By Marcel Ezenwa
There is no doubt that the successful transition of political power from the ruling to an opposition party on the 29th May, 2015 in Kaduna State marked a significant step in the history of that state. It at least juxtaposes the theoretical assumption that “democracy begins to mature only when electoral outcomes are uncertain as they are unpredictable, i.e. when today’s winners are tomorrow’s losers only then can we begin to talk about democratic consolidation in any society”. In essence, it further affirmed the commitment of Nigerians both at elite and mass level that democratic systems and structures must be respected behaviorally, attitudinally and constitutionally and that democracy becomes the “only game in town”.
More importantly, the process ushered in a super administrator and innovator in the person of Malam Nasiru El-rufai. El-rufai, as we all know distinguished himself as FCT Minister when he succeeded where his predecessors failed. His record as FCT Minister is yet to be surpassed and opinion moulders have concluded that it may take long or even forever for anybody to beat the legacy he left behind as FCT Minister.
When he assumed office as Kaduna State Governor after an election he won convincingly many who praised him for his work as FCT Minister wondered whether he will build on that momentum and transform the state. Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai did not disappoint them as he hit the ground running. He quickly went to work and begun innovation that has since put the state on the part of great transformation and progress.
As a man of transparency, he quickly put in measures to cut cost of governance and achieve efficiency in his administration. Surprisingly, El-Ruiafi and his deputy announced a 50 percent slash on their salaries and allowances. This no doubt won him admiration within and beyond the state.
Continuing, he reduced government ministries from 19 to 14 bringing the number of commissioners from 24 to 14. This was to stop unnecessary waste of resources that hitherto should have been channeled to developing the infrastructure of the State. The cabinet though, was small in size but highly effective. The direct outcome of the action was that in 2015, budgetary allocation for running Government House was around N3 billion but was reduced to about N600 million in the first budget ever prepared by his administration in 2016.
He also brought accountability and competence in Kaduna State public service believing that it is the engine of governance. The Public Service which was gulping N2.7 billion monthly when El-Rufai came on board was brought down to N2.2 billion after the biometric exercise to verify employees in the state payroll, an exercise that eliminated ghost workers saving the state N500 million monthly.
He further took accountability and transparency above high by quickly implementing Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the inception of the administration. It is to the eternal credit of El-Rufai that Kaduna State pioneered the implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) regarded as a policy tool that helps reduce waste and leakages. The State bankers were mandated to close all government accounts and to remit the balances to the state’s TSA at the Central Bank.
Census on government accounts revealed a baseline figure of 324 accounts belonging to ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs). When the banks submitted evidence of closure of government accounts, the government was surprised that there were 470 accounts from which N24.5bn were remitted to the state’s TSA.
He rejuvenated the state budget system by adopting a zero-based budgeting. Given the fact that budgets were not based on realistic estimates of revenues and thus did not deliver results, economic development or social cohesion, zero-based budgeting ensures a result in a state budget that is credible, realistic and makes the best use of state resources. Adopting the budgeting System means that every item must be justified in term of its necessity, cost, and availability of funds, items were selected in terms of priority.
El-rufai again brought his wealth of experience as former Director General of Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) on the state as he institutes transparency in public procurement with the passing of the Public Procurement Law, 2016 and the creation of Kaduna Public Procurement Agency (KADPPA). This ensures that all tenders for procurements and contracts are published and bidden opened and transparently conducted. He imposed transparency and accountability in managing public finances by publishing the State’s audited financial accounts annually on the State’s official website and the national dailies. This singular move gave the citizens, civil societies and NGOs the ample opportunity to examine the state accounts.
No wonder Kaduna state also adopted the International Public-Sector Accounting Standards-IPSAS aimed at improving transparency and accountability in public finance management and reporting, a step that got the commendation of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other stakeholders. This required all assets and liabilities of the State Government to be properly recognized, measured, presented and disclosed in line with the requirement of IPSAS to provide better information for public sector financial management and decision making.
Governor el-Rufai made it possible for local government councils in the state to commence implementation of the new national minimum wage. It was gathered that all the 23 local government councils in the state commenced payment of the new national minimum wage after the Joint State/Local Government Fund Allocation meeting chaired by the state commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Alhaji Jafaru Sani, in accordance with the table approved by the governor.
El-Rufai moved to save the Local Government Councils from the huge burden of carrying over-bloated civil servants and traditional rulers, whose burden hindered them from rendering services to the grassroots, a major constitutional mandate of the local government councils. As at May 2015 when El-Rufai took power, 15 LGAs were unable to pay salaries and allowances without support from the state government and could not implement capital projects.
The Government implemented a Staffing Order for LGAs in November 2017 which saw to the reduction of the staff strength of the 23 Local Government Councils of the State to 6,896, excluding primary school teachers and health workers. By that Order, all the Generic Local Government Councils are required to have a total of 281 staff each, with a total of 5943 staff for the 21 Local Government Councils.
The state Government also restructured the Traditional Institutions reverting to pre-2001 status of 77 districts and 1429 village units, down from 390 districts and 5882 village units created in 2001. Government’s decision has relieved the 23 Local Government Councils of the heavy burden of paying 4766 staff to make them concentrate on meeting the obligation of providing public goods and services to the people with the resource available to them.
EL-Rufai recognizing that infrastructure is critical to the development of any society and fundamental for strategic positioning of Kaduna State for economic development, sets to confront the infrastructure challenges that burdened the state.
He first developed Kaduna Infrastructure Master Plan (KADIMP 2018–2050), a 32-year plan aimed at addressing the state’s infrastructure needs. Implementing Kaduna State Infrastructure Master Plan requires the sum of $65.6b (N20 trillion) from government spending, private sector investment and support from development partners.
This great innovation is anchored on a long-term perspective, 2018–2050, in the hope that government, the private sector, communities and external partners will work together to achieve the ambitious targets set.
He created new agencies for essential services delivery with the aim of making government organizations service-oriented. It made it possible for the restructuring of some government agencies and creation of new ones driven by innovations and technology to provide services using best global practices.
At this juncture, I will appeal to all stakeholders in the state irrespective of party affiliation to sink their differences and support the progressive administration of Malam Ahmed Nasiru El-rufai with God almighty being his guide and helper.
Marcel Ezenwa, Coordinator Greater Virtue for Traffic Watch & Development Initiative writes in from Abuja.