Nasarawa State’s 19th Anniversary: The Problems, Prospects, And Perils, By Murtala Adogi Mohammed
This year October 1st, marked not only Nigeria’s 55th independence day, but also the 19th anniversary of the creation of Nasarawa State. Since its creation 19 years ago, Nasarawa State remains one of the underdeveloped and industrially backward in Nigeria. It is crippled by infrastructural deficit, which can be attributed to the long years of neglect, domination and marginalization it experienced when it was a part of the geographical areas that constituted the old Plateau State. Nasarawa state is one of the states with prodigious investment climate and potentials for economic development. Several of its untapped resources now offer very good potentials for economically viable and technically feasible industrial and agricultural development projects. It has a wide range of solid minerals and a variety of crops produced within the state.
Couple of days ago, we lost a rare gem Mal. Mohammed Abubakar Ahmadu, former Permanent Secretary in Plateau State Civil Service and former INEC Resident Commissioner Osun State. As described by Jonah Ogbole, Ahmadu was one of the radical and strategic brains behind the movement for the creation of Nasarawa State… May his soul rest in peace – amen.
Administrators and Governors governed Nasarawa state since October 1st, 1996 when it was split from Plateau. In ascending manner, the state was ruled by Abdullahi Ibrahim -Administrator 7 October 1996 to 6 August 1998 (Military), Bala Mande- Administrator 6 August 1998 to 29 May 1999 (Military), Abdullahi Adamu – Governor, 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007 PDP, Aliyu Akwe Doma -Governor 29 May 2007 to May 2011 PDP and now we have Governor U.T. Almakura as the 6th Governor of the state 2011 to date APC.
After 19th years of independent from Plateau state, Biologically Nasarawa state is still a teenager – struggling to meet up with a heaps of development challenges- that usually lead the failure of the past government development plan. Some of the causes of failure of past development efforts are high cost of Governance, weak public institutions and weak human resource capacity, low levels of transparency in government business high level of corruption, heavy external and domestic debt burden
From 1996 to 1999 the Military Administrators laid a solid foundation for smooth takeoff of administrative activities – they contributed their own quota most especially in the area of infrastructural development – notably among their projects was the construction of Shendam Road Government House.
Though, when he assumed office, former Governor Abdullahi Adamu the first democratically elected Governor, a seasoned politician immediately swung into action to fulfill his election promises; his government aimed at giving priority to some vital sectors most especially health and education which he hoped would have a direct bearing on the lives of the ordinary people of the state. His government committed 28 percent of the state’s budget to the education sector. During the period of his leadership, Nasarawa state witnessed massive establishments including renovations and the upgrading of schools within the length and breadth of the state, a good example is that of Nasarawa State University Keffi. The PDP led administration of former Governor Adamu also made strides in the area of healthcare delivery as the government succeeded in establishing general hospitals in all the 13 local government areas of the state.
However, when Aliyu Akwe Doma took over from Abdullahi Adamu in 2007, there was a huge backlog of unpaid staff salaries and allowances. Government was virtually at a standstill, and it was understood that bank loans had to be obtained to keep government afloat. We also learnt that Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma inherited liabilities of over N20 billion from previous administrations and had to settle over 50-70% of this, in the tradition of maintaining continuity of government. The same thing Al-Makura also inherited huge debt from Doma’s administration. I think there is need to holistically review the issues of the state collecting loan from financial institutions except on the condition that the sitting Governor would ensure shifting the paradigm i.e. emphasizing value for money, activity-based and pro-poor budget implementation with comprehensive corruption mitigation strategy in place.
The emergence of Akwe Doma into the Nasarawa Government House in 2007 saw most people in the state looking forward to his administration with a strong sense of hope and high expectations of a visionary leadership as a veteran bureaucrat. People hoped that Doma would supersede the achievements of his predecessor and introduce new ideas that would make the state compete favourably with its cotemporaries. However, to the disappointment of most of the people of Nasarawa, the administration did not only nose-dived but also failed to even sustain the vision of its predecessor.
In fact, the PDP government in Nasarawa between 1999 and 2011, employed unmanageable numbers of citizens into the state’s civil service and embarked upon gigantic projects such as the farin ruwa independent power project. Though, they made efforts to industrialize the state through the establishment of some cottage industries such as the fertilizer blending plant in Lafia, a beef-processing factory in Karu, a sack packaging company in Akwanga, among others. However, despite their efforts to industrialize Nasarawa, Adamu and Doma ‘s administrations neglected to develop Lafia, the state capital and pay little attention to management of marginal financial resources also failed to mitigate wastage and corruption
Under the most daunting circumstances, Umar Tanko Al-Makura took over the leadership of Nasarawa State in May 2011. Almakura inherited a state faced with several long- standing challenges also. However, Al-Makura’s approach to governance continues to raise the hopes and confidence of the people of the state. His administration’s policy focuses on the need to tackle the most pressing developmental challenges besetting the state especially in the area of infrastructure
Al-Makura, an entrepreneur magnate has paid billions of naira debt he inherited from the previous administration, though he also collected bond/loan to continue with his urban renewal projects. Al-Makura made a solemn commitment to take a critical look at the issues and usually addresses them appropriately with a view to ensuring justice, equity, fairness and communal harmony in consonance with its administration reform agenda. From day one, Gov Almakura has set-in machinery in place towards addressing the numerous challenges through the re-engineering of the tax collection processes, land reform through Nasarawa Geographic Information System NAGIS, and prudent management of marginal financial recourses. One thing that you cannot take it away from Gov Al-makura is abundant political will and passion for the transformation of Nasarawa State most especially in the area of infrastructural development.
However, the main challenge Nasarawa State is facing is that of ethnic diversity with cycles of ethno-tribal violence conflicts, natural resource conflict, proximity to Abuja (Vulnerability to crime) high rate of youth unemployment, weak Internally Generated Revenue base, marginal Federation Account Allocation to the state, Local Government and development Areas management quagmire,weak social services, weak Institutional and Individual capacity, environmental problems – (mining and erosion) high number of low-income earners due to salary-based economy model and poor rural dwellers.
To ensure sustainable development and have a robust government institutions that provides efficient and effective services, Al-Makura, need to do more in the areas of human development, service delivery, system strengthening and home-grown policy, programmes and projects that would improve the prevailing ‘Happiness Index’ of Nasarawa state’s electorates.
Apart from military Administrators, God has blessed Nasarawa state with three different personalities as a Governor – a season politician (Abdullahi Adamu) a veteran bureaucrat – (Akwe Doma) and entrepreneur magnate (Umar Tanko Al-makura) each an every one of them has a distinctive ways of doing things, also every outcome of their governance and authorities are basically based on level of their thinking and influencers around them. I hope and I pray this current administration would continue to do its best addressing some of the challenges I highlighted above.
In the next 10 years, my dream is, we should have Nasarawa state that is politically united, integrated and stable, economically prosperous, socially organized with equal opportunities for all and responsibility from all, to become the catalyst of Nigerian renaissance and making adequate all-embracing contributions regionally and nationally.
I wish every ‘son of the soil’ happy 19th Anniversary.
Murtala Adogi Mohammed – (Danmasanin Adogi)
Is a Lead Consultant
Murry Greens Konsult