Uba Sani, global crises and challenge of sustaining the El-Rufai standard
It is factually undeniable that Kaduna State has passed through rigorous transformation characterized by unprecedented improvements in almost all sectors over the 7 years of Gov Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai’s sterling leadership. The transformative drive traversed systematic phases ranging from legislative, policy and institutional reforms to human capital development and social investment.
The ultimate desire of Kaduna State Government(KDSG) under Gov El-Rufai has been to establish a sustainable, diversified and inclusive knowledge-based economy(that would be capable of independently running on IGR in the not too distant future). To actualize such a desire, the state government tailored all interventions to a State Development Plan(SDP) which provided the framework for sustainable economic development and social progress. The implementation of the state government development agenda is being done systematically to ensure that “the people” prevail as the ultimate beneficiaries.
KDSG commenced with broad-based reforms especially of legislations and policies. Many legislations and policies were amended in such a manner as to serve as enablers of holistic development and frameworks for the implementation of the transformational agenda of the state government. These were followed by institutional, as well as infrastructural reforms where governmental institutions experienced robust overhauling and their activities and operations streamlined in a manner consistent with principles of efficiency, accountability and world-class social enterprise.
Such reforms of institutions and infrastructure were also tailored to populace and business/investor convenience and have resulted in a massive boost in the state’s global standing in ease of doing business. The state is currently and undisputedly the number one destination for doing business in Nigeria with testimonials of massive investment influx into the state. KDSG ensured that all its developmental reforms tallied with its ultimate agenda of transforming the state’s economy into an inclusive, diversified, and sustainable knowledge-based economy.
The influx of investments for instance, and the operationalization of the state’s renewed tax administration laws assured unprecedented improvement in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), proceeds of which are being efficiently deployed to improve the social welfare standings of the citizens of Kaduna State through the provision of the necessary infrastructure and investment in social welfare and human capital development especially in health and education. Thousand of jobs have been created to absorb a significant amount of the skilled population as a result of the massive investment flux. The flux also assures that a significant percentage of the unskilled population would be up-skilled through knowledge, skills and technology transfer initiatives of the very diverse portfolio of investors in the state.
This systematic development process as adopted by the state government has also resulted in the adoption of a social protection system that leverages the state’s social protection policy which seeks to create a database for the poor and vulnerable and ensure their exposure to at least the minimum social protection floor(i.e access to education, affordable healthcare and income security) through deliberate social investment programs. These social welfare programs as conceptualized by the state government would include attempts at ensuring financial inclusion, reduction in economic inequality and ultimately, economic harmony. Funds and resources accruing from improved tax generation, corporate social responsibility contributions, skills, knowledge and technology transfer initiatives etc would form the bulk of the resources to be deployed to operationalize this robust social protection and investment drive of the state.
A careful appraisal of this systematic process clearly exposes the state government’s adherence to its guiding principle of ensuring that the people are the ultimate beneficiaries. It reflects the state’s social enterprise approach and the enforcement of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) concept to encourage and arouse the private sector’s concern for not only profit, but also the and the environment. It also portrays the government’s efforts in building a knowledge-based economy powered by technology transfer and innovation for assured sustainability.
These, among many others, define and constitute the Elrufai Standard. But we are now at, as Alhanislam describes it, “a confluence of a farewell and the future”. The farewell is to an exemplary leader whose exploits have completely transfigured the state into a bastion of excellence. And the future, we pray, is one that would assure the consolidation of the gains achieved through the visionary leadership of Gov Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai and continuity along same trajectory of visionary and transformative governance.
Senator Uba Sani now holds this consolidation and continuity mantle being the flagbearer of the APC for the 2023 gubernatorial elections. He has displayed remarkable performance as a legislator and is known for his impeccable political dexterity. We also find solace in the fact that Gov El-Rufai who asked us to trust him and his team in choosing his successor is the one that presented Uba Sani to us. We find solace because we understand Gov El-Rufai’s conception of success to be massively inclined towards sustainability and the preservation of positive legacies. He has indeed left a number of legacies and making sure they get preserved we believe is perceived by him as a matter of self-actualization. He espouses the idea of sustainability and continuity more than the majority of us. Kaduna is his lifework. And so we trusted him.
But as we rally around Uba Sani as our most preferred candidate, it is imperative to vividly paint the challenge of living up to the standards that have been set by El-Rufai. Even while Uba Sani had copiously displayed transformative, progressive and visionary tendencies in his brief but extremely impactful legislative sojourn, we consider it highly essential to base our trust for him on the condition of consolidation, continuity and improvement upon Gov El-Rufai’s performance in office. And It is based on the forgoing that I feel the need to remind Sen Uba Sani of some of the highly probable realities that might characterize his administration, not because I feel he is not aware(in fact, I believe he is very much aware and prepared), but because of their tremendous importance as determiners for his success or otherwise.
