CHIBUZO UKAIBE and MOSES ORJIME write on the debate arising from a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics which puts Sokoto State in a negative light.
Shortly before the index case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria, Sokoto State was put on the spotlight by a report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The NBS had in a survey on the Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS) rated Sokoto as the poorest state in the country.
NLSS is the official survey that is the basis for measuring poverty and living standards. Between September of 2018 and October of 2019, the NBS conducted the latest round of the NLSS after a decade.
According to the report, Sokoto had 87.7 per cent on the poverty head count in Nigeria within the period of the survey.
Interestin,gly before then, the state government and the All Progressive Congress (APC), opposition party in the state, had been locked in a debate over the quality of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration in the state.
APC while reflecting on the situation in the state, accused the Governor Aminu Tambuwal of hiding under international donor intervention projects to cover his poor performance.
The state APC chairman, Alhaji Isa Sadiq-Achida, made the allegation at a press conference on the current happenings in the state.
He described the state’s 2020 budget as a “mere chain of broken promises.”
According to Sadiq-Achida, the Peoples Democratic Party administration in the state is using an easy approach to infrastructure development “by hiding under international donor and Intervention agencies for its capital projects.”
“A look at infrastructure provision in the supply of furniture in the 2017/2018 and the 2018/2019 budgets were sponsored by the World Bank.
“Similarly, the much celebrated construction of refuse dump sites by the state Ministry of Environment is being funded by the World Bank intervention program (NEWMAP). The fact is that the PDP government has no moral right to claim credit for the success of international donor agencies while at the same time, diverting our scarce resources into inexplicable channels,” he said.
But while reacting to the allegations, the state’s commissioner for information, Alhaji Isah Bajini-Galadanchi, said the state APC leadership misunderstood the concept of budgeting in governance.
Bajini-Galadanchi explained that budgets were basically expectations and intentions which do not usually translate into 100 per cent realty.
He noted that lists of approved projects by the Executive Council were only achievable with corresponding availability of funds.
The commissioner said Tambuwal had performed creditably well in execution of the 2019 budget as attested to by the speaker, House of Assembly, Alhaji Aminu Achida, an APC member, during the 2020 budget presentation.
However, as chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, the NBS report on the level of poverty in his state was worrisome on a number of levels, pundits aver. Sokoto under the leadership of Tambuwal was expected to be one of the flagship states of not just the party but of the rank of states performing above board nationally.
What’s more, the survey was conducted during the period he was seeking to be president of Nigeria having almost served out his first tenure as governor of the state. Tambuwal had contested the 2019 PDP presidential ticket with nine other aspirants. He came second in the contest losing to former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
But while the NBS report was insightful for pundits, it was instructive for supporters of the governor. For them, it was hard to reconcile the fact that after assuming office in 2015, all the reports from committees the governor set up to look critically at different sectors in the state amounted to naught.
Also, while the state might not boast of a high revenue, pundits aver that such an excuse is not enough to make the state emerge the poorest in the country.
Expectedly the state government was more miffed than embarrassed by the report, according to a document seen by LEADERSHIP detailing it’s response to NBS.
According to the progress report by the administration, what the Governor Tambuwal has achieved within the time the report was released puts to question the parameters used in accessing them.
Listing some of the achievements, the report said, “In 2017, the state government commenced the distribution of N250m to 25,000 women in the rural areas of Sokoto State. Each of the beneficiaries got a minimum of N10,000 to put into their small businesses.
“In April 2017, 2000 women graduated from the specialised entrepreneurship training organised by the state government through the State Zakat and Empowerment Commission. The women, trained in 48 different small scale businesses, were presented with cash grants and other working tools to start their businesses.
“Also in April 2017, 350 women and youths graduated from a skills acquisition program organised by the state government under its citizens empowerment initiative.
“From 2015 to 2017, the Tambuwal Administration created over 27,000 jobs in the agricultural sector. The government supported over 33,000 people through promotion of improved crop production techniques, para-veterinary clinics and women and youth off – farm activities. Similarly, through the community – based agric and rural development initiatives, the government created 27,166 jobs through different interventions on sustainable agriculture, community infrastructure, rural enterprise development, among others.
“In June 2017, the Sokoto State government established an Agency for Poultry Development to enable citizens of the state tap from the potential available in the sector. The agency has been equipping citizens with needed technical expertise to assist them in efforts to maximally benefit from the sector. The target is to engage about 2 million people in the sector in the next few years and increase production of poultry meat and eggs. This is a practical way of tackling poverty, especially among rural dwellers.
“To boost commercial cultivation of select economic trees like Gum Arabic, Moringa, Dates and Shea Tree, the Sokoto State Government in 2017 allocated vast lands to farmers. Governor Tambuwal said this step was taken to encourage individuals to take the lead, make a success of the endeavour and ensure that the benefits gets to as many farmers as possible. “We’re opening up a new corridor in fighting poverty and unemployment. We will support our farmers with improved seeds and technical expertise to ensure the state derives maximum benefits from the venture.”
The report also said that in 2018 the government procured thousands of units of sewing machines, grinding machines and additional 400 tricycles, known as KEKE NAPEP and distributed them across the state.
In same year, the government distributed 3,500 motorised pasta – making machines for the use of women across the state and awarded a contract for the construction of 250 solar powered water schemes which were sited in rural areas across the 23 local government councils of the state. The project which was completed in three months is part of the government’s policy of opening up the rural areas and improving the standard of living of the people. The project consists of a solar pumping system, control room, distribution system, borehole, 10,000 – litre capacity tank and security fence.”
It also entered into a partnership with the World Bank for the construction of 500km rural roads across the state. “The state government promptly released its counterpart funding. The government keyed into the World Bank’s Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP) to open up rural areas and enhance economic opportunities for rural dwellers.”
What’s more, the state government said it attracted many investors to Sokoto State. It cited the Aliko Dangote conglomerate which is in the process of completing a Dangote Rice Factory in Sokoto, a world class rice milling factory sited at Runji village of Kware LGA that will produce 250,000 metric tones of rice. The vast land where the project is sited was allocated by the government.
However the governor in his response outrightly questioned the NBS report. He said, “I do not intend to join issues with the NBS, but I appeal to them to come clear on their variable(s) and how they do their assessments of poor states in Nigeria; and then how they arrived at Sokoto being the poorest.”
“We know that, as a matter of fact, that something must be fundamentally defective and wrong with their processes and the outcome of those processes,” Tambuwal stressed.
“When you look at the programs we are implementing in Sokoto state, they are people-friendly. They are promoting and supporting the vulnerable, the poorest of the poor,” the governor added.
However now that the governor has questioned the authenticity of the report of NBS, it’s yet to be seen what action the body will take.
While some caution against dragging the NBS into the political arena, others aver that the challenge posed by the governor might help to put issues in proper perspective.
A political commentator, Abiodun Ajibade, said if the state desires so much to have a clear process, it can through the governor or other legitimate means demand for a revalidation of the process to check for all suspicions of manipulation.
“As much as we do not want the process to be politicised, there has to be a process of system through which people or states can express their dissatisfaction with a survey result or report,” he said.