The Minister designate for Inner Cities and Zongo Development, Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, has described himself as a ghetto man, saying: “When I go with you to Agbogbloshie and any of the Zongos, you will leave me because you will see all kinds of people there. But these are the people I want to work with.”
Justifying his suitability for the position when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) yesterday, he said as the Minister for Inner Cities and Zongo Development, he would tackle the high poverty rate in the Zongos, which currently numbered over 400, and the inner cities dotted all over the country.
Saying that mandate also fell under Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he stated: “I believe we need to fight and take people out of poverty and I want to conceptualise and actualize the vision of the President.”
He said one of his initial goals was to set a very sound foundation for the ministry by creating a healthy mindset for all, after which everybody would help with developing the Zongos.
He pledged not to be discriminatory when embarking on economic empowerment to change the economic fortunes of people in the Zongos and inner cities through business development and support.
It was like a student whose favourite topic had appeared in an examination when Alhaji Boniface was asked to explain what constituted a Zongo.
Answering questions in an atmosphere of goodwill from members of the ACP, who praised him for his humility, and the many Zongo chiefs and elders who were there to lend their support, Alhaji Boniface showed that he was so much at home with the question posed by the MP for Tamale North, Alhaji Alhassan Sayibu Suhuyini.
He proceeded to school the committee on the history of Zongos, which he said was the corrupted word for the original word ‘Zongo’, which meant a temporary transit for travellers, traders and religious propagators at the outskirts of towns.
Speaking to the US$50 million Zongo Development Fund (ZDF) seed money pledged by the President, he said beneficiaries would be made to isolate the benefits from their personal interests and would receive technical support for effective utilisation after Parliament had approved the establishment of such a fund.
Alhaji Boniface said he would consider the transformation of Nima and other prime Zongos with high-rise apartments for the owners of the lands through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) but he would first have to see that such a plan fell within the plans of the country.
He said he believed that developing the Zongos and the inner cities would reduce the crime rate, saying that it would require inter-sectoral collaboration, visibility of policing and lighting to mitigate the problem.
The nominee stressed that the ZDF would solely be used for projects such as infrastructure development, stocking libraries, paying Arabic instructors, ICT development and other social development, while educating the girl child would prevent child marriages which were prevalent in the Zongos and the inner cities.