1 January 2013

Nigeria: Budget 2013 - Kwankwaso's Unprecedented Feat


Kano State governor, Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, like most of his colleagues last week presented the 2013 Appropriation Bill before the Kano State House of Assembly. The presentation of the budget is, ordinarily, not something of elation. This is because, over the years, the budget and everything around it has been rubbished. The governed masses have come to regard the budget - at both the federal and state levels, as an annual ritual of concocting numbers that have no regard for the ordinary citizen both in abstract allocation and in concrete reality.

However, this is the pattern presently being turned around by Governor Kwankwaso, who set an unprecedented record of spending what belongs to the people on projects that directly affect the lives of all citizens. Following closely after the 2012 budget, his first since his second coming as Kano State governor, the 2013 Appropriation Bill, which is currently being considered by the Kano Assembly, has set aside 75 percent of the total budget for capital expenditure while the recurrent spending is pegged at 25 percent. Here lies the humanity of this budget. This is a feat that no one else has achieved, at least in Nigeria's recent past.

The 2013 budget, tagged "Budget of Economic Consolidation and Fiscal Discipline," is worth over N235 billion. Out of the total sum, over N175.5 billion is going for capital expenditure. This closely followed the pattern of the 2012 budget which was named "Budget of Economic Restoration and Development" which had 66 percent as capital expenditure. In the 2013 budget, Infrastructural Development has the lion share of N62.4 billion, Works and Housing is allocated N41.8 billion while Education got a record N24.17 billion. These figures and priority areas clearly spell out the tripartite concern of the Kwankwaso administration - placing Kano in its rightful place on the map of the country in terms of economic development.

While Nigerians lament over governments' insensitive and careless spending as seen in phony allocations to oil the machinery of government, Kwankwaso's is a true breath of fresh air; air of hope, service to the people and transparency. The trend in which large chunk of the budget is spent on the fewer number of the total population - those who run the system, is totally bereft of equality and social justice, to say the least. Inasmuch as those servicing the system need to be treated well, or even pampered, there should be a good volume of work to do. Therefore, the hitherto situation of greater money for recurrent expenditure meant more money on a people doing less (considering the size of the capital expenditure).

But, to call a spade by its name, even such convoluted allocation to recurrent expenditure is largely spent on a cohort spearheaded by the chief executives - the president or a governor with the people around him. The reason for notoriety of this trend of lopsided allocation in favour of recurrent spending is not far from this one. Over the years, it has served as a means of siphoning to the deep pockets of governors; monies that could otherwise be used for development projects that can benefit all taxpayers.

Herein lies what I can call the Kwankwaso temerity. Committed to his pledge that he was coming back to correct anomalies and turn around bastardized governance structure in Kano, Kwankwaso is no doubt on a populist mission to give people what belongs to them - not giving Esau what belongs to Joseph. He does this by setting an example with him and the people close to him. While in other climes, avenues of silently stealing from government's coffers are being widened, in Kano such avenues are totally closed and even the legitimate luxury otherwise enjoyed by such officeholders is being reviewed to be in tandem with affordable reality.

Starting with himself, Governor Kwankwaso abolished the so-called security vote. Shocker. Isn't it? But that is it and it has been so since May 2011. For him, rightly so, the security vote is but an avenue of grand theft under which presidents and governors blow off billions of naira that are not accounted for. For Kwankwaso, accountability is cardinal in handling public finance. Therefore he abolished the unjustifiable security vote and shut out his mind from the temptation of all the money that could be made from that windpipe. The commissioners and other heads of government agencies had their monthly overhead spending cut mostly by half from what was met on ground in May 2011. Ironically, this rationalization of funding has not affected efficiency of ministries and agencies. Thus, it could be said that the former arrangement was only extravagant, to say the least.

I often remember a sort of sermon on the modus operandi of his government, delivered by the governor at the occasion of the swearing-in of his first set of commissioners. Kwankwaso disabused the mind of anybody that may mistake his appointment into the state executive council as an invitation to come and 'chop'. He spelt it out that all luxury and enjoyment could only come from legitimate income of the commissioners. "Don't think that because a commissioner in the former government has built a mansion, now it is your chance to do the same. No. not in this administration," I remember him saying.

With the internally generated revenue (IGR) hitting an all-time mark of N1.7 billion from the meager N400 million this government met, and with the prudent manner in which these resources are prudently expended, Kano is truly on a golden path of true transformation. If the governor consolidated on his landmark achievements in the coming year, especially in the prioritized area of infrastructure and education as well as the development of Independent Power Project as introduced into the budget, then the dream of the Kanawa, of Kano taking the centre stage once again, is nigh.

-Hassan wrote in from Gadon Kaya quarters, Kano

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