Governor Abubakar Sani Bello on assumption of office in May 2015 inherited numerous problems ranging from dilapidated infrastructure as well as a general loss of confidence in the government by the citizenry.
With the realisation that Nigerlites expect torrential dividends of democracy, he plunged himself into changing their fortunes for the better. With just five years plus in office, his leadership style, policies and programmes, financial engineering and branding of the state, it is clear that the governor will no doubt fulfill his promise to “leave the state much better than he met it”.
With a promise to get his people out of poverty line, he has doubled his administration’s effort at providing adequate social infrastructure like hospitals, schools, electricity – all these have direct bearing with the desire of the people and have positive impacts on their lives.
Unlike his predecessors, Sani Bello had no room for experiments as he strongly believed that the silver bullet to shoot down poverty and hunger from the state belongs to him.
The introduction of reforms in various aspects of governance despite being confronted with paucity of funds was a clear manifestation of his administration’s commitment to pursuing and driving this message of change from the “business as usual” phenomenon to the new era of more transparent, accountable and responsible governance.
With this very strong conviction, the governor Abubarkar Sani Bello’s administration immediately introduced reforms in the various facets of public governance including education, agriculture, healthcare delivery, social welfare, rural development and transformation, the civil service, strategic/development planning and of course, public financial management.
The reform in the public financial management included reforms in the public procurement processes, debt management among others. All these were meant to make Niger State the truly preferred destination for good governance, business and leisure.
Despite the state’s lean resources and effect of the coronavirus pandemic that almost crippled the world economy, the Niger State government to the shock of its admirers and critics executed commendable projects and adopted result-oriented programmes that have so far, improved the welfare of his people.
Still in the forward spirit, governor Sani Bello said at the commencement of his second term that the timely completion of all projects he embarked upon in his first term remained his administration’s priority.
The following strategic sectors of the state’s economy were prioritised by this administration and to meet the new imperative, governor Sani Bello undertook pursued and interpreted them in several dimensions. He dug into the God’s-given assets of the state and engineered goldmines out of it
Niger State government under the governor identified agriculture as a great catalyst for the development of the state. The new new paradigm here is not just production of crops but identifying markets.
His government launched a mechanisation and commercialisation programme in agriculture. He sustained the extension services as well as providing fertilizers and other farm inputs periodically needed to assist the large farming population in rural areas.
With this stride, the government has received endless commendations for ensuring the actualisation of the development of Bobi Grazing Reserve into a commercially viable project.
The project as records has it, has attracted collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as some private investors who automatically keyed into the project realistically aimed at reducing farmers and herders clashes.
For instance, Brazil which is known to be a leading country in livestock management has pledged her readiness to collaborate with the state government for animal husbandry sub-sector, leveraging on the development of Bobi Grazing Reserve
The development of the 31,000 hectares Bobi Grazing Reserve has commenced and improved foliage from Brazil has been imported, with foreign companies already participating. This particular move is said to be visionary and a step towards diversification in view of the dwindling statutory allocation to all levels of government.
At present, the Grazing reserve has five reputable international and national companies developing it, needless to say that the project is a vision of governor Sani Bello but supported by the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria.
When fully developed, the reserve will definitely change the system of cattle rearing, accommodate farmers and thus, allow for peaceful co-existence between farmers and herders, as well as provide avenue for value chain farming, thereby increasing the production of quality beef and milk.
Apart from the above, the Sani Bello’s led administration has commendably mobilised farmers into clusters through the formation of associations, especially rice farmers in the state to benefit from the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the federal government powered by the CBN.
Impressively, the formation of various farmers associations has also enabled them have access to agricultural loans as well as Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs’) facilities. This administration went further to revive some microfinance cooperatives in the state.
In the same vein, the government leveraged on the Bida Flood Plains, a suitable site for agriculture, and supported the out-growers of paddy rice in the area. Impressively, this has also attracted investors into the area as it was witnessed during the commissioning of Sunti Golden Sugar and Flour Mills Nigeria Company by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018, where 17,000 hectares of irrigable farmland and a sugar mill that processes 4,500 metric tonnes of sugarcane per day was flagged off.
About one million tonnes of sugarcane translating into 100,000 metric tonnes of sugar is produced annually by the mill.
Also in the effort to revolutionise and mechanise the agriculture sector, the governor approached Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) where they partnered to provide 200 tractors and farm implements for farmers in the state.
The equipment were provided and domiciled in Niger State Mechanised Agricultural Development Agency (NAMDA) for leasing and hiring purposes to farmers in the state. These are indeed practical steps towards diversifying the state economy.
