By Princess Funsho Sumanu
Information Officer, Ministry of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning
Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s emergence as the 6th Executive Governor of the state is unprecedented in the history of Kogi State. Many indeed referred to it as anomalous, judging from the circumstances that characterized it.
On the 27th of January 2015, Kogi State witnessed a mammoth crowd in the capital city of Lokoja. The atmosphere was palpably electric. People came out from all walks of life, adorned in different multicolored attires, ostensibly to catch a glimpse of the historic inaugural ceremony that birthed the Yahaya Bello’s administration. To many, it was the beginning of a new dawn rooted in high hopes and expectations.
What added further glamour to the ceremony was that Alhaji Yahaya Bello was the youngest governor in the whole country and came from a minority part of the state.
His face beaming with smiles, he promised never to downplay the confidence reposed on him. It was immediately evident that the young governor knew what laid ahead of him.
The young and vibrant governor promised to change the narrative of the politics of the state. Looking at the rich cultural heritage of the state, Governor Bello admitted that there is unity in diversity and that diversity is the strength of the state and the nation at large.
Matching his words with actions, Governor Bello started his administration with a blueprint tagged: ” New Direction”. He stated that the New Direction Blueprint was a compendium of his mission, vision, policies, strategies, target and templates which, together, will help achieve accelerated development of the state.
From Security, Education, Health, and building of infrastructure, Governor Bello has done remarkably well and outstandingly.
Yahaya Bello’s administration is premised on justice, equity, and fairness. He has continuously rolled out policies and programs with direct impacts on the lives of the people of the state.
Let us take a look at his giant strides In the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and Economic Planning. There is no gain in saying that the Ministry of Finance Budget and Economic Planning is a strategic sector of this present administration.
The ministry is pivotal to the realization of the agenda on the state economy. Furthermore, it is also responsible for the realization of the goals of the government thereby translating government policy thrust into manageable programs, projects and activities.
Over the seven and half years, Governor Bello, with a firm hand, has ensured that the resources of the state are well utilized. Little wonder the state was rated first in the World Bank portfolio performance back-to-back beating all other states in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s parting legacy to the confluence is the 32-year Action Plan. The signatures of the present administration have been engraved on successive governments.
The Action Plan, aimed at policy sustainability of the continuous growth and development of the state, will remind us of the piece written by the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, His Highness Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum titled “Flashes of Thoughts”. He X-rayed the roles the forefathers of the emirate played in what makes Dubai what it is today.
And just like the great scholar, Isaac Newton once said, “…If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of the giants.”
The fascinating thing about the 32-year development plan is that it was domesticated in the three Senatorial Districts of the State after the unveiling in Glass House in Lokoja, justifying an all-inclusive government. This has, in no small measure, proffered resolutions that have addressed the needs of the people.
Governor Bello, is no doubt, setting the state on a path of sustainable development through consistent efforts geared toward a brighter future for the state.
One thing you cannot take away from this administration is the number of awards that the governor keeps winning over the years and still counting. These awards are meritorious and deserving. Just last year on the 14th of November, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, in collaboration with World Bank, organized a dinner for state governors to celebrate State Fiscal Transparency Accountability Sustainable Program (SFTAS) achievements since its inception. During these award sessions, Kogi received three awards for very good performance in the following categories:
Fiscal Transparency and Accountability,
Domestic revenue mobilization.
The undaunted and unwavering governor, in his pursuit to leave the state better than he met it, pursued to a logical end the land dispute between Kogi and Anambra states. The aftermath of His Excellency’s dogged struggle in that regard led to the historic judgment in favor of Kogi state thereby conferring the oil-producing status on the state.
It is a known fact that oil-producing states have some percentage allocated to them by the Federal Government. No matter how little it may be, it is extra money for the state which can be used to build more basic infrastructure to boost and develop the economy.
The digital governor has been raising the bar and setting standards in all sectors across the state.
It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. Spurred by this aphorism, the administration deemed it necessary to train and retrain its planning Officers by organizing and attending training, both local and international, to develop the capacities of planning officers and to sharpen their knowledge for effective service delivery. These steps have in no small measure improved knowledge and skills along with the world’s best practices.
