By Nasir el-Rufai
I wish to begin by expressing my gratitude for the invitation to share my thoughts with this august gathering. I am particularly delighted that the African Studies Centre of Oxford University is now led by one of our most distinguished compatriots, Wale Adebanwi, who holds the chair of Rhodes Professor of Race Relations. We are proud of Wale’s achievements, and we hope to be able, in the near future, to offer the Nigerian diaspora similar opportunities for success back home.
Permit me to use this opportunity to offer my condolences to the Oxford African Studies community on the recent loss in August 2017, of another compatriot, Abdul Rauf Mustapha. Professor Mustapha was an elder that we all had great respect for, and I am sure that apart from Oxford, Nigeria will miss his quiet intelligence, wise counsel and professional expertise. May his soul rest in perfect peace, Amen.
Nigeria faces a plethora of governance and security challenges, with profound implications for its national development prospects. The country is slowly recovering from recession, but too many of our people are very poor and highly vulnerable to further economic fluctuations. Armed robbery and kidnapping sow distrust and fear in our urban centres, while rural banditry is creating human suffering and deterring simple investments in many of our communities. Across the country, youth unemployment remains high, a problem likely to worsen if the trend of high birth rates is sustained. While these problems are painfully real and urgent, much of the accompanying national discourse reflects the absence of an elite consensus on national goals and divisive political competition that impedes their attainment.
Nigeria has lost valuable time and endured too many false dawns in its quest for development. We have missed many critical junctures and opportunities to sustain real progress and development, the most recent being the squandering of nearly $400bn of inherited savings and earned income in the Yar’Adua-Jonathan era between 2007 and 2015.
It appears to me that many citizens have responded to these thwarted expectations by recoiling into a cocoon of cynicism. Others have retreated to the restrictive confines of religion and ethnicity, without any regard to what is clearly right or wrong. I intend to structure my thoughts on the question of governance, development and security challenges around the experience of the subnational government I have been privileged to administer since mid-2015.
The Federal Government of Nigeria is probably too large and overextended for everyone’s good. But it does not directly control much outside Abuja, the federal capital. The Land Use Act vests control of land in the state governors, and it is at the state level that essential goods and services like primary and secondary education, primary health care and support for agriculture are provided. The country cannot develop if the 36 states that constitute the subnational level don’t construct new forms of politics and get better at delivering public goods in their territory and sphere of competence.
Kaduna, a state charting a new path
On 29th May 2015, it was my privilege to lead a new team to assume responsibility for leading the government of Kaduna State, one of the 36 states in Nigeria. We had campaigned on a platform of making Kaduna great again through the five pillars of our Restoration Programme:
- Invest in education, healthcare and social welfare;
- Foster the security of lives and property throughout Kaduna State by targeting the roots and symptoms of intolerance and communal violence;
- Institute a governance system that is founded on a competent and responsive public service with zero tolerance for corruption;
- Maintain, rebuild and expand decaying infrastructure, particularly our water supply, electricity and road networks to accelerate the kind of economic growth that will create a multitude of jobs;
- Promote agriculture and food security and reform of land administration as a basis for wealth creation and capital formation, while preserving and enhancing environmental management.
Since taking office, we have been focused on these manifesto commitments. It involves dismantling a political culture anchored on distribution and short-term advantage, while making significant and rapid improvements in delivering public goods like schools and hospitals.
Over the 16 years that preceded our taking office, the Kaduna State Government had grown accustomed to presenting big budgets that had no connection to real revenues and no discipline in implementation. Whatever the capital to recurrent expenditure ratio stated on paper, previous governments were only fastidious about executing the recurrent side of the budget – a key source of patronage and distribution – which recorded almost perfect performance. The result was that for nearly one and a half decades, the cost of taking care of those working for or leading the government took a minimum of 80% of available state resources. Yet this bazaar of the incumbent minority had little room for the retired and retiring public servants – those who had served their state but no longer had political utility – as arrears of gratuities and unfunded pensions piled up, reaching a staggering N14.3 billion, a burden that has since become our lot to clear gradually while the fiscal space remains tight.
