1.0 to 7.0: Economic transformation of Kaduna state under El-Rufai

Veni, vidi, vici “I came; I saw; I conquered” -Julius Casesar.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai clearly shares John Naisbitt’s view, that “countries don’t create economies’, that instead, it’s entrepreneurs and companies that create and revitalise economies. That the role of government is simply to create the nourishing environment for entrepreneurs and companies to flourish, and not to obstruct economic development. This philosophy, among other influences, have guided El-Rufa’i’s policies as governor of Kaduna state.

Like Julius Caesar, El-Rufai can confidently proclaim, from the top of the 825 meters above sea level Kufena Hills, “I came, I saw; I conquered”, in what has undoubtedly been an eventful tour of duty, as the governor of Kaduna state.

A punishing work ethic (the last Executive Council meeting ended at 1am), focused and unparalleled commitment to profoundly change the economic fortunes of the people, who are genuinely central to El-Rufai’s politics, and his accomplishments have earned El-Rufai the bragging rights. In fact, for him, it’s a bragging season, with his Arsenal football club also doing very well in the English Premier League.

The setting up of the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), the one-stop resource and coordination centre for all investment related activities in the state, in 2015, in place of the redundant commerce and industry ministry, was the game changer.

El-Rufai drove the industrialisation of the state with missionary zeal, such that in no time, industries were unleashed on Kaduna state.

From the outset, the goal of the El-Rufai administration was for Kaduna state to become the business and tourism destination of choice in the 19 northern states and Abuja. A vision that was driven by the Kaduna State Development Plans 2016-2020 and 2021-2025, which emphasised investment in agriculture and processing, as key to attracting investments that would provide jobs for its teeming youth population, which constitutes about 65 percent of its 10 million population.

The first ever Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit (KADINVEST), KADINVEST 1.01, the subsequent editions, and the encore 7.01 demonstrated not just a commitment to attracting investments and job creation, but the overall development of the economy, especially increased Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), to fund infrastructural projects.

Without introducing new taxes, the IGR has increased from the abysmal N11billion in 2015, at the inception of the administration, to N52 billion in 2021, due to efficient collection and a solid industrial base.

To truly appreciate what El-Rufai has accomplished in seven years, it’s important to recall that by 2014, the Kaduna state industrial landscape was a Sahara Desert; Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), the Kaduna Refinery and Petro Chemical Company (KRPC), the textile companies (the single largest employer of labour) had all closed down, leading to massive unemployment, a huge drop in government revenue and an increase in crime.

To date, over 750,000 direct and indirect jobs have been created in the various sectors, especially agriculture. This number is seven times more than the 100,000 strong public servants, which gulp more than 70 percent of the government’s monthly income. This reemphasises El-Rufai’s position, that the capacity of government to employ citizens is grossly limited, while that of the private sector is unlimited.

It’s to the credit of the Kaduna state government, that by eliminating institutional obstacles, and creating conducive environment, it attracted investments worth over $4.48 billion. Considering the security challenges that Kaduna state has faced, and the fact that it doesn’t have the advantages of Kano, Lagos or Ogun states, with what it has achieved through deliberate government’s policies, it can justifiably roll out the drums in celebrations.

From 2015 to date, the El-Rufai administration has attracted more than 70 industries in concluded transactions, that have gotten the industrial landscape roaring once again.

The new Kaduna-Abuja highway industrial zone is home to the imposing $150 million Olam Poultry and Feeds Mill, the recently commissioned OAP Moroccan Fertilizer Company, the Dangote Peugeot plant, etc. There is also the $200 million Mahindra Tractor Assembly plant, capable of producing 3,000 tractors per year, the Blue Camel Energy, a renewable energy production plant and training academy. The latest baby is the over N16 billion Damau milk farm which, on completion, will create over 1,000 direct jobs and 10,000 jobs in the livestock value chain, while also strategically addressing the herders/farmers clash, a persistent source of threat to national security, by convincing herders that ranching is more beneficial.

Other industries that are expected to open for business in the nearest future include the $600 million African Natural Resources and Mines Ltd steel plant, located at Gujeni, Kagarko local government area. It’s expected to employ 2,000 workers and 300 expatriates. There is also the AMA Medical Manufacturing Ltd, which will produce intravenous fluids, and TMDK Agro-allied, an integrated farming and processing venture.

Kaduna state got it right because it predicated its economic development strategy on agriculture, agro- allied processing, areas in which it has comparative advantage, and on other labour intensive industries, like garment factories, with capacity to employ more people. It also cashed in on the availability of a highly productive workforce, and on its location as a gateway to several states.

The Sub-national “Doing Business Report 2018,” published by the World Bank, which ranked Kaduna state as the most improved place for doing business in Nigeria, and number one for registering titles; Number 1 in enforcing a contract; number 5 in starting business, and number 17 in issuing construction permits, is a testimony to the hard work (reforms) the El-Rufai administration had put in.

Only an El-Rufai will make investment decisions easy for investors, by providing them with the 49 investment sectors (agriculture, housing, energy and power, hospitality and tourism and solid minerals), based on impact, job creation, ease of entry and opportunity.

Only an El-Rufai, in furtherance of his job creation quest, would privatise the famous Zaria Pharmaceutical company, with one motivation; the creation of jobs and the other spin-offs, even though the state made $1.9 million from the deal. The revamped company is expected to create 200 direct and over 1,000 indirect jobs. It will produce syringes, intravenous fluids and specimen bottles. Other moribund state government owned enterprises like the famous Zaria Hotel, Saminaka Motel, Kagoro Motel, and Kachia Food Company have been privatised.

El-Rufai is constantly more concerned with functionality, service to the citizens, as against stifling government control, which explains why the state government recently signed a technical and management service agreement with Doctors Clinic Company of the United Arab Emirates, for effective management of the 300-bed hospital at Millennium City.

It’s not surprising that El-Rufai has made profound impact. In 2015, only the farsighted El-Rufai robustly responded to the economic crisis he foresaw would confront the new administration, by surgically trimming the number of appointees, reducing the number of ministries. He remains the only governor that also reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, by swiftly adopting very stringent belt-tightening measures, prioritising capital expenditure, which helped it to manage the eventual consequences the pandemic unleashed on the global economy.

From the forgoing statistics, the objectives which El-Rufai set at the beginning of his administration have largely been achieved. In the next few months, it will be the lot of Senator Uba Sani to continue the drive of the socio-economic development of Kaduna state.

To hit the ground running, El-Rufai has ensured that Uba is actively involved in major activities of the government; like the preparation of the 2023 budget, the investment summit, etc, for a hands on experience, which he can never get from a hand-over note.

What El-Rufai has accomplished in seven years of his administration shows that genuine interest in the welfare of the poor is critical in governance and that, with gut determination, any daunting challenge can be surmounted.

Without doubt, Kaduna state has once again assumed its pride of place as the engine of economic growth and social progress in the North.

Ado writes from Kaduna