By Tayo Joseph Lagos, Nigeria
Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma told the Kano State Government on Tuesday that Nigerians would like to see the state return to its former status as a major industrial and commercial hub in the country.
The Minister who was speaking at the Second Kano Economic and Investment Summit, in Kano City, noted that under Governor Abdullahi Ganduje the State has continued to pursue economic policies and programmes aimed at improving the lives of the people, with particular emphasis on education and infrastructural development across the state.
But he emphasized Federal Government’s desire to see a quick restoration of the boom days that characterised Sharada, Bompai and other industrial estates in Kano. “There is no doubt that Kano leather craftsmen are some of the best in the world. We must provide the enabling environment for the leather industry to grow and become a mark of quality recognised worldwide”, he added.
In furtherance of the desire, the Minister said funds have been provided in the 2017 Federal Budget to provide infrastructure for the revival of the Free Trade Zone in Kano to stimulate industrial activity. He added that funding has equally been provided for the revival of the Export Expansion Grant by way of tax relief, as a further incentive to exporters.
Senator Udoma said economic growth in Kano means economic growth in Nigeria, because the Nigerian economic performance is simply the sum total of the economic performance of all the States; and as the Minister of Budget and National Planning, he feels happy when States organise Economic and Investment Summits to bring together relevant stakeholders to deliberate on measures required to stimulate investments.
Acknowledging Kano as a bellwether state in Nigeria, because of its leading industrial and commercial status, the Minister said the effect of what happens in Kano goes beyond the borders of the state and affects how Nigeria is perceived locally and internationally. “This may explain why the World Bank has selected Kano, as one of the two States in Nigeria, whose performance indices are used in assessing Nigeria in their annual Ease of Doing Business rankings.” Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, is the other State.
Describing the theme of the Summit, “Transforming the Economy of Kano: Turning Challenges into Opportunities”, as very apt, the Minister said it aligns with Federal Government’s effort in trying to turn the great difficulties and challenges it met on assumption of office into an opportunity for growth.
“On our part, as the Federal Government, we have been working very closely with the State Governments, particularly through the monthly meetings of the National Economic Council (NEC), to ensure complete alignment in our economic programmes. And of course, as you all know the ERGP was developed with the extensive consultations of the States. This is one Federal Government that believes that we must work very closely with the States”, he pointed out.
The Minister recalled that one of the first steps the Administration took after coming into office was to assist State Governments with some bailout funds. “Some States had some of their bank loans restructured into 20 year FGN bonds; others benefitted from a salary bailout intervention facility, as well as a budget support facility. In this way, the Federal Government tried to bring relief to States to help them cope with the challenging situation.”
To encourage the States to improve the management of their lean finances, Senator Udoma said the Federal Government entered into a 22 point Fiscal Sustainability Plan with the aim of encouraging States to improve their internally generated revenue (IGR’s) and reduce their reliance on the depleting monthly allocations from the Federation Account.
By unfolding the ERGP, he said the Federal Government is determined to fundamentally turn the nation’s current economic challenges into an opportunity, to change the way the economy has been operating. The Plan sets out how government intends to do this in partnership with the States as it acknowledges that the key to transforming the economy of the country, including the States, is to increase the level of investments in a dramatic and sustained way.
“Our aim, simply put, is to turn Nigeria from a nation of consumers and importers to a self- reliant nation of producers. In this way, we will create jobs for our people, rather than importing everything that we need. We want every Nigerian when he wakes up in the morning to ask himself, or herself, how can I add value to the rich resources the Good Lord has given us, as a country.
“We want every able-bodied Nigerian to be gainfully employed creating value for the nation in agriculture, in manufacturing, in construction, in services, in information technology (I.T), etc. As a Government, our commitment is to ensure that we secure public safety and improve the quality of public services to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive,” he stressed.
He commended the Kano State government for the steps taken so far, pointing out that in a recent report, a NEC Monitoring Committee chaired by the Minister of State, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, commended Kano State, which apart from agriculture, was noted for investment in infrastructure; particularly the Madobi Underpass which, reportedly, was designed, constructed, and supervised exclusively by local engineers.
While being optimistic of the outcome of the Summit and expressing confidence in the Ganduje Administration’s ability to turn the current economic challenges into an opportunity for growth and prosperity, the Minister assured the State of Federal Government’s support.
Former Minister of National Planning and Chairman of the Summit Planning Committee, Dr Shamsudeen Usman, lamented the reluctance of Northern governors to constitute the region into a viable economic zone in spite of available enabling resources.
He said it was not too late to do so as other regions of the country are consolidating on the efforts they started some years ago.
Dr Usman was however optimistic that the Kano Economic and Investment Summit will ginger up activities in the State and Region with the right political will.
At the opening of the two-day Summit were the governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje; his Sokoto State counterpart, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Minister of Internal Affairs, Lt General Abdulrahman Dambazzau; Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar lll, Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi; captains of industry, technocrats and businessmen, among others.