Modernizer in Govt House: 8 Years of Tambuwal, by Tadaferua Ujorha
Between 2018 and January this year I visited Sokoto state a number of times, to examine the impact of various government projects on the population, in order to produce a number of reports. One thing that struck me was the quality of thinking behind the projects and initiatives in various sectors, which aimed at a major turnaround for the public good, using modern scientific and technological initiatives. These sectors include livestock, Islamic/Qur’anic schools, Finance, Health, stipends for the poor and support for widows etc.
Now that the incumbent is concluding his second term and moving to the National Assembly, this looks like the right time to highlight the modernizing and reforming energy that guided his tenure, a foundation which his successor will most likely build upon. It is clear that more would have been achieved, but for the rising incidents of insecurity across the state.
Cattle Breeding Project
In 2018, I was at Rabah, hometown of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, himself a modernizer in his own right. There is a huge agricultural facility located in the community, with a strong livestock component, spread across the vast farmlands. It is known as the Cattle Breeding, Milk and Meat Project, an initiative of the Tambuwal administration. Huge pivots which can water an astonishing sixty hectares in an hour were already in place, and combine harvestors, dairy equipment, tractors, and boilers, had been imported for the project.
One of the aims of the effort was to produce feed as well as cross the indigenous Sokoto Gudali breed of cattle with exotic breeds. All of a sudden bandits infiltrated the community, and brought a halt to the work. However, the state government would not be frustrated. The cattle breeding project had to be moved to DogonDaji, where one hundred and seventy-one hectares have been set aside for the project.
Sokoto state is endowed with vast arable land and enormous livestock resources, having about 3.4m cattle, 1.9m sheep and 2.9m goat. Transforming the breed of cattle in Sokoto state, requires the use of modern scientific technologies. Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer are some of the modern reproductive technologies employed, whereby semen from bulls and embryos from cows are manually deposited in the reproductive tract of a female. This implies that livestock farmers will be able to get the best cattle breed from the local stock, without the need to spend a lot of money in buying live bulls. This is a major step forward.
In 2019, 117 exotic breed of cattle were imported from South Africa by the state government, and these were distributed to 13 cluster farms. Sidi Akibu farm, AbdulAziz Farm and another farm at Rujin Sambo, are some of the cluster farms visited by this writer. Sokoto Gudali as well as the exotic breeds were seen at the locations, and the farmers spoke well of the project. The arrival of the exotic breeds was followed by the installation of corals and milk collection facilities in the 13 clusters.
There is an effort which aims at enhancing feed productivity and developing modern infrastructures for animal forage production. Liquid Nitrogen producing equipment has been installed at the Cattle Reproduction Centre, located at Runjin Sambo, in Sokoto metropolis, and Liquid Nitrogen is important in the preservation of semen and embryos. There is also a mobile laboratory vehicle for artificial insemination, pregnancy test and embryo transfer. A large work force of Veterinary Doctors, very critical to the livestock transformation effort, is present in the state.
The Livestock transformation programme is guided by a modernizing ethos aiming at improving local breeds, which will inevitably produce more milk and more meat. Inevitably the state will become a regional hub for the livestock sector. Already farmers in the state whose cattle have been crossed with the exotic breed, speak of greater milk and meat yield among their herds.
A one-day old female calf produced from crossing the Brangus bull, a South African breed, with Sokoto Gudali, costs N1.4m. The farmers are smiling to the bank. The livestock transformation project is being steered by the ministry of Animal Health under the able leadership of Professor Abdulkadir Usman Junaidu, a globally recognized Vet, who is the Commissioner for Animal Health. The livestock transformation project will earn the state N500b annually when it fully takes off.
Rise in IGR
The modernizing effort also impacted the Ministry of Finance. When the government of Tambuwal came on stream in 2015, finances “were at low ebb owing to poor FAAC inflows, in addition to weak internally generated revenue.” Abdulsamad Dasuki, former commissioner of finance, comments on the reform agenda of the state government.
He says the Tambuwal administration “developed strategies to reform public finance to ensure prudent management of resources, blocked loopholes in state payroll, and instituted a regime of transparency and accountability in public finance.” The Tambuwal administration introduced the Cash Management Strategy, which played a role in turning around the finances of the state.
According to Aminu Zurmi, Executive Chairman of the State Internal Revenue Service, which sits in a new aesthetically pleasing building in the capital “The reforms began in 2017 by Governor Tambuwal. Our office used to be known as the Board of Internal Revenue. The Governor is proactive and wanted to key into the internally generated revenue, with a view to improving on the collection of internally generated revenue, as well as block leakages.”
He sheds light on the impact of the reforms “In 2016, N4.56 billion was realized as internally generated revenue. In 2017 the figure rose to N9billion. In 2018 the figure rose from N9billion to N13billion. In 2019 it rose to N18 billion. You can see the astronomical rise. In 2017 Sokoto state came second after Ebonyi in terms of percentage collection as rated by the National Bureau of Statistics.”
In addition, there was the acquisition of new software for the processing of salaries, training of staff on the use of the software, Biometrics and BVN data capture, leading to the discovery and elimination of additional staff receiving more than one salary. There was identification and removal of more than 1,371 staff from the payroll, as well as adjusting of the salaries of a huge number of staff, who were collecting salaries above the entitlement of their grade levels.
