Amidst high expectation by the people in a manner seen as a radical departure from the policy directions of the previous administrations, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa state came to power with a clear agenda to consolidate on Umaru Tanko Al-Makura’s legacies and put Nasarawa State on the industrial, economic and investment global map which seems to be the focus of his administration in the last one year. Can he succeed in this daunting task? Muazu Abari writes.
Nasarawa state prides itself as “The home of solid minerals “blessed with abundant human and material resources in addition to its proximity to the FCT which should be a blessing rather than a curse to the development of the state and it’s people.
Unfortunately the reverse seems to be the case as the state continued to slide backward and occupied a back seat in all indices of development to the extend of finding it difficult to meet its development challenges and completely depend on federal allocation to survive despite the chunk of resources that abound in the state.
Most people attributed this unfortunate state of affairs to so many factors ranging from failure to prioritise industrialization, harness it’s potentials and channel it into productive ventures or critical sectors that will add value to the economy of the state, to lack of visionary and patriotic leadership with strategic thinking and needed political will to chart a new vision for the state among many other reasons.
Although the administration of ex-Governor Abdullahi Adamu “The self acclaimed god father of Nasarawa politics” despite its one-leg approached to governance which put emphasis on education sector alone had made moves to put the state on the path of industralization which saw the establishment of cottage industries like fertilizer blending plant in Lafia, beef processing factory in Karu, sack packaging company in Akwanga and Farin Ruwa independent power project but the efforts turned out to be more of a motion without movement.
In fact, the industrial efforts of the administration was seen as a total failure and waste of public funds believed to be poorly conceived, structured and built on faulty foundation which did not take into account the economic reality of the state and the urgent need for massive infrastructural development to drive forward the policy to success and guarantee its sustenance.
Thanks to the vision, foresight and patriotism of the immediate past governor Tanko Almakura whose passion for the development of the state and it’s future knows no bounds and made it possible for him to identify a direct correlation between Nasarawa industrialization and massive infrastructural drive.
This informed his decision to invest massively in the infrastructural development of the state and gave special attention to the gateway areas of the state to the FCT known as greater Karu axis in his administration’s policies and programmes which has changed the narrative of the state in terms of physical development and made Nasarawa an investment hub in the eyes of the world with its digital land administration efforts among other initiatives.
His superlative performance as governor within just eight years has transformed the state from an agrarian state to a model of good governance and infrastructural development In Nigeria which ushered in an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and further endeared him to the hearts of the people of the state who nicknamed him “The architect of modern Nasarawa state “and undoubtedly the best governor Nasarawa ever had since its creation in 1996 in terms of performance.
His intimidating records of achievements in all sectors of the state makes it easy for him to get the people of the state to queue into his choice of Engr. A. A Sule the then managing director Dangote sugar refinery as his preferred successor who will fit into the big shoe he is leaving behind at the end of his tenure among those who wanted to succeed him as governor within the APC family leading to Sule’s emergenced as governor.
There is no doubt that, apart from Almakura’s support, Sule’s intimidating CV, rich background and excellent record as a technocrat, industrialists and reputable business man with national and international business connections and private sector linkages have not only aided his victory but also rekindled the hope of the people in his ability and capacity to put Nasarawa on sound economic footing, attract investors and industrialise the state.
Expectedly, Sule who came to office with his political slogan of “exceeding all expectations” and as a graduate of mechanical technology and master degree holder of industrial technology all from Indianapolis state university, USA, on assumption to office left no one in doubt that his mission in Government House Lafia, is not only to build on Almakura’s legacies of massive infrastructural drive but much more importantly to put Nasarawa State on the path of industralization, economic growth, development and to secure the future of the state.
Speakin in his inaugural speech entitled: Consolidating the legacies and charting a fresh vision for greater Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule gave a clear direction and priority areas of his government which are all targeted towards industrializing the state when he said: “Industralization is a cardinal objective of our government, employment and wealth creation will be integral part of the overall industrial policy of this administration. We will adopt an integrated employment creation strategy where industrial, agricultural, commercial, vocational and such other related ventures are encompassed, to this end, small, medium and large scale industries shall be encouraged”.
“Given my background and coming from organised private sector I consider investment as a central instrument in the economic development agenda of this government. To this end, we intent to give the private sector central role to play in drawing the economic development activities of the state. Government shall adopt a robust investment policy drive which will be structured on the interim, short, medium and long term arrangement. We shall also explore the public private partnership approach for special infrastructure development projects in the areas of railway services, health, energy, water supply and roads”.
