Making Kaduna great again: El-rufai defines change


By; Samuel Aruwan.
In its first year in office, the Kaduna State Government, led by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has demonstrated the substantive meaning of change. His electoral mandate is being implemented as a conscientious exercise in building new foundations on which to erect a sustainable future for Kaduna State.
Change is not about new faces in Government House, or fresh appointees doing the same old things. It is about giving a new direction, making tough choices and delivering the social goods the people need. Explaining the motivations of his policies, El-Rufai said that “our programme is structured to ensure that poverty does not stifle a child’s ability to gain decent basic education or kill a pregnant mother during childbirth, and that young people have the skills and access to finance to actualize their agency in creating jobs or in doing well where they are employed. We seek to reduce the possibility that pregnancy becomes a multiple, sometimes fatal ordeal for father, mother and infant. We seek to stand by the hardworking and the honest, to promote initiative and to reward merit without religious or ethnic preference”. Anchored on a new style that is devoid of ostentation, Malam El-Rufai is providing leadership distinguished by personal example and sacrifice.
The tone was set in his inauguration speech where he announced that he and Deputy-Governor Barnabas Yusuf Bala would donate 50% of their salary and allowances to the state. This was to underline the need for everyone to be prepared for the sacrifices ahead. Having inherited a state government that spent most of its revenues on public servants and political appointees, El-Rufai was determined to change this. He affirmed a commitment to reorienting government spending away from catering for the few to delivering the needs of the many. As he told the honourable members of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, can a government elected by majority vote turn around to focus public spending on a few? Can a polity be properly described as a democracy if its resources are consistently gulped by a tiny minority?
Shrinking Government; cutting costs.
El-Rufai answered these questions by shrinking the size of government. He merged and restructured ministries, reducing them from 19 to 13. Where the previous government had 24 commissioners, he appointed only 13, attaching their portfolios to the nomination papers he forwarded to the legislature. He moved on to tackling the issues of fraud and waste, cutting overheads in the Executive Branch to 40% and initiating the biometric verification of civil servants and pensioners. The verification exercise has helped to reduce the monthly wage bill to N2.2bn from the N2.7bn it was in May 2015. By October 2015, 2,484 ghost pensioners were removed from the payroll, and that is saving the state N1.3bn every year. With N14.3bn in inherited pension arrears, the case for verifying pensioners makes itself.
The wisdom in insisting on verification, despite the hitches the process has encountered, was borne out when the state’s federal allocation fell to N2.4bn in April 2016, barely N200m above the wage bill. That is not to mention overheads to run the government and capital expenditure to deliver education, health care and infrastructure. Tackling fraud and stopping waste are crucial to any ability to secure enough resources to provide for the needs of the 8m-10m residents of Kaduna State. Otherwise, governance becomes merely an exercise in paying the monthly wages of 87,000 civil servants and political office holders. That is not an option.
Rigorous attention to monitoring state finances led to the swift implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which required the closure of all state government accounts in commercial banks and the transfer of the balances in those accounts to the Central Bank of Nigeria. TSA showed that the state government operated more than 450 accounts, and in closing them the government consolidated all its revenues in one place. In one swoop, about N30bn in state government revenues were consolidated in one CBN account. Ministries, departments and agencies were later granted permission to open one operational account each, into which they could not receive any deposits except transfers from the government for their operations. With TSA in place, the government trained public servants on Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) to replace the discredited incremental budgeting tradition. ZBB requires that every line item be justified as to rationale and cost, and not be included in the budget just because it has always been included.
2016 Budget of Sacrifice, Restoration and Change Based on ZBB principles, the 2016 budget represents one of the most coherent expressions of the substantive meaning of change. This budget stands out for its unmistakably pro-poor orientation, its emphasis on reducing state dependence on federal funds and its concentration on the delivery of public goods. The budget advances the manifesto commitment to build human capital, provide infrastructure and enact laws and policies that improve the ease of doing business as a way of attracting job-creating investments to Kaduna State. The spending choices and allocations in the 2016 budget reflect change. In 2014, the previous government spent N2.1bn as Government House expenses, an item to which the 2016 budget assigns less than N600m. In that same 2014, only N300m was appropriated to the Ministry of Health for capital projects. In 2016, the capital budget for health is N6.6bn. Sixty percent of the N172bn budget is allocated to capital expenditure. That means Kaduna State is spending N108.7bn this year on providing services that ordinary people need such as Schools, modernized Primary Health Centres, acceleration of Zaria Water and rehabilitation of 12 waterworks statewide, construction of roads, installation of street lights, a new ring road for Kaduna and initial investment for a rail-based mass transit network for Kaduna.
