By Emmanuel Ado
Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State has never hidden his desire to frontally address the economic backwardness of Southern Kaduna Senatorial District, to improve the standard of living of the people and as part of a comprehensive security strategy, based on the presumption that an engaged citizen wouldn’t readily be available for mischief. Last month, contractors finally commenced work on the N12.8 billion Kafanchan Urban Renewal projects, initially stalled for years by the unending crisis, a confirmation that crisis inhibits development. The peaceful environment, is also the reason why the government is taking another look at the two critical projects, that were temporarily put on hold due to sponsored agitations. Under the urban renewal programme, three major roads would be dualized, with streetlights, pedestrian walkway, and a further 18 other roads expanded, a testament to El-Rufai’s commitment to improving the infrastructure of the political headquarters of the zone.
Kaduna State, has a population of about 10 million people, 89% of which is below the age of thirty -five(35), and of the 8 Million babies produced every year in Nigeria, 5% (400,000) of them are produced in Kaduna State, who in 18 years would be needing jobs or become ready tools in the hands of entrepreneurs of violence, the reason why the kaduna state government is seriously focused on jump starting the economy of the state,most especially that of Southern Kaduna, which presently doesn’t exist, and is believed to be a critical factor in the crisis. This offers an insight into El-Rufai’s inseparable twin strategy of economic development and enhanced security, as the pragmatic way forward. While El-Rufai has robustly addressed the issue of physical security by creating a Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, established military and police bases, his deep conviction from statements point to delivering employment opportunities, as the ultimate guarantee of security, because idle minds remain the devils workshop.
The establishment of the 150 million – dollar Olam Feed and Hatchery, Chikun in Kaduna Central Senatorial District, the 100 million-dollar Damau Dairy Farms, in Kubau, in the Northern Senatorial District, a joint venture between Arla Foods, a Danish company and the Kaduna State Government to boost milk production. The Damau dairy project has several advantages, chief is the profound statement to the itinerant nomadic herdsmen that livestock business can be profitable and the way to go, the other being the inevitable resolution of the incessant farmers/herdsmen clashes, a major threat to the unity of Nigeria.
For Kaduna State Government, the agricultural sector is the sponge that can absorb the army of unemployed youths,hence the emphasis on agro-allied industries.For instance, when in full stream both companies, can directly and indirectly employ over 500,000 people, a number far in excess of what the state and the 23 local governments presently employ. The missing link in the employment generation, are the stalled Southern Kaduna projects.
Efforts by the Kaduna state government to replicate the one industry per Senatorial District policy, a resounding success in the other two districts, has however remained an embarrassing failure in the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District, because a tinny, but vocal elite of Southern Kaduna ,are fiercely opposed to the power and farm projects, tagged Greek gifts, and a plot by “outsiders to grab their ancestral land” and to systematically “kill” their people ” due to the “hazardous nature” of solar power,very laughable excuses.
Some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are reportedly behind the opposition to the Vicampro Integrated Potatoes Farm and the 50 megawatts Quint Solar Power Plant, both located in Manchok, Kaura Local Government Area, due to the perceived political advantage the projects would give to the APC, a supposedly “Muslim” party, which contrary to the anti-Southern Kaduna narrative, has attracted two projects two critical projects , which PDP that held sway for 16 years woefully failed to attract.
The 100 million dollar solar power plant, is funded by Access Co-Development Facility (‘ACF’) which is developing a portfolio of renewable energy projects in about 17 Africa countries worth over US$1 billion. While the 48 billion Vicampro farm project, comprises of a 1,000 hectares farm, and factory will process 30,000 tons of potatoes,that can save Nigeria the scarce foreign exchange spent on the importation of French fries. For El-Rufai, changing the economic fortunes of the backward south, is urgent and compelling, and the current unemployment figures bear testimony to his efforts so far. In 2017 Kaduna State was number ten,in the states with highest unemployment rate, but by 2019 it had moved to number five,evidence that El-Rufai’s investment decisions are on the right track.
Because the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District has severally accused the Kaduna State Governor Nasir El – Rufai of deep “seated hatred”, there shouldn’t have been obstacles of any sort,especially with land which by the way are laying fallow, once the governor attracted the Potatoes Integrated Farm and the solar projects to Southern Kaduna, rather, the opposition was violent and El – Rufai, accused of land grab and of “attempted murder”, for siting a solar power plant that’s dangerous to man.
What is the way forward,considering the renewed interest of the government in ensuring that the two projects take off? Most certainly government is prepared for every circumstances, that would not preclude the relocation of the projects, to willing communities within the zone or outside, especially the solar power to a location that has more sunlight, than Manchok, if the tiny minority remains hostile and continues to be an obstacle to the realization of the projects by insisting that the Manchok Ranch has been handed back to the various communities, without producing the gazette.
The land in dispute was acquired in the 1970’s,by the government as a ranch and it remained so till 1980’s, when the land was eventually handed over to the defunct Nigerian Agricultural and Livestock Development Agency(NALDA). Like everything government, the ranch was abandoned and trespassers encroached on it. Efforts by late Dan Kabo , to put it to use, was frustrated,just as Vicampro and Quint are being frustrated.Because Nigeria is poor with records, it is difficult to establish the number of economic and infrastructural projects that have been stalled specifically due to land acquisition problems.
What is the way forward? The government as a sign of its willingness to engage, appointed a Special Assistant on Community Relations to facilitate engagement with host communities. Unfortunately since the elites of Southern Kaduna, have been conspicuously silent,the youths who stand to profit most from these projects, must engage with the state government which has not hidden its desire to ensure the projects see the light of the day, by so doing they will be repudiating the actions of a few misguided old guards that have not only failed in providing leadership, but are bent on leading the area into dead ends. This is a strategic course they must explore, as the organized political agitations that have stalled the projects, are not hurting them and not El – Rufai.
Postscript: Since land acquisition continues to generate crisis,which most often leads to stalled projects,there is a compelling need for a Progressive bill,that will address problems associated with land acquisitions, which is a pre-requisite for economic growth. Communities must think out of the box, rather than agitations for compensation, land should become equity participation in ventures.