We took office with national revenues sliding as oil prices collapsed to less than a third of previous levels. As a state dependent on federal allocations for most of its revenues, we knew we had to act fast to reduce waste, tackle fraud and verify the integrity of the public service payroll. The alternative was to suffer the indignity of not being able to pay government workers or deliver meaningful public service. But first, we needed to understand the details of our own reality, and started by collecting data on basic questions which no-one in government could answer for us.
Kaduna State has a young population, with 87.5% of its residents being under 35. People below 18 constitute 44% of the population. This abundance of youth is waiting to be transformed into an asset that propels growth, rather than imperils it.
In 2015, we conducted the first General Household Survey across the State to provide us with a true picture of the Kaduna State we inherited, and the results were alarming. In summary, the survey indicated that more than half of our women were giving birth at home, and one in two adults is unemployed. We inherited high maternal and child mortality rates, regular stock-outs of drugs and poor provision of medical services in public hospitals, neglect of the physically-challenged, poor birth and death registration levels, low school enrolment and attendance, and an inadequate supply of potable water.
Also, a School Census was conducted, with distressing results:
- 3,135 schools with no source of water.
- 4,077 schools with no source of electric power.
- The student completion rate is 24.17%, 54.94% and 70.14% for primary, junior secondary (JSS) and senior secondary (SSS) respectively.
- Poor teacher/student ratio in public schools – as high as 1:168 in one local government.
- Unqualified teachers constituted 42% of primary teacher population.
- High frequency of repetition among pupils and students.
- Unacceptably low primary school completion made worse by high secondary school dropout rate.
- Poor school enrolment rate; and
- High number of dilapidated public schools
To better understand our economy, we conducted for the first time in the history of Kaduna State a State Gross Domestic Product (GDP) survey. The survey showed that in 2015, the economy of Kaduna State was about $11.3bn (N2.2trn) compared to the National GDP which stood at N94.1trn. The State therefore contributed about 2.3% to the National GDP even though we are about 5% of the population and land area of the country. We were, therefore, not pulling our weight and are not where we should be as a state. Our economy is small, with meagre diversification, resulting in high unemployment and poverty. Thus, economic transformation through the development of productive sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and mining is critical.
It was estimated that 36% of Kaduna’s GDP was accounted for by agriculture, while services contributed about 46%.
- Changing the Governance Agenda
Our guiding principle for prioritising investments in Education and Healthcare is a firm belief in promoting equality of opportunity. By improving access to better schools and hospitals, we would be making a fundamental contribution to equipping ordinary people for social mobility.
To implement the policies outlined in the Restoration Programme, the Kaduna State Government has taken a number of measures to put the people back at the heart of governance. This includes public service reforms, a new budgeting paradigm and new laws and processes for managing public finances.
- The state government has produced a five-year crowd-sourced State Development Plan, 2016 – 2020 which outlines the aspirations of the Government to restore our State to its former glory. The plan includes a strategic framework to realize our vision, resource projections to guide and prioritize expenditure and an implementation plan to deliver results and monitor progress.
The State Development Plan also expects an infusion of N800bn in private investments in the next five years. Therefore, straightening public finances and easing the business environment are critical success factors.
To ensure the document is not just another desk-based exercise, each sector ministry or agency has developed a Sector Implementation Plan (SIP) which provides a basis for linking the State Development Plan with the annual budget. Each SIP features the programmes, projects and activities earmarked for implementation during the Plan period (2017 – 2020). The SIP was used as a prerequisite for the 2017-2019 medium-term budget. The implementation plan clearly states the policy, strategies and results chain for each sector.
This logical linkage between the SDP and the Annual Budget ensures that State Government expenditures as contained in the annual budget are in line with State Government priorities as articulated in the SDP, thus enhancing the effectiveness of public expenditures.
- Public Finances and Budgeting: With the enactment of the Public Finance (Management and Control) Law 2015, Kaduna State acted swiftly to adopt the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and a Zero-Based Budgeting framework. These allowed us to make a decisive break with the political interests that diverted budgetary resources, begin to correct the wrongs of previous budgets, and institute greater discipline in managing the public finances of the State.
- Prioritising Capital Spending: Each of our Annual Budgets is structured in a ratio of 60:40 between capital and recurrent expenditures. While revenue constraints continue, we have in each full budget year set new records for capital spending.
