John Shiklam writes on the recent economic and investment summit organised by the Kaduna State Government which brought together experts in the private and public sectors, political and religious leaders to chart a way forward for the country
The Kaduna Economic and Investment summit (KADINVEST), initiated in 2016 by the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has become an event that investors and indeed the northern states look forward to with great expectations.Â
Amidst the grim economic realities facing the states across the country, occasioned by the high rate of unemployment and poverty, especially in the North, the state felt that one way of solving the problems is to seek for active private sector involvement in turning the economy around.Â
The idea behind the KADINVEST therefore is to provide a forum for the state to showcase its economic potential as well as interact with both local and international investors.Â
The second edition of the summit with the theme â€˜Making Kaduna the investment destination of choiceâ€™ held between April 5 to 6 in Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna State. Â
It was a gathering of dignitaries and who is who in the corporate business and corporate world with business men drawn from within and outside the country.
El-Rufai in his address, said KADINVEST was initiated as a practical statement that Kaduna is open for business.
“We view investment by the private sector as the surest way for job creation, improved internal revenue and development in our state,” he declared, adding that the credentials of the Kaduna State as an investment destination are anchored on the abundant human and natural resources as well as the policy and legal environment created by the state government.Â
Reviewing the gains of the maiden edition of the summit, el-Rufai said there has been major investments in the state especially the $10 million Dangote Tomatoes Production Plant in Kaduna, the $150 million Olam Animal, Poultry and Hatchery Factory, said to be the biggest in the West African sub-region, located in Chikun Local Government Area of the state and it is expected to create over 30,000 jobs when completed.Â
The $120 million Vicampro Potatoes Farm and Processing facility in Manchok, Kaura Local Government Area of the state was said to be another dividend of the 2016 summit.Â
Others include, Jifatu Shopping Mall, Mansura Medical University, Falgates Food Manufacturing, Markets and Neighbourhood Centre, Anjeed Innova Power, Agri All Africa, Imperial University, UAC Shopping Mall and Green Agro Allied Industrial Zone.Â
Besides, 56 investments, worth $1 billion were said to be in the pipeline and are expected to create about 335,000 jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.Â
This is in addition to the exploration works going on for gold, nickel and other minerals in the state, according to the governor.Â
El-Rufai said the second edition of KADINVEST was to consolidate the gains so far made since the maiden edition.Â
He said the state government was very focused and runs its affairs in a business-like manner to facilitate development.Â
“Everyone who has dealt with us realises that our government is business-like, focused on results and eager to expand the opportunities for our people to increase the resources of wealth creation, to increase life chancesÂ and and to secure revenues to pay for public goods,” the governor said.Â
According to him, many capital projects have been completed while more were implemented to stimulate the economy.
He spoke about the State Development Plan 2020, which, according to him, is a road map for achieving the state’s development.Â
To demonstrate that his administration meant real business, el-Rufai officially launched the â€˜Ease of Doing Business Charterâ€™ to assure investors that the bureaucratic bottleneck within the civil service are drastically reducedÂ to facilitate the operations of businesses.Â
The charter outlines the government’s commitment to easing business, especially issuance of licensing, business permit, approvals and processing across all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).Â
The charter legally binds the state government to keep its commitment and assures investors of expected outcome.Â
It also specified the number of days required for every business processing and the requirements and expected outcome by which the government can be held accountable by investors.
The Â event also featured the launching of the Kaduna Infrastructural Master Plan which outlined in details, the physical and social infrastructure needs of the state from 2017-2050.Â
The plan identifies about 300 projects focusing mainly on the needs of the people.Â
El-Rufai explained that the main objective of the master plan is to create conducive environment for public-private participation in infrastructure project development.
The Citizen Engagement Platform, tagged, â€˜The Eyes and Earsâ€™ Platform, designed to encourage citizensâ€™ participation in governance was also unveiled.Â
The platform is a phone-based application that is available on Apple Store, providing online real-time data on project locations and progress and how contractors are faring on handling such projects.
According to the governor, anyÂ information sent through the application goes directly to a dashboard in his office, the deputy governor’s office, the office of Speaker state of the House of Assembly and the Ministry of Budget and Planning.Â
He added that the application has been used to blacklist nonperforming contractors doing poor jobs in the state and also refer some to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for necessary action.Â
Furthermore, aÂ three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)Â between the state government and USAID to help drive economic development in the state was signed during the summit.Â
The MoU is aimed at boosting the agriculture sector through increased production of selected value chains, expanded market participation, increased access to finance and an improved business enabling environment as well as developing the capability of the state government Â to manage water and sanitation resources, increased access and availability of power.
Several projects, including the Kaduna ICT HubÂ located at Kanta Road, Kaduna aimed at providing ICT skills and training to 5000 youths annually were inaugurated. The centre was built in partnership with Zenith Bank Plc.Â
Similarly, a Solar Power Project at Badarawa Primary Healthcare Centre which is among the 32 similar projects completed in 18 Local Government Areas in partnership with UK-DFID was inaugurated by the governor.Â
Â His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III in a good will message at the occasion, applauded the governor for his developmental strides.Â
“I will like to commend the Kaduna State governor for this programme, I will like him to see this programme as the programme of the North. Kaduna belongs to all of us and Mallam Nasiru is the custodian/key holder of this city.
