How Sokoto State tackles development amid COVID-19, dwindling income
Governance is no longer business as usual. Current socio-economic realities must have brought many state governors to that inevitable conclusion. Managing the affairs of any state in Nigeria has changed drastically, not only because of the dwindling revenues, but also on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From recurrent challenges of paying workers’ salaries to servicing past debts, many state chief executives are finding it hard to fulfill their electoral promises substantially and deliver the legendary dividends of democracy to their constituents.
A random census would reveal that only a handful of state governments have been paying salaries religiously and executing people-oriented projects. It is apparent that only those who have a meticulous budget and are attuned to fiscal discipline are the ones paying salaries as at when due and executing projects without humongous loans. Judicious use of federal allocation and improved management of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) have become a decisive factor.
Variety Of Trials
LAST year, the challenges facing governments were accentuated by the Coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world. That could explain why the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, recently confessed that coronavirus pandemic had dwindled the country’s revenue and foreign exchange earnings.
“For the government, it has been a particularly trying time,” Osinajo said while representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the start of the first-year Ministerial performance review retreat holding in Abuja.
“As a result of the poor fortunes of the oil sector, our revenues and foreign exchange earnings have fallen drastically. Our revenues have fallen by almost 60 percent.”
The Vice President noted that despite the slump, the Federal Government had to sustain expenditures, “especially on salaries and capital projects, in order to keep the economy going.”
Prof. Osinbajo’s statement has greater bearing for Sokoto State, which is not one of the oil producing states, nor one of Nigeria’s top commerce or industrial centres.
In spite of these obvious disadvantages, the state has not been found wanting as the citizens and residents continue to experience the impact of good governance. Perhaps the legislative experience of Governor Aminu Tambuwal has come to bear on his management of the affairs of the state alongside his cabinet members.
Slow Start, Measured Steps
IN the beginning, it was a slow start, obviously given the rigours of planning and data generation. But, when the ship started sailing, the people began to witness the deft touches and cautious balancing. For instance, in July 2020, the Sokoto State government approved N11b contracts for construction of two dual carriage roads, flyover bridges and expansion of township roads to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis.
Speaking after the state Executive Council meeting in Sokoto, the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Isah Bajini-Galadanchi, said the approvals were made in recognition of public needs. The flyovers, he explained, would be constructed at Dandima roundabout along Runjin Sambo Road and Rijiyar Dorowa roundabout, which are densely populated areas and witnessing traffic holdups daily.
He disclosed that while Dandima flyover will cost N3.4b, Rijiyar Dorawa will cost N3.5b, stressing that both have 24 months completion period. He said council approved the contract to transform Illela road to a dual-carriage road with bridge on Rima River awarded at the cost of N2.9b.
Bajini-Galadanci said another dual-carriage road contract was approved at N909m for construction of Waziri Abbas Road to Unguwar Rogo and Nakasari areas.
The dualisation of Maituta Road, he said, was also approved at the sum of N228m, noting that the road projects have 18 months, 17 months and five months completion dates, respectively.
Within the same month, that is July, 2020, Sokoto State Government announced that it would disburse about N10b for the construction of the State University Teaching Hospital and two new hospitals in the state.
The Sokoto State executive council gave the approval for the sum of over N6.6b for the construction of Sokoto State University Teaching Hospital (SOSUTH).
Similarly, the council, chaired by the governor, also approved the construction of two premier hospitals at Tambuwal and Sabon Birni Local Government Areas. The construction of both hospitals will gulp the sum of over N1.7b each.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Muhammed Ali Inname, flanked by his colleagues, the state commissioners for Information and Finance, Isah Bajini Galadanchi and Hon. Abdus Samad Dasuki added that the award of the contracts is in line with the overall objectives of the present administration in ensuring the provision of healthcare services and development of manpower to manage the healthcare system in the state.
He also explained that if SOSUTH is completed it will provide the required manpower to address the shortages of health workers in various hospitals in the state.
Speaking on the projects about two months after the contracts were awarded, the projects Lead Consultant, Arch. Umar Yabo, said about 1,000 skilled and unskilled workers engaged in the projects were sourced within Sokoto State, while building materials were sourced also from the state and from neighbouring Zamfara and Kebbi states.
He said that six 96-bed general wards, laboratories, halls, water system and road networks would be constructed at the teaching hospital site.
At the Girls Science College, Architect Halilu Ladan, said work was going on hitch-free and in compliance with best specifications and standards.
The state’s cabinet approved the construction of the teaching hospital at the cost of N6.8b, while the school would cost N2.4b.
The following month, August, 2020, the governor again awarded contract to build two schools, sports arena for N6b. The state government stated that it was part of its efforts towards improving education standards and spread of schools across the state.
