Nasarawa’s Budget of Social Inclusion – By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai



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In analyzing fiscal performance across the various regions and political platforms to assess the various state governments in delivering their electoral mandates, our focus this week is on the small, North-Central state of Nasarawa. We took a fortnight’s break to allow for the ventilation of contrasting views on Anambra’s misguided and profoundly dysfunctional budget.

Nasarawa is the only state in the country which succeeded in electing a Governor under the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to replace the PDP incumbent. The CPC is aleading opposition partythat stands for integrity, social justice and good governance and with the election, the hopes for a Nasarawa which exemplifies diligence, accountability, exemplary leadership and judicious use of government funds were hinged on UmaruTanko Al-Makura from May 29, 2011.

Governor Al-Makura was trained as a teacher at the College of Education, Uyoand Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He went into the private sector in 1978 via Almakura Nigeria Limited which imported and serviced agricultural and industrial machinery. With the capital accumulated, he ventured into real estate and property development in Abuja and other locations under the name of Ta’al Nigeria Limited.

He began his foray into politics from his student days in Uyo, which continued in ABU Zaria,culminating in his election as NPNYouth Leader of the then Plateau State around 1980. Al-Makura was one of the founding members of PDP in Nasarawa state in 1998. He defected to the CPC in 2010 and contested in 2011;ousting the then incumbent PDP governor of the state AliyuAkwe-Doma.

Nasarawa state, known as the “home of Solid Minerals” was created on the 1st of October, 1996by the Abacha Administration. It is boundin the north by Kaduna State, in the west by the Abuja Federal Capital Territory, in the south by Kogi and Benue States and in the east by Taraba and Plateau States. It is the second least populous state in the country just ahead of Bayelsa with a total headcount of 1,869,377as at 2006. Nasarawa’s population today should be at par with Botswana (2 million) and higher than those of Gambia (1.8million) and Gabon (1.5 million).

Since its independence in 1966, Botswana has had one of fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world and this was mainly achieved by their exploration of mineral resources in the country. Gabon on the other hand, depended heavily on manganese production for revenues until oil was discovered in the 70s. Ironically for Nasarawa, other than the minerals in its adopted alias, not much has been done in the area of mining.

The state has several proven reserves of Barite (750,000 MT), glass sand, salt/brine, kaolin (45,000 MT), tourmaline, sharp sand, tin, marble, coal, semi-precious stones including aquamarine. It has ample arable land where almost any crop can be grown. The major crops grown include maize, rice, sorghum, millet, cowpea, groundnut, yam, cassava, soyabeans,beniseed, melon, bambara nuts. Nasarawastatehas huge tourism potentials.Potential tourist attractions include the FarinRuwa falls (comparable to the popular Victoria Falls in Zambia), the Eggon rolling hills and caves and Hunki Lake in Awe.

According to the NBS Poverty Profile 2012 based on data up to 2010, of the population of the North Central zone, 61.9% is relatively poor, 57.4% is absolutely poor, 38.6% is food poor – an irony indeed for a zone with such generous agricultural endowments. In North-Central, 59.7% live on less than a dollar a day. Ideally, the region should have the lowest food poverty rates but the South-South (35.5%) and South-West (25.4%) score lower in that regard. In terms of absolute poverty, the region fares better than the other northern counterparts but is worse than all the southern regions. In the region, apart from Niger, Nasarawa has the lowest food poverty (26.8%), absolute poverty (60.4%), and relative poverty (71.4%). The income inequality rate impressively reduced by -2.7% between 2004 and 2010. Nasarawa’s poverty incidence is relatively high at 39%, which means that more than one out of every three persons is poor: compared to one in sevenfor Lagos, and more than half – 58% in Yobe, the poorest state in Nigeria.

Nasarawa has an unemployment level of 21.6% similar to the National average of 21.1%,as compiled by the NBS in 2010. Besides Benue in the region with a higher figure (25.4%), all other North Central States have lower unemployment rates with Plateau having the lowest (14.4%).The figure is high compared to Ekiti state(14%) which was created in the same year. On a slightly brighter note, Nasarawa is the 18th easiest state to do business in Nigeria according to the 2010 World Bank rankings. It ranks 12th in terms of ease of starting a business. Rather than have unemployed people loiter the state, the government has a unique opportunity to encourage entrepreneurship and small businesses.

Educationally, thestate’s recent history has not been impressive. A look back some years ago, for which data is available, WAEC pass rates of 5 credits including Mathematics and English have continuously deteriorated; 2004 (5.84%), 2005 (4.72%), 2006 (3.01%) and 2007 (1.77%) under incompetent PDP misrule.  The North Central zone has the lowest adult literacy in any language (61.9%) and Nasarawa is one of the least literate states in the North Central region (47.5%). The 2011 UTME figures are not any better. The state had the lowest percentage for the average cut-off mark of 180 and above in the zone with 43.2% while Kwara had achieved a 74.8% pass rate. Hopefully, the current CPC governor, with his teaching background would focus and channel more resources to education.

