By Governor Nasir El-Rufai,
I welcome you all with humility and gratitude to the very first Town Hall meeting we are hosting as a government. It is not yet one month since we were sworn-in, but to the extent that it has pleased Allah to bestow His grace upon us, we have set about doing the work of change that you mandated us to do.
During the campaign, we promised that we shall be engaging and interacting with the public regularly. We pledged that we will provide you regular updates and listen to your feedback, including criticisms and suggestions. Here we are before you today to do as we pledged. As we have started, so we intend to continue, always striving to get better at achieving results.
Immediately after we were sworn-in on 29 May 2015, we reported for duty with the sense of urgency that you demanded. As we expected, we met a state that is broke, and whose schools, hospitals and roads are in poor shape. We knew that a lot of sacrifice will be required to restore the state to good health. This government’s priority is actually growth and development in a safe and secure environment; because we understand that the things that matter are the public goods of quality schools, decent hospitals and good roads; we know that leaders must pursue the creation of a climate that promotes security, social harmony and is therefore conducive to bringing jobs and economic opportunity. Thus our first step was to announce that the deputy-governor and I will be taking a 50% pay cut.
As we took briefings from the ministries, departments and agencies in our very first week, the depth of the financial problem became clearer to us as well as the impact the decades of impunity have had on the mental attitudes of the institutions that constitute the public service. As one astute observer of the situation commented recently, the public service does not serve the public; rather it considers itself as the public and thus serves only itself.
We emphatically reject this mentality. The new government of Kaduna State has therefore declared that the resources of the state will be devoted to serving the public, with schools, hospitals and roads; aiding our farmers and doing our utmost to create jobs. To do that, we must cut the cost of running government. Ours will no longer be the state that has too little left for the needs of the majority of the people.
That is our guiding principle as we reduce costs. And we have taken concrete action in this regard. We have restructured our ministries from 19 to 13. We have also decided that we will have only 13 commissioners, ten special advisers and 12 special assistants. You all remember that the previous government had 24 commissioners, 41 special advisers and about 400 special assistants. But good governance is not about recruiting vast numbers of political appointees. It is about the smallest number that can provide the quality of service that is required.
We are saddened by the condition in which we found the state. But we shall never use that as an excuse for non-performance. It is our duty to do our best always. That is why we are finding creative even if difficult ways to deliver on our promises.
What we have done
In our first month, we have done the following things:
Prioritising the People: We have made clear our intention to devote a larger chunk of the state’s resources to providing public services. We have signalled that a government elected by majority vote should serve the majority.
Pay cut: the governor and the deputy governor have taken a voluntary pay cut of 50%, and we have urged other political official holders, elected or appointed, to follow this example.
Cost-cutting: ministries have been reduced from 19 to 13; while your government has committed to appointing only 13 commissioners and the handful of needed special advisers and special assistants. The selection of the Commissioners, Advisers and Assistants will be based on merit, capacity and experience because what is priority to us is getting the necessary skill sets that will facilitate moving the State forward.
Biometric verification: Our government is already conducting biometric verification of its employees in order to update the payroll and provide reliable data as to the precise number of personnel in the public service. Two of Nigeria’s leading banks, UBA and Zenith, are working with us on this project.
Tax Reform Committee: We have set up a committee chaired by Ifueko Omogui, former chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, to review our internal revenue generation structures, systems and laws. The committee will recommend ways by which we can improve our internally generated revenue. This will reduce our dependency on the federal government. We will be masters of our own fate.
Transparency: We have signed up to Open Budget, a tool that enables you to track what we are doing with your money.
Your government has already convened a summit of Kaduna State Healthcare partners to set out the state’s priorities in the Health Sector, and to also ensure that all funds in the health sector are streamlined to ensure an effective coordinated service delivery. The donor community and multilateral agencies attended, along with businesses that are active in the state’s health sector.
Kaduna State has signed an Memorandum of Understanding with General Electric Healthcare to modernise our primary health centers and public hospitals. Both parties have committed to identifying the specific needs of the centers and hospitals, so that modern equipment can be installed to improve the diagnosis and management of patients.
We have signed the 2015 Kaduna State-UNICEF 2015 workplan. The state government is ready with its counterpart funding for the agreed initiatives in healthcare, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, water, sanitation and child protection.
Installation of two dialysis machines and the repair of three dialysis equipment at Barau Dikko Hospital. Arrangements are being made to purchase consumables for the next 12 months so that dialysis will be affordable to Kaduna citizens.
Peace Committee: A committee, chaired by the respected General Martin Agwai, is working to identify the causes of conflict and insecurity in Southern Kaduna and thereafter recommend ways of tackling the problem.
Interstate cooperation: Kaduna State is working with Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger States to design a collective approach to common security challenges in the forest ranges that strides our respective States. A meeting is being held today with the respective State Governors and Security Agencies to advance the implementation of this initiative.
Presidential support: Kaduna State has briefed and updated the president on the security challenges, and the president has pledged FG support for the comprehensive security plan.
Relief: We have conducted multiple aerial surveys of the Birnin-Gwari area and have visited affected communities there and in Southern Kaduna, offering medical assistance and condolences.
Prisons: we have visited prisons in Kaduna and Zaria, pursuing rehabilitation of facilities and decongestion. As a result of these efforts, 98 persons awaiting trial for minor offenses were released by the Chief Judge of Kaduna State.
