By Ali Abare
Development, according to scholars, is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components.
It is also the views of development experts that the purpose of development is a rise in the level and quality of life of the population, which is visible, useful, and includes an aspect of quality change and the creation of conditions for a continuation of that change.
According to Amartya Sen, Nobel prize-winning economist, development must be judged by its impact on people, not only by changes in their income but more generally in terms of their choices, capabilities and freedoms.
This suggests that development consists of more than improvements in the well-being of citizens, it also conveys something about the capacity of economic, political and social systems to provide the circumstances for that well-being on a sustainable, long-term basis.
Thus, the guiding principle behind the administration of His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, since inception on May 29, 2019, has been geared towards not only consolidating on the gains of previous administrations but also ensuring sustainable development in Nasarawa State.
Since its creation in October 1996, subsequent administrations have variously contributed their quota towards developing Nasarawa State, aptly called the Home of Solid Minerals because it is richly endowed with variety of solid minerals ranging from precious metals to gemstones, as well as industrial minerals such as barites, barites, gypsum, kaolin and marble.
Most recently, the administration of former governor, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura, during its eight-year reign, introduced widespread reforms aimed at curtailing reckless spending, directing and judiciously channelling scarce resources towards building critical infrastructure.
It was decidedly herculean, the reformist approach adopted by Senator Al-makura, aimed at cutting down government expenditure, instilling accountability and probity in the management of the state resources previously viewed as free-for-all.
With the far-reaching reforms spearhead by the Al-makura administration, Engineer Abdullahi Sule was officially inaugurated on May 29, 2019, to commence the task of not only consolidating on the efforts of his predecessors but also unfold his vision as well as his quest for sustainable development.
Aware of the paucity of much needed funds to actualize his vision as well as fulfil campaign promises made to the people, His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, drawing on his vast experience from the organized private sector, decided to think out of the box in order to augment dwindling resources, instead of depending solely on federal allocation.
The situation is Nasarawa State, like across other 34 states across the country, is worsened by the resolve of the Federal Government to seek repayment of the soft loans granted to states following shortfall in revenues due to the global fall in the prices of crude.
This has become additional constraints on the financial standing of most states.
To this end, the Engineer Abdullahi Sule administration adopted an ambitious, well-thought-out strategy, the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS), which encapsulates the vision and mission of the administration towards ensuring sustainable development in Nasarawa State.
This development strategy, according to the Governor, is a testimony of the collective determination of the administration to implement a practicable economic transformation strategy for the state, founded on a vision to sustain accelerated growth of the economy of Nasarawa State.
“We have recognized that the growth of the Nasarawa State economy is low and suffers from some vagaries of the national economy, albeit being tackled by the current federal administration, which has not successfully translated to the delivery of tangible results to our people,” His Excellency, Engineer Sule has posited.
Engineer Sule therefore maintained that unless there is a deliberate attempt to sterilise the economy of the state from issues impeding growth, pursue growth driven by multiple engines, as well as unblock the drivers of sustainable development to allow growth benefits trickle down to those at the bottom of the pyramid, the economy of Nasarawa State will continue to suffer.
“Within the overall framework, NEDS has set out critical strategies for realising the state’s ambition for a truly prosperous and thriving economy that improves the economic wellbeing of residents through wealth and job creation,” the Governor said.
Explaining further on the new strategy to develop Nasarawa State, Ibrahim Adamu Abdullahi, Special Adviser to the Governor on Investment, noted that NEDS focuses on five game changer opportunities, four reform areas and 9 focus sectors.
“NEDS if well implemented will set Nasarawa State on the path to accelerated economic growth. It has a multifaceted approach to tackling our salient needs to grow our economy through wealth creation and improved productivity,” Abdullahi stated.
The strategy envisions five game changers namely, employment and wealth creation, accelerated industrialization, infrastructural development, human capital development and urban renewal and sustainable housing, driving the economic growth of the state thereby creating wealth for the people.
This ambitious, practicable vision is to be attained through a combination of traditional and innovative financing, through which NEDS will be funded.
