By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON, Kaduna
Kaduna State will not tolerate anything that will threaten its peaceful coexistence, Governor Nasir el-Rufai has warned.
He gave the warning on Tuesday, while delivering his remarks during the visit of the Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, to Kaduna State at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna.
“Our commitment to secure our state has been backed by massive investments. We have never shied from facing the challenges we confront, nor nursed idle hopes that they will fade away without determined action. We will continue to make clear that this state will not tolerate impunity or any threat to its harmony.
“The human toll of almost 40 years of upheaval since the 1980 Kasuwan Magani riot is not acceptable; neither is the retrogression that violence and division bring. Our task is to continue to uphold the rule of law so that individuals and businesses can function in calm and certainty,” he said.
The Governor pointed out that his state is vast in land mass, with a significant proportion of it arable and well-watered.
“While Kaduna State is already a major food producer, there is an opportunity to make a giant leap into becoming a significant agribusiness hub that combines highly productive agriculture with sophisticated marketing and agro-processing capacity.
“Apart from agriculture, Kaduna State also has proven mineral reserves that can enhance its economic prospects. The nickel find in Dangoma, which has attracted much global publicity, aptly highlighted the solid mineral potentials in the state. We also have Gold in Birnin Gwari and Tin in Lere Local Governments. That is not all.
“But we have the best resource of all: people. Kaduna is a ‘young’ state. About 85% of the people who live here are below the age of 35. Those who are younger than 15 constitute 43% of the population. The youthfulness of our population is an opportunity, and we would not allow it to become a peril. These young persons must be given the tools that can enable them make the best of themselves, and therefore contribute their utmost to increasing productivity and savings in our state. Our youths need quality education, accessible healthcare, good governance and jobs.
“The manifesto platform on which we campaigned for the votes of our people prioritized Education, Health, Jobs, Agriculture, Security and Good Governance. Since we took office, we have been guided by these goals in policy-making and executionI wish to welcome Professor Babatunde Osotimehin and the UNFPA team to Kaduna. The Kaduna State Government maintains productive relations with the agencies in the United Nations system, a partnership that helps to advance the interest of our people. For instance, we are working with UNICEF to improve child nutrition and sanitation as part of the measures to reduce infant mortality,” he explained.
el-Rufai said that the mandate areas of the UNFPA are especially germane for Kaduna State because they are the third largest state in Nigeria, behind Lagos and Kano in terms of population.
“But we are not the third biggest economic dynamo in Nigeria, a situation that we are trying to address through the clear objectives outlined in our State Development Plan, 2016-2020. The SDP commits our government to creating the conditions that can attract private sector investments of up to N800bn to enable Kaduna State attain its economic potentials. Our SDP takes into account the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our State Executive Council has declared a data revolution to provide the critical indicators for monitoring progress in accomplishing the SDGs.
“We have expanded access to Education by making the first nine years of schooling free. We met most of the over 4200 primary schools in the state in various conditions of dilapidation. Many lacked roofs, windows, doors, water or facilities for sanitation. Some schools were just open spaces. And in most of these schools, at least 50% of the pupils took lessons on the floor because there was no furniture. We responded with a programme of school rehabilitation to provide decent classrooms, furniture, water and toilets. Rehabilitating just 10% of these schools cost us N6bn. After a review of the costs and the demographic trends, we decided that it was better we adopted a comprehensive school-rebuilding programme, that builds multi-storey school blocks with more classrooms.
“Apart from facilities, we are focusing on raising teacher quality and numbers, an exercise in continuous improvement of the capacity of teachers to impart knowledge.
“Our people have responded to free education. Already, primary school enrolment has risen from 1.1m pupils in June 2015 to 2.1m in September 2016. We implemented a school feeding programme to enhance the nutrition of primary school pupils. This has had an impact on school enrolment. We have also intervened to improve nutrition at the senior secondary school level. We met a situation where students in government boarding schools were being fed at a cost of N44 per student per meal. We have increased this to N100 per meal, meaning that each student is fed at N300 per day. This alone costs N2.25bn per year.
“Our healthcare team has won two consecutive first prizes for its work during the Maternal, New-born and Child Health week. In the first instance, we won because our health workers tested 84,000 pregnant women for HIV within five days. Kaduna State won in the next phase because its health officials counselled and tested 126,000 pregnant women for HIV, and referred HIV positive cases to treatment centres for adequate follow-up. UNAIDS praised Kaduna State for its remarkable success in bringing closer the elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission, reduction of maternal and child mortality rates and advancing public health,” he stated.