“Therefore, all of us must join hands together to make sure Kaduna is developed and if Kaduna is developed and is peaceful, definitely it is going to impact on the North,” the Sultan said.Â
He expressed his concern about the poor condition of the masses, emphasising on the need for government to embark on projects that can improve on the living condition of ordinary Nigerians.Â
“I have always talked about programmes that will touch the lives of the common man in the village, on the streets pushing trucks, carrying water to sell to survive.Â
“We want programmes that will touch the lives of these people, not programmes that will touch lives of the elites alone.Â
“There are governors building airports worth billions of naira while our roads are death traps and there are no functional clinics.Â
“So let’s put the building of airports and other white elephant projects aside and face issues that will bring water, food, good health, peace, security and make people go about freely without molestation,” he said, adding that Nigerians will use their votes to vote out those governors that refused to work for them come 2019.Â
Â Also in his remarks, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie Oyegun, said he was elated that el-Rufai was implementing the APC Manifesto and progremmes, stressing that the party will continue to support the Kaduna State government to succeed in implementing its programmes and policies.
Oyegun further commended el-Rufai for sharing the platform and other programmes with other APC governors for the common good of all Nigerians and urged the governors to emulate him.Â
In his keynote address entitled â€˜Promoting Business in the Midst of Economic Challengesâ€™ the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said the prevailing economic environment in Nigeria is very challenging and called for steps to be taken to promote investments.Â
He lamented that in the midst of the myriads of challenges facing the country, political leaders were busy fighting each other, instead of proffering solutions to the problems.Â
According to him, the growth of Nigeria in the period of agriculture was driven largely by rising commodity prices and debts, noting thatÂ the model has now reached the logical limit following the collapse in oil price.Â
He noted that “Today the federal government is spending 66 per cent of its revenue on interest on debts. Which means only 34 per cent of revenue is available for capital and recurrent expenditure. That model cannot work.Â
“I sometimes wonder what Nigerian economists are doing? In the 2017 budget, the amount earmarked for debt service is in excess of the entire oil revenue of the federal government.Â
“But that is not the problem, the problem is that it is also a budget that goes for more debts!
“The federal and state governments must understand that the model of government borrowing and spending has reached its limit, growth can only come from investments.”
The former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), stressed the needÂ for northern states governments to conserve their resources from those areas where government had failed in the last few decades and invest in more realistic ventures.Â
“We need to invest in education, healthcare, we are in denial, the North-west and the North-east demographically constitutes the bulk of Nigeria’s population.Â
“But look at the human development indices, look at the number of children out of school, look at adult literacy, look at maternal mobility, look at infant mobility, look at per capita income, the North-east and the North-west of Nigeria are among the poorest parts of the world, not just Nigeria,” the Emir said.Â
He further called on the government to encourage private investors to build infrastructure such as roads, rails, power and other ventures that are profitable.
Sanusi stressed that Nigerian investors like Aliko Dangote should be encouraged to invest in Nigeria.
The summit also provided an opportunity for the governors of the seven states in the North-west zone to bring to the front burner the socio economic problems facing the zone and the need for economic integration to tackle them, especially the increasing rate of poverty, illiteracy and a growing army of street children called “Almajiri”.Â
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, in his comments on the issue during a plenary session with his colleagues at the event, noted that the zone is the most populous with many socio-economic problems.Â
According to him, the zone, comprising Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto and Zamfara states, is the Â most populous geopolitical zone, constituting 25 per cent of the population of the country Â and occupying 23 per cent of the total land mass, stressing that it requires the political will to come together to boost its economy.Â
“What is required is the political will to come together and be fully integrated- socio economic integration beyond paper integration- integration that will bring development in terms of institutions and in terms of programmes that will improve the quality of lives of our people,” he said.Â
He said some years back, “Kano State undertook a survey and we found out that we have more than three million Almajiris and the Almajiri syndrome is one of the serious problems that we have in the North-west geopolitical zone.”
He added that “What we discovered from our survey is that many of these Almajiris come from Niger Republic, some from Chad, Northern Cameroon and some from other states of the North-west.Â
“So if we can come together and have a common synergy to introduce a common legislation, preventing the movement of school aged children from one place to another, I think the states will find it very easy to address the problem of Almajiri syndrome.”
Also in his comments on the issue during the discussions, el-Rufai maintained that regional integration was inevitable.
He said unlessÂ the North-west zone recognizes its problems and unites to address the common challenges, the zone will continue Â to pull Nigeria backward.
“The first challenge we faced that brought this topic (Integration) to the table was the security challenge of cattle rustling, kidnapping and rural banditry that afflicted many states in the North-west and we realised very early along with my colleagues, that unless we came together, all seven states of the zone and we even brought in Niger State, which is not in the North-west, unless we collaborated together, we will not be able to address these issues holistically because if we attack the bandits in one state, they will just cross over to another state.
“So I think that was what planted the seed for many of us; the inevitability of regional integration, and we met, and working together with all the other states, we deployed resources to degrade the capability of cattle rustlers which has been successful so far.â€
Noting earlier comments by the Emir of Kano, Sanusi, on the situation in the North, el-RufaiÂ said “the truth of the matter is that when you look at human development in the indices of Nigeria, they hide a lot of information, they saw us as middle income country, they saw that we are making progress in terms of education and healthcare.Â
“But when Â you disaggregate this number and look at them from zone to zone, from state to state, it is very revealing, it shows for, instance, that some states in Nigeria are as backward as Afghanistan in terms of education, healthcare and opportunities and many of the states Â in the North-west are afflicted with these challenges, so unless we recognise that within the larger Nigerian context, we have some common problems in this regionâ€¦unless we recognise that and come together, and address our common challenges, we will continue to pull Nigeria backward, in my opinion, and that is the last thing we want.”