Between 2018 and January this year, I visited Sokoto State a number of times to examine the impact of various government projects on the population in order to produce a number of reports. One thing that struck me was the quality of thinking behind the projects and initiatives in various sectors, which aimed at a major turnaround for the public good, using modern scientific and technological initiatives. These sectors include livestock, Islamic/Qur’anic schools, finance, health, stipends for the poor and support for widows etc.
Cattle breeding project
In 2018, I was at Rabah, hometown of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, himself a moderniser in his own right. There is a huge agricultural facility located in the community, with a strong livestock component spread across the vast farmlands. It is known as the Cattle Breeding, Milk and Meat Project, an initiative of the Tambuwal administration. Huge pivots which can water an astonishing 60 hectares in an hour were already in place, and combine harvesters, dairy equipment, tractors, and boilers had been imported for the project. One of the aims of the effort was to produce feed, as well as cross the indigenous Sokoto Gudali breed of cattle with exotic breeds. All of a sudden, bandits infiltrated the community and brought a halt to the work. However, the state government would not be frustrated. The cattle breeding project had to be moved to Dogon Daji, where one 171 hectares have been set aside for the project.
In 2019, 117 exotic breeds of cattle were imported from South Africa by the state government, and these were distributed to 13 cluster farms. Sidi Akibu farm, AbdulAziz Farm and another farm at Rujin Sambo, are some of the cluster farms visited by this writer. Sokoto Gudali, as well as the exotic breeds, were seen at the locations, and the farmers spoke well of the project. The arrival of the exotic breeds was followed by the installation of corals and milk collection facilities in the 13 clusters.
There is an effort which aims at enhancing feed productivity and developing modern infrastructures for animal forage production. Liquid nitrogen producing equipment has been installed at the Cattle Reproduction Centre, located at Runjin Sambo in Sokoto metropolis. And liquid nitrogen is important in the preservation of semen and embryos. There is also a mobile laboratory vehicle for artificial insemination, pregnancy test and embryo transfer. A large work force of veterinary doctors, very critical to the livestock transformation effort, is present in the state.
The livestock transformation programme is guided by a modernising ethos aiming at improving local breeds, which will inevitably produce more milk and more meat. Inevitably, the state will become a regional hub for the livestock sector. Already, farmers in the state, whose cattle have been crossed with the exotic breed, speak of greater milk and meat yield among their herds. A one-day old female calf produced from crossing the Brangus bull, a South African breed, with Sokoto Gudali, costs N1.4million. The farmers are smiling to the banks. The livestock transformation project is being steered by the Ministry of Animal Health under the able leadership of Professor Abdulkadir Usman Junaidu, a globally recognised vet, who is the commissioner for animal health. The livestock transformation project will earn the state N500billion annually when it fully takes off.
Rise in IGR
The modernising effort also impacted the Ministry of Finance. When the government of Tambuwal came on stream in 2015, finances “were at low ebb owing to poor FAAC inflows, in addition to weak internally generated revenue.”
Abdulsamad Dasuki, former commissioner for finance, commented on the reform agenda of the state government, saying the Tambuwal administration “developed strategies to reform public finance to ensure prudent management of resources, blocked loopholes in state payroll and instituted a regime of transparency and accountability in public finance.”
The Tambuwal administration introduced the Cash Management Strategy, which played a role in turning around the finances of the state.
According to Aminu Zurmi, the executive chairman of the State Internal Revenue Service, which sits in a new aesthetically pleasing building in the capital ,“The reforms began in 2017 by Governor Tambuwal. Our office used to be known as the Board of Internal Revenue. The governor is proactive and wants to key into the internally generated revenue, with a view to improving on the collection of internally generated revenue, as well as block leakages.”
Shedding light on the impact of the reforms he said, “In 2016, N4.56 billion was realised as internally generated revenue. In 2017, the figure rose to N9bn. In 2018, the figure rose from N9bn to N13bn. In 2019, it rose to N18bn. You can see the astronomical rise. In 2017, Sokoto State came second after Ebonyi in terms of percentage collection as rated by the National Bureau of Statistics.”
Reforming 10,000 Qur’anic schools
The Sokoto State Government, in a move to halt street begging, is reforming its 10,000 Qur’anic/Islamic schools, a project domiciled in the Sokoto State Arabic and Islamic Education Board (AIEB). It is doing this by introducing the Indonesian Pondok system of lslamic education. Pondok is a system in which children, while receiving Islamic education, will be trained and retrained so that they will require enough skills enabling them to earn an income and stand on their own. The Indonesian model has the potential to address the menace of Nigeria’s out of school children as enunciated by the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), World Bank and other development bodies.
Medical diagnostic centre
An ultra-modern medical diagnostic centre established by the Sokoto State Government has state-of-the-art medical equipment, which will reduce the number of persons leaving Nigeria to seek better health abroad. The N3.2bn facility is located along airport road in Sokoto and is impressive even when viewed from a distance.
Dr Ali Inname, Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, stated in a press release ahead of the commissioning of the centre on December 1, 2021 that, “A staggering number of Nigerians seek health care services abroad. It has been reported that 5,000 Nigerians travel overseas for medical treatment monthly, with an estimated bill of over $Ibn annually. This has been as a result of non-availability of advanced health care technology in our health facilities.
“There are 860 public and private health facilities in Sokoto State. For this number of health facilities to provide effective services for a population of five million in the state, they must adopt advanced technologies that are used globally.”
Zakat, a tax on wealthy Muslims is a great aid to widows, the poor, orphans and other needy persons in the state. It is an Islamic levy paid by the rich to the deserving poor. And 17.89 per cent of the state’s 5.7milion persons are designated as very poor, 59.64 per cent are designated as poor as indicated in a document provided by the Zakat Commission, also known as SOZECOM. Given the rising poverty and neglect in the country, the Zakat intervention in Sokoto is commendable.
Over the years, SOZECOM has distributed billions of naira worth of food items, clothes, medical and health services across the 23 local government areas of Sokoto State. There is a 10-year blueprint by SOZECOM to curb the menace of poverty in the state by 2030, Muhammad Maidoki, the executive chairman of the commission said.
Tambuwal’s modernisation of the livestock sector will improve the indigenous breeds through the pathway of genetic engineering, provide jobs along an extensive value chain, raise internally generated revenue and earn the state N500bn annually in the long term. It will improve the finance sector, block leakages, weed out ghost workers and guarantee transparency and accountability through the use of the treasury single account.
This has earned the state commendation from outside.
The Zakat Commission is a people-oriented social intervention strategy, which in its functioning, will confront poverty, hunger and injustice, thereby reducing conflict and tension. Zakat is a beautiful functioning safety net. The diagnostic medical centre will halt migration by many in search of health by bringing a world class facility to the doorsteps of poor locals.
Ennobling the Qur’anic schools by adopting Indonesia’s Pondok system will play a role in halting street begging in the state.
Ujorha, a freelance journalist, wrote from Abuja