The world, especially economies, are battling with the impacts of the macroeconomic and fiscal shocks being torrented by the combined effects of COVID-19 aftermath and the Russo-Ukrainian War. The impact of such shocks on Nigeria and her states which is characterized by revenue and debt crises and a plausible food crisis(due to major supply chains disruptions) cannot be overemphasized. And the projections for 2023 which would be the year he would take over office seem more frightening. Hence, he is most likely to start his administration in the midst of dwindling revenues and unprecedented fiscal strain.
As popularly held, the first most effective attempt at solving a crisis is understanding that there is indeed a crisis. And I am particularly happy that he has already demonstrated adequate appreciation of the impact of such global events on the state in one of Gov El-Rufai’s media chats that he attended. However, we advise that he intensifies preparations and constitute a team to determine all probable scenarios thinkable and a crisis management strategy in a bid towards providing proactive governance in consonance with the usual spontaneity that usually characterize crises eruption.
Tax administration and compliance has seen unprecedented improvements in Kaduna State. However, predicating economic planning and IGR targets based upon the trajectory of the IGR figures obtained within these past few couple of years might be counterproductive. This is because I feel the state Internal Revenue Service was only able to achieve very ambitious targets because of the retrievals of huge tax backlogs spanning the previous decade(and beyond) via the instrumentality of the improved tax compliance system of the El-Rufai administration. Recording these backlogs against the respective years they were due for payment would give a more proper picture of our IGR standings for the years of El-Rufai’s administration. Hence, Senator Uba Sani is advised to prepare for the possibility of a decline in IGR relative to the prevailing trajectory and plan for improvement.
Improving them would mean preserving the renewed tax regime as reformed by Governor El-Rufai and sustaining the state’s ease of doing business and investment promotion drive. It would also mean relentlessly committing to consolidating upon the current administration’s efforts towards encouraging and incentivizing value-added manufacturing with linkages to agriculture and other primary resources sectors(state comparative advantages) for continued industrialization and job creation and increased export to improve the state’s economy and contribute to solving the supply side of national economic crisis. It is advised that the capacities of institutions like KADIPA, KMDMC, KMDC, KIFC be further strengthened to enhance their service delivery.
The current debt portfolio of Kaduna State is considered sustainable. Fitch Ratings just recently affirmed Kaduna State’s Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to be at ‘B’ with a Stable Outlook. However, projections of revenue inadequacies(from decline in both FAAC and IGR) and liquidity challenges for states might force Sen Uba Sani’s administration towards the path of securing more debts. Kaduna State External and Domestic Debt stock stand at $586 million and N78 billion respectively according to DMO’s recent data. Hence, he is advised to constitute a team to assess the state’s current standings and offer preliminary recommendations for as far as debt management and sustainability are concerned. Such preliminary assessment and plans would serve the purpose of reassuring Kaduna State citizens during campaigns and also as a strategic framework to be considered by the Budget and Planning Commission(which should also be adequately strengthened) when he assumes office.
Social welfare is one of the trademarks of Sen Uba Sani’s campaign. Hence, he and his team are advised to subject the state’s current social protection policy to proper study to synchronize his peculiar approach and thoughts on welfarism and social investment with the existing policy framework. He is also advised to prioritize the establishment of the Kaduna State Social Protection Agency (if the current administration doesn’t before it ends) to streamline social protection and investment programs for greater efficiency. The people have high hopes on him.
He is also advised to prioritize the improvement of the state’s productivity both in the primary and secondary sectors of the economy. Such cannot be achieved without improving the security situation of the state which affects major socioeconomic activities. I am glad to have heard him speak at the recent gubernatorial dialogue(while delineating issues of concern for governance) where he proved to have adequate understanding of the intricacies of the insecurity situation, the scope of the state government authority and the fact that states are pretty much constrained. We advise that he consolidates on Gov El-Rufai’s efforts by leveraging his superior negotiating prowess(being a 5-star legislator) to exhaust every avenue available for state-federal collaboration in the fight against insecurity(as in the case of securing NAF’s leave to fly drones for improved surveillance and others).
We hope that having understood that problems like insecurity, almajiri/out-of-school-children etc are of regional origin, if elected, he would take up the responsibility of providing leadership and direction to his fellow Northern governors in tackling these menaces via a united regional front. We also emphasize this prayer that he further sustains the legacy of Mallam El-Rufai of working with young people, a tendency he has also demonstrated while working as a senator.
- Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political and public affairs analyst, he writes from Zaria and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org