In analysing fiscal performance across the various regions and political platforms to assess the various state governments in delivering their electoral mandates, our focus this week is on the small, North-central state of Nasarawa. We took a fortnight’s break to allow for the ventilation of contrasting views on Anambra’s misguided and profoundly dysfunctional budget.
Indigenes of Nasarawa State on May 29, 2011, elected Umaru Tanko Al-Makura as governor on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Al-Makura, a trained teacher, from the College of Education, Uyo and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, went into the private sector in 1978 via Almakura Nigeria Limited which imported and serviced agricultural and industrial machinery.
He was one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state in 1998. He defected to the CPC in 2010 and contested in 2011; ousting the then incumbent PDP governor Aliyu Akwe-Doma.
Nasarawa State, known as the “Home of Solid Minerals” was created on October 1, 1996 by the Abacha administration. It is bound in the North by Kaduna State, in the West by Abuja Federal Capital Territory, in the South by Kogi and Benue States and in the East by Taraba and Plateau States. It is the second least populous state in the country just ahead of Bayelsa with a total headcount of 1,869,377 as at 2006. Nasarawa’s population today should be at par with Botswana (2 million) and higher than those of Gambia (1.8 million) and Gabon (1.5 million).
Since Botswana’s independence in 1966, it has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world and this was mainly achieved by their exploration of mineral resources in the country. Gabon on the other hand, depended heavily on manganese production for revenues until oil was discovered in the 70s. Ironically for Nasarawa, other than the minerals in its adopted alias, not much has been done in the area of mining.
The state has several proven reserves of Barite (750,000 MT), glass sand, salt/brine, kaolin (45,000 MT), tourmaline, sharp sand, tin, marble, coal, semi-precious stones including aquamarine. It has ample arable land where almost any crop can be grown. The major crops grown include maize, rice, sorghum, millet, cowpea, groundnut, yam, cassava, soyabeans, beniseed, melon, bambara nuts. It has huge tourism potentials. Potential tourist attractions include the Farin Ruwa falls (comparable to the popular Victoria Falls in Zambia), the Eggon rolling hills and caves and Hunki Lake in Awe.
According to the NBS Poverty Profile 2012 based on data up to 2010, of the population of the North-central zone, 61.9% is relatively poor, 57.4% is absolutely poor, 38.6% is food poor – an irony indeed for a zone with such generous agricultural endowments. In North-central, 59.7% live on less than a dollar a day. Ideally, the region should have the lowest food poverty rates but the South-south (35.5%) and South-west (25.4%) score lower in that regard. In terms of absolute poverty, the region fares better than the other Northern counterparts but is worse than all the Southern regions.
In the region, apart from Niger, Nasarawa has the lowest food poverty (26.8%), absolute poverty (60.4%), and relative poverty (71.4%). The income inequality rate impressively reduced by - 2.7% between 2004 and 2010. Nasarawa’s poverty incidence is relatively high at 39%, which means that more than one out of every three persons is poor: compared to one in seven for Lagos, and more than half – 58% in Yobe, the poorest state in Nigeria.
It has an unemployment level of 21.6% similar to the national average of 21.1%, as compiled by the NBS in 2010. Besides Benue in the region with a higher figure (25.4%), all other North-central states have lower unemployment rates with Plateau having the lowest (14.4%).The figure is high compared to Ekiti State (14%) which was created in the same year. On a slightly brighter note, Nasarawa is the 18th easiest state to do business in Nigeria according to the 2010 World Bank rankings. It ranks 12th in terms of ease of starting a business.
Educationally, the state’s recent history has not been impressive. A look back some years ago, for which data is available, WAEC pass rates of five credits including Mathematics and English have continuously deteriorated; 2004 (5.84%), 2005 (4.72%), 2006 (3.01%) and 2007 (1.77%). The zone has the lowest adult literacy in any language (61.9%) and Nasarawa is one of the least literate states in the zone (47.5%). The 2011 UTME figures are not any better. The state had the lowest percentage for the average cut-off mark of 180 and above in the zone with 43.2%, while Kwara had achieved a 74.8% pass rate. Hopefully, the current governor, with his teaching background would focus and channel more resources to education.
