interviewBy Onimisi Alao
Jos — Abraham Yiljap is Plateau State Commissioner of Information and Communications. In this interview, he spoke on critical factors that have hindered Governor Jonah Jang's effort to address security issues in the state. Excerpts:
Security has been a big challenge in Plateau State, especially in Jos and its environs. Barkin-Ladi and Riyom have been particularly affected these past couple of months. What really is the problem?
As you have noted, Jos has been calm for quite a while apart from bomb explosions which are a new threat. But we have situations in which attacks have been freely carried out on communities in Barkin-Ladi and Riyom local government areas. Largely, unidentified people came in and in some instances wiped out whole families at first in the night while households slept. But for a while now, it has been happening also in broad daylight. In such cases, some of the victims saw their attackers, identified them and made report to security agencies. The security in the state was handed over to the Special Task Force (STF) set up by the Federal Government and placed under the chief of defence staff. But the killings go on. The security machinery is not in the hands of Governor Jonah Jang. He is more pained because he knows the ways of the military. He is a retired military officer. But here is a general without a troop. He cannot order anyone to do anything because you have an arrangement in which, constitutionally, he is the chief security officer of the state, but in practice everything has been taken out of his hand. Only Abuja can determine how the state is secured.
You sometimes hold security meetings with the security agents. If government has no power over security, what do you discuss in such meetings?
The Security Council is a constitutional provision and not a creation of the state government. In the council is the Commissioner of Police, the Commander of the Special Task Force, the Commander of the Nigerian Air Force stationed here in Jos, the Commandant of the 3rd Armoured Division here in Jos, the Director of State Security Service (SSS): these are all federal institutions. But we have the coordinator of our own Operation Rainbow in the council too. All the heads of these agencies have to present their briefs on security during the council meeting.
Greater Jos is a concept that has recently been in focus and has been criticised by many as being unnecessary. What exactly is it intended to achieve?
The Gomwalk regime had a Jos Master Plan. That's why you have a university there. You find roads, hospitals, dams, institutions, and various structures provided. The master plan is about how you can have a modern city with infrastructure giving comfort to everyone. Now, when you hear Greater Jos Master Plan, what we are talking about is that the plan has gone beyond the Jos-Bukuru metropolis. It now encompasses six local government areas: Jos North, Jos South, Jos East, Barkin-Ladi, Riyom, and Bassa. This means we are now developing our state capital in a very wide area.
You are not restricting development to Jos and Bukuru as the state capital. That is the principle of the Greater Jos Master Plan. Infrastructure will be provided. You see roads being built. More of them will be coming up. Land will be provided to people to build industries and to build homes.
Development will now be spread to these six councils as provided in the new master plan. The council areas will be truly modern because they are within the master plan. Part of what informed the master plan is the increasing population of these areas which are close to the Jos-Bukuru metropolis. As the population increases, the need for facilities is also growing. The Greater Jos Master Plan will mean that you have space to do what you want to do. You have opportunities to function and you are not restrained by space. You are not constrained into a particular small area.
What we know is what he did in his first term. What are his aspirations in the second term?
He will generally continue unfinished projects while starting new ones. Specifically, he is working on an agricultural revolution that will transform the agricultural sector of the state. He is working with an Israeli company to run agricultural services training centres (ASTCs), one in each of the three senatorial zones. It will no longer be the way farmers were suffering and getting hardly any yield in return. It is now scientific. The equipments are there at the ASTCs.
The Centres are giving the people the seedlings they require. They will measure your farm, test your soil, and will tell you what will grow best in your farm. It is very scientific.
The ASTCs are located in Kassa for the Southern Zone; Mangu for Central Zone, and Shendam for the Southern Zone. The three centres will transform the way agriculture is practiced in Plateau State completely. We want to get people back to the land. Plateau State has been going through difficult times and if we can get this level of development, how much will we prosper when we have passed these trying times? He wants to extend the opportunities to everyone so that we can all join hands to develop the state and the people.