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El-Rufai: Making Kaduna people matter

El-Rufai: Making Kaduna people matter
June 16
12:41 2020

Like a ritual, politicians celebrate milestones at every opportunity and on in our clime, these landmarks abound at every turn. Usually, it is either they are celebrating the first 100 days in office, the anniversary of their election or May 29th, when most of them were sworn into office. On such occasions, their media units, Public Relations consultants and political associates reel out the achievements of their principals. Last week, the print and electronic media, including social media platforms, were awash with such achievements. Pictures of both ongoing and completed projects from state governments competed for attention in the media space. Likewise, political associates and contractors have been congratulating several governors for such ‘’monumental achievements.’’

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Most times, these projects are neither ‘’monumental’’ nor do they qualify as ‘’achievements’’ by any stretch of the imagination. At best, some of those projects were executed to either satisfy sundry interests or to massage executive egos. For example, a road that has no economic value or utility, may be constructed because it leads to a party chieftain’s house. Likewise, a General Hospital may be sited at the governor’s village, where all that is required is a Primary Health Centre. Similarly, a grand edifice may be built as either primary or secondary school but not much attention is paid to recruiting qualified teachers. In the same vein, an airport may be built in a state which requires better road network, as the people mainly commute by road. Indeed, many white projects were on display last week, when most of the governors celebrated their anniversaries on May 29.

However, in Kaduna State, all projects, policies and programmes are designed with the people in mind. In the 2019, when Governor Nasir El Rufai sought for re-election, his campaign slogan was ‘’Putting People First.’’ In fact, this slogan was self evident even in his first term, as the entire administration has always been people-centred. Specifically, policies are designed mainly to impact directly and positively on the lives of the people who have been neglected or short-changed of dividends of democracy in the locust years.

In 2015, El Rufai had declared a state of emergency in the education sector in his inaugural address. Afterwards, he commenced rehabilitation and renovation of existing schools and construction of new ones. Thereafter, he embarked on recruitment of qualified teachers after weeding out incompetent teachers from the system. Indeed, this cleansing exercise pitched him against organized labour and entrenched interests but in the end, the governor prevailed, in spite of threats and strike action. At the height of the strike action, El Rufai made these profound statement, which seem to be the driving force of his education reforms. “As I said, it is the children of poor and ordinary people of Kaduna State that go to public schools. We are committed to ensuring that they get decent public education as I got it when I was growing up in Daudawa in Katsina State. I went to a public school and I got decent education. I was orphaned at the age of eight but I got free, basic education and that is why I am where I am. I intend, at whatever price, at whatever cost to bequeath that to children of ordinary people in Kaduna State. There is no going back,’’ El Rufai had promised.

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Largely, the governor has lived up to his promise. First, El Rufai declared 12 years of free and compulsory education up to junior secondary school level. With time, the policy was extended to up to senior secondary school level. In addition, he has revamped the State Scholarship Board, which is now called Kaduna Scholarship and Loans Board, to enable Kaduna State students who are eligible, to further their education. Most importantly, the governor has scaled up the scholarship from the meager N8,000, an amount that wouldn’t cover even the tuition fee, to a whopping N105,000 on the average. In fact, the amount is to cover tuition, accommodation and purchase of text books and other learning materials. Similarly, Kaduna State is the first sub-national in Nigeria to put in place an 8% per annum interest loan scheme, especially for workers who are interested in furthering their education.

Secondly, in the area of health, massive investments have been made to ensure access to quality healthcare services. The government embarked on the ‘’Healthcare Under One Roof’’, which largely provided a standard functioning Primary Healthcare Centre in each ward. Specifically, the government had entered a partnership with General Electric (GE) to equip these PHCs while it handles the maintenance of the equipment. In addition, Kaduna Power Supply Company KAPSCO is working tirelessly to provide 24 hour electricity to these PHCs through Solar energy solution. Right now, quite a number of them are up and running on solar. Last January, the government launched the Contributory Health Scheme, to cater for residents of Kaduna State, which include vulnerable groups, pregnant women and children under the age of five, as well as People Living with Disability and the mentally challenged. Under the scheme, 3% will be deducted from the consolidated salaries of public servants as contribution. This will enable a family of six, including a husband and wife and four children to access healthcare at any time. On the other hand, Kaduna state government will set aside 1% of its consolidated revenue to cater for the vulnerable population who can afford the monthly premium.