- Transparent legal and regulatory framework: With the active cooperation of our state House of Assembly, we have legislated a new regulatory framework and established new agencies to drive our governance agenda. These are intended to create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, a new culture of playing by the rules, and complement the efforts of the State Government. The new laws include the following:
Investment Promotion Agency Law which establishes the Kaduna Investment Promotion (KADIPA) as a one-stop shop for facilitating investments in the state. KADIPA has successfully hosted two editions of the Kaduna Investment Summit, which enabled the attraction of hundreds of millions of dollars in FDI. KADIPA’s efforts were recognised by BusinessDay newspaper when our state was voted the Easiest To Do Business in Nigeria in 2017;
The Tax Codification Law which consolidates all taxes and levies payable in the state in one document, and establishes the Kaduna Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) as the sole collector of all government revenues which has resulted in over a 100% rise in our domestic revenue collection efforts;
The Geographic Information Service Law, creating the Kaduna Geographic Information Service (KADGIS) to digitise the land registry, expedite the issuance of secure titles and reduce conflict and fraud in land matters;
The Pension Reform Law establishing the State Pension Board, and migrating the state to a Contributory Pension Scheme, effective since 1st January 2017;
Kaduna Master Plan (Enforcement) Law: Neither the 1917 nor the 1967 masterplans for Kaduna metropolis was protected by legislation. We decided to legislate the 2012 review undertaken by Max Lock, the same firm that prepared the 1967 plan;
Fiscal Responsibility Law establishing the Fiscal Responsibility Commission as the state watchdog to enforce fiscal prudence and compliance;
Public Procurement Law establishing the Public Procurement Authority to enforce transparency and accountability in procurement of works, goods and services, and
Facilities Management Law establishing the Facilities Management Agency (KADFAMA) to maintain all state-owned public buildings and essential housing.
- Driving Development
As stated earlier, the economic contributions of Kaduna State do not match its population or the potential suggested by its resource endowments. With vast well-watered arable land, the state is a leader in agriculture, being the number one producer of ginger, maize, tomatoes and soyabeans. But farming is still done on relatively small plots, and much farming is still rain-fed. The state also has significant mineral endowments, exemplified by the recent find of high-purity nickel in the southern part of the state.
With a huge youth population, we have to encourage private sector investments to create sustainable jobs. As a government, we have tried to create direct jobs in new and old agencies, but even recruiting in the thousands is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge army of the unemployed. It is also sadly true that a large chunk of these young people are neither well-educated nor appropriately skilled. Rather than pretend we can leap directly to a high-skill, high-tech economy, it is our duty to create realistic avenues so that no one who is willing to work is left behind.
Enabling citizens to be productive led us to anchor our social development drive on the following:
- Education: Most of our public primary schools need to be rebuilt to create more classrooms, and provide them with water, power and other facilities. We learnt in our first week in office that at least 50% of pupils in primary and secondary schools sit on floors because there is no class furniture. In some areas, the figure is closer to 90%, but we are addressing this by providing school furniture.
We recently addressed the question of poor standards by firing 21,780 teachers who failed basic assessments, and replacing them with 25,000 new teachers. A new regime of standards-setting, regular training and testing of teachers will be supervised by our State Quality Assurance Authority. We are also paying teachers between 27% to 32% higher than regular civil servants, with free housing for rural teachers to improve levels of retention and commitment.
Our pledge to make basic education really free by removing the illegal levies school heads often charge has expanded access, doubling primary school enrolment from 1.1 million to nearly 2 million, with 48:52 female-male ratio.
In secondary schools, we are providing 15,000 tablet PCs as instructional materials in a pilot programme targeting girls’ schools. If the learning outcomes prove vastly superior to schools not using tablets, we will have to embrace the expense of extending tablets to all our public secondary schools.
- Healthcare: We are working to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, so that pregnancy stops being a life-ending ordeal for mothers and babies. 255 primary health centres, one in each ward are being renovated and expanded, and General Electric is providing equipment such as ultrasound scans and incubators to enhance ante-natal and post-natal care. The ultimate target is to ensure that a well-equipped PHC is available within 5km radius for every resident of the state, with progress measured by our geo-referenced household surveys. In addition, 23 secondary health facilities, one in each local government, are receiving equipment for better treatment and safer surgery. Our coverage for routine immunisation is expanding. Thanks to the support of our development partners, we are protecting more of our children with timely vaccination.
