BY OSITA CHIDOKA
Taraba State was created 27 August 1991 with capita in Jalingo and a land area of 54, 473 km2 (21,032 sq mi) making it the third largest state in Nigeria. 2006 census population of 2.3 million places Taraba as number 33 out of 36 states with one of the lowest population density in the country. Major Ethnic Groups include Jenjo, jibawa, Kuteb Chamba, Yandang, Mumuyes, Mambila, Wurkums, Fulanis, Jukun,Ichen, Tiv,Kaka, Panso, Kambu, Wawa, Vute, Tikari, Hausa and Ndola.
The state governor is Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party. Taraba is made up of 16 Local Government Areas with some mountainous ranges including the Mambilla plateau. 2017 budget of N110 Billion to be funded by Federal allocations of about N31 billion and other Federal receipts like VAT, Budget support, federal government refund and other miscellaneous receipts together with internal and external loan proposals. From available records in 2015, Internally Generated Revenue stood at N 4.1 billion placing Taraba 30th out of 36 states.
A 2010 GDP ranking placed Taraba at number 29 with US$3.3 Billion. Major occupation and economic mainstay of the state is agriculture. The state has about 1600 kilometres of paved roads and has clement weather for farming and agro processing.
Analysing Taraba under the State Transparency Index we start with State planning capacity. Taraba has a good and functional website tarabastate.gov.ng. On the website, we see evidence of a state plan called the Rescue Agenda. The Agenda is a programme designed for the State with a Vision of transforming Taraba State into one of the top two leading vibrant economies in the North – East Sub Region by the year 2025.
The Mission of the Agenda is to create and maintain an enabling environment conducive for the optimal participation and sustainable engagement of key stakeholders and partners, by; Developing a sensitive and responsible political class, A vibrant and purpose – driven bureaucracy, A veritable resource base, and A robust broad – based economy. A cursory review of the state Rescue Agenda indicates absence of timelines and responsible person or institution to steward the plan.
The State website, has useful links to various Ward Contact Persons that work under the Rescue Agenda of the State Government. Apart from the State Education Ministry, weblinks to the other State Ministries are not functional. We saw an interesting innovation in Taraba state were information is provided on compliance levels for asset declaration. In 2015, 875 Civil Servants between Grade Level 12 – 17 declared their assets in the State. Likewise, in 2014, 68 Political Office holders declared their assets in the State.
We do not see evidence of stakeholder involvement in developing and implementing the Rescue Agenda. We do not see the budget of the state or the local governments on the website. Auditor General’s annual audit report is not available online. After multiple search, we do not see a website for the State House of Assembly.
Under the state employee accountability system, we do not see any evidence of a performance management system shared with citizens of the state. There is no information on stated annual goals and level of implementation. We do not see an active strategy for a citizen reporting mechanism, social media presence is low as the Facebook page has 1,654 likes and no official twitter handle. There is no call centre as the only contact number is a cell phone number on the webpage. No evidence of basic tasks that can be performed online, there is no advertisement of vacancies and tenders on the state website. We do not know if any public recruitment had been done recently and what the outcomes were.
The state stakeholder engagement strategy is not obvious from the website. Owing to the rural nature of the state it is possible that the government has a stakeholder engagement plan suited for the state but that is not reported on the website. We do not see any evidence that the government engaged stakeholders in developing the state long-term plan. There is no report about any platform dedicated to sharing state programs and status with citizens.
State evaluation mechanism appears to be lacking in Taraba State as no information is provided on budget performance on the state website. We do not see ongoing projects in the state and the stages of delivery against stated delivery time. We do not see evidence of reward or sanction against performance or non-performance.
Taraba State shows great promise in its effort to be a transparent state but more work needs to be done to build capabilities within the state to become a truly modern agriculture and food processing state attracting local and global capital. The state should look into how investors can transact with the state online. Improving the perception of the state as a business friendly, transparent and citizen engaged location would boost the plan of making it one of the two top economies in the North East. To achieve that Taraba needs to build new competencies and deliberately embrace ICT.