Even before the current harsh economic situation which has made payment of salaries herculean to most states, the talk about making states economically viable had dominated discussions with most stakeholders urging governors to run their states like businesses and be conscious of profit and loss.
Of course, this push for state governors to start seeing themselves and acting like chief executives of business organisations was necessitated by the declining federal allocations which has continued to impact negatively on states’ ability to address their financial obligations.
But before we got to this pitiable state, successive governments failed to ensure judicios use of the humongous resources that accrued to the nation in years of huge revenue from oil boom.
Consequently, even though the nation earned humongous sums from the sale of crude oil, critical infrastructures were neglected even as mass poverty was unusually high, suggesting that there was fundamental flaws in the way and manner the resources was managed.
With increasing population in the face of declining resources, it becomes clear that things cannot continue the way and manner they had been and so change was necessary.
Indeed, the persistent calls on governors to think of how best they can make their states economically viable is part of the fallout of the realisation that it is no longer business as usual.
Unarguably, one leader who appreciates the urgency of the need to prioritise economic development is Aminu Bello Masari who, after a remarkable outing as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was overwhelmingly voted in 2015, to govern Katsina State.
On assumption of office, Governor Masari was clear about his vision for the state which he encapsulated in his Restoration Agenda, an ambitious agenda which seeks to restore the lost glory of Katsina state.
Undoubtedly, one key area where the Restoration Agenda is visible is the economic sector where owing to deliberate programmes and policies, the Masari administration is leaving indelible footprints in the sand of time.
It is a common knowledge that Katsina played dominant role as a centre of both commerce and learning as it occupies central place during the famous trans-saharan trade era. Indeed, Katsina was then a business hub.Therefore, it was worrisome to see Katsina literally abandoning trade, commerce and industry which its inhabitants were known for.
To restore this lost glory, Governor Masari, during his campaigns, pledged to provide the needed environment for private sector to thrive and true to his pledge, the governor, upon assumption of office established Katsina Investment Promotion Agency-KIPA.
It must be noted that in spite of its strategic role in galvanising the private sector for economic development, successive government did not deem it fit to set up an agency that will serve as an umbrella for strengthening investments in the state. Masari did that and the successes recorded are impressive
Katsina occupies a stratetic position and is rated seventh among states with large number of micro, small and medium enterprises in Nigeria. Indeed, it is one of the largest grower of cotton, sesame, tomatoes and soya beans. The state also produces one third of the sugarcane in this country.
With a large expanse of land and huge population, Katsina has the needed human and material resources that if effectively utilised, can be economically viable.
Conscious of this and mindful of his responsibilities, Governor Masari, upon assuming office, rally the private sector players. This he did by convening an Investment Summit where he attracted a lot of private sector players to the state with a view to assessing the enormous investment opportunities that abounds.
KIPA whose objective was to attract, facilitate and promote investment potential of the state, as well as to create an enabling environment that will make investors or businessmen tap in at once, without necessarily going to several offices to transact businesses with the government, was then established.
Plausibly, Governor Masari’s focused leadership was instrumental to the establishment of a myriads of small and medium industries which are currently changing the economic history of the state.
A couple of mega industries are already springing up across the state including the two mega factories built by business mogul, Alhaji Dahiru Mangal who also established a mega rice mall.
There are fertiliser blending companies, sesame processing plant and a host of other small, medium and micro companies, all of which are providing employment to indigenes and residents of Katsina state.
I recall that during the maiden investment summit which attracted critical industry players, including the Alhaji Aliko Dangote, key stakeholders lauded the state government for putting the state on the path of economic sustainability.
As a fallout of that summit, Dangote has leased the Katsina Songhai Farm facility and has established an agric-business (Dangote Agric-Business Development Centre). That centre is currently doing seed multiplication and a lot of research activities are going on there. agric business.
Additionaly, the Governor Masari administration also facilitated, through partnership with the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), the extablishment of an industrial park in Funtua. The park is aimed at boosting the cotton value chain.
This is being aided with the establishing of Funtua Integrated Textile and Garment Park which commenced operations recently.
Although the worsening state of insecurity, which is being tackled with all vigour, has continue to act as a clog in the wheel of this plausible successes, with the modest efforts made by the current administration, Katsina in the days ahead will occupy its pride of place as the centre of commerce.
Indeed, Governor Masari has up the ante in making Katsina state an economically viable state.
–Shargalle writes from Kofar Durbi of Katsina Metropolis