These according to the SA on Investment to His Excellency, include, internally generated revenue, with the IGR expected to rise by 30 percent in 2020, statutory allocations, loans, Public Private Partnership and grants, as well as intervention funds from multilateral agencies.
Accordingly, and in the spirit of NEDS, Engineer Sule constituted and inaugurated the State Economic Management and Investment Advisory Council, which is expected to evolve new strategies that would make the state more economically viable for the next four years.
The 15-member economic advisory headed by renown banker and investment expert, Professor Konyilola Ajayi, have members selected based on track records of achievements both in the private and public sector, and are expected to assist the state government towards making Nasarawa the best investment destination in the country.
“This is in line with the policy thrust of this administration designed to launch Nasarawa State on the path of progress and development for socioeconomic prosperity,” the Governor has said while inaugurating the council.
Given his background and coming from the organised private sector, Engineer Sule considers investment as a critical instrument in the economic development agenda of his administration.
“To this effect, we intend to give the private sector cardinal role to play in driving the economic development activities of the State. Accordingly, Government shall adopt a robust investment policy and drive which will be structured on interim, short, medium and long term arrangements,” the Governor posited.
So far, Engineer Abdullahi Sule has used every available opportunity to present the NEDS document, showcasing the economic direction and tremendous potential of an evolving Nasarawa State, while at the same time, urging relevant stakeholders to partner with the state in the journey to prosperity and sustained development.
At the recently held 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Engineer Sule presented the NEDS document to the UN Deputy Scribe, Hajiya Amina Mohammed.
The Governor reportedly informed the UN Deputy Scribe, the determination of his administration to make Nasarawa State one of the top three most competitive states in Nigeria by 2023.
“Nasarawa State was the only state that presented a coordinated and detailed blueprint for development tagged: Nasarawa State Economic Development Strategy (NEDS) at the congregation of Nations,” Engineer Sule further disclosed.
Again, while still on the lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia, Engineer Sule presented the NEDS document to the management of the Islamic Development Bank.
That the Engineer Abdullahi Sule led administration has chosen to thread an entirely new path in the search for greener pasture for Nasarawa State, doesn’t however preclude it from improving on the traditional system of administration, with the government focusing on agriculture, minerals development, industrialization and youth and women empowerment, among others.
According to the Governor, with agriculture being the mainstay of the economy of Nasarawa State, where 80 percent of the population engage in farming, a major part of the agenda of his administration is to encourage commercial agriculture to pave the way for the blossoming of agro-allied industries.
Aside of the Olam Rice Farm in Doma and the Dangote Sugar Refinery in Awe, additional investors in agriculture are already coming into the state, particularly with the signing of agreements with Dangote Group, Floor Mills Nigeria Plc and Azman Rice Farm for the setting up of rice plantations in Doma, Nasarawa, as well as cassava processing plant in Wamba.
With Nasarawa State widely acclaimed as the “Home of Solid Minerals”, much is actually left to be desired for the state to really maximize its immense natural endowment in the area of mineral deposits, with the state planning put in place a Minerals Development Agency to harness the hydrocarbon resources, coal deposits, salt, precious stones, among others.
Thus, an aspect where Engineer Sule has brought his vast experience gathered during his years in the organized private sector to promptly yield dividends for the state, is the mining sector, which has resulted in far reaching reforms that will have tremendous impact on the economic growth of the state.
With the Mining and Solid Minerals Act 2007 vesting powers on the Federal Government to have total control of the sector, previous administrations viewed the Act as an unsurmountable impediment, choosing not to challenge the status quo, thereby leaving the sector in near comatose.
But not His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, who buoyed by his vision to industrialize Nasarawa State, saw a golden opportunity in the potentials of the state in the area of minerals. He decided to challenge the status quo.
It’s on record that Engineer Sule, at every available forum, tried to make case for states to be given specific responsibility in the management of the mining sector. During this year’s Nigeria Mining Week, the Governor raised issues before the Minister for Mines and Steel Development. At the National Executive Council (NEC) meetings, Engineer Sule pursuit the matter relentlessly.