All these are in meeting with the government’s strategic objective of moving farm size from fragmented holding to commercial holding in each of the main cash crops, introducing high value crops into the dynamics, increase and move to international averages in yield per hectare of major crops.
The government has intervened in this sector especially in the provision of standard learning environment and recreational embience.
Governor Sani Bello adopted a very novel approach to meeting the rebranded standard; whole school infrastructure development approach where schools are picked from each zone, renovated instead of building new blocks. In fact, schools in the state have been given a faceliff within the period under review. This also includes the provision of critical inputs like desks, textbooks among others.
Earliest benefiting schools were Government Science Secondary School, Izom, Maryam Babangida Secondary School Minna, Government Secondary School Kutigi, Government Secondary School Kalgara, Government Secondary School Kontagora, Government Secondary School Baro, to mention but a few.
The government did not stop at that level of infrastructural development as it flagged off a programme tagged: “Transforming of Education Sector in Niger State (TENS), aimed at revamping the sector through collaborations to adopt best global practices for the educational sector in the state.
Consequently, the governor included the training and re-training of teachers, recruitment of about 2000 teachers. To attain tangible results, he engaged foreign experts to train 100 teachers and other education managers as “train-the-trainers”.
The training which was done by the team from the Cambridge University was one out of the numerous trainings outlined in the TENS programme.
Similarly, the government has remained consistent in the payment of counterpart funds for the renovation of many primary and basic schools in the state.
To ensure that teachers are well-equipped with the pedagogy and methodology of teaching, the administration of Abubakar Sani Bello established a teachers’ training institute to train prospective teachers at basic and secondary education levels. All these are geared towards the overall objective of making the education system in the state a citadel of excellence.
At the Tertiary Education level, the government has shown commitment to the welfare of personnel at that level, the governor recently signed a law increasing the retirement age of academic staff of tertiary institutions from 60 to 65 years.
Healthcare delivery is critical to governor Sani Bello’s wealth creation objective. Although the health agenda is comprehensive, emphasis is on health care delivery at the primary level and referral points.
In fact, he has remained committed to the action plan of having at least a standard primary healthcare centre in each of the 270 wards in the state while maintaining collaboration with development partners for healthcare delivery by paying counterpart funds promptly.
This objective is underlined by his speedy construction of General Hospitals, recruitment of health workers, provision of logistics and enhanced wages and the development of infrastructure in health related schools and colleges.
To revitalize primary healthcare (PHC) and make health services accessible, affordable and equitable for all, the government launched an 8-point health reform agenda tagged: ‘Niger Health 1.0’. The health reform will among other things ensure progressive realization of one fully functional PHC under-one-roof (PHCUOR), in every political ward’.
The policy adopted by the government was sequel to PHC needs assessment and the health facilities in rural areas across the 25 local government areas and the finding then when the government came into office, showed that the PHCs were in bad state and needed attention thus, on 31st May, 2016, the scheme was flagged off with symbolic inauguration of a Model PHC in Beji, in Bosso LGA of Niger State
Similarly, Niger state government also establish the state health insurance scheme, making the state one of the few states with such robust plan to boost the health of the citizenry.
The government also completed the Jummai Babangida Maternal and Children Clinic in Minna while renovating the General Hospitals across the state. Just recently the government built a modern laboratory in Minna to meet the urgent needs of the state in terms of diagnosis at time of pandemic.
The state government under Abubakar Sani Bello has also established the College of Nursing Science in Kontagora, renovate the School of Nursing Bida and gave a facelift to the School of Midwifery Minna and colleges of health technology across the state.
In pursuit of this objective of having a zero-based Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), he has unveiled a free health programme for children under five years of age and pregnant women.
On water supply, the government embarked on water works in Minna, Kontagora and in Bida. It has also put machineries in motion for the total overhaul of Suleja water works.
Recently, the governor assented to the Niger State Water and Sewage Corporation Law, 2020, which came into effect from March 25, 2020.
According to him, the water and sewage corporation law is to help the state achieve sustainable water system development in the huge investment.
Impressively, the governor’s infrastructural development programme is bold and audacious.
Within the period under review, he has sustained the maintenance of some critical federal roads in the state.
The rural development agency which he set up to implement his vision for rural transformation is no doubt instrumenting the construction of asphalted rural roads with high economic significance, primarily for the evacuation of farm produce.
