El-Rufai Means Business

OPINION

By Ibraheem Musa

Radical, populist and idealistic, the Peoples Redemption Party(PRP) fired the politics of the second republic. Welfarists, goateed Marxists and trade unionists had found common ground in the party. Together, these disparate groups and personalities, like a Salvation Army, had converged on Aminu Kano’s political totem pole. Malam, as he was called, espoused ‘Democratic Humanism’ and broadly, the ideology resonated with the people. Specifically, it aimed at ‘dignifying the human person’ and in this quest, PRP spared no punches, firing broadsides at the ruling class. Curiously, with rhetoric and altruism, the party disrupted governance in the Shagari era.

In particular, it abolished the poll tax in Kaduna and Kano states, the political capital of the north and its commercial hub respectively. Indeed, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of Kano state, the fiery and flamboyant governor, as well as Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the ascetic governor of Kaduna state, drove the ‘’no taxing’’ policy. Taxation, according to them, was exploitative and expectedly, this polemic attracted mass appeal. Generally, students, the proletariat and urban poor, gravitated to PRP and naturally, the ruling National Party of Nigeria(NPN) became jittery as a result. Consequently, NPN toed the same line, jettisoned poll tax, to reclaim lost ground. Thereafter, taxation of every kind, including cattle tax, took the back seat of governance in Nigeria.

Significantly, petro-dollar was everywhere, the nation was awash with it and politicians went on a spending binge, relegating Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) to the background. In 1981, the Shagari administration imposed Austerity Measures, leading to belt tightening and sundry cuts. Since then, governments have been running from pillar to post, whether civilian or military administrations, trying to cut expenditure and improve revenue. Basically, the principles have been somewhat the same, from Austerity Measures to Structural Adjustment Programme(SAP), including National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy(NEEDS), the lesson is to earn more and spend less.

Similarly, Kaduna State Development Plan(SDP), as a policy document, reflects Governor Nasir El Rufai’s blueprint. In summary, it seeks to promote economic development, enhance social welfare, strengthen security and justice as well as broaden good governance. In particular, infrastructural upgrade and development, in all ramifications, are components of the SDP. However, without revenue, a development plan remains just a plan, another policy document awaiting implementation. So, El Rufai has been looking for ways and means, in the last four years, to improve the IGR and attract investments to Kaduna state.

In particular, El Rufai has changed the way of doing government business in the last four odd years. Initially, the state’s IGR hovered around N800 million in the previous administration. In 2016, the governor had reviewed the tax and revenue arrangements of Kaduna state. Specifically, Ms Ifueko Omoigui-Okaru, former head of Federal Inland Revenue Service, chaired the committee. In part, a new tax law was enacted and the Kaduna State Inland Revenue Service(KADIRS) was restructured for efficiency. Afterwards, Omoigui-Okaro continued as a consultant to KADIRS. Thereafter, she designed, produced and implanted a service-oriented corporate and field operations structure. In no time, the state’s finances had increased as its IGR started improving from that year. In 2017, KADIRS generated N26.53 billion as revenue. Likewise, the figure had jumped to N30 billion by 2018 and last year, the revenue had reached a stratospheric level, climbing to N44 billion in 2019, surpassing KADIRS’s own target by N1 billion.

Similarly, El Rufai has created an enabling environment, apart from improving revenue generation, for businesses to thrive in Kaduna state. In fact, he has attracted several local and international firms to set up shop in the last four years. For example, the $150 million Olam’s Integrated Feed Mill and Poultry Breeding Farm was commissioned by President Buhari on September 12, 2017. Olam, a multinational company, was founded in 1989 and right now, it is about one of the largest agricultural companies in the world. Currently, the company is one of Nigeria’s largest single Foreign Direct Investment. In fact, it was designed to produce 1.6 million-day-old chicks weekly and 360,000 metric tons of animal feeds annually, a significant milestone for Kaduna state and Nigeria in the quest to achieve food security and economic diversification. In addition, it has created 2, 000 direct jobs and has impacted positively on the local economy, by creating jobs along the agriculture value chain.

Interestingly, El Rufai has not rested on his oars, in spite of these milestones. In 2016, he had hosted the Kaduna Investment and Economic Summit(KADINVEST), between 6th and 7th April. The governor, in an elaborated ceremony, had show-cased the state’s economic potentials. Specifically, the summit’s theme was, ‘’Let’s Move Kaduna into the Global Economy’’. In a lucid, coherent and well articulated presentation, El Rufai had explained the structural adjustments and various enactments that have made the state business-friendly. In addition, he unveiled a four-year Development Plan which is aimed at moving the state into the global economy. In summary, the plan has targeted N1.5 trillion in both public and private investments, over a five year planning cycle. Similarly, El Rufai had highlighted the investment potentials in both the agricultural and mining sectors, listing the comparative advantages of Kaduna state as he did. In particular, the state produces the best ginger in the world and it is also the highest producer of maize and tomatoes in Nigeria. In rice, millet and shea butter production , Kaduna is the second highest producer of these commodities in the federation, the governor had revealed.

In 2017, the second edition of KADINVEST also held between April 5th and 6th. Investors, policy formulators and drivers, as well as Development Partners, including traditional rulers, had converged at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua Indoor Sports Hall, to glean how El Rufai is ‘’Making Kaduna The Investment Destination of Choice’’, the theme of the summit. Likewise, the third edition of KADINVEST was held in 2018 and categorically, Kaduna state was declared as one of the leading investment destinations in Nigeria. In it’s 2018 report, the World Bank Group rated Kaduna as the most improved state in the Ease of Doing Business, emerging number one in registering properties and in enforcing contracts, and number five in starting a new business among the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory. Last year, the summit’s fourth edition held and in summary, it provided a platform for the private sector, international development partners and development finance institutions to leverage on Kaduna’s investment climate. Similarly, the summit provided opportunities for stakeholders, especially in the state, to consolidate on investment initiatives that drive growth. Right now, the fifth edition of KADINVEST is in the works.

Indeed, with an improved IGR, a good Ease of Doing Business rating and a stream of investments, Kaduna state may soon achieve fiscal independence because Governor El Rufai is ready for business. With time, the statutory monthly allocation will just be an icing on the cake.Musa is the Special Assistant to Governor Nasir El Rufai on Media and Publicity.

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