Remarkably, the 2016 budget was signed into law on 22 December 2015. Hardly a week passes without Kaduna State Government publishing adverts for one procurement or Expression of Interest as it pushes robust implementation of the 2016 Budget. For the first time in the history of the state, the government also presented the first quarter budget performance report to the Kaduna State House of Assembly. Education since then, more than N6bn has been spent on the rehabilitation of schools, providing more classrooms, water and toilets. This is a continuous exercise intended to fix the more than 4000 public primary schools most which the government found in dismal states. The schools are also being equipped with furniture. The situation the government met is one where more than 50% of school pupils have no seats or desks. Every school day, the government feeds 1.5m primary school pupils at a cost of N300m per week. About 85,000 women, are involved in school feeding. Expanding access to education is not limited to school repairs or school feeding. The Governor prohibited the collection of any sort of levies at the basic education, effectively making education free and saving parents N3bn every year. He also stopped the sale of forms to students seeking admission to public schools, insisting that forms should be provided free of charge. The government is also providing free uniforms for secondary school students. On the quality front, teachers were allowed to rise to permanent secretary grade (Level 17) without having to stop being teachers. The government recruited 2500 teachers for core subjects such as English, Mathematics and the Sciences. To preserve the learning environment and the ability for future expansion, the government is recovering school lands that were encroached upon by individuals. The exercise has been concluded in Alhudahuda College, Zaria, and Rimi College, Kaduna, which is being restored to its status as a boarding school and will be admitting boarders from September 2016.
One of the first actions of the El-Rufai government was to convene a health summit to deliberate on securing better health outcomes for the people. The government was determined to reduce infant and maternal mortality, improve immunization coverage and expand access to decent primary healthcare. At that summit, an agreement was signed with GE to modernize and equip 255 primary health centres. The GE contract is delivering equipment that ensures that within a 5km radius, every pregnant woman can access a PHC that has facilities for ante-natal and obstetric screening such as V-scans and ECGs. Also included in the GE contract are warmers, masks and resuscitation equipment for babies, and equipment to give 23 secondary health care centres facilities for cardiovascular screening, anesthesia care and surgical care. The health care system in Kaduna State has also scaled up its capacity. In two separate phases of the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) week, our medical personnel tested more than 200,000 pregnant women for HIV over 10 days. For these feat, our health workers won two consecutive first prizes for our state. They also made submissions that persuaded MTN to upgrade the maternity wards of five of our general hospitals. The team also secured USD 2m from the Save One Million Lives programme. Steady investments and upgrades have earned the Barau Dikko Hospital accreditation as a teaching hospital, and the pre-clinical programme of the Kaduna State University is now accredited. The government is also positioning Kaduna as a destination for medical tourism by working to complete the 300-bed specialist hospital located in the Millennium City.
The government has liquidated the N3bn arrears owed the contractors handling the Zaria Water project. The 150 million litres per day water tank will be completed in December 2016. The pipeline network to supply the water is already being laid. The government has just completed desilting the sedimentation tanks of the Kaduna waterworks, 75% of which had been taken up by mud due to six years of non-maintenance. The desilting is reducing the turbid nature of the water supply in parts of the city.
The transport infrastructure in Kaduna is being improved. Many streets in Kaduna metropolis are being lit by solar lights, while the Kawo-Lugard Hall road project, which was renegotiated downwards by N1.1bn, is continuing. Eleven township roads are in various stages of progress, with some being dualised. The government has completed the Angwan Romi bridge which it met abandoned. The state is engaging the Federal Government to redesignate the Nnamdi Azikiwe bye-pass a state road to enable its repair. Design work on a third ring road for Kaduna is ongoing to create a new bye-pass and open up more districts of the city for development. The big ticket item in transport is the ongoing procurement process to select the company that will build a rail-based mass transit system for Kaduna. Eighteen global firms including Alstom, Gauff, and CCEECC, expressed interest in the project, out of which 12 were asked to submit technical and financial bids. The state government is investing a seed money of N10bn in rail-based mass transit as a legacy project for the state.
