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Umaru Tanko Al-Makura: The Architect Of Modern Nasarawa State

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In 2010 as an outsider to the inner workings of government, Umaru Tanko Al-makura was deeply pained by what he described as the “barren condition of Nasarawa State in terms of physical infrastructure, industrial inputs and commercial activities!”  Al-makura prodded the masses of Nasarawa State to revolt against social injustice in a pocket sized booklet which he entitled “My Covenant with the People of Nasarawa State!” where he stated that if elected as Governor, all his activities would be centered on improving the life of the common man by focusing on: “Education, equipping people with skills, agricultural production and rural change”. The last sentence in Al-makura’s booklet was: “FOR THE SAKE OF NASARAWA STATE!”

“For the Sake of Nasarawa State” became the battle cry and clarion call that paved the way for Umaru Tanko Al-makura to contest in the elections of 2011 on the platform of a new political party, CPC (Congress for Progressive Change). CPC had had been formed barely four months earlier by General Muhammadu Buhari – and against all odds, the common man Umaru Tanko Al-makura, who had been deaf in both ears for twenty years defeated the regal sitting governor at that time, Aliyu Akwe Doma! The flight of Umaru Tanko Almakura to victory in Nasarawa State was as jolting as it was revolutionary. It was the very first time in Nigeria’s political history that a rank outsider will defeat an incumbent! Political analysts will later posit that it was Al-makura’s victory in 2011 which set the stage for his role model, Muhammadu Buhari to do likewise and oust Goodluck Jonathan from the presidency in 2015!

During his inaugural speech in 2011, Umaru Tanko Al-makura hinged the thrust of his administration on values of transparency, accountability and good governance when he stated with resounding clarity that: “our government will be an accountable and corrective one, we will insist that those of us who are entrusted with power and public funds will be required to spend prudently, and be held to account”.

As at 2011, Nasarawa State which was known as; “home of solid minerals”, did not even have a data bank of its own mineral deposits and therefore an effective economic blueprint to tap the solid minerals could not be designed by successive administrations. It took the coming of Tanko Al-makura to break this laxity and inertia. Al-makura inaugurated a 10 man committee headed by Engineer Isa Ahmed Bukar to conduct an in-depth study into the quantity and quality of solid minerals in Nasarawa state. The Bukar committee discovered that 35 groups of solid minerals and over 100 distinct sub-types of solid minerals can be found in every local government area of Nasarawa State, and that based upon empirical evidence, if government were to properly harness the solid mineral sub-sector, and put in place mechanisms for effective collection, Nasarawa State had the potential of generating N500m monthly as revenue from royalties aside from13% derivative from the Federal Government as well as surface rent, development levies and vendor fees.

By 2011, Nasarawa State had been in existence for 15 years, but there was no traffic light in the entirety of the state and no single asphalt graded road had ever been constructed by the state government. As at 2011 when he became governor, Nasarawa state generated only 15% of her revenue, and depended entirely on the monthly federal allocation to pay the salaries of her civil servants. In the face of this, the standard practice was for the government of Nasarawa State to borrow N800 million each month from the banks to pay workers salary. This made the payment of salaries erratic and put the families of civil servants through extreme hardship and pain.

Al-makura started work as the Governor of Nasarawa State on May 30 2011 where he met a debt of over N37 billion inherited from the immediate past administration of Aliyu Akwe Doma and in the second month of Al-makura’s stewardship just as he was still trying to settle into office, the federal government approved implementation of minimum wage in June 2011. This astronomically increased the amount required by Nasarawa State to pay the monthly salary of its civil servants from N800 million to almost N2.3 billion naira! Yet without taking any bank loan, but by applying the most stringent cost-cutting measures, Umaru Tanko Al-makura took up the gauntlet and made Nasarawa one of the first states in Nigeria to fully implement the minimum wage package and pay the salary of civil workers in the employ of the state government as at when due beginning from August of 2011 and for five years nonstop!

Factsw of history show that the Federal, State and Local Governments in Nigeria (including Nasarawa State) shared a total of N8.6 Trillion naira in 2014. One year later in 2015, this revenue dropped to N5.8 Trillion naira, due to the continuous slide in prices of crude oil. Between the months of January to March of 2014, a barrel of crude oil sold for $105 dollars, but 18 months later between November-December 2015, a barrel of crude oil had crashed and was selling at $38 dollars! Nigeria lost N2.8 trillion naira of its revenue in 2015 and in the month of January 2016, Nigeria had less than $27b in her foreign reserves; while the exchange value of our currency had slumped at N305:00 to one dollar! All this was because crude oil, the very resource upon which the nation’s survival depends, was now selling for less than 27 dollars per barrel. As Nigeria entered 2016, no state in the country especially fragile states such as Nasarawa could survive for long, if such a state was to COMPLETELY DEVOTE 100% of their monthly federal allocation to the payment of monthly salaries of civil servants.