These statistics sadly are a reflection of the norm in the Northern part of the country with low literacy rates, poor WAEC pass rates, poor UTME performance, pathetic healthcare and the battleground of insurgencies in the country. In the process of our analysis, it is important to play close attention to what the spending priorities of the government are in the light of specific developmental challenges they are faced with.
The state government initially presented a budget of N97.6 billion which was reviewed upward to N104.9 billion by the PDP-controlled state assembly. The 2011 budget contained 46.1% recurrent and 53.9% capital components. The approved budget for 2012 is an increase of 28% over the 2011 amount. The budget is to be financed with Statutory Allocation – N47.3 billion (45% of the budget), IGR from MDAs- N13.2bn (13%), grants – N15bn (15%) and loan draw-downs of N10 billion (10%). The amount of loans taken by the state is commendable given that the neighbouring Bauchi State borrows over 40% of its annual budget. It is worth mentioning that Nasarawa receives the second lowest amount from the Federation Account, with Ekiti at the bottom. Indeed, in 1999-2008, it collected about N155.5 billion when a state like Rivers received N1.1 trillion in the same period.
Of the N104.9 billion budget, N42.5 billion (40.5%) is earmarked for recurrent expenditure and N62.4 billion (about 60%) for capital spending. While this obviously falls a little short of the 70% capital requirement for meaningful development which the state is in dire need of, it is the highest we have seen for any state budget analysed so far, and nearly 7% higher than that of the predecessor government. The recurrent budget is further broken down into personnel cost of N25.1 billion (23.9% of total budget) and overhead cost of N17.4 billion (16.6%). It goes without saying that the state’s IGR of N13.2 billion can cover just about half the total personnel costs. The recurrent revenue estimates all fell short of actual receipts in 2011 except FAAC, yet all 2012 estimates are above those of the previous year; which optimism gives cause for concern.
The sectoral breakdown of the budget is as follows; about N2.5 billion (3%) for agriculture, a commendable N14.1 billion (14%) for education, N5.5 billion (6%) for health, N5.1 billion (5%) for water resources and all related agencies, a whopping N18.4 billion (18%) for works and transport and a paltry N600 million (1%) for tourism and culture. The Secretary to the State Government gets about N7.6 billion and somewhere in there exists a N2 billion provision under the title “classified expenses” that is the security vote for the state.
Al-Makura has ramped up budgetary provisions for township roads, urban water supply, schools and healthcare facilities in significant ways. Nasarawa was also the first state to implement the new minimum wage of N18,900 for its public service even though it is not a rich state. His social policies which put women, children and physically-challenged people as vulnerable groups for preferential and cheaper access to education and healthcare are also unique in the zone. HIs private sector discipline has been brought to bear with the identification and removal of ghost workers amounting to nearly 18% of the workforce under the predecessor government.
Public health facilities in the state increased between 2000 and 2009. Primary health care; from 417 to 698, secondary health care; 13 to 19 and tertiary remained 2 over the years. Sadly the bed to patient ratio in 2009 was 1:1854.While it is not so much about the increase in number of facilities, reports concerning its state of healthcare facilities requires urgent attention. The Al-Makura government has recognised the dilapidation of health facilities and has dedicated 5% of the budget to begin restoring them to acceptable standards.
The agricultural sector has potential to be a major revenue source for the state because like the neighbouring Benue State, agriculture is the main economic activity in Nasarawa. All the major crops are produced in every local government area particularly yam and rice. The budgetary provision includes procurement of fertiliser and seedlings as well as agricultural mechanisation equipment. Budgeting 3% for agriculture needs to be increased going forward.