Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on the measures put in place by the Niger State Goverment to secure its place as the power state of the nation by boosting infrastructural upgrades across all sectors
Known as the state with the largest land mass, Niger State boasts of producing more rice and sugarcane than any other state in Nigeria. The state also boasts of hosting three of Nigeria’s hydroelectric dams- Kainji, Jebba any Shiroro, which supplies up to 25 per cent of the nation’s power needs.
Some of its attractions include the Gurara waterfall, Zuma Rock, Kainji National Park and Borgu Game Reserve. With its population of 3,950,249, earning it the position of the 13th most populous state in Nigeria, the state’s mainstay is agriculture with about 75 per cent of adults engaged in it.
For the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, the core thrust of his policies are infrastructural upgrades, agriculture, energy, education and industrialisation.
At a recent media parley in Lagos with editors, Bello sought to sell the wonders of the state to potential investors. According to him, from the inception of his administration, he has hit the ground running to turn the face of the state around.
According to him, as one who was always anti-government and injustice, even though his father, Colonel Sani Bello (rtd.), was once the miIitary Governor of Kano State, it was a shock for him when he became governor in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Reminiscing, he said one of the major challenges he grappled with was low revenue.
He said: “We came in at a time our revenue unfortunately went down completely. Of course the naira was devalued, and everything went haywire. But despite that I thought we shouldn’t complain, we should do our best as much as we can. In public office you shouldn’t expect people to praise you for doing your job. But they can criticise you for not doing your job.
“However, there are a lot of fundamentals that need to be addressed and changed, and we recognised that immediately. First of all, we needed to set the foundation, the platform all over again because what most of our parents and grandparents stood for, what they planned over time had degenerated.
“We complain about infrastructure but if you go round Nigeria, you will see a lot of infrastructure, but our bad maintenance culture and lack of sustainability means that over time, everything degenerated. Our attitude towards laws and regulations also contributed to the problem.”
However, despite the teething problems encountered ab initio, he said almost four years down the line, they had succeeded in turning the fortunes of the state around.
Breaking down his achievements, Bello said in the area of institutions and systems, he paid up local government salaries owed by the previous government, reduced the number of ministries and agencies for efficiency, adopted four focal areas of education, agriculture, economic empowerment and health, cancellation of state sponsorship of pilgrimage starting from next Hajj, cessation in funding for unrealistic projects e.g. Minna City Centre projects, citizens empowerment through the introduction of Nigerlite of the month award and coercing contractors to complete projects they abandoned.
The governor went further to initiate a major reform in the state’s water sector by resuscitating of abandoned statewide water projects, repaired works at Bosso Water Treatment Plant, sunk industrial level boreholes as a stop-gap measure to serve Bosso community, as well as sunk other boreholes at strategic rural areas in dire need of water.
Diversification Through Industrialisation
In diversifying the economy through industrialisation, the state has become rich in resources. From land, water resources and raw materials, this administration continues to seek Investments In industries, especially those in areas of manufacturing, technology and food processing. The government has also signed a $450 million sugar production project with Dangote Plc to ensure refined sugar and ancillary products are made for local consumption and also for export. The thrust for Industrial growth is to diversify the economy of the state which depends largely on agricultural output.
Given the huge importance agriculture plays in the drive to diversify the economy, Niger State is determined not to be left behind in the scheme of things. Thus, the state governor engineered a partnership with a foreign investor to create 4,000 jobs from rice production in Borgu and Bida local government areas, directed the government to convene a board meeting of the Badeggi Rice Mill to kick start the process of creating 15,000 jobs from the mill and its value chain, as well as approved the expansion and funding for the Tagwai livestock farm, initiated partnership with Notore and others to create thousands of jobs in agriculture.
This administration has made a provision of 230 tractors to farmers for the 2018 farming season and beyond. This is to boost crop yields and ensure enough food and raw materials for industries.
The governor has also provided over 30,000 hectares of land as grazing reserve to give boost to pastoral farming, directly boosting yields in livestock for the state and the nation.
Also achieved are 17 irrigation schemes have been revived and they envisage that it will provide jobs for 60,000 youths as the irrigation projects can cover 60,000 hectares of Iand, as this boost is coming from the three major and two minor dams in the state.
In this sector, the governor has developed, renovated, equipped and designated two secondary schools as centres of excellence in each senatori district, approved for the construction of at least two primary schools that meet UNESCO standard in each local government area, approved foreign scholarship for students with eight distinctions in their exit examinations, purchased
Hilux trucks and motorcycles for school supervisors who need to access difficult areas of the state, and also initiated partnership with foreign nations (e.g. Singapore) to help develop core areas of educational infrastructure.
Health is wealth and undeniably so. This perhaps buoyed the governor to attract the donation of a hospital in Suleja, which is likely going to be the second largest trauma centre in the North. He also attracted the donation of a Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) in Minna by PZ Cussons and focused on the provision of efficient primary healthcare which accounts for 80 per cent of the state’s healthcare needs, as well as rejuvenated already existing PHCs and ensuring they are adequately manned and stocked.
Powering Energy Biomass
To power the economic growth of the state, this administration is focused on tapping biomass from sugarcane to serve as fuel for electricity generation. Sugarcane is grown profusely for industrial purposes and would also serve for giving power to the state.
Solar arrays are also under focus as a source of clean and steady power for our state. These will complement what is already available from the hydroelectric generating schemes in the state.
One of the basic amenities often clamoured for by citizens is good and inter-connecting roads. In fulfilment of this, the governor kickstarted the construction of the Sabon-Gari UK Bello road, which is almost completed, construction of Kuta road, which is ongoing.
Others include the construction of Bomas/Obasanjo road, who is already completed, construction of Bosso/Yahaya Bawa Bosso road and construction of Tegina township road, both are ongoing,
Already in the works are the approval of the construction of a trailer park in Maje, approval for the continuation of nine-storey five-star hotel, approval for the completion of legislators’ quarters, approval for the completion of the commissioners’ quarters, approval for the completion of the children’s wing of the general hospital, reconstruction of houses destroyed by Windstorm in Kuta and reconstruction of bridges destroyed by flood in Bida.
Security-wise, the governor has introduced land and air patrol (with other governors) to control the inter-border banditry and cattle rustling, eliminated gang fights in Minna, initiated the process to build living quarters for soldiers in Zuma Barracks, ensured prompt and personal visit to any community experiencing a security breach, as well as reactivated strong partnership with the security agencies in the state.