BY IFEANYI CHUKWU NWANNAH
Recently a non-governmental organisation known as Zamfara Budget Working Group (BWG) assured that henceforth it will be working closely with the media and other relevant organisations in the state to ensure that any budget passed into law by the State House of Assembly must be judiciously utilised by the executive arm of government unlike the previous administrations whereby they throw the approved budget overboard and misappropriated the funds and went free without any measure from the House.
The group organised a three day capacity training in Gusau on media strategies on budgetary process.
In a paper presented by one of the resource persons, Comrade Babangida Umar Zurmi captioned “media strategies engagement” the presenter noted that budget means estimate, income and expenditure, saying that most governments are not applying the tools of budget which he said is the reason why most state governments find it very difficult to pay workers salaries for several months.
He said that there is misplacement of priorities that the public need the intervention of the press and other stakeholders. According to him, agenda setting can help the media on the issues of targeting, tracking the utilisation of the approved budget from the top to bottom to know how the money are being utilized. He noted that it will be of positive thinking that the state legislation, in regard to budget should monitor the executive arm of the government. He however stressed that the legislative should not be allowed to be caged by the executive.
The budget working group said that it has held various seminars and workshops suggesting to the state government on how to revitalize the agricultural sector and work seriously on the solid minerals it has to
depend less on federal allocation. According to the group Bakalori irrigation should be brought to its real focus noting that the dam can support agricultural activities and feed the whole West African countries.
The group noted that such approach can involve analyzing the position of agriculture and how best to make the sector an economic strong hold for the state as it is widely believed that no responsible government can treat agricultural sector with a wave of land without the reign of hunger and starvation in the land. It must therefore be committed to sound, consistent and qualitative agricultural programs.
Zamfara as a state has great potentials that can push it forward as one of the fastest growing economy in Nigeria if all the infrastructures are put to use. Zamfara with the motto “farming is our pride” has cotton, hides and skin, groundnuts, rice etc but yet agricultural sector is suffering a great set back making it very difficult to attract foreign and domestic investors. It is on record that before the discovery of crude oil, agriculture was the country’s main source of economy.
But Zamfara has remain a traditional rural economy in many significant aspects even though three quarter of its populace live on agriculture and about 80 percent live in rural areas yet the economic organisation is not one of market independent peasants agriculture.
There has been a welcome tendency to see the possibility of proportion of population below the poverty level to fall while those who are in poverty experienced deepening of their deprivation. People must not be allowed to become so poor that they offend or are hurtful to the society. There is a problem of poverty to the extent that low income or jobless people create problems in the society.
To live in penury may be sad but to offend the society, creating problems appears the real tragedy. There is no doubt that the penury of the poor does in fact affect the well being of the rich. This is why the budget working group is suggesting that the distribution below the poverty line has to be taken into account in arriving at a fuller picture of poverty. In tackling this aspect of the problem, the group suggested that several approaches are possible varying from incentive using taxes and subsidies.
The failure to revive agricultural sector has seriously affected the state economy, the nomadic, semi nomadic etc because the commercial agricultural, displacement of nomadic herdsmen due to the conversion of most grazing lands for projects and structures that are not completed.
The effect of the lost of animals stock is also compounded by severe worsening in terms of trade of animals thereby decimating the market mechanism.
The question now remains how Zamfara state government can adjust official production estimate. But there is the picture of a better food production situation in 2006. Despite the fact that the acreage in 2006 was known to be much higher.
Some corrections need to be made to increase coverage of movement across the frontier by road. While grains are for the dominate food in the state which are consumed in considerable amount, so that the food grains available should reflect variations in both grains and other food stuffs.
It could be noticed that the enormity of economic problems facing Zamfara have been observed. The fear of population running ahead of food production has been regularly noticed equally. No one can dismiss this problem and fear but what emerges irresistibly from the proceeding analysis is the danger of concentrating only on the federal allocation overlooking the details of agriculture on which the survival of millions of people crucially depend.
There is, thus a little evidence of a dramatic decline in food availability in Zamfara state. Indeed a modest increase in agricultural output was recorded in 2006 following the sale of 50,000 tons of grains to the federal government by the state government. The food output seems to very little but consumption estimate indicated no significant diminution and possibly a sizeable rise. It appears from this that the record of food out put in 2006 is higher.
Indeed, there is no picture of sharp fall in food consumption per head which emerges from the record. This is however more evidence of a rise if the government can develop agricultural infrastructures and sink more money in the sector. It is true that Former Governor Shinkafi’s administration sunk N5 billion on agriculture in the 2008 budget but agriculture needs more than that to be economic stronghold of the state.
The immigration of Zamfara people to search for greener pasture may not provide any substantial remedy. The economic decline of craft products, services and even general labour is visible as the youth are turning out to be political thugs, armed robbery etc. One decline therefore leads to the other and so on through multiplier effect.
The question to be asked here remains why must Zamfara State suffer economic depression when it has a lot. Isn’t there some inconsistency in assuming that the government should be blamed for the failure to promote agricultural activities? Yes the government has to be blamed because they made politics to attract the youth so that they shift from farming to politics collecting motorcycles from ZAPA for commercial purposes which they even sold and returned to politics.
Even those who were not taking hard drugs began to take them. So there is no inconsistency in assuming that Zamfara state government is responsible for the economic depression because it has failed to arrest the fallen standard of agriculture in the state. The influx of the youths to the urban areas has reduced the supply of food to the market. Again the government’s inability to reactivate the state fertilizer blending company in Gusau which can even create employment for over 4,000 people. The fertilizer blending company was said to be producing over 1800 bags of NPK fertilizer per day during Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima and Shinkafi tenures.
Solid Minerals: Zamfara state is blessed abundant solid mineral resources in the state yet untapped by the government. Comprehensive geological survey has shown and identified solid mineral deposit locations in the state. These include precious, semi precious, metallic and non metallic minerals such as gold, tantalite, columbite kaolin, galena, feldspar, clay, mica, beryllium, quartzite etc and they have continue to arouse and attract local and international attention with regard to mining and exploration of these vast deposits in the state.
For instance, tantalite and columbite are very large in Maradun, Anka, Magami, Maru Tsafe and Kaura Namoda. These strategic metals are used for rockets, aircraft engines, nuclear actors etc. in Anka and
Bukkuyum there are a very large deposit of gold. It is on record that the greatest source of Ghana’s economy was gold.
In Gusau, Moriki, Talata Mafara, Maradun, Maru, Kaura Namoda and Dansadau there is also a large quantity of kaolin which is used for pharmaceuticals’, cosmetics, paper, soap, paint etc. The same survey shows that gemstone is in a large deposit in places like Maru, Anka, Dansadau, Dangulbi, Tsafe, Gusau, Kaura etc. There is also zircon in a very large deposit in Maradun, Maru, Kaura, Bukkuyum, Tsafe, Magami and Dansadau.
While it is discovered that a very large deposit of mica is across the state, this metallic stones is used for electrical installations as fillers in paint, rubber and dry lubricants as decoration in wall paper and wolframites is also found in Anka, Kaura, Magami, Gumi etc which is used for electrical appliances.
BY IFEANYI CHUKWU NWANNAH