Zaria Water Project: We have ordered accelerated work to complete this project as a priority item for our government. We have visited the site of the project and reviewed it with the contractors. A firm decision has been taken to commit funds monthly so that the project can be completed by early 2018.
The African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank, the major funders of the project, have been consulted and they share our desire to speed-up completion. In addition, we are working on a project to upgrade the capacity to supply water to Kaduna residents through a new Kaduna Water Project.
Kaduna Cabs: We have initiated a scheme to revive taxi services in our major urban centres. The aim is to create jobs for owner-drivers who will help improve the commuting experience with their comfortable cars and excellent customer service. The scheme is starting with 200 vehicles in Kaduna, and is being implemented in collaboration with Peugeot. We have already placed adverts to invite participation in the scheme.
Indorama: Our drive to attract new investors to the state has attracted positive response from Indorama, a leading player in petrochemicals. They have selected Kaduna as their regional distribution centre. They will be building warehouses, fertilizer blending plant and a training centre in Kaduna.
Shopping Mall: Our main urban centres, including the state capital Kaduna, are lacking modern shopping malls. We have indicated our readiness to partner with capable investors in this sector.
Fertilizer: One of our first actions in office was to stop the unfair practice of allocating subsidized fertilizer to prominent persons to the detriment of ordinary farmers. We launched the 2015 fertilizer sales season in Kachia with a clear structure that sells fertilizers to interested persons from designated sales point. We shall be reviewing and improving the process of procuring and distributing fertilizer to make access easier for the farmers.
A New Agricultural Policy is being prepared with the aim of enhancing the capacity of the sector to create viable jobs; improve farm productivity and raise the involvement of Kaduna citizens in the value chain.
Clean city agenda: We have met the sanitation contractors and have expressed to them our dissatisfaction at the squalid state of our urban areas. We want our towns and cities to be clean, and we shall do it.
Kaduna has, for the first time in a long while, hosted an international football match when the Super Eagles played a friendly match with Chad at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium. Our people turned out to see the game, showing that Kaduna is a sports city. That impressive turnout has now placed us on the radar to host many competitive matches because the football authorities now know that our great people will actually come to the stadium, fill it up and cheer the players.
What we intend to do
In the following months, we shall be focused on the following issues:
Education: we shall begin implementing our comprehensive agenda to improve education. School repairs, and the provision of facilities like furniture, water and toilets will begin as we fulfill our responsibility to provide a better learning environment. Alongside this, we shall begin to enhance the capacity and quality of the teachers generally, and we shall pay extra attention to getting more and better teachers in English, Maths and Science.
Health: hospital upgrades, in terms of facilities and equipment, will be accelerated as our MoU with GE Healthcare is steadily implemented. We have a commitment to properly equipping our hospitals so that most of our people’s healthcare needs can be met by our own public hospitals.
Township Roads: neighborhood and township roads in our major urban centres will be upgraded to the extent we can within this rainy season.
Transport: our multilayer transport architecture will be executed. That includes preparations, studies and projects to put in place:
– the new cab scheme and expanding to Zaria and Kafanchan,
– a BRT system for mass transit starting with Kaduna,
– a major project to establish Kaduna-Zaria light rail system between Shika and through the Kaduna Metropolis and up to the Refinery,
– new bus and truck terminals in Kaduna, Tafa, Mararaban Jos and Zaria
Comprehensive security plan for Southern Kaduna and the Birnin-Gwari/Giwa axis
Forensic laboratory under the control of our State Internal Security outfit – Operation Yaki – to enhance the investigative capacity of law-enforcement agencies
Clean Cities: We would not allow our urban centres to continue to be defaced by waste. We shall be improving waste collection, then we would introduce sanitary inspectors and engage the public in a voluntary commitment to make our cities clean.
Rural and community development: Under the leadership of our Deputy Governor, we shall be mainstreaming the Millennium Village Pampaida programme as a viable model across our rural communities. It will have components to improve education, healthcare, rural roads and the farming activities that engage most of our rural residents.
Job Creation: your government will undertake direct recruitment of qualified doctors, nurses and teachers to urgently raise the quality of service in our hospitals and schools. We shall also employ at least 50 youths per ward over the next four years, in our initial efforts for traffic control and environmental enforcement. But try as it might, government can only employ a minority of youths who need jobs. Thus we remain focused on creating a favourable climate for the private sector to create jobs.
Textile Revival: We have the support of Mr. President to work on policies and schemes that will revive this sector as viable and sustainable employer of labour. We are cooperating with current and potential textile investors on a package that stimulates the value-chain from cotton farming to garmenting.
There is so much to do, with fewer resources. But we have no option than to deliver quality performance for the people who have invested so much hope in us. We need your understanding and support for the difficult decisions that we must take if we are to serve you to the best of our ability. We will need committed people in and out of government to contribute to achieving the goals we have set out.
We are not shrinking government for its own sake. We are making government leaner so that it can work better for you. Let us all make sacrifices for change.
Above is the Keynote address by Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the first Town Hall meeting of the APC Kaduna State Government, at the Hassan Katsina House, Kawo, Kaduna, on Saturday, 27 June 2015; culled from PremiumTimes