Given the economic realities at that time, Governor Tanko Al-makura invited a cross section of the most respected citizens of Nasarawa State to a Stakeholders Forum on Wednesday, 27th April, 2016 with a view to come up with workable solutions that will ameliorate the hardships faced by civil servants as a result of the economic downturn nationwide. After due deliberation, the stakeholders unanimously requested that government should take a more critical look at the implementation of the National Minimum Wage in Nasarawa State for possible review. This was the only time Umaru Tanko Al-makura tinkered with salary of civil servants, because for five years running from 2011 to 2015, while other states were looking for financial bailouts, Al-makura never failed to pay civil servants in the employ of Nasarawa State government their monthly salaries.

Through Al-makura’s fiscal discipline, he was also able to pay up the huge debt of N37 billion which his administration inherited from the previous government within two years without taking a loan from any bank and after settling this debt, he secured a bond of N10 billion naira from the capital market through Dunn Loren Merrifield, Stanbic IBTC Capital Limited and Fidelity bank PLC with which he embarked on the construction of Karu International market (Phase II) and the completion of three other markets namely Lafia Ultra-Modern Market, Akwanga Modern Market and Keffi Modern Market Phase II and 44 Ta’al Model Schools. Today in 2019 after almost 8 years of exacting financial discipline, Umaru Tanko Al-makura who inherited over N37 Billion naira loan at the start of his own administration is poised to hand over to the incoming administration of Engineer A.A. Sule an economically robust and credit worthy Nasarawa state whose coffers has less than N1 billion naira in loan!

 

This Special Historical Feature Was Written By

Yakubu Lamai (Director General: Strategic Communication and Press Affairs to HE Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa State)

 

 

From the onset of his administration, Umaru Tanko Al-makura felt Nasarawa State required a new performance management framework. He envisioned that the quality of life in Karu which was closest to Abuja can be improved to the standard of what obtains in Maryland which is also closest to America’s capital city of Washington DC. To pursue his dream for better living condition and the liberal economic growth and development of Karu axis, Al-makura focused on expressway financing and the construction of a multiplicity of alternate roads to curb the traffic gridlock along Masaka-Nyanya highway so as to ease access into the FCT.

 

Al-makura also put in place viable plans for electric rail, clean energy waste evacuation and recycling, and went further to complete the Karu international market, which he renamed Muhammadu Buhari International Market so as to provide space for traders who choke the major highway into Abuja with their wares. He then acquired 13,000 hectares of land just beyond Mpape Hill across from Aso villa to begin the building of a new mega city which he christened;“Gurku-Kabusu”.

 

As a successful real estate developer in Abuja before he became Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-makura was well aware that as at 2006, Abuja had a population of 776,298 people. In 2010 when Al-makura threw his hat in the ring to contest as Governor of neigbouring Nasarawa State, Abuja had grown by 139.7% according to the United Nations, making it “the fastest growing city in the world!”

It is with this worldview that Al-makura approached the idea to create the new mega city Gurku-Kabusu. Al-makura felt Nasarawa State which encircles 60% of Abuja was naturally positioned to rescue the federal capital from its rapid congestion and increasing squalor by offering a smaller burden with respect to taxes and costs of acquiring land in comparison to the FCT. Al-makura’s vision therefore was to build a new mega city on 13,000 hectares of land next door to Abuja, which will be larger than the city of Paris. The purpose of which was to offer opportunity for all Nigerians to acquire affordable land and build homes of their own in Nasarawa State, but within the perimeter of the FCT. Today as it stands the master-plan for the 29 districts which will make up the Gurku-Kabusu mega city, has already been completed and will altogether be ten times the size of West Africa’s largest estate, Gwarinpa!

Nasarawa State was created in 1996 and in the first two years of its existence, only 310 people were granted land titles to build their homes and settle down in the new state. During the era of the 1st civilian administration from 1998 to 2007, government issued 214 land titles. This was followed by four years of stagnation between 2007 and 2011, when only 24 title documents were issued by the government. By 2011 when Umaru Tanko Al-makura became Governor, Nasarawa State had become a derelict eyesore of unregulated settlements where issuance of title documents was completely suspended and the state land administration department had virtually been rendered jobless.

