Zamfara’s Ambivalent Budget of Hope By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai



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Over the past nine state budgets analyzed, two trends have emerged. There are the few governments interested in making a mark and leaving the state better than they met it by appropriating the state resources wisely and efficiently. They focus on making capital investments and placing solid physical structures and human capital on ground. While there are others who have little to offer and are there for advancing the personal interests of a few. The latter have no strategy or plan for developing their states as can be seen from their budgets which in these cases were prepared haphazardly with no defined strategy in mind. Hopefully their errors have been highlighted to the electorate which have the ultimate power to vote people into elective positions.

Our focus this week is on the North Western state of Zamfara which like Nasarawa voted out a PDP government in the last election. Until 1996 when the Abacha administration created the state, it was part of Sokoto State. It became globally notorious as the first state to introduce Sharia in its criminal law in the year 2000. Zamfara shares borders with Sokoto State and Niger Republic to the north, Katsina and Kaduna States to the east and Niger and Kebbi States to the south.  In terms of population, Zamfara ranks 21st among the 36 states and FCT with a population of 3,278,873 as at the 2006 population census.

In the present republic, there have been three governors of the state; Ahmad Sani Yerima who served two terms (1999-2007), Mahmud Shinkafi (2007-2011) and Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari the incumbent. Besides politics, not much is recorded about Governor Yari’s past experience and endeavors. He was elected to represent Talata Mafara/Anka Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in 1999. He was State chairman of the ANPP, and a member of the cabinet of former Governor Ahmad Sani. In November 2007, Yari was among Zamfara state officials accused of money laundering by the EFCC, but has since remained old newspaper headlines like many others cases

Zamfara is a predominantly agrarian state. Its slogan is “farming is our pride”. Over 80 percent of the people are engaged in various forms of agriculture. Major agricultural products include millet, guinea corn, maize, rice, groundnut, cotton, tobacco and beans. According to the Raw Materials Research and Development Council’s (RMRDC) report on non-metallic mineral endowments in Nigeria, 2010 the state possesses glass sand deposits which are not being exploited. Other resources believed to be in the state are gold, chromate, chamovite, granite, clay, limestone, quartz and kaolin.

Until recently when the lead poisoning pandemic broke out in the state, many people were unaware of the occurrence of gold in the state. Illegal mining and exports of this gold have been ongoing for some time. One wonders what the state is doing towards pressurizing the Federal Government to organize the mining of this gold in commercial quantities for export purposes in the same way crude oil is being produced which would increase the revenue accruals to the state.

According to the former commissioner of environment in the state, Zamfara could potentially rake in at least $200m (N32bn which is ten times its IGR) annually from the mining of copper alone. This alone would turn around the fortunes of the state and create jobs for the teeming youths.

Despite the emergence of gold mining as a major source of employment for the people who have abandoned their farmlands for this more lucrative business, unemployment in the state is 33.4%, the second highest in the country after Yobe State according to data from the NBS in 2010. Compare these figures to the best state Lagos (7.6%) and it is clear that job-creation strategies should be the main policy focus of the Zamfara State government.

In the North-West zone, 67.4% of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, 51.8% are food poor while 70.6% are absolutely poor. It is the poorest region of the country across all the indices. Interestingly Zamfara state has a food poverty incidence of 44.4%, the second lowest in the region apart from Kaduna. Absolute poverty is 70.8% and 71.3 % cannot afford a dollar per day. There has been a 3.1% decrease in income inequality between 2004 and 2010 which is commendable, but it is not clear whether this was a fluke or the outcome of deliberate policies.

Zamfara is one of the states which have shifted from single-year budgeting to multi-year based budgeting. The government collaborates with some revenue consultants and the UK Department for International Development SPARC programme in preparing the budget estimates for 2012-2014. Judging from the State Government’s proposals, it appears that the leadership has identified the state’s problem areas and are poised to address the challenges. This explains why Governor Yari seems to enjoy the support of the ordinary people of the state.

The 2012 budget of the state amounts to N120, 810,192,000. N75.5bn (63%) is capital budget while N45.27bn (37%) is the recurrent budget. Despite the fact that the state does not meet up to the 70% capital expenditure requirement, of all the states analyzed on this column so far, it comes closest to the requirement after Akwa-Ibom (83.7% of its 2012 budget for capital expenditure). Zamfara’s proportional capital allocation is better than those of Benue (48%), Bauchi and Lagos (53%), Kaduna (55%) and Nasarawa (60%). It is a step in the right direction if the state wants to meet up with the above mentioned states in terms of development given its backwardness in many areas.