With Engineer Sule, Nasarawa State is assuming her proper leadership role and to champion a revolutionary cause in the area of mining, with states like Nasarawa mostly at the receiving end of a policy that handed total control of the mining sector to the Federal Government.
However, light is finally coming at the end of the dark tunnel, as following relentless agitation by stakeholders, particularly Engineer Abdullahi Sule, the Federal Government is set to relinquish control of the mining sector and to hand over the control to state governments.
Only recently, the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development,, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah, visited Engineer Sule at the Government House in Lafia, to seek closer collaboration with the states with a view to harmonizing revenues coming from the mineral sector.
Certainly, a new dawn is coming to the country’s mining sector and all thanks to His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule. This is even more so, with the Federal Government recently saying it’s handing over total control of the mining sector to states.
Ernest Umakhihe, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance declared this at a retreat for critical stakeholders in national planning and development strategies.
The retreat jointly put together by the Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, was aimed at achieving common consent on the way forward for the country’s development.
This, indeed is a giant leap for Nasarawa State and a plus for the activist spirit in Engineer Sule, particularly with firms such as the Multiverse Mining and Exploration Plc investing $100m in the state.
For and industrialist like Engineer Sule, industrialization is a cardinal objective of his administration. To this end, the administration is seeking to create employment as well as generate wealth through industrialization.
“We will adopt an integrated employment creation strategy whereby industrial, agricultural, commercial, vocational and such other related ventures are encompassed.
“To this end, small, medium and large scale industries shall be encouraged. I wish to call, with a loud voice, on all the people of Nasarawa State to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be provided by this policy, which is aimed at developing our State,” Engineer Sule said while being inaugurated as Governor.
Another area where the passion of the Governor remain visible for all to see, is in the area of youth and women empowerment, which he described as the core aspect of his mandate with the people of the state.
“We shall encourage our youth and women to key into various Vocational Skills Acquisition Programmes and Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMSEs) geared towards poverty alleviation, self-employment and self-actualisation.
“We will continue to partner with Agencies, Institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to support and train our youth and women,” the Governor has emphasized.
The various initiatives put in place by the administration to better the lot of women and youths in Nasarawa State has since begun to yield results.
For instance, arrangement has gone far for the disbursement of N1.5bn facility to youths to set up agro-businesses, obtained from the partnership with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
Again, as part of the administration’s efforts at creating job opportunities and encouraging self-reliance among youths and women, the state government distributed brick making machines to over 246 young men and women, with beneficiaries selected across the 13 local government areas of the state.
Considering the role of the state civil service in the implementation of the policy thrust of his administration, Engineer Sule set up a committee to review the structure of the state civil service, which saw to the pruning down of Ministries to 13 for effectiveness.
And in what is seen as a mark departure from the past, the Governor issued mandate cards while swearing in 15 newly appointed commissioners. The commissioners were asked to sign the mandate cards pledging commitment to deliver specific goals.
Specifically, the then newly appointed commissioners were made to understand that the vision of the Nasarawa State Government within the next four years, is to be among the top three most competitive states in the country by 2023, in terms of sustained, accelerated economic growth, increased economic activities and prosperity.
Indeed, the Engineer Sule administration is leaving no stone unturned in its determination to place Nasarawa State on the path of sustained development. This is even made glaring by the effort of the administration to align its aspirations, policies and pogrammes with that of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Only recently, Engineer Sule directed Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to key into the programmes of the SDGs with a view to assimilating the 17 specific SDGs into the programmes and policies of his government.
Now, with the lingering political litigation arising from the 2019 general election over, following the pronouncement of the Supreme Court, which upheld the election of Engineer Sule as dully elected Governor of Nasarawa State, it is expected that every citizen of the state will join hands together to support the present administration as it works earnestly, prudently and effectively takes the state to the Next Level.
Abare is a Special Assistant on Media to His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, Executive Governor of Nasarawa State.