 

In 2011 land titles used to be a function of one’s connection with Government House. This sad development was the reason why only 600 certificates of ownership (CofO) were issued to privileged property owners in 17 years of the existence of Nasarawa State.  However when the pragmatic Umaru Tanko Al-makura ascended the mantle of leadership in Nasarawa state, he demystified governance and the entire gamut of its processes. He brought openness and transparency to the process of land recertification and soon the issuance of titles began to take only 14 days, as against the previous situation where it took a life time of political connections to get land title in Nasarawa State!

 

Al-makura introduced digital land reform so as to undertake Digital Aerial Mapping, District Planning and Urban Renewal across the length and breadth of Nasarawa State including, the creation of cadastral districts for the development of effective road networks, water supply systems, drainage systems, grazing routes and general planning. Al-makura then selected 7 towns out of the existing 13 local government areas and designated them to be treated as planned cities. The Surveyor General of Nigeria, Professor Peter Nwilo and members of the surveyors’ council of Nigeria were so impressed at Al-makura’s digital land administration and urban renewal efforts that they ranked Nasarawa the highest among 36 states and the FCT in the implementation of land reforms to conform to global best practices in 2011.

 

Evidence of better land administration instantly showed in the very first year of Al-makura’s stewardship in 2011, when the Ministry of Lands contributed N34, 810,681.02 to the coffers of Nasarawa state government. Three years later, land was able to bring an astronomical sum of N608 million into the coffers of Nasarawa State government in 2014 which represented a groundbreaking and staggering 1,688% rise in internally generated revenue!

 

Being the builder and real estate developer that he was, Umaru Tanko Al-makura began the modernization of education in Nasarawa State by constructing 44 two-storey TA’AL model public schools and 144 blocks of classrooms across the State. He also built hostel accommodation and lecture halls in ALL tertiary institutions in Nasarawa state, as well as five modern E-Libraries in Lafia, Akwanga, Keffi, Nassarawa and Karu. Al-makura then adopted two new policies of Free Education and Free Feeding in boarding schools and thereafter took on the added responsibility to pay for NECO examination fees on behalf of all graduating students in secondary schools, before he revived the payment of scholarship grant to students in tertiary institutions.

Not one to rest on his oars, Governor Tanko Al-makura established 4 comprehensive special schools for people living with disabilities in all the three senatorial zones of Nasarawa State. These comprehensive schools were equipped with assistive technologies like smart boards, braille machines and physiotherapy equipment to make teaching and learning easy for both the teachers and the disabled students. Notably the comprehensive special school in Lafia which was commissioned by President Buhari is today adjudged as the best of such facilities in West Africa complete with accessible classrooms, disability compliant hostels and two state-of-the art 600 capacity dining & 1000 person capacity multipurpose halls; free transportation as well as comfortable residential apartments built by government for the highly professional staff of the school.

One year after becoming the Governor of Nasarawa State, and keeping true to his mantra of “Seeing is Believing”, the enrolment of pupils in Nasarawa State had increased in 2012 from 210,730 to 352,351 and by 2013, Umaru Tanko Al-makura’s efforts had catapulted school enrolment in Nasarawa State from 30% to 60% such that Nasarawa was rated as “the Best Performing State in Nigeria for Its Implementation of The Basic Education Programme” during the quarterly meeting of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).

On May 29th 2011, when he was sworn in as governor of Nasarawa State, the very first official assignment of Umaru Tanko Al-makura was to preside over a Security Council meeting which dwelt on how to resolve herdsmen and farmers clashes at the border of Nasarawa with Benue State and throughout his 8 year stewardship in Nasarawa State, Governor Al-makura remained proactive and adopted an enlightened approach to tackling the issue of security, ethnic militia and the wily actions of unscrupulous politicians who inflame religious and tribal sentiments so as to further their political agenda. The bitter lessons Al-makura learnt from the nightmare of 2013 when over 77 security personnel were killed in Alakyo at the height of the onslaught of the Ombatse ethnic militia, to the incessant communal  clashes arising from issues of traditional stool and ancestry; as well as the incursion of foreign mercenaries into Nasarawa State and even the trite provocative encounters instigated in IDP camps where nefarious characters were planted by political opposition among the internally displaced people so that they can embarrass the Governor by pelting his convoy with stones etc! All these provided seedlings for sober introspection; new and undiluted ideas, as well as veritable ferment which Umaru Tanko Al-makura reflected upon to evolve his home-grown model of COMMUNITY-BASED CONFLICT RESOLUTION MECHANISM which has been widely applauded for putting a halt and stemming the tide of perennial farmers and herders’ clashes, thereby keeping the peace in Nasarawa State.

