Putting Kano ahead on job creation, Agriculture and trade — Mohammed
Kano State Commissioner for Information, Youth and Sports, Mr. Garba Mohammed, explains strategies adopted by the state to beat the effects of the economic recession. In this interview with ARMSFREE AJANAKU, he lists massive job creation, through investment in agriculture and youth empowerment programmes, as some of the steps taken by the government to put the state on a sound financial footing.
With the reality of the economic recession across the country, Kano State appears to be coping; what have you done differently?
LET me say first of all that our coming on board was timely; that is what actually rescued the workers in Kano State. In the first place, it was clear that the economy of the state was going down. Even though there was no problem of payment of salaries, from what we have seen on ground, if the governor were not elected at that material time, Kano would have been among the states having very serious economic challenges, in terms of payment of salaries, pensions and meeting its developmental obligations.
But we know the difficulties faced by the people in these trying times, which is why we have managed the economy of the state in a way that will create employment opportunities for more people.
For instance, in the Kano State Senior Secondary School Management Board, there was an employment of 2500 teachers by the last administration.
Unfortunately, they were not on the payroll of the state; which means they were not being paid salaries. There is also another category of staff that was 1,200 in number. They were temporary workers; we have now put them on the payroll. That is one aspect of what we are doing to give job opportunities to people in these hard times.
Secondly, the pension fund was invested by the immediate past administration in the construction of houses, the Amana-Kwankwasiya Houses that are very visible in Kano. Those two projects were financed by the pension fund. Then when you look at it, the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and accruals from the Federation Account, as a whole was coming down. In fact between 2011 and 2014, Kano State was receiving between N14 to N15billion. Of course, that goes up and down, but at a time, they were receiving up to N16billion from the federation account alone. And the internal revenue was between N1.5 and N1.7 billion; I am talking about what we saw from the records that were made available to us. It was therefore very smooth for that administration to embark in so many projects.
Unfortunately, in the middle of 2014, the revenue started to have a lot of problems, and even what was coming from the Federation Account nosedived. IGR also came down, to the extent that when we came in by 2015, what we met was that the IGR was not more than 700 million per month. When we came in therefore, if you add what we were getting from both IGR and the Federation Account, it was not more than N4.5billion a month. In fact, the situation became worse in 2016 when total revenue hovered between 3 and 3.5billion.
So what did you do about this?
What the governor did was to tell us that the days of relying on Federal Allocation are over. He said we must work to see how we can diversify the economy and revenue base of the state. So, the first thing was to reorganize the Board of Internal Revenue. He brought in experienced people who are very good in terms of revenue generation. He reorganised the board and brought in a Chairman who had been a staff of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). In fact, he is an indigene of Kano, and he excelled when he was at the FIRS. Consultants were also invited to help us explore ways to revamp our revenue. That was how the IGR started to increase, and there was a lot of improvement. As I speak to you, because of the reorganisation that is still ongoing actually, there have been tremendous gains. Our IGR target in our 2016 Budget was about N5billion monthly, but unfortunately, we couldn’t achieve that. However, the sign of progress would be seen in the fact that from 700million, IGR in 2016, we moved to over N2billion. Even though the figures fluctuate, as I speak to you, we are consistently generating between N3.2 and 3.5billion per month. So you can see that there is a lot of improvement in that area, and that is of course helping us a lot.
For 2017, our projection is to maintain the target of N5billion as IGR, which is why the budget presented in 2017 is lower than what was presented in 2016. It is so because we want to be a little bit realistic in terms of achieving some of our projects. If you come to Kano today, you will see that there are lots of projects we are doing, and the source of funding is from the IGR. The governor is using the IGR to execute most of these projects, especially in the area of infrastructure.
Another area we have been giving serious attention is agriculture because in Kano, most of our people are farmers. We have used two approaches, supporting agriculture for the basic feeding, and supporting agriculture as an investment.
The Governor initiated a policy on wheat and rice production; a lot of encouragement was given to rice farmers. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje gave them about N300 million as interest free loans for them to buy seeds. We were also able to recruit 1200 agricultural extension workers, who were trained and were sent to Local Governments to assist farmers, especially where we have rice and wheat production. The extension workers have been assisting and guiding farmers in order to achieve the best results. The administration has gone further to purchase 1800 irrigation pumps, which have also been distributed to farmers. In the last farming season, and as a result of these efforts, we were able to produce 1.250million metric tons of rice. Similarly, in the production of wheat, we have also done a lot by giving the wheat farmers encouragement. The Ganduje administration made available N100 million to assist with farmers to buy seeds.
Then, coming to the issue of trade, we know a lot of our people are involved in trading too, and it is in the markets that a lot of revenue is generated. With that in mind, we are modernising all our markets because we are very worried about the constant fire outbreaks. We experienced three fire outbreaks in 2016; the last one was in the textile market, and it was really serious. So we are now modernising, and expanding, and are building shops to ensure we have a conducive environment for trading in Kano, and this will encourage more people to pay their taxes. We are also trying as much as possible to have new structures, especially in the area of power. A lot of industries in Kano from our investigation are seriously affected by lack of electricity and the issue of smuggling. The governor inherited power treatment plants in Alaagoji and Tiga. What we are doing now is to ensure that the project continues. We inherited it at about 40 to 45 percent completion. As I speak to you, God willing, in the first quarter of 2017, the project will be commissioned. It is a multi-billion naira power treatment plant, and the governor continued with it because part of what he promised the people of Kano is that he will continue with most of those major programmes that would be of benefit to the people of the state. One of them is the power treatment plant that is ongoing and almost completed now. We have also seen the need for off-grid power solutions, and solar presents us with the opportunity. In 2017, we will be seeing a lot in this area, and we are focusing on this because we know that power is critical to creating employment opportunities in this state. Kano is a commercial centre, and there is a need for us to maintain that position and that status. Most of our industries will benefit from these initiatives because what is currently being generated is not going to be enough, which is why we have to support it with the solar system of power.
What is the Kano State Government doing to make the state an investor’s haven?
We are encouraging a lot of investors to come to Kano; we have lots of incentives. This is yielding results already because there is a waste-to-wealth company that is to be established in Kano, so that most of the waste that we produce can be transformed into wealth. That was one of the achievements recorded when the governor went to China recently. We have signed an agreement with a reputable company and they are working very hard in this area. In terms of strategy to attract the investors, firstly you know you have to make land available because that is a major thing for anybody coming to invest; there are also lots of subsidies. On the issue of land, we have the Kanawa Market for instance, which should be an investor’s delight. That project has been on for over 20 years; compensation has been paid for the land; this government is committed to ensure it is achieved because it will serve as a massive outlet for investors. Already, the governor has signed an MoU with investors and they are coming to build a modern market.
Then, there is the issue of taxation, which you have to look at; we are making sure that the tax system is something that will generate investments. Then there is the area of security on which we are working very hard because nobody will come and invest in a state if there is no security. In the past one year, Kano has not experienced any serious issue of insecurity, which is something very good for investments. This is why there are so many projects involving investors already taking shape. An example is the light rail project, which will be coming on stream soon; so I think the environment in Kano is very conducive for investors, and it is so because the government has been working hard on these areas.
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