Likewise, still in line with the ‘’Putting People First’’ philosophy, the El-Rufa’i led administration was the state to implement the new minimum wage as approved by the federal government. The governor also increased pensioners take-home from N3,000, without their prompting, to N30,000 to enhance their standard of living. Similarly, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Development is driving the Kaduna State women Empowerment Fund(KADSWEF) to improve women earning opportunities. In November 2018, Hajiya Hasat Baba, as Commissioner for Women Affairs, spearheaded the scheme, where N200million was disbursed to several women groups and cooperatives at a single digit loan. The beneficiaries included petty traders, young female entrepreneurs and startups, with a 10% component set aside for women living with disabilities. KADSWEF also provides entrepreneurial skills, business development, management and financial literacy to its beneficiaries. As at last year, KADSWEF has reached 7,064 beneficiaries, 1,736 (24%) and 5,328(75.4%) from rural centres across the 23 Local Government Areas in Kaduna State.

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In fact, the first batch of beneficiaries, are paying back by demonstrating remarkable profits, thereby guaranteeing that even more women will benefit. Impressed by the positive impact of the empowerment fund, Governor El Rufai announced at the 4th Kaduna Women Economic Empowerment Summit in October 2019, that KADSWEF fund has been jerked up two-folds to N800m in the 2020 budget. According to him, the amount will be further raised to N1billion annually, starting from 2021.

Significantly, El Rufai has embarked on a massive construction project which will change the face of Kaduna State. In June 2019, about a month after getting a second term, El Rufai turned his focus on infrastructural development as he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation(CCECC) for the road component of Kaduna Urban Renewal Project. The project, according to him, is to accelerate the urbanization of Kaduna city and major towns like Zaria and Kafanchan, where more than two-third of the population lives. This project has 14 components which include roads, mass transit, housing, improved land use, street lights, parks and recreational centres. Others are markets, neighborhood and waste management centres.

Almost immediately, the contractors have swung into action and the state capital has become one huge construction site. Men and equipment have been mobilized to different sites simultaneously. While some of these roads have been completed and opened for public use, others are in different stages of completion. On the other hand, surveys, valuation of property and designation of alternative routes have reached advanced stage on projects like new Kawo bridge. Similarly, the road project that starts from Rabah road, at Arewa House junction, through Unguwar Kanawa, to old NDA, linking western bypass to Rigasa train station will soon commence. Indeed, this 14 kilometre road is an ambitious one as it will have two bridges, one underpass and a flyover.

In addition, a road will be constructed from Police College Roundabout at Independence way, it will then cut through Kabala Costain and cross river Kaduna, where a bridge is already being constructed. Specifically, that road will link Kaduna North to Kaduna South local government areas, especially Aliyu Makama road at Barnawa area. When completed, this road will reduce the volume of traffic across the stadium roundabout. Right now, the traffic congestion on that road during rush hours, wastes travel time for both commuters and vehicle owners. According to reports, the completion of this new road and bridge will provide an alternative route for people plying the Stadium-Station Market-Barnawa road.

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Aside road construction, there are other components of the Urban Renewal Project, like the Centenary Park, which is nearing completion. In addition, the world class Galaxy Mall on Waff road, which is expected to be completed mid-2020, is part of the Urban Renewal Project. Already, investors like Shoprite and a leading cinema operator like Silverbird have shown interest in the mall. Likewise, the General Hassan Usman Katsina Park is also currently undergoing total reconstruction that would elevate it to its befitting status. It is expected to house a games arcade, a zoological garden, as well as a movie theatre. Indeed, Kaduna Urban Renewal Project is not just about beautifying the city and upgrading infrastructure. The project comes with a multiplicity of impacts, especially propelling the state to being the destination of choice for both local and foreign investors. Invariably, this will lead to job creation and provision for skilled and unskilled labour, thereby engaging most of the teeming youths roaming the streets.

For all intents and purposes, Governor Nasir El Rufai has shown that the common man is the focus of his administration and that ‘’Putting People First’’ wasn’t just a hollow campaign slogan but it is at the philosophy that drives his government.

Nabilah is a special assistant on media and communication in Kaduna state government

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0 Comments

  1. Alhaji
    Alhaji August 22, 23:02

    With all due regards to your article, I Mubarak I’m in full support of putting people firs.

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