This is even as the governor also awarded the rehabilitation of the dilapidated Bida to Minna Road at the cost of N24 billion, and also that of Paiko to Lapai. The aforementioned roads have been left in their sorry state for over fifteen years by previous governments to the detriment of commuters
It’s important to also mention that work is going on Zumba to Erena road. This is so because the previous administration built a bridge across River Kaduna to the area referred to as Shororo across but left in a deplorable state.
Governor Sani Bello approved the sum of N6 billion for the surface dressing of about 230 kilometres roads under Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP)
This also came on the heels of his approval of counterpart funds for the third phase of the programme and work has since begun.
The RAMP has constructed 117km during its first Phase and 402km during the second phase including 30 bridges in various communities of the state.
RAMP is a World Bank, French Development Agency and Niger State Government Programme targeted at improving rural transportation . So far, 391 communities have benefited from rural access roads.
The impressive performance of the state government in the previous phases, enhanced the migration of the state to RAMP 111 . This particular project has in the past one year had visible impacts in rural areas.
Apart from intercity road projects, rehabilitation of intra city roads, especially in Kontagora, Suleja and Minna, the state capital are ongoing
In Minna alone, no fewer than five intra city projects are ongoing; Garma to Tunga low-cost road completed, Morris road, Bosso estate road, Tagwai dam, dualization of Broadcasting to Shiroro road, and some roads in Kontagora township.
Six roads in Kontagora have also been affected at the cost of N300 million, aside the ongoing contracts of over N700 million bringing the whole cost to N1.035,852,486, 20 in the town.
There are also township roads in Suleja undergoing rehabilitation, these are Zariyawa and Jubilee roads, Maje to Kwarmba and other very strategic.p roads.
Poised to deliver on his mandate, the governor has directed all contractors handling the various projects in the state to ensure high quality in line with the contract specifications. He also emphasised the need to meet deadlines.
The governor’s ability to fulfil his promise to stop all pension pains and illegalities by wiping away the tears of heroes and heroines who served the state in various capabilities has been appluaded by both his admirers and critics.
He faced certain resistance from the forces of corruption in the pension sector. He singlehandedly harmonised and coordinated pension management to become hassle – free , regular, respectable and supportive in the state
As far as senior citizens in Niger State are concerned, the governor has given them reasons to cheer. Courageous and decisive governor Sani Bello like the lion, strong like Samson and like David, when he killed Goliath, fought pension illegalities to a standstill
Today, his government has been able to gradually pay gratuities to retirees including those who recently migrated from the new pension scheme to the old scheme sequel to the state new pension law. In fact, the burden was rolled over from the previous governments who at a point halted the payment of pensions.
Within the period under review, many retirees have been paid their full gratuities, while some have received but in percentages. Even the payment of the monthly pension has remained regular. Notwithstanding the huge investment in this area, many still believe that there are grounds that need to be covered considering the resumption of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS ) in June.
General Administration And Regular Payment Of Salary
On general administration , despite the state’s lean allocation, civil servants are paid regularly and as at when due.
Plans to commence the renovation of Abdukareem Lafene state secretariat has been concluded to boost the productivity of the workforce.
The welfare of civil servants has remained the administration’s priority as has continued to directly benefit from the visionary and impactful leadership qualities of the governor Sani Bello administration.
He has continued to push for a highly trained and skilled manpower to boost the state civil service.
Political Engagement And Sustainability
Historically, developing nations always grapple with the challenges of mobilisation and engaging the electorates, especially those at the grassroots. To say the least, the government of Sani Belllo has marshalled out strategies for engagement through the Office of the Special Adviser, Political and Strategy.
On this premise, the government gets feedback from the ward level and engage them in terms of political patronage as appropriate, to the extent that standards are not compromised.
The process of elections and appointments are generated from the ward level and political actors are given opportunity to contribute the to the success of the government with fairness.
Before decisions are reached, the government through the special adviser, political and strategy, embarks on wide consultation for all democratic purposes of majority having their ways and minority have their say.
Call it reform, transformation or whatever you wish, Governor Sani Bello’s message was and remains clear; there must be deliberate and consistent actions to change from the “old ways” of doing things if the society must achieve the desired growth and greatness.
Today, even Governor Sani Bello’s critics will agree that he is purposefully making Niger State a hub for business and leisure. Destination Niger State is fast becoming a model. This is because it is inspiring to have a leadership dedicated to the ultimate realisation of its vision and the creation of wealth.
With this giant strides, we are convinced that before the expiration of his second term, Niger State will shoot ahead of other states in the federation. Thanks to a committed, responsible and a very dedicated Governor Abubakar Sani Bello.
–Compiled by the Office of the Special Adviser, Political to the Governor.