“Nasarawa State is widely acclaimed as “The home of solid minerals “in order to maximize the benefits from the rich endowments of our state with a variety of mineral resources, our administrstion will put in place mineral development agency to harnessed hydrocarbon resources, coal deposits, salt, precious stones and such other minerals assets in the state”.
“In view of our proximity to the federal capital territory (FCT) government will create industrial zones for small, medium and large scale industries particularly in Karu and Toto axis to attract investors. Government shall ensure peace and tranquility in the state and guarantees enabling environment including appropriate legal frameworks. In effect, our administration will supports investors by providing roads, electricity supply, water and make land acquisition and leasing less cumbersome “
With this commitments contained in his inaugural speech, Sule kickstarted his administration by inaugurating a 15-man Nasarawa State investment and economic advisory council made up of eminent Nigerians and captains of industries with vast knowledge of economics and other fields of endeavour known nationally and internationally to advice the government on economic issues and chart a course for economic growth and development of the state.
This was immediately followed by his decision to come out with a working document tittle :Nasarawa State economic development strategy ( NEDS) which contained the economic and industrial blueprint, direction and strategies expected to guide the administration in its economic agenda.
Within few months in office, through his private sector connections and inputs of the committee, Governor Sule succeeded in attracting some investments into the state. Under his watch Nasarawa State succeeded in attracting Azman Rice mills and farms limited who have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state government as well as Umaisha community in Toto local government for the cultivation of rice leading to allocation of 12,000 hectares of land for rice production in the state expected to provide employment opportunities to the teeming youths and enhance revenue generation in the state.
Governor Sule had initially attracted the sighting of Dangote sugar plant in Tunga, Awe local government expected to provide over 30,000 employment opportunities to indigenes of the state then as MD Dangote sugar refinery among other efforts.
He also moved government officials from ministry of Lands and that of local governments to Lagos for business discussion with Alh. Aliko Dangote leading for acquiring of 50,000 hectares of land by Dangote group for the establishment of rice plant in Doma local government.
In line with his administration’s agenda to industrialise Nasarawa, the governor also led a high powered state delegation to flour mills Nigeria plc in Lagos where business proposals and economic potentials of the state in value chain development of cassava was showcased to the company who agreed to invest in agro processing with investment in cassava farming and sugar plantation in Wamba leading to allocation of 10,000 hectares of land by the state government.
As a follow up to this memorandum of understanding, the management of the Flour Mills led by Mr. Paul Gbededo were recently in the state with team of experts to carry out feasibility study on the proposed land allocated by the state government for the project.
In keeping with his promise to create conducive atmosphere for investors to invest in the state and focus on key areas that will facilitate indutrialization of the state, Governor Sule has also flagged off the constructions and completion of some urban and rural roads in the state to facilitate economic activities. Some of these roads include Agwade-Shupe -Atabula -Obi roads, Shabu-Doka -Arugbadu -Lakio roads, Kanje -Abuni roads, Kagbu -Atsoko -Wanna roads.
Others are completion of Shinge-rice mills-Kilema roads and the 15.5 kilometers asphalt road in Sisin baki -Kwarra in Wamba local government where the state executive council have also approved the sum of N2.4 billion for this asphalt road among many other road projects.
Sule administration has also demonstrated commitment and political will to vigorously pursue and ensured the completion of Lafia airport inherited from Almakura’s government with work ongoing assiduously to ensure its completion as effort is being made to extend the run way to international standard and facilitate the landing and take off of Boeing 747 to facilitate influx of investors, goods and services into the state and for export to other parts of the world.
It is inline with these commitments that the state executive council also approved additional sum of N595,882,000 for the ongoing Lafia international cargo airport to ensured its speedy completion.
In the area of electrification Sule administration has also succeeded in procuring and distributed transformers and other equipments to various communities to boost electricity supply in the state in addition to the provision of 2-kilometer street lights project in all the 13 local governments expected to be extended to communities with economic potentials.
In addition to this, despite federal government decision to take over the completion of Farin Ruwa independent power project, Sule is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to make the place an international tourist attraction centre to boost the revenue of the state with efforts being made to provide the state of the art facilities and world class equipments to boost the tourism site as assured during his unscheduled on-the-spot assessment visit to the tourist site to see things for himself.
Just as he is also mounting pressure on federal government to ensure the completion of the ongoing Akurba electricity sub power station that will connect the state with 330 kva transmission line that will improve electricity supply as can be clearly seen in his recent engagement and followed up visit to transmission company of (TCN), National Intergrated Power Project (NIPP) and Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to see to the speedy completion of the project.
