By Emmanuel Ado
The 2018 Fiscal Appropriation Bill presented by Governor Umaru Al- Makura to the Nasarawa State House of Assembly on the 29th November, 2017 is the very last one by Umaru Al – Makura. It is thus not surprising that the budget is “project loaded” as the governor works hard to finish very strong and leave solid footprints on the sands of time. Though Al – Mákura has unarguably put up a B++ performance,but by his very high standards,he might consider it not good enough for his dear Nasarawa State.
Without holding brief for Al- Makura, he no doubt would have performed much much better, if only the previous administrations had laid some foundation for the development of Nasarawa State, the Democratic Republic of Nigeria – in terms of solid minerals.Nasarawa State like the Democratic Republic of Congo,is blessed with every type of solid mineral and the added advantage of land,which because of its nearness to the Federal Capital Territory makes every inch pure gold. Al -Makura like other governors of the Class of 2011 and 2015 have had to manage paucity of funds as the Nigeria grappled with economic crisis precipitated by low demand for crude oil its main foreign exchange earner, as against surplus that the Class of 1999-2007 enjoyed. Of the Class of 2011 and 2015 only resourceful ones,like Al – Makura and Nasir El-Rufai would have projects to show beyond the payment of salary.The governor of Plateau State is actually known as “Governor Alert”.
Al -Mukura became governor of Nasarawa State due to circumstances beyond his control, but obviously propelled by the zeal to serve and to reverse the misfortunes of his beloved state,which had been sentenced to death by the rampaging forces that determined its fate between 1999-2011. Nasarawa State is one of the two states that was violently raped and left for death,the other being Zamfara State. Thankfully Al-Mukura, has rescued Nasarawa State and positioned it on the path of sustained development which hopefully the next governor will build upon.
In 2011 Nasarawa State workers were owed back log of salaries. There were no motor able road network,nor functioning hospitals. To cap its misfortune, the state was heavily indebted to commercial banks,in spite of the surplus revenue of that period. Nasarawa State was more like a conquered territory. The unfortunate part being that its indigenes – a merciless and backward elite,that didn’t understand that for enlightened self interest, it needed to put up some semblance of governance were the oppressors,the new slave masters. Against this background Nasarawa State, in a very fundamental sense was lucky that an “outsider” took over,which has helped in reversing the death sentence imposed on the State- Al- Makura literally speaking gave it another chance at life. Hopefully Zamfara State will in 2019 get an outsider from the Yerima Bakura political family, to redeem the State, the same way Al- Makura an outsider of the Abdullahi Adamu political family, emerged and has largely changed the fortune of Nasarawa State for good.
Ordinarily, the construction of roads,the payment of workers salary, etc are routine matters that shouldn’t count in evaluating a governor’s performance,except when as of necessity governments must increase its spending by embarking on massive capital projects,so as to stimulate the economy and exit recession-like Nigeria. Governors,including Al – Makura should be evaluated on policies that will create or lead to wealth creation and sustained development,than roads. Excuses must and should be made in the case of Nasarawa State,which until the coming of Al Makura lacked basic network of roads. If Lafia,the state capital was not better than a glorified Local government headquarters,the fate of the interiors is better imagined. In fact not only did Nasarawa State lack basic infrastructure, the civil service lacked capacity,and its morale was very low. A big shame considering the impact of a well motivated service on good governance and performance.
Governance is about impact.The one reform which Al – Makura has embarked upon which isn’t very obvious, though its impact on project execution,and wages is there – is the reform of the Nasarawa State Revenue Board,which has tremendously improved the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).The other is the landmark decision to reform land administration by establishing the Nasarawa State Geographical and Information System (NAGIS). The greatest asset of Nasarawa State is land – land is the longest -lived asset,which doesn’t deprecate and so has eternal life. The benefit of NAGIS includes reliable and up to date data,improved transparency in land management,especially the proliferation of unplanned developments and improved revenue.
Nasarawa State has no business being poor considering its location value – neighbor to the federal capital territory. Properly managed Nasarawa State should earn about 40 billion naira,if not more from land,which is about what it presently receives from the Federation Account. Before now the IGR of the State hovered around 80million naira monthly,never above. But with the reforms it comfortably generates 300million naira monthly. For instance between January to June of 2016, it generated 1.5 billion naira. But by 2017,the figure for the same period had jumped to 3.5 billion naira- more than 238.19% improvement.With further reforms,especially the prohibition of cash collection,it can achieve its 25 billion naira monthly target.The aggressive collection of back log of stamp duty tax should boast its revenue.
In 2017 the total budget size was 91,485,700,231 naira of which 40 billion was for recurrent and 44 billion for recurrent expenditure. Of this amount the receipt from the Federation Account and the IGR came to about 52 billion naira. The saving grace of the 2017 Budget which substantially achieved some of its key objectives – the completion of on going projects and increased Internally Generated Revenue, theCreation of an enabling environment for Public-Private Partnership(PPP), the consistent Improvement in the Healthcare Service Delivery etc,is the prudent management of resources. Al – Makura is a undoubtedly a good manager of resources,as can be attested to by the swift repayment of a crippling 37 billion naira debt owed shylock banks by the previous administrations. In Nasarawa State,Al – Makura is known as “Mr. frugal” and a hard bargainer,whose negotiations are always downwards,never upwards.
The Governor has definitely imbibed reforms,which is the way to go.But he must go all the way. It takes political will to reduce the number of political appointees and to restructure ministries and agencies. Like the governor argues “A situation where recurrent expenditure consumes about 50% as against 42% for capital project is recipe for continued underdevelopment”. It is commendable that the governor has heeded his own advice by tilting the 2018 budget in favour capital expenditure. It is a shame that most governments function for civil servants,who are less than 1% of any given population.
The 2018 budget of 122,820,943,284,an increase of about 31 billion naira from the 2017 budget looks realistic,especially as Iran and the increased insecurity in the world seems to be doing Nigeria some great favour. With crude oil hovering around 70 United States Dollars a barrel,funding the budget wouldn’t be a problem. 95 billion naira from Federation Account,10 billion naira from VAT and 45 billion naira from IGR are realizable,if all hands are deck. He should for instance prohibit cash collection by staff of the revenue service. This is the secret to the success of the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service.
The domestication of the Fiscal Responsibility Act,and the Public Procurement Act means the governor understands the compelling need for Government to do things differently. The one area that he must focus his attention on is the adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standard(IPSAS),the agreed budget compliant format for budget preparation and implementation. The advantage of IPSAS and the six segments – is that it will lay bare projects by location and cost. IPSAS – is reveals that which typically civil servants want to hide.
Though the first State to pay the 18,000 naira minimum wage,which increased the state wage bill astronomically from 850 million naira to about 2.4 billion naira. It will be suicidal if the State and indeed any other state that accedes to any wage increment,Nasarawa State and such other one will definitely borrow to fund the luxury and there will be absolutely nothing left for service. The key moving forward is diversification,but the government should provide the enabling environment,it must resist the temptation to drive it. The 71 billion naira budget for Capital expenditure would hopefully stimulate the economy.
Al-Makura has definitely given the job his best shot,who succeeds him is the logical question. And what would he/she do? Reverse the gains and take the State back to pre- 2011 or build on the gains of post 2011?Time shall tell!