A very good example of such programs was the 5-day capacity building on the Integrated Sustainable Development Goal (ISDG) Model and System Dynamics Theory training. Another example, was the two-day workshop on
Grantsmanship For professional development of Staff/Lecturers/Scientists and industry Partners/ Government Agencies by the State government in collaboration with Delaware State University, USA
I make bold to say these refresher programs yielded positive results as one of the staff of the Ministry, Mr. Olajide Samuel, won the 2020 Leadership Award Performance. This recognition projected the state positively and even showcased the efforts of the Alh Yahaya administration for his priority on workers’ welfare. This wouldn’t have been achievable without the refresher program.
Participatory budgeting no doubt allows citizens and stakeholders to identify, discuss and prioritize public spending on projects and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent.
Under the leadership of Alh. Yahaya Bello, the timely preparation of the annual budget as well as the yearly publication of state-audited financial statements is obligatory. This transparent policy gave the state eligibility to participate in the SFTAS (P for R).
Citizens’ engagement is a signal pointer to the present administration which also earned the state DLI 1.2 with a total grant of $3,000,000 in 2018 and 2019 respectively through the IVA assessment.
It is also worthy of note that the state budget was translated into the 3 major local languages. Ebira, Igala, and Yoruba, making it the first of its kind in the state. For the first time, people who nearly could not speak English can pick up the budget and know how and what the government spends.
Sustaining the tempo of accountability and transparent policy, the new direction government has continued to publish state-audited financial statements regularly. Also, the timely preparation of a realistic budget and publication of the state financial statements earned the state a total sum of $1.5m grant
In addition, Kogi state was awarded the best-performing state in the North Central for transparency and inclusive budget by Social Economic Research and Development Center (SERDEC.)
Mindful of his responsibility for undertaking public infrastructure projects, and financing it, this administration was determined from the onset to pursue vigorously foreign direct investment. In this aspect, Alh Yahaya Bello’s led administration keeps encouraging business investors from within and outside the country to partner with the state to develop other sectors in the State.
A milestone achievement witnessed in this area is a group of investors known as Delaware African Caribbean Coalition (DACC) from the USA, visited the state on an assessment tour which led to the signing of a business agreement in the areas of Mining, Infrastructure development, Education, Tourism, and Water transportation. This has no doubt boosted the economy of the state, especially in infrastructural investment which has a strong impact on economic growth.
Also, part of the achievements we must not forget to mention is the 50-ton capacity Paddy Mill Rice Plant. The economic team was headed by the Commissioner for Finance, Budget, and Economic Planning, Hon. Asiwaju Idris. The objective of this project is to ensure that government expenditures are controlled in line with the approved annual budget estimates to ensure value for money and curtail wasteful expenditures and also ensure food security for its citizens.
In terms of roads network, Gov. Yahaya Bello’s decision to partner with the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) with aid from the World Bank was basically to put an end to the environmental degradation disaster that has impoverished the agrarian communities. For instance, the erosion site in Okene Local Council has a gully of 1.02m length with width varying from 20m to 25m and a depth of 17m to 20m having existed for more than 25 years and neglected by the previous administrations. Others include the Adumu road gully site in Olamaboro Local Council and the Agassa erosion site also in Okene.
The partnership with NEWMAP recorded a lot of achievements, especially in reclamation of land which was destroyed by gully erosions and floods.
Most of the roads in the East, Central, and even the state capital are all now motorable and wearing a new look. Kudos to the Monitoring and Evaluation department of the ministry which is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring government projects and programs. It also ensures jobs are executed to specification and there is value for money. This is a mission accomplished by this administration.
This is a departure from the old ways where money meant for projects is diverted without monitoring. These roads now ease the problem of transportation in rural areas in the movement of rural dwellers’ goods. The availing road network will also attract people to the state for business thereby boosting the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Governor Yahaya Bello can best be described as a visionary and detribalized leader. He believes in equal opportunity for all. It was further proven when he pronounced the establishment of a new university in Okun land, the Kogi State University, Kabba. The establishment of this University would no doubt be of immense benefit to the development of the host community and the state at large. The youths from within and outside the state would also gain access to higher academic pursuits. It will also provide a solid base for the human resources needed for the actualization of a self-sufficient economy.
With these and many more of the New Direction Government achievements in other sectors, Alh Yahaya Bello’s name will linger long in the development tales of the state. You could always cut him some slack because his parting legacy will forever endear him to the hearts of all Kogites. His commitment to the development of the state has been evident through his focus on education and economic growth. The opportunities he has created for the youth will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the future of Kogi State.