Speaking further, he said that as noted by their then Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Professor Jonathan Andrew Nok, the UNAIDS award is a “further recognition of the determined effort Kaduna State is making to reduce maternal and infant mortality through various initiatives, including immunization and supply of Vitamin A to babies, provision of iron tablets and folic acid to pregnant women, and their careful treatment for malaria.”
“Results from the tests conducted on pregnant women show an HIV prevalence of 0.3%. This low rate provides a relief from the scary 9% figure that has been claimed as the prevalence rate in the state. The government is committed to expanding the sample tested for HIV to secure more accurate data.
“As you are aware, GE Healthcare has launched a comprehensive refit of 278 hospitals, including 255 primary health centres, with equipment to improve maternal and infant health and to promote safer surgery. Our routine immunization programme continues to widen its coverage and protect our children against such perils as polio and measles. With sound investments in the cold chain, we are poised to attain 100% ward level saturation for vaccine availability during 2017.
“Our government is also supporting programmes to enlighten our people about child-spacing for which a fully-costed plan has been prepared, budgeted for in 2017 and presented to the UNFPA earlier this morning.
“The Kaduna State Government is tackling the question of jobs on many fronts. We are supporting entrepreneurs to create jobs through the Kaduna Start-up and Entrepreneurship Programme (KADSTEP). We fund the training of graduate entrepreneurs at the Kaduna Business School where they acquire the skills to produce business plans that can be funded from our intervention funds with the Bank of Industry. We have also ensured that the sewing of school uniforms and provision of school meals are done by Kaduna-based persons.
“The state government has also engaged in direct recruitment of 2200 teachers and 2555 KASTELEA officers. We have also launched a Public Service Revitalisation and Renewal Project, that aims to inject youth into the public service, and make the public service more dynamic and reflective of the community it is serving.
“Yet government is severely limited as a direct employer. The entire public service of Kaduna State employs just about 1% of the population of the state. This 1% ends up consuming 80-90% of the resources available to the state. Clearly the private sector has better capacity to create jobs. That is why we have pursued a clear programme to attract private sector investments into our state. We are committed to improving the ease of doing business and to maximise the potentials of our state as a prime investment destination,” he added.
He noted that these are the concrete ways in which we they are trying to ensure that Kaduna State can reap a demographic dividend, and avoid a demographic disaster.
“We are providing good governance, creating a policy and legal environment that promotes investments and jobs and providing for the education and well-being of our youths. Our 2017 budget gives practical effect to our determination with the capital allocations to our key sectors: Education (N44.84bn), Health (N10.49bn), Water (N8.1bn), Infrastructure (N24.50bn) and Agriculture (N4.58bn).
“I wish to acknowledge the hard work of our team members. The Commissioner of Budget and Planning and the Commissioner of Health and Human Services have produced the policy documents on the demographic dividend and child-spacing with the support of UN agencies. Our appointees and public servants are committed to making Kaduna great again.
“We are delighted to hear of the success the UNFPA achieved in helping to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in Ethiopia. We would like to study that experience and pick appropriate lessons as we try to improve life chances for babies and their mothers.
“With Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary-General, and Professor Osotimehin as an Under Secretary-General, Nigeria is well-represented in the upper echelons of the United Nations. You will therefore appreciate the fact that while the development indicators for Nigeria describe it as a middle-income, oil-rich country, averaging those indices not only obscures divergences but do not tell the nation’s full story. Poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, intolerance and violence are more serious issues in the northern states that in the rest of our country. The UN, other multilateral and bilateral agencies must help Nigeria and focus on supporting these Northern states whose needs are greatest. Thankfully, these states are now mostly led by political leaders that are willing to face up to our challenges and discharge our responsibilities. This is the time and the right moment to support Nigeria by channeling significant assistance to the northern states.
“I thank the UNFPA for supporting our Ministry of Budget and Planning to produce the policy on harnessing the demographic dividend in Kaduna State. We look forward to deepening our partnership with the UNFPA and, indeed, all UN agencies, in realizing our shared objectives. We extend our congratulations and our hands of friendship to the new UN Secretary Genee leads this most important global body,” he said.