The government has removed the racket around fertilizer. Without any subsidy, it has been able to negotiate fertilizer supplies to Kaduna farmer by private companies at affordable rates. It is promoting outgrower schemes that have been embraced by the Dangote Group, Stallion and Flour Mills of Nigeria. The El-Rufai government revived the annual livestock vaccination programme for the first time in about 20 years, and is introducing sustainable agricultural practices such as the drip-irrigation it advertised for the Pambeguwa irrigation scheme.
To standardise the meat sector and unleash its potentials locally and internationally, the government sponsored the leadership of the butchers’ association on visits to Turkey and Saudi Arabia to understudy modern meat handling practices.
The tree planting campaign will plant 1m economic trees this year, involving women and communities in sustainable management of the trees.
Investments and Jobs in April 2016, the state hosted the Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit (KADInvest) which signaled that Kaduna is open for business. Investors welcomed the laws and policies enacted to make the state attractive for business. It showcased the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency, KADIPA, as a one-stop shop to support investors coming to the state.
The Tax Codification and Consolidation Law is unique for specifying in one document all taxes and levies payable in the state and vesting all revenue collections in the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service, KADIRS. This creates certainty, removes multiple taxation and reducing opportunities for fraud by prohibiting cash collection of revenues. The government also passed laws to create a Kaduna Geographic Information Service, KADGIS to computerize the land registry and the Kaduna Facility Management Agency, KADFAMA to take over the management of government assets. Some of the investors have performed the groundbreaking on their projects. Olam did theirs a day after KADInvest, citing in Kaduna the largest poultry project in sub-Saharan Africa.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo presided at the event to flag-off the construction by private investors of 2000 housing units, part of the 20,000-unit mass housing project, and he performed the groundbreaking for the Galaxy Mall.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu also launched Kaduna Cabs as a modern taxi scheme. Investors and entrepreneurial activity provide the best route for creating the jobs that are badly needed in Kaduna. The state government employs 87,000 persons. Its social intervention programmes may lead to the creation of a further 300,000 jobs, including those already created by school feeding (85,000), waste-collection (6,700), school uniforms, teachers of core subjects (2500), KASTELEA marshals (2503) and the rehabilitation of schools. This is a tiny number compared to the scale of the need for jobs. Therefore, private enterprise is the most sustainable way to create meaningful jobs. It is the quest for jobs that is driving the push for investments. To catalyse youthful business acumen, the government is funding the Kaduna Start-up Entrepreneurship Programme, KADSTEP to impact business skills in young entrepreneurs who are then mentored to develop business plans that can be funded by investors such as the Bank of Industry. The first set of KADSTEP has graduated with 15 of them already securing N48m in BOI funding. The next set of 500 trainees has commenced training.
Peace and Security
All these strides are possible only in a climate of peace, where a high sense of personal security prevails. The El-Rufai government is heavily invested in promoting harmony within and across the diverse communities of the state. One of its first major decisions was the removal of roadblocks, to restore a sense of normalcy in people’s minds. The government launched security operations against the criminal gangs and cattle rustlers that were menacing the Birnin-Gwari axis. In collaboration with neighbouring states, the government funded operations that used federal security assets to crush the armed hoodlums that had turned the forest ranges that border the Northwest states into their safe havens. Those operations recovered 59,000 livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys from rustlers who had savaged the rural economy in those areas. Farmers are now able to return to their farms.
The government has promoted and supported initiatives to reduce the communal violence in Southern Kaduna. The White Paper on the reports of the General Agwai Committee we set up and the committee set up after the 2011 post-election violence have been approved.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai personally witnessed the signing of the recent Kafanchan Peace Declaration along with the Plateau State Governor, David Lalong. Some of the material support provided to assist the security agencies to do their job better includes 107 cars, 51 motorcycles and bulletproof vests.  The government is considering the acquisition of forensic and other capacity to further support law enforcement.
Conscious of the terrible legacy that past episodes of violence and insecurity have created, including divided communities, the government is uncompromising about upholding harmony in Kaduna State.
Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai campaigned for election as Governor of Kaduna State, with his personal merits and the APC Kaduna’s Restoration Programme as his key selling points. He has applied both in his service to Kaduna State. Any fair-minded observer can simply compare the manifesto commitments outlined in the Restoration Programme with the programmes the government is executing. It is a four-year mandate that he assumed on 29 May 2015. The next three years will be as energetic as the first in delivering for the people.
Aruwan is the Special Assistant Media and Publicity to Governor Nasir Ahmad El-rufai of Kaduna State.


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