“An end is only a beginning in disguise” — Craig D. Lounsbrough
In 2015, Governor Nasir El-Rufai inherited a broken and dysfunctional system in Kaduna state from Ramallan Yero. Indeed, Yero was an epitome of cluelessness, definitely the worst governor of Kaduna state, if only another joker worse than him is never again foisted on the state by forces of stagnation. The dysfunctional system that Yero supervised can only be acceptable to the retrogressive forces that previously held the resources of Kaduna state hostage, to the detriment of the people.
As incoming governor, El-Rufai was prepared for a worst case scenario, based on what he knew at the time. But the Transition Committee Report was worse than he ever imagined. The Yero administration was so awfully incompetent that, for two years, it couldn’t prepare implementable budgets. The 2015 so-called Budget of Consolidation and Continuity, which El-Rufai had to implement (unfortunately), following Yero’s decisive electoral defeat, was very high on intentions, but spectacularly lacking in implementation strategy.
That budget was a disaster and clearly unredeemable, because it was packaged in the usual opaque tradition that suited the henchmen of the previous administration. Unwittingly, Yero acknowledged that fact in his 2015 budget presentation. He said: “The implementation of the 2014 budget was hampered by dwindling statutory allocation due to the fall in crude oil prices, shortage in Value Added Tax, poor internally generated revenue and debt repayment”.
But despite the mountain of visible threats and adverse conditions he listed, the incompetent former governor had no qualms christening the states 2015 budget as (wait for it) Budget of Consolidation and Continuity. Only Yero, totally unprepared for governance, would want to build something on nothing. It is to El-Rufais credit that, under one year, he turned around the state’s budgetary system for better performance. For years even before Yero, the state’s budget estimates were consistently skewed in favour of recurrent expenditure.
El-Rufai knew the state can never be developed with an alarming 70:30 percent recurrent to capital expenditure ratio. So, in 2016, his recurrent expenditure was only N62 billion, while a whopping N171.7 billion was devoted to capital expenditure. That was a 36:64 percent recurrent to capital ratio. The positive trend was sustained in 2017. The N214 billion budget had a N131.45 billion capital component, as against N83.46 billion for recurrent estimate, a ratio of 61:39 percent capital to recurrent.
In 2020, El-Rufai further raised the bar of development-oriented budgeting. The state N257.87 billion expenditure estimates had N190 billion for capital projects, and N67.87 billion recurrent, an unprecedented capital to recurrent ratio of 73.7:26.3 percent.
The net result of this tradition of sensible budgeting is that Kaduna state, in the past six years, has had budgets that squarely focused on the socio-economic development of citizens, which is the essence of government. The Kaduna story stands in sharp contrast to what you find in other states, even at the federal level. Audited accounts of the federal government, the other 35 states, and the Federal Capital Territory, clearly show that the budgets have continued to serve the interest of the public servants, who have no shame taking care of themselves, to the detriment of the larger population.Governor El-Rufa’i’s 2022 draft budget proposal of N233 billion, with N146 billion for capital expenditure and N87.6 for recurrent expenditure (63:37 percent ratio), is not only based on realistic economic parameters, but also reflects a continuation of the budgeting baseline of 60:40 ratio of capital to recurrent estimates. Also noteworthy is the fact that the 2022 expenditure plan is realistically ambitious, and takes cognizance of realisable revenues from a world struggling to recover from the devastation of COVID-19 pandemic. Making provisions for the completion of inherited capital liabilities, and ongoing projects, especially the unprecedented urban renewal projects in Kaduna, Kafanchan and Zaria, is another big plus in the 2022 expenditure plan.Since 2016, Gov El-Rufai had committed to human capital development by investing in education, healthcare and social welfare. It’s thus not surprising that education and health sectors remain priority and have deservedly been allocated 26 percent and 15 percent of the total proposed budget, far beyond the United Nations recommendations.
Thankfully, the next governor of Kaduna will be inheriting a state in a robust shape, adequately prepared for the 21st century, due to the tremendous work of the El-Rufai administration. To date, over 100 archaic laws have been painstakingly reviewed, to meet the exigencies of the 21st century. The public service has been renewed, with the old brigade encouraged to retire, and fresh blood injected.
The state also has the distinction of being the first sub-national government, after Namibia, in Africa, to use the electronic voting machine for the conduct of local government elections, first in May 2018, and in September, 2021. Kaduna state under El-Rufai equally holds the national record, as the only state where the ruling party can be defeated, and opposition parties consistently win elections, unlike the other states where the ruling party MUST win everything. Other legislative accomplishments of Kaduna state under the watch of El-Rufai include the reform of public finance system, reform of internal revenue service which, by prohibiting cash payment, astronomically improved collection from Yero’s N12 billion to N50.7 billion; reform of the procurement process, enactment of the child welfare and protection law, the establishment of a one-stop investment promotion agency that has made doing business sweet; the reason Kaduna state has attracted in six years, over $2.8 billion in foreign investments. Not forgetting a radically reformed scholarship scheme that emphasises needs, merit, and N2 billion loan for indigent students; building youth capacity, abolition of the negative indigene/non – indigene dichotomy, in favour of residency; reformed land administration, and the setting up of the Kaduna geographic information service for effective land management.
From the 2016 Budget of Sacrifice, Restoration and Change, to the 2022 Budget of Sustainable Growth, El- Rufai has been unambiguously consistent, as to the critical development objectives he wants to achieve, based on the Kaduna State Development Plan (SDP) 2016-2020, and the recently launched 2021-2025 Development Plan. The SDP encapsulates the state government’s determination to pursue an orderly, planned, coherent development of the state and the Transformation of Kaduna into a knowledge-based economy,
While budget preparation in virtually all the states is an elaborate process, budget implementation, which makes the critical difference, is often treated with utter contempt, with the exception of Kaduna state. It’s no boast, when El-Rufai asserts that the Kaduna state government (under his watch) has recorded the highest levels of budget performance in the history of the state. For instance, in 2019, the state achieved 97.5 percent budget performance for capital expenditure, spending N148.57bn of the N152.33bn budgeted, more than twice the erstwhile record of capital spending of over N62bn in 2016. These assertions are clearly visible — from the several multi-layer schools, to the urban renewal projects, and so forth.
Again, for the sixth straight year, Kaduna state government financial year will begin on the first day of January. One advantage of the alignment of the calendar and fiscal years over sixth consecutive budget cycles is better management of the state’s financial and accounting projections. It’s no wonder, therefore, that Kaduna state has become the toast of the business community.
Ado writes from Kaduna