By Isa Gusau
Kayode Komolafe, Deputy Managing Director at ThisDay Newspapers, was about the first to convey some warning thoughts he compiled after listening to Governor Kashim Shettima’s remarks of Monday, June 24, 2013. Shettima spoke in Maiduguri, when he received Presidential ‘Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North’ inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on April 24, 2013, under the chairmanship of then Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki.
Writing from his popular column, The Horizon, Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in ThisDay Newspapers, Komolafe came up with a title that asked a question, ‘IS ANYONE LISTENING TO SHETTIMA?’
In that column, Komolafe made copious reference to what Shettima said before the Turaki led committee two days earlier.
“Four months ago, I read an interesting article, titled ‘The coming global energy order’, authored by Sam Nda Isaiah in Leadership Newspapers of 4th February, 2013 and from what Sam wrote which I have also confirmed from some economists, oil prices would eventually fall to less than 40 dollars per barrel within the next 3 or 4 years mainly due to advanced technology in oil exploration through hydraulic tracking and horizontal drilling that can get oil and gas out of shale rock at cheaper exploration cost. Fourteen countries are expected to join oil exploration through hydraulic tracking and our main client, the U.S is likely to become oil independent and could stop import of Nigeria’s oil in few years. The overall implication is global crash in oil prices with potentially negative economic impacts on Nigeria given our sole dependence on oil. We have to prepare for worst times in 2 or 3 years”, Governor Shettima had said to the Turaki committee while sharing broad perspectives on poverty and mass unemployment being twin elements associated with violence.
I can recall that since that 2013 forecast, Governor Shettima seemed to have made up his mind to cut down the N2.6 billion monthly salary bills in Borno State. He initiated verification of workers and biometric exercise. At that time, his move was a major threat to his 2015 second term bid because all previous governors couldn’t face a hidden cabal suspected to be beneficiaries of ghost workers. The cabal was thought to be powerful, with interested parties in different blocks but being soft only from the outside and tough from the inside, Shettima stood his ground. It’s now history that he secured both his second term and a monthly savings of N500m after chopping off ghost workers in an exercise that is still dragging at 90% due to years of systematic sabotage.
I also remember that after the 2013 forecast, Governor Shettima predicted fall in oil price could come with possible rise in exchange rate between naira and other currencies in addition to inflation. At a point he considered converting Borno’s savings to dollars but he was talked out of it for fear of misinterpretation. As second alternative, the governor embarked on massive spending in critical infrastructure from Borno’s earnings. At almost the same time, he awarded contracts for construction of over 2,500 houses and apartments in 5 estates and made sure all roofing sheets, wall and floor tiles, doors, windows, kitchen and toilet fittings were massively procured and stored. He imported block and interlocking tiles making machineries and engaged hundreds of youths in making thousands of blocks and interlocking tiles.
Not done, he approved over N30b for import of 750 containers of various Agricultural machineries that included about 30 combined harvesters (more than half of the total number of 52 in Nigeria); imported complete equipment for about 10 food processing factories; 500 rice mills, oil mills, over thousand tractors, different types of irrigation equipment, complete factories for producing net houses and drip irrigation pipes and equipment for an ultramodern seedlings production center which has just been completed.
Still working on the 2013 forecast, Governor Shettima approved import of 10 Dando super rigs from the UK, which can drill up to 1,500 meters depth in search of water (the first time any Government bought that much in Nigeria); invested heavily on infrastructure and equipment in the health and education sectors including awarding contract for dozens of capital projects at the newly established Borno State University; imported heavy duty construction equipment which has prepared the Borno State Ministry of Works into constructing roads and major bridges like the beautifully built 2nd Lagos Street Bridge in Maiduguri. Today, no public or private construction company in the northeast has got the capacity of Borno Government.
In addition to that, the governor injected billions one billion into the moribund Borno flour mill. Today, the flour mill helps in meeting some of the government’s food requirements to address the needs of internally displaced persons.
What I must not forget is the fact while Governor Shettima was making all these commitment in 2013, he was dealing with huge expenditures associated with the Boko Haram violence – buying hundreds of security vehicles, fueling and paying allowances, supporting victims (including paying compensation in order to prevent bereaved families from joining insurgents out of frustration), rebuilding dozens of destroyed communities and catering for IDP’S whose numbers kept climbing.
Despite all steps taken by the governor after the 2013 forecast, I think one major test came his way in July, 2016 when Borno received its lowest allocation from the Federation Account. Borno, a troubled state dealing with challenges of catering for IDP’s and yet paying more than N2 billion monthly on salaries, got about N1.9 billion as net allocation in that month. We all thought the moment had come when Governor Shettima’s record of consistency in payment of salaries by 26th of successive months, was coming to a halt.
I don’t know how he did it, but the governor topped on the N1.9 billion, paid the salaries in full, paid some pension and went on to provide critical public services like security, water supply, healthcare, running of the affairs of Government and continued reconstruction works in addition to feeding IDP’S. He has remained consistent on all these till date. I am as amazed as the reader may be but in case anyone is wondering how Governor Shettima does it, perhaps, the Agricultural Economist and banker also created some strategic reserve for Borno State in preparing for the ongoing recession.
– Gusau, Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy to Governor Shettima, wrote from Maiduguri.