Posted by News Express | 26 May 2017 | 1,743 times
Governor Nasir el Rufai of Kaduna State – a disciple of Heraclitus’ school of Big results, require big ambitions – has never hidden his big ambition to turn around the fortunes of state, from the gloried and backward capital of the defunct Northern Region, to a well-planned modern city, a business destination and the food basket of the nation. Kaduna State was living in the past. It is not an ambition in vacuum, as the Kaduna State Development Plan 2016 - 2020 captures the ambition, objectives and the strategy towards achieving them.
When on May 27, 2017 el-Rufai commissions the 50 million litres per day Zaria Regional Water Supply Project, the picture of his daring and ambitious dreams, would have started taking shape. But, considering the huge infrastructure deficit that has constrained economic development of the state, he will still be far away from where he wants Kaduna State to be. Meanwhile, no one should begrudge el-Rufai if he decides to pop champagne, having “conquered” a project that defied some previous administrations. But more, because he conquered the creeping cynicism among the people that government should never be trusted to deliver. He has restored that trust in the capacity of government to keep commitment.
Zaria had acquired notoriety for water borne diseases – cholera, typhoid, dysentery, etc – due to lack of pipe-borne water and subsequent dependency on contaminated water. Figures indicate that an estimated thousands die from these diseases, and is also a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma. Hopefully, Zaria will be mentioned in future for positives and not in the negatives, due to the completion of this water project that was conceived to address the acute water supply crisis of Zaria and environs.
The Zaria Water Scheme, a collaborative project between the state government and the Federal Government has been on the drawing board for over two decades. The project has the capacity to serve 2.2 million people residing in Zaria and in over 23 communities in seven local government areas of the state. The Federal Government funded the construction of the 186.1 million cubic metres Multipurpose Galma Dam, that will serve as the main source of raw water for the new Zaria 150 MLD Water Treatment Plant. The dam will also supply water for recreation, irrigation, and hydro-power.
While the Federal Government remarkably kept its part of the bargain, some previous Kaduna State Government administrations “took their time” constructing the treatment plant, the transmission mains, the service reservoirs, the rehabilitation and extension of distribution networks, solid waste management sanitation programme within Zaria and the 23 communities. But the real reason the Zaria project was not completed was that: as in the case of like Ajaokuta Steel Mill and the National Identity Card Project, it became a ‘goldmine’ to all sorts of interests. The project became a cash-cow, despite the substantial benefits for human, health and economic development, as well as generation of employment, etc. It is not over, as there are still critical projects to be delivered, but the commitment to complete it is unquestionable.
Funding the project has been a nightmare. The state had to justifiably take a facility of US$81 million from the Islamic Development Bank and another US$101 million from the African Development Bank, for the construction of 460 km of pipe network, and other critical water supply and sanitation infrastructure. Finance Commissioner Suleiman Abdu Kwari and his team deserve praise for the efficient management of the lean resources and their capacity to negotiate loans on concessional terms to drive the various projects. (Kaduna State has just published its audited accounts for 2016, while Nasarawa State is still working on its 2012 report).
But, what is infrastructure and, why is it so important? Why is el- Rufai making huge ‘noise’ about it? Infrastructure is critical, according to Richard Mudges, because “the deterioration of existing facilities and their insufficient capacity to accommodate future growth will eventually constrain economic development.” Consequently, a state or a community with run-down facilities, that lacks water, good roads, etc, will obviously be the last choice for new business. But “infrastructure projects are not ends in themselves. Rather, their importance to the economy and society as a whole derives from the services they offer: the opportunity to improve productivity or reduce cost.” So the real output of infrastructure is service.
Of what use is it ‘seeking’ investors when your facilities are trash? The Kaduna State Development Plan 2020 indicates that the state needs N638.7 billion to address its infrastructural challenges. The figure doesn’t include maintenance costs.
Governor el Rufai’s government has creditably conducted itself in the area of roads infrastructure. Since the Senator Ahmed Makarfi and late Sir Patrick Yakowa’s administrations, Kaduna State has not witnessed what the then British Prime Minister David Cameron called “roads revolution.” The massive rehabilitation and construction of roads reflects that “desire to restore Kaduna State to its lost glory through a planned, orderly and coherent development of the state.” The Lugard Round-about to Kawo dualisation project has been completed; the Station Round-about to Prisons College Road dualisation project and SMC are on-going. There are at least four road dualisation projects and several others that are on-going. With peace returning to Kafanchan, several key road projects, including the dualisation of the town are expected to kick off soon.
The state government has equally redesigned the transport infrastructure with the support of the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF) and funds from the United Kingdom Department of International Development (DFID), and a transport policy launched in 2016. With the pre-qualification of companies, the project is definitely on course. The objective is an accessible and reliable public transport service that meets the mobility needs of the Kaduna State people. The Metropolitan Rapid Rail Line that will run through the Millennium City to Rigassa and Mararaban Rido, Zaria expressway to Sabon-Tasha, Mando and Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway, will ease transporting cost for commuters, reduce traffic congestion, and save our environment through reduction of emissions.
The governor is not short on ideas nor funding a deterrent in the conception of projects. His creativity in finding the needed funds or sweet deals is amazing. For instance, a negotiated retainership programme with some contractors, which entails continuous work on agreed monthly installment, has helped the state maintain momentum in the construction of roads: a win-win for everyone. Power is another project that has received attention under him. This is understandably so considering his industrialisation drive. Peter Voser, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell, describes energy as the oxygen of the economy. Kaduna badly needs the oxygen.
Kaduna State has an enormous solar energy potential. So, it is commendable that the State Energy Policy focuses on areas of incremental power, especially renewable sources: waste and solar. The target of 1,000 megawatts of installed electricity by 2020 is realisable. The N3.12 billion contained in the 2017 budget for the various electricity projects, which is key in the industrialisation plans shows seriousness. N1.2 billion would be committed to the 215 megawatt Kudendan Power Project. Another N200 million has been provided for the completion of the 30 megawatt Gurara Hydro-power Plant. The government also intends to secure a N1.5 billion loan from India Exim Bank to complete the project that will surly draw smiles from late governor Yakowa, who was very committed to the completion of the Gurara project.
There are several other initiatives like the 30 units of modular 50KVA Waste-to-power Project that will generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity, the Mini-grid Solar Systems and the Solar Roof-top Initiatives. The state has already adopted a mini-grid strategy for rural electrification and has identified 300 communities for the scheme, with six on-going pilot projects. Kaduna State Power Supply Company has been formed to co-ordinate its drive towards energy sufficiency. Once el-Rufai pulls off the power project, the Kaduna South, Kudendan industrial estates will roar again.
Considering the funding challenges, and the estimated US$200 billion investments needed to bring Kaduna State infrastructure up to date, I don’t envy the governor as he looks for money, which is increasingly becoming difficult to find, to meet his ambitious goals. Kaduna receives about N2.5 billion from the Federation Account and generates about N1.7 billion in internal revenue. But the civil service of less than 100,000 consumes about N2.2 billion as wages. Add the overhead costs, pension and the huge expenditure on security, the magnitude of funding challenges the governor is confronted with would be better appreciated.
Governor el-Rufai has given a credible account of himself, but it is his politics that has distracted and will continue to distract attention from his focused strides. But that is the essential el-Rufai, never afraid of a fight over convictions.
•Being Part 2 of Emmanuel Ado’s series on Governor el-Rufai’s Second Anniversary.
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