Reforming 10,000 Qur’anic schools
The Sokoto state government in a move to halt street begging is reforming its 10,000 Qur’anic/Islamic schools, a project which is domiciled in the Sokoto State Arabic and Islamic Education Board (AIEB). It is doing this by introducing the Indonesian Pondok system of lslamic education. Pondok is a system in which children-while receiving an Islamic education-will be trained and retrained so that they will require enough skills enabling them to earn an income, and stand on their own.
The Indonesian model has potential to address the menace of Nigeria’s out of school children, as enunciated by UNICEF, WORLD BANK and other development bodies. To bring the reform to life and to guarantee its continuity, the government is getting the buy in of parents, District Heads, parents, and key stakeholders. The Pondok system is composed of the following parts: Qur’anic recitation and religious studies, character development, spiritual training and patriotism, conventional subjects, and vocational, technical, agricultural, entrepreneurship and computer training.
Governor Tambuwal speaking at a stakeholder’s summit in 2021 on the modernization of Qur’anic schools, argued “The Sokoto state government will not ban the Almajirci system of education in the state. Rather, the system will be reformed to inculcate the moral virtues and ethical values of Almajiri to make it become educationally developed and self-reliant, thereby stopping the roaming children on the streets from begging. The Almajiri reform will be in line with the Indonesian Pondok model of Islamic education.” We visited a few Qur’anic schools in Kware as well as one located at Runjin Sambo, Sokoto.
Dr. Umar Altine, Executive Secretary, Arabic and Islamic Education Board, (AIEB) Sokoto adds that the Pondok system has been practiced in Indonesia for three hundred years (300), and that some of the schools have been converted to universities.
Medical diagnostic centre
The ultra-modern Medical Diagnostic Centre was established by the Sokoto state government. It has state of the art medical equipment, which will reduce the numbers of persons leaving Nigeria to seek better health abroad. The N3.2b facility is located along the airport road in Sokoto, and is impressive even when viewed from a distance.
Dr. Ali Inname, Sokoto state Commissioner of Health, states in a press release ahead of the commissioning of the centre on December 1, 2021 “A staggering number of Nigerians seek health care services abroad. It has been reported that 5,000 Nigerians travel overseas for medical treatment monthly, with an estimated bill of over $Ib annually. This has been as a result of non-availability of advanced health care technology in our health facilities.”
He adds “There are 860 public and private health facilities in Sokoto state. For this number of health facilities to provide effective services for a population of 5 million in the state, they must adopt advanced technologies that are used globally.”
The facility has a Radiology Unit, Laboratory Unit, Dental Unit and ENT Unit. It offers a range of services including medical investigations, Radiological investigations, and Laboratory investigations. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta state, who commissioned the centre, mentioned “The centre is a project for the people, and a project that the people will cherish long after you have left the government as Governor. You have always believed in your people and the people of Nigeria.”
Speaking at the event, Governor Aminu Tambuwal adds “I encourage all of us to leave out politics after elections, and concentrate on providing good governance to our people, because that is what our people are yearning for and asking for.”
Zakat, a tax on wealthy Muslims is a great aid to widows, the poor, orphans and other needy persons in the state. It is an Islamic levy paid by the rich to the deserving poor. 17.89% of the states 5.7milion persons are designated as very poor, 59.64% are designated as poor, as indicated in a document provided by the Zakat Commission also known as SOZECOM.
Given the rising poverty and neglect in the country, the Zakat intervention in Sokoto is commendable. Over the years SOZECOM has distributed billions of Naira worth of food items, clothes, medical and health services across the 23 local government areas of Sokoto state. There is a ten-year blueprint by SOZECOM to curb the menace of poverty in the state by 2030, says Muhammad Maidoki, Executive Chairman of the commission.
Zakat is a unique people- oriented social intervention strategy with roots in Islam. This is a safety net which the Tambuwal administration has widened, strengthened and deepened. It first began as a Sadaqat Committee from 1988-2007. From 2007-2016, it was known as the Sokoto State Zakat and Endowment Committee. The Sokoto State Zakat and Waqf (Endowment) Commission has been in its present form since 2016.
The following story is deserving of mention at this point: A few years ago, a lady fell ill in Sokoto. She couldn’t recall how she got to Sokoto, and did not know her name. The lady who will be referred to here as Zakat Queen was taken to hospital by the Zakat Commission. Her bills and upkeep were taken care of. When she regained her memory, it was discovered that she hails from Ghana. The Zakat commission provided tickets for her flight to Ghana, where she reunited with her family. Zakat Queen is a Christian.
Tambuwal’s modernization of the livestock sector, will improve the indigenous breeds through the pathway of genetic engineering, provide jobs along an extensive value chain, raise the igr and earn the state N500b annually in the long term. Improving the finance sector blocks leakages, weeds out ghost workers, and guarantees transparency and accountability through the use of the treasury single account. This has earned the state commendation from outside.
The Zakat commission is a people oriented social intervention strategy, which in its functioning, will confront poverty, hunger and injustice, thereby reducing conflict and tension. Zakat is a beautiful functioning safety net. The diagnostic medical centre will halt migration abroad by many in search of health, by bringing a world class facility, to the doorsteps of poor locals.
Ennobling the Qur’anic schools by adopting Indonesia’s Pondok system, will play a role in halting street begging in the state. Disabled persons have been identified across the 23 local governments in Sokoto state, and each is paid a monthly stipend of N6500. Every month fifty males and fifty females are identified in each local government. The women are given training, soya beans, ground nut oil, as well as a token amount to start a business. This is another timely social intervention, reducing pain among the needy, especially those living in hard- to -reach rural communities.
- Ujorha, a Freelance Journalist, writes from Abuja