These statistics sadly are a reflection of the norm in the northern part of the country with low literacy rates, poor WAEC pass rates, poor UTME performance, pathetic healthcare and the battleground of insurgencies in the country. In the process of our analysis, it is important to play close attention to what the spending priorities of the government are in the light of specific developmental challenges they are faced with.

So what should Nasarawa State be doing in the face of these endowments and challenges? Has Al-Makura’s spending priorities departed from that of the predecessor PDP government? Are Nasarawa citizens getting some benefit from voting out the PDP? Is the CPC government any different?

The Nasarawa state CPC government initially presented a budget of N97.6bn which was reviewed upward to N104.9bn by the PDP-controlled state assembly. The 2011 budget contained 46.1% recurrent and 53.9% capital components. The approved budget for 2012 is an increase of 28% over the 2011 amount. The budget is to be financed with Statutory Allocation – N47.3bn (45% of the budget), IGR from MDAs- N13.2bn (13%), grants – N15bn (15%) and loan draw-downs of N10bn (10%). The amount of loans taken by the state is commendable given that the neighbouring state of Bauchi borrows over 40% of its annual budget, and just a year ago, when Al-Makuratook office, he inherited debts of about N60 billion and a Paris Club loan refund of $113 million (N17 billion)that mysteriously vanished in the last month of the PDP administration. It is worth mentioning that Nasarawa receives the second lowest amount from the Federation account, with Ekiti at the bottom. Indeed, for the years 1999-2008, it collected about N155.5bn when a state like Rivers received N1.1 trillion in the same period.

Of the N104.9bn budget, N42.5bn (40.5%) is earmarked for recurrent expenditure and N62.4bn (about 60%) for capital spending. While this obviously falls a little short of the 70% capital requirement for meaningful development which the state is in dire need of, it is the highest we have seen for any state budget analysed so far, and nearly 7% higher than that of the predecessor PDP government. The recurrent budget is further broken down into personnel cost of N25.1bn (23.9% of total budget) and overhead cost of N17.4bn (16.6%). It goes without saying that the state’s IGR of N13.2bn can cover just about half the total personnel costs. The recurrent revenue estimates all fell short of actual receipts in 2011 except FAAC, yet all 2012 estimates are above those of the previous year; which optimism givescause for concern.

The sectoral breakdown of the budget is as follows; about N2.5bn  (3%) for Agriculture, a commendable N14.1bn (14%) for Education, N5.5bn (6%) for health, N5.1bn (5%) for water resources and all related agencies, a whopping N18.4bn (18%) for works and transport and a paltry N600m (1%) for tourism and culture. The Secretary to the State Government gets about N7.6bn and somewhere in there exists aN2bn provision under the title “classified expenses” that is the security vote for the state.

The direction of investment in physical and human capital is commendable. Al-Makura has ramped up budgetary provisions for township roads, urban water supply, schools and healthcare facilities in significant ways. Nasarawa was also the first state to implement the new minimum wage of N18,900 for its public service even though it is not a rich state. Al-Makura’s social policies which put women, children and physically-challenged people as vulnerable groups for preferential and cheaper access to education and healthcare are also unique in the zone. Al-Makura’s private sector discipline has been brought to bear with the identification and removal of ghost workers amounting to nearly 18% of the workforce under the predecessor-PDP government.

Public health facilities in the state increased between year 2000 and 2009.Primary health care; from 417 to 698, secondary health care; 13 to 19 and tertiary remained 2 over the years. Sadly the bed to patient ratio in 2009 was 1:1854.While it is not so much about the increase in number of facilities, reports concerning the state of healthcare facilities in the state requires urgent attention. The Al-Makuragovernment has recognized the dilapidation of health facilities and has dedicated 5% of the budget to begin restoring them to acceptable standards.

The agricultural sector has potential to be a major revenue source for the state because like the neighboring Benue State, agriculture is the main economic activity in Nasarawa State. All the major crops are produced in every local government area particularly yam and rice. The budgetary provision includes procurement of fertilizer and seedlings as well as agricultural mechanization equipment. Even though Nasarawa is a small state, budgeting 3% for agriculture needs to be increased going forward. One way to improve the lot of farmers in the state may be to convert the Karu International Market to an Agribusiness Centre and Farmers’ Market that services the needs of Abuja residents and environs. More needs to be done in enhancing the agricultural value chainin Nasarawa and of exploiting the mineral resources so that the state does not just bear the name but lives it.

Public opinion seems to be in favor of the Governor Al-Makura visibly within the short period he has spent. Nasarawa has numerous benefits being a neighboring state to the FCT. One of such benefits can be derived from provision of lower-cost, high-quality residential and commercial facilities in the border towns along the Karu-Keffi corridor. An airport to service Abuja in the future should not be ruled out, in addition to the planned airstrip to serve the administrative capital of Lafia. Infrastructure such as this, a railway connection, etc. can be built that will service the FCT and generate significantemployment and revenues for the state. The state also has huge tourism potential especially with the FarinRuwa Falls which could be transformed to a domestic getaway or an international holiday destination. Innovative policies and funding strategies need to be developed by the state to realize these potentials. Al-Makura’s entrepreneurial skills will be tasked to the limit here. I am confident he will live up to the billing.

 

 


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