Other efforts of the administration in its quest to industrialise the state can be seen in the areas of Nasarawa state technology innovation hubs, mining sector, youths and women empowerment, revitalization of Lafia institute of technical education, rehabilitation of school infrastructures, formalization of engaged teachers, scholarship payment, health ,revenue generation, restructuring of government ministries and departments, among others.
However, the question in the lips of most people is how far can he go in this daunting task that requires huge resources, time consuming and surrounded with many bumps and obstacles that cannot be easily realised.
Speaking to The EYEWITNESS a political economist and lecturer of political science from Federal University, Wukari who is an indegine of the state, Mr Innocent Sunday Namo said: “I have closely watched the direction of Sule’s administration so far. He has shown unprecedented commitment to re-write the industrial and economic history of the state. I must confess that this is the best thing that has ever happened to the people of the state as far as industrialization is concerned”.
“Within few months in office look at the investment and economic opportunities he brought to the state? He is working tirelessly using his business tentacles to bring investments into the state and put Nasarawa on sound economic footing and industrsliaze the state which previous administrations did not give priority to”.
“Our state is blessed with so many potentials which can be harnessed for the betterment of the citizens and our development without us depending on federal allocations for survival but unfortunately over the years we lack visionary, focused and committed leadership with strong political will to turn these fortunes of the state until now that Sule emerged. He deserves our support and commendations for this paradigm shift in governance”.
On his part, a lecturer of economics from Nasarawa state Polytechnic, Lafia, Shuaibu Safiyan said: “This is the first time since the creation of the state we have a government with economic face and deeply committed to industrialise the state and make it stand on its own economically. We are now on a new course to rediscover ourselves and get our priorities right”.
“This is one administration that understands that without improving the economic the political super structures we cannot survive, hence the need to focus on critical sectors that will stimulate the economy, fast track industrialization, investment and secure our future among others”.
“Look at how many billion investments the governor has succeeded in attracting into the state within just one year in office and the employment opportunities this will bring to the teeming youths of the state, look at how many people were trained in various skills and empowered so far? Look at how he is working to improve the revenue base of the state among many efforts that will improve the GDP and other economic indices of the state”.
“This is a government that lays more emphasis on the future of the state and making all the necessary sacrifices for the state as envisaged by our founding fathers while also addressing our present challenges, and if this continues, I can assure you that our state is on its way to economic prosperity and highest pedestal of development”.
Also speaking, Mohammed Ozegya, disagreed with the leadership focus of the administration describing it as over ambitious saying it will not take Nasarawa State to anywhere.
“I strongly believe that the governor’s decision to concentrate on those sectors that only have links with industrialization is a misplacement of priority that will take us to nowhere. Look at dilapidated roads, schools, hospitals everywhere among many other challenges especially in our local communities, this is where I expect the administration to focus on not over ambitious projects that require a long walk to reach”.
“I think the administration has to change its style and focus let us give priority to the immediate needs of our people rather than project that will crash-land at the end of the day. How much was spent by Adamu’s administration in the name of wooing foreign investors, where are the investors?
“Even the so-called cottage industries such as fertilizers blending plant, beef processing factory, sack packaging company where are they today and of what benefit are they to the state even under the administration that established them?
“We have to learn how to cut our coat according to our size taking into consideration the fact that industrialization and wooing of investors requires alot of resources and its time consuming which mostly don’t even produced positive result but serves as a drainpipe on the lean resources of the state”.
Contributing on this issue Mallam Mohammed Musa Maikeffi said: “I didn’t vote for the man in 2019 election in line with my conscience as I always do during election. But truly the governor is exceeding expectations. I must confess that my not voting him is my greatest political mistake. Let’s put politics aside and put the interest of the state at heart”.
“Governor Sule is God-sent just like Almakura who most people did not give him a chance that he will make any appreciable impact in the development of the state but what is the story today? Honestly, I envy Sule’s leadership and commitment to guaranteed the future of the state. He is spreading his business wings and tentacles to woo investors into the state and repositiining the economiy”.
“He has so far, concentrated on key critical sectors that are necessary for the economic independence of the state and will certainly push the state into path of industralization .This is happening despite dwindling resources, he is truly an honest leader and silent achiever that is committed to the development of the state and it’s economic independence. I think henceforth we need technocrats as governors not conventional politicians, let’s all supports him”.
Most people interviewed lauded the governor’s vision to put the state on strong economy footing while others disagreed, but despite these divergent views most analysts believed that the administration is truly on course to chart a better economic future for the state and demonstrated unprecedented commitment to truly industrialise the state than any other administrstion in the history of the state since its creation, but only time will tell if he will succeed in this onerous task that previous administrations have shied away from.