This community based conflict resolution mechanism evolved by Umaru Tanko Al-makura has proven to be an enlightened approach which curbs the incessant bloody clashes between farmers and herders, because sentiment is not whipped up or allowed to becloud a local community’s sense of fairness or proportion at the onset of any crisis in Nasarawa State. That way conflicts are not allowed to escalate and reprisal attacks are nipped in the bud.

Under the security-conscious leadership of Umaru Tanko Al-makura, Nasarawa State has built a modern Police Headquarters in Lafia which is one of the best in Nigeria and also donated befitting offices to State Commands of civil defence NSCDC, Road Safety corps and provided a site for the construction of 178 Guard Battalion Barracks of the Nigeria Army in Doma. Al-makura’s administration has also provided Helipad for aerial survey and a complex for the Nigeria Air Force Base in Lafia, aside from routine donation of vehicles to all the security agencies.

Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura is 90% at the completion of a cargo airport in Lafia which would serve the dual purpose of passenger travel and the opening up of an artery of access routes for the freighting of perishable agricultural cargo not only to the growth markets within Nigeria, but also abroad. Additionally, Al-makura has donated land around the Lafia Airport for construction of a befitting Housing Estate for civil servants which is being developed by Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. This is aside the Federal housing Estate being developed in Akurba. Governor Al-makura has also provided a vast land on which will be built the world-class EFCC Academy beside Lafia airport and he donated another 100 hectares of land, with an offer for two hundred hectares more to the Nigeria Airforce to serve as training base and drop zone for the parking of Aircrafts by the Airforce.  The clincher to the bouquet of support structures of Lafia airport is the decision by Al-makura to construct a critical road that will cut travel from Abuja to Lafia by over one hour! It is therefore evident that the intension of Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura to construct an Airport in Lafia is born of farsighted futuristic planning and astute business acumen because of the way and manner he has positioned some critical infrastructure that will support not only take-off, but steady growth of the Lafia Airport.

Modern infrastructure aside, Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura’s legacy as an inclusive leader is secured in the history of Nasarawa State. When he was accosted by the press in 2016, he admitted that he supported the clamor for equitable rotation of political power in Nasarawa State, so that each of the three senatorial zones will feel Nasarawa State belongs to them and they belong to Nasarawa State. The standpoint of Al-makura was that since the western zone of Keffi had already enjoyed 8 years of steering the affairs of state, while the southern zone of Lafia to which he belonged had by now spent nearly 12 years in the saddle, going by the principle of equity and justice; it will only be fair for Akwanga zone which had the least population to produce the next governor of Nasarawa State. Governor Al-makura indicated his personal preference for the candidature of Engineer A.A. Sule from Akwanga zone to succeed him; but he did not interfere with the voting process during the APC Governorship primaries. Al-makura ensured that the APC primaries were credible, free, fair and transparent and the eleven gubernatorial aspirants were each given a level playing ground.

Engineer A.A. Sule from Akwanga zone eventually won the APC primaries and by dint of divine providence coupled with rigorous campaigns, he is now the Governor-Elect of Nasarawa State. It will be said that the dream of Umaru Tanko Al-makura for power rotation to the Akwanga zone has come true and his decision to champion this cause will resonate through time as a worthy example of equity and inclusive governance.

Indeed some people may remember Umaru Tanko Al-makura as the beacon of inclusive governance who constructed over 1000 kilometers of roads at a time when there was no single asphalt graded road constructed by the government in Nasarawa State, while others will point to the historic Disease Control and Diagnostic Center which Al-makura is about to complete! Some historians will jot down the state of the art E-Libraries, two-storey Ta’al model public schools and the resplendent Lafia Square as Al-makura’s footprints on the sand of time! There will still be those who will point to digital land administration, Gurku-Kabusu mega city and Lafia Airport as critical infrastructure that will stand the judgment of posterity; while to others will say Al-makura’s greatest legacy will be defined by the homegrown community based conflict resolution mechanism which he evolved plus restoration to glory of blighted traditional stools and the transformation of Nasarawa State from the backwaters of rural stagnancy to the vibrancy of paved culverts, modern markets and planned smart cities. Students of power will say that Al-makura was the political aggregator who finally changed the coloration of Nasarawa politics and brought it into the fold of the progressives. All of these assessments and more will be true, but no matter how history will judge Umaru Tanko Al-makura, one fact will remain incontestable and that is: “Umaru Tanko Al-makura is without doubt “the architect of modern Nasarawa State!”

 

THIS SPECIAL HISTORICAL FEATURE WAS WRITTEN BY

Yakubu Lamai (Director General: Strategic Communication and Press Affairs to HE Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa State)

 


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