.

But you know, politics is about winning or losing. So what if it’s the other way round, what will you do?

That’s also a great question. Because that is exactly what the spirit of sportsmanship is about. And that is the spirit of what we should build our 21st century politics on. When we went for the screening. And for your information, we are nine aspiring to contest for the governorship of Katsina state. And I was the last to purchase the form and I was the last to submit the form. I tell you, I met with all the other eight aspirants during the screening. I didn’t meet them collectly, I met them separately. Some are my friends, some are my seniors. I took that initiative and I told them that in this contest we’re all brothers and only one of us will emerge by the grace of God to contest for the position of governor of Katsina State. And so to me, the most important thing I pledge to do is what is good for Katsina, and Nigeria as a whole.

That as an aspirant that is a greenhorn in politics, I’m seeking your support. That I’m coming to a terrain that you have perfected. I’m coming to a terrain that you already have experience. I’m coming to terrain for the first time, but I need your advice and support, and I promise you, and I pledge that whoever God chooses, I will work with that person. And let all of us pray that the best should happen to Katsina in terms of the person that will emerge, that will be good for not only Katsina but the country at large. I did that with each of the eight contests and you can confirm that from each one of them.

Source: https://allafrica.com/stories/202205220266.html

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