The schools are Government Girls Science Academy, Kasarawa and Abdullahi Bara’u Secondary School, Dogon Daji at the cost of N2.401b and N2.17b respectively. At the contract signing, the contractors had already been mobilised following the release of 30 per cent payment of the contract sum which also covered two other projects, modern sports arena with an indoor hall at the cost of over N1.23b and N447m respectively.
Sealing the contracts agreement, Governor Tambuwal represented at the signing of documents, the state Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Suleiman Usman (SAN), charged the contractors to execute the projects in line with the contractual agreements, adding that “all support will be extended to you to ensure the execution of quality job.”
Representative of the contracting firms, Usman Murtala Banye, thanked the state government for awarding the contracts to them and promised to execute quality projects to specifications and within the earliest possible time.
What A Name
BY October 2020, the governor took another measured step by awarding contract for the construction of 342 Housing Estate.
Tambuwal said the housing project was named 342 Housing Estate in the spirit of the figures that calibrated his re-election into the office for the second time in 2019.
It would be recalled that Governor Tambuwal had won the gubernatorial election in all, but one local government area of the state with 3413 votes before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared it inconclusive.
The void votes tally on March 11, 2019, showed that Tambuwal was ahead of his arch-challenger. But, the returning officer, Professor Fatima Mukhtar called for a re-run due to cancellation in 136 polling units with 75,403 votes cancelled.
“We believe that in the next stage of development in Sokoto State, people will see (more) housing schemes coming up in the length and breadth of the state,” the governor emphasized.
The governor said the state government has given options to interested applicants in terms of where to build their houses for them. This, he explained, could be in the state capital or in their respective local government headquarters. He said the scheme is intended to spread development across the state rather than concentrating only on the state capital.
The governor said preference will be given to those who have not benefited from a similar scheme in the past, adding that the state government in collaboration with Family Homes and Federal Mortgage Bank, will come up with the number of houses available to would-be beneficiaries.
He added that, at the inception of his administration, the government inherited 500 housing units at Kalambaina, which has been completed and sold out to members of the public and civil servants.
The governor also said currently the government is undertaking the completion of another 500 housing units at Gidan Salanke, which was also inherited from the past administration.
In his remarks, the chairman of the committee, who is also the Secretary to the State Government, Malam Sa’idu Umar, said about 6,000 interested applications were received from prospective applicants, comprising 5,000 from the state civil servants and the remaining from the employees in the state Local Government Service Commission. He also said the houses to be built include 4, 3 and 2 bedrooms flats.
The governor did not relent on his oars, so it was not surprising that in the New Year, 2021 he has started an erosion project. The N3 billion Mabera Storm Water Management Works aims to control erosion in the state.
The project consists of 18.5 kilometres enlarged drainage system across Mabera Jelani, Mabera Iddi, Nakasarin Barebari, Nakasarin Nagaji, Salame and Trade Fair areas in Sokoto Township. The development is being executed under the World Bank-assisted Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), in partnership with the state government.
Speaking at the inauguration, Tambuwal said the state government had settled its counterpart funding of N1.4b since 2017, adding that some procedures had delayed execution of the project.
The governor said the projects were aimed at reducing the vulnerability to soil erosion, floods and other complex environmental challenges bedeviling the state, threatening infrastructure and livelihood of people.
He noted that the flood experienced in Mabera and suburbs predated his administration, as the previous governments could not offer good efforts toward addressing the menace.
“My administration is committed to ensuring a lasting solution to environmental and other problems thereby ensuring the settlement of project counter fund since 2017.
“The programmes were approved under the project comprised Mabera Storm Water Management Works, rehabilitation of Lugu Dam, construction of Earth Dam at Rafin Duma and Sakkwal.
“Others were Yarbulutu River Bank Erosion Control Works, Flood and Erosion Control Works at Goronyo and Durbawa areas.
“Smaller sites in the project included 1.9 kilometres, 1.5 kilometres and 2 kilometres Flood Control works at Tureta, Sayyinna and Specialist Hospital in Sokoto,” Tambuwal said.
Plea For Patience
Responding to his critics, he said some people embarked on political colouration capitalising on the delay to criticise the present administration.The Governor, therefore, implored people to have a good understanding of the government programmes and ensure constructive criticisms that would encourage his government to execute people-oriented projects.
On his part, the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Sagir Bafarawa, said the project was in fulfillment of the Tambuwal-led administration’s pledge toward uplifting people’s lives.
Bafarawa said the state government had completed all the necessary formalities of the collaborative agreement along with professional and technical scrutiny enshrined in the overall procedures.
He explained that the NEWMAP strives toward reducing vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub-catchments designed to support the country’s transformation agenda to achieve greater environmental and economic security.
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