12th Feb, 2014
By M.G. Maigamo
Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, had on the 31st December 2013, delivered, to the State House of Assembly, his 2014 budget proposals. It was also featured in the Daily Trust Newspaper of January, 7th 2014. Though a public commentator, but I have just grown weary of making commentaries particularly on our National or State Budgets because over a decade, our Traditional Budget ritual has been riddling with an unbroken sequence of failures; so also the budget of Kaduna state is as a rehash of the past budgets that were anything but slippages.
The reason is evidenced by the bleakly realistic account of the grinding poverty, hardships and an eye-watering unemployment at all level of government in each and every passing year after every budget implementation; when the governor or president makes a duplicitous pronouncements that so, so amount has been allocated to the so, so sector to alleviate poverty and to create jobs, but we see nothing and feel nothing. That is the ironies of our National or State’s Budgets.
As I said that I will not enter into the thicket of any discussion as pertaining to the budget which our governor, Ramalan Yero presented, but the nitty-gritty of my concern is about the issue of the state’s debt profile in which the governor authoritatively made mention that he had inherited among other loans, an External Loan of whopping sum of N33.48Billion which the state incurred since from as far back as 1965. Wow!
I was, at first glimpse of this profoundly incredulous statement befuddled, but just decided to quickly whisk it away as one of those official faux pas; not until subsequently when his Media aids unequivocally reaffirmed the grievous claims (unless otherwise proven) that the state has really an outstanding External debt of N33.48Billion as far back as 1965, and that state has even been servicing this so-called loan. It has then boggled my mind as well as all the well-informed people I shared the budget story with. Much as appalling as it looks, and as highly incredulous as it sounds; I even consider this as an affront to the collective senses of all the people of 19 states (formally Northern region)-especially the progenies of Late Sardauna, the premier of Northern region, and his Minister of finance , Alh Aliyu Makaman Bida. This is because of the fact that:
Firstly, this so called External Loan which the governor claimed to have inherited that we never heard of, had even preceded Kaduna as a state even. Because what came to be known as Kaduna state was created alongside eleven other states on the 27th of May 1976 not in 1965. As it was known as North-Central State, it comprises then, Katsina and Zaria Province. It then means that this loan has even preceded Kaduna State. And this is where my bewilderment begins, as it shall with any conscientious indigene of the state because it is utterly irreconcilable to all senses to hear Kaduna that came into existence as a state in 1976, but according to this new revelation that it has an outstanding indebtedness since 1965.
Secondly, if we are to accept the above presuppositions, then we cannot dispense with this brief historical facts that the North-which Kaduna happens to be an off-shoot of; was but a Northern Region by virtue of the Sir Arthur Richard’s Constitution of 1946. And this Northern Region was, in 1967 further metamorphosed into the North-Western State, North-Eastern State, North-Central State (the present Kaduna), Kano State, Benue/Plateau State and Kwara State. And it is instructive to note that these six states that were an amalgam of Northern Region were further disaggregated into what we have today as 19 Northern states.
Then at this point, taking into consideration of the above, it will be safe to assume without any scintilla of doubt that these external Credit Facilities; with, and or any other Liability incurred from; or prior to 1965 had been shared pari passu amongst all the 19 Northern states now that was disaggregated from the former Northern Region. Because this, we know too well that by any rubric –conventional law, any matter concerning boundaries issues or states creations will have to be ensued by the doctrine of Assets & Liabilities sharing; as the way in which the liabilities of the defunct state would be shared as well as its assets.