A closer look at the recurrent budget shows the state’s personnel cost is N16.8bn (14% of total budget), overhead costs is N12bn (10% of budget), consolidated revenue fund charges N4.4bn (4%) and a rather huge internal debt service provision of N9.1bn (8%). The debt service provision confirms that Governor Yari inherited significant amounts of short term debt approaching maturity including regular servicing. Between 2012 and 2014, the state intends to borrow at least N20bn annually. This debt build-up should keep Governor Yari awake at night.

On the revenue side, recurrent revenue is N75.5bn while capital revenue is N45.3bn. The recurrent revenue is composed of Statutory Allocation of N40.1bn (34% of total budget), Federal Government grants of N32.6bn (27%) and a meager IGR of N3.2bn (3%). The IGR is 19% of the state’s personnel cost. This is totally pathetic. If the state was to survive without allocations from the FAAC, it is obvious that the state will cease to exist as an administrative entity.

A look at the sectoral capital allocations shows that the economic sector made up of agriculture, manufacturing, commerce etc is allocated N39.7bn, the social sector (education, health, information, youth and social welfare) got N14.2bn, environmental development sector – N17.3bn and the government administration sector about N11.2bn. General services under the Head of Service’s office is allocated the unusually massive amount of N2.6bn. Comparing this provision to the capital allocation for power under the directorate of rural electrification (N1.6bn) raises some concerns about priorities. The sum of N7.7bn (6.4%) is for water supply which the state urgently needs in the face of the current lead poisoning disaster, N10bn is to be spent on roads construction within the state with another N50 million to go towards realizing the Gusau Airport.

The religious affairs budget covers the Hisbah Commission, Hajj, and Religious Preaching Commission are to receive about N1.7bn for recurrent expenditures. While in terms of capital expenditure, Qur’anic school sensitization, Qur’anic memorization centers and the like are to receive about N190 million. A monstrous N2bn is dedicated for Sallah activities for 2012. These are not only misplaced spending priorities, but perhaps violations of the Constitution as public funds ought not be spent on religious activities in a nation that recognizes no state religion.

The education sector receives about N5.7bn (5% of the budget) despite the fact that education in the state is a far cry from what it ought to be. According to the Universal Basic Education Commission’s (UBEC) 2010 education profile, Zamfara has the least number of Primary Schools (1,311) in the North West Zone and about a third of the number in Kano (4,756). Net enrollment in Primary schools is 367,823 (55%); higher than Enugu 231,401(42%) which ranks closely in terms of population. Net enrollment in Junior Secondary School is 112,026 (42%), making the state rank average in the zone. In the 2011 UTME, only 44.2% of Zamfara students scored 180 and above while Akwa Ibom for instance had a 70.8% pass rate!

Health is allocated N3.5bn (3%). The figure clearly indicates the low priority accorded this sector. The state at the moment records the highest number of child mortality due to the lead poisoning crisis in the state. This incident alone has led to the deaths of over 400 children in the past two years according to reports from Human Rights Watch. Beyond this, over 4,000 more have been contaminated, may grow up with disabilities and in need of medical intervention. It is doubtful that the health facilities in the state are well equipped to handle the situation. It is therefore pertinent that the state government takes proactive measures in finding lasting solutions to illegal mining in the state irrespective of whether it falls under the exclusive list in the constitution.

Agriculture which ought to be the mainstay of Zamfara’s economy receives a capital allocation of about N10.5bn (9%). Although the government has put in notable efforts in the sector, much revolved around supplying subsidized fertilizer at N1,000 per bag, and seedlings to the farmers. More has to be done in terms of providing infrastructure, storage, extension services and improved market access to create jobs and generate revenues for the state. More of such interventions and incentives in the sector will also lure many of the unemployed youths into agriculture who otherwise would engage in activities that may be detrimental to both the state and the nation.

On a brighter note, Zamfara is the 15th easiest state to start a business according to the World Bank in 2010. Unfortunately, the government has only allocated N35m (less than 1% of the budget) for youth mobilization and job creation, N280m for skill acquisition and N100m for an agro-based centre. This is one area which needs creativity to engage the army of young people. Rather than leave them frustrated, innovative engagement would empower them to be gainfully employed and occupied so much that they have no time or energy to be used negatively or as agents for distorted political agendas.

The overall picture in Zamfara is gloomy. Almost all sectors are in dire need of improvement. If the state is to ever move forward, it would require a shift from the outlook of instant gratification with little thought for future development to more realistic long-term programs that would secure the future of its citizens. Governor Yari is trying hard to outgrow the legacy of huge debt, parasitic religious elite and over stretched resources. He has little choice but to try harder.

 


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