- Investment drive and jobs: The State Development Plan expects us to attract N800bn in private investments over five years. Our investment agency KADIPA is well on course to achieve this. The $150 million Olam poultry and feedmill commissioned in September 2017 represents the largest single FDI outside the oil and gas sector since 2015. There are several other agribusiness investments in the pipeline.
Other initiatives are ongoing in the mining sector. We are organising artisanal miners and developing a mineral testing and buying centre. Outside commodities, the private sector is investing in tractor assembly, ICT and mass housing. Some of the old textile mills are being transformed into garment factories to produce civil wear and uniforms for the armed forces, police and para-military services.
- Infrastructure: A steady programme to build township and rural roads, expand potable water sources and increase power supply is being implemented. In 2017, the 150mld water treatment plan of the Zaria Water Project was commissioned. More reservoirs connected to the project are being completed, and last mile connections and metering to bring the water to homes and businesses are being done.
The two industrial areas in Kaduna will soon be connected to the 230MW Kudenda power project and will receive 30MW from the Gurara Hydro-Electric Dam project. These will enable our industries to have regular and reliable power supply and enhance their competitiveness.
The Nigerian military has for years been deployed in aid of civil authorities across the country. Gang violence, robberies, kidnappings and other crimes menace many of our states, and are clearly beyond the capacity of the police to curb. The fact is that Nigeria is severely under-policed. With just about 400,000 officers overall, many poorly trained, police capacity is grossly insufficient to project state power or assert the prerogatives of the state across large swathes of the country. The police is simply not present in many areas, or are there in such puny numbers as to be ineffectual. Furthermore, the Nigeria Police is a centralised force, ill-suited to the size and diversity of the country.
Even this insufficient force is neither well-resourced nor trained. But it is what we have. Therefore, the authorities of most our 36 states have to support a police force that they do not control. If a state governor is unable to provide logistics support like fuel, operational trucks, motorcycles, communications and other equipment, the police cannot do much more than just report at their stations.
In Kaduna State, we support the security agencies with vehicles and other resources. We worked with six other states to fund military operations in the sprawling Kamuku/Kuyambana forest axis to rid the area of cattle rustlers and bandits. Those operations reduced cattle rustling but the former rustlers then migrated into kidnapping. We are therefore investing in drones and CCTV to enhance our capacity to detect and act against these criminals.
As one of the states most badly affected by acts of rural banditry, we have suggested to federal authorities to declare them as insurgents and take consequential action. Joint military and police operations have recently been successful in reducing the scale of rural banditry, which is often confused with clashes between farmers and pastoralists.
Forging a new elite consensus
Governance and development in Nigeria require the establishment of a new elite consensus. The current political system nurtures an elite which depends on subverting rather than improving governance for political success. Gradually, this has created a culture of distorted values, dependence on godfathers, and rent-seeking. A sense of shared mission has to be established, and new models of political behaviour developed that are compatible with strengthening our capacity to govern and deliver public goods.
Key questions requiring urgent answers demand this long-delayed consensus – What is the consensus on citizenship to resolve the indigene/settler matter? What is the appropriate balance of responsibilities between the centre and the states? How do we balance effective representation of our diverse citizens with motivated and meritocratic public officials? How can we promote equality of opportunity in a deeply unequal society? How do we enforce compliance with fair rules when the state is itself weak?
Forging elite consensus on these issues will help raise the tenor of national discourse beyond the pedestrian fixation with ethnic and religious conspiracies. Reason must displace empty cacophony.
Our party recently took steps to answer some of these questions which necessarily went to the root of balancing our federal structure. I personally welcome the response to the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism which I chaired. It basically asks the Federal Government to shed weight and allow states to exercise more of the responsibilities that can make life better for our people. Not all states will take up that responsibility immediately, but some will, and they will provide a model for a new form of governance that offers us a nation-building opportunity. I hope that we can seize the moment.
*Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, delievered this lecture at the African Studies Centre, Oxford University, England on Friday, 9th March 2018.