This was even brought more to light by Alh. Usman Faruk, the former Military governor of the defunct North-Western State. In his book “The Victors and the Vanquished of the Nigerian Civil War” page 146, where he says inter alia that “….we returned to Kaduna on the 31st May 1967 to be briefed by Lt. Col. Hassan Usman Katsina, who had been re-designated Chairman of the Interim Common Services of the Northern States….” Also that “the new authority was to share the assets and liabilities of the six Northern States between the newly created states” In that
Knowing properly now that there was, of course, the existence of an agency responsible for sharing assets and liabilities of the new created states, based on the above quotes, but what we don’t know here is the extent to which the transference and allocations of these supposed liabilities between the defunct six northern states and to 19 states now. In other word, do all the other 18 Northern states now bear the same burdens of the “External Loans” as shared between them? If yes why it is that none of the governors from 1999 to date ever made mention of such loans or capture it in their respective budget proposals all these years? Have they paid off their own part of the liabilities? Or simply the incidence of the burden is shifted to our Kaduna by virtue of it being the nucleus upon which the other states were sprouted? These are some of the unanswered questions that make whole N33.48Billion debt story as implausible.
As it is of great significance for any government to not only maintain its positive reputation on its citizens but to continually sustain it and the only key to this sustainability is its level of transparency in its affairs especially when it comes to monetary issues. If there is any asset or liabilities inherited by a governor or president, the first thing he ought to do is to declare it to the general public, the amount, in case of debt, and from which institution the particular inherited liability has been sought from. That will at least provides first impressions that the administration of the particular governor or president will be transparent and amenable. In fact that alone would have dispelled the people’s general cynicisms concerning government. Those who prepared the budgetary speech for the governor fails to do the needful by refusing to mention the real administration that incurred the loan and from which particular institutions. For example IMF? World Bank? Or Paris Club? Or African Development Bank etc
Thirdly, who even first incurred this debt that our governor inherited and got pass down to us, making us heavily bearing the brunt of it? This is where my bewilderment has even aggravated the more. Because 1965–the said period the loan was first incurred, was an era of our beloved Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello as the premier of Northern Region. And there is this widely deep-rooted and everlasting belief that Sardauna was the greatest political leader the North ever had, except for the yet to be born or to be discovered political leader. Being its trailblazer (Northern region), he would never have mortgaged his dearest North, that is if at all his administration incurred the said loan and even if he really did, he must have put it into good use; and he would never have allowed in any way, the repayment modes of the loan to be so long like this. (From 1965 to God knows when we will finish serving the debt) This is indisputablest!
In fact it is even most unlikely for the region to incur debt, giving the bumper harvest with which the entire region witnessed as at that period of 1964-65. As is evidenced by the documented account of the official budgetary speeches of Sardauna’s minister of finance, Alh Aliyu Makaman Bida on the Appropriation Law of 1964-65, recorded in the Hansard of the Northern Nigeria Legislature (Fourth Session) which I will quote in parts here:
“The economic growth of this Region has continued, and the Six Year Development Plan has gone ahead.” Again, he continues “… In the financial year, 1963-64, now about to end, revenue has done well. A major factor causing this was the exceptional groundnut crop last year, which has produced more revenue this year.” “…I am pleased to say that once again the position of local revenue has improved. Estimated total revenue from this source is almost eight million pounds, which is an increase of about five hundred thousand pounds, or over six percent above the 1963-64 figures”.
Here I am putting up this as a challenge to people like Abba Kyari, Alh Balarabe Musa, Abba Musa Rimi, Lawal Kaita,Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, Gen. Tanko Ayuba, Gen. Jafaru Isah and Col Hamid Ali, Col. Umar Faruk and Makarfi who ruled the state even before Ramalan Yero, and I believe whatever he (Ramalan) inherited from that said period; it must have been inherited too by these great grand predecessors of his. Thank God all of these people I mentioned are alive today and it’s very important for them as the stakeholders to come out and ascertain or otherwise, the veracity of this “External Loan” mystery. Refusing to do so will be injurious to the repose of both the late premiere and his posterities.
Mukhtar Garba Maigamo,
A staff of Unity Bank Plc Kakuri Branch Kaduna,
And I live in N0. 125 Kofar Doka Zaria City
And I can also be reached at [email protected] or 08066792996