What have been some of the measures implemented by the government of Kano to improve the economy since you entered office?
It has been a difficult time for Nigeria due to the low oil prices, and the President was determined to foster agriculture production to reduce food imports. We needed to develop our internal revenue in order to develop our economy, and we had to reform the system by revamping the board of internal revenue, which used to be handled by government officials. That was not efficient enough and suffered from corruption. We created a board for collections that employed young, educated, and well-motivated graduates and made it independent. We also established an independent tax collection body to expand the tax net. As for agriculture, we held various meetings with farmers associations to identify farmers' main issues. Most farmers were not producing at a profitable rate, which discouraged them. They imported rice, wheat, and tomato paste, for example, at lower prices than what it took to produce. The federal government had to ban the imports of certain foods to protect them. We provided NGN100 million (USD275,000) for the purchase of improved seeds, which has increased participation. Another issue was with fertilizers, which were scarce and, therefore, expensive. We provided new machinery to a local fertilizer company, serviced its old ones, and built up new management. Now, we are home to the largest fertilizer producer in northern Nigeria.
As Kano increasingly becomes a megacity, how will it overcome the associated socioeconomic challenges?
In order to make it a true megacity, we have to look into the transportation system and road network. We have identified some areas that see a great deal of traffic congestion. We have entered into an agreement with a consulting firm to review the city's master plan that will hopefully generate a better plan for a well-articulated road network, drainage network, and the type of infrastructure we need to provide. Another problem that a megacity faces is unemployment. We have undertaken the collection of data on the number of unemployed and the type of unemployment in the city. In the short term, we provide skills to the youth through institutions. We also offer empowerment through different equipment. We have identified 24 different types of trades where youth can gain automatic employment if they are able to acquire the correct skills. Correspondingly, we are building a modern skills acquisition center in Kano. Also in the short term, we have entered an agreement with Peugeot Nigeria. We lack well-trained auto mechanics, and we offer scholarships to 75 young people for one year. We also enrolled 100 girls and 50 boys to become automotive engineers. All 150 graduated without a single drop out. Peugeot will construct new factories with the latest equipment and technology in Kano, and our students will be qualified to work in those areas.
What message would you send to the local and international investor community about doing business in Kano State?
We have zero tolerance for corruption and created an anti-corruption body that is independent. It has a working relationship with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and we have trained some of the staff. We are building anti-corruption offices across 44 parts of the state. We want to assure investors that action will be taken in cases of corruption. We also make business transactions easy; we have reformed the system for those who require land or documents and have reduced the amount of time it takes. We have also succeeded in reducing the time it takes to get approvals.