Muham­mad Al-Ghaz­ali Niger State de­serves more re­spect

Daily Trust - - OPINION - ghaz­a­l­ism@gmail.com

Ihave re­peated th­ese lines far too often in the past on th­ese pages and, at the risk of bor­ing my read­ers; I dare to re­peat them yet again: Niger state is a fan­tas­ti­cally gifted state. Na­ture has been abun­dantly kind to it. By virtue of its lo­ca­tion, cli­mate, soil and hy­drol­ogy, Niger State has the ca­pac­ity to feed the na­tion. Its lush plains and paddy fields are not only suit­able for all-sea­son farm­ing, they are also of­fer vast graz­ing fields, fish­ery and forestry.

It was not for noth­ing that un­til re­cently, Niger state was host to the most ad­vanced cat­tle and abat­toir in the en­tire fed­er­a­tion. The Nige­rian Ce­real Re­search In­sti­tute (NCRI) was not lo­cated in Niger state by ac­ci­dent. It was done in recog­ni­tion of the vast marshy ter­rain that stretch from Badeggi all the way to the banks of the trib­u­taries of the river Niger close to Pat­tegi.

Apart from rice, and other ce­re­als, cow­pea, Bam­bara nuts, root and tu­bers (yam, cas­sava and pota­toes), oil seeds and nuts (soy­beans, sheaths, ground­nuts and a va­ri­ety of fruits (mango, or­ange, ba­nana, cashew and guava), cot­ton and sugar cane have for long prof­ited a string of small-time farm­ers in the state. Un­til it suc­cumbed to mis­man­age­ment and un­fair for­eign im­ports, the once buoy­ant Bacita Sugar fac­tory sourced a healthy chunk of its es­sen­tial raw ma­te­ri­als from Niger state.

On top of all th­ese the state is also rich in gold, clay, sil­ica and sand, gran­ites, mar­ble, cop­per, iron, lead, kaolin, lime­stone are known to ex­ist in the state al­though is also true ex­cept for a com­pany linked to the former Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Ghali Umar Na’Abba which is said to be do­ing well min­ing Gold, most of the other min­er­als listed above have not been quan­ti­fied and as­sessed for their qual­ity and eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity.

But the ex­is­tence of three ma­jor hy­dro-elec­tric power sta­tions lo­cated at Kainji, Jebba, Shi­roro, along with another cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion at Zungeru should more than com­pen­sate for that. Added to its rich hu­man re­source, Niger state should be among the most eco­nom­i­cally vi­able states in the na­tion, and should never be clas­si­fied among the states strug­gling to pay worker salaries. Its in­ter­nally gen­er­ated rev­enue should also be top­notch. Sadly that has not been the case.

In spite of its un­com­mon en­dow­ments, how­ever, even as I write this, the state that is tak­ing all the na­tional ac­co­lades for its in­dus­trial scale pro­duc­tion of rice is Zam­fara and not Niger state! De­spite the pres­ence of three hy­dro-power sta­tions in the state with the pos­si­bil­ity of two more at Zungeru and Gu­rara, the hap­less in­di­genes of the state have en­dured dark­ness for the up­wards of two months while elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from the same dams were chan­neled to Abuja and other lo­ca­tions. And that is in spite of the ob­vi­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal de­pri­va­tions and con­ta­gious ef­fect of the lo­ca­tion of the dams on the eco­nomic well­be­ing of their im­me­di­ate host com­mu­ni­ties.

To be fair, most of the prob­lems af­flict­ing the state presently pre-date the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion in the state. In re­cent times, the Gov­er­nor, Abubakar Sani Bello, has also proved that he is a lis­ten­ing gov­er­nor. The pot­hole-strewn road that links Suleja with Minna has been re­ha­bil­i­tated de­spite the vastly di­min­ished al­lo­ca­tions from the fed­er­a­tion ac­count, even if it is also glar­ing that much still needs to be done.

This dis­course, there­fore, is more of a lamen­ta­tion of the ob­vi­ous in­jus­tice the state has been forced to en­due by the fed­eral au­thor­i­ties. For in­stance, while the adop­tion of the Abuja master­plan pre­sup­posed that all the ad­ja­cent state cap­i­tals will be linked by dual car­riage-ways, the main road link­ing Abuja to Minna was the last to be con­tem­plated. Niger state, we must not for­get, con­trib­uted the largest chunk of land to the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory.

The same per­cep­tion of in­jus­tice no doubt con­trib­uted to the re­cent call by the Niger state govern­ment for 13 per­cent deriva­tion from the fed­eral govern­ment for the var­i­ous

It was not for noth­ing that un­til re­cently, Niger state was host to the most ad­vanced cat­tle and abat­toir in the en­tire fed­er­a­tion. The Nige­rian Ce­real Re­search In­sti­tute (NCRI) was not lo­cated in Niger state by ac­ci­dent The Hy­dro-Elec­tric Power Pro­duc­ing Ar­eas De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (HYPERDEC) with head­quar­ters in Minna was ap­proved for take-off sev­eral years ago but there seems to be an ab­so­lute lack of en­thu­si­asm from the fed­eral govern­ment to see it through

dams lo­cated in the state. The dy­nam­ics may be dif­fer­ent from that of the oil com­mu­ni­ties in the Niger Delta, but the logic and en­vi­ron­ment haz­ards are not dis­sim­i­lar. The fed­eral govern­ment cer­tainly can­not af­ford to take the ci­vil­ity and pa­tri­otic dis­po­si­tion of the peo­ple of Niger state for granted. And Niger state has a long list of griev­ances to point at.

The Hy­dro-Elec­tric Power Pro­duc­ing Ar­eas De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (HYPERDEC) with head­quar­ters in Minna was ap­proved for take-off sev­eral years ago but there seems to be an ab­so­lute lack of en­thu­si­asm from the fed­eral govern­ment to see it through. The peo­ple of the af­fected states cov­ered by the com­mis­sion have been pa­tient so far, but we must be un­der few il­lu­sions that were the same dams lo­cated in the Niger Delta, the power trans­mis­sion lines lead­ing from them would have come un­der threat ages ago.

The Niger state govern­ment will also be within its rights to mourn about in­suf­fi­cient fund­ing and fail­ure to up­grade the Na­tional Ce­real Re­search in­sti­tute to meet its un­doubted po­ten­tials by the fed­eral au­thor­i­ties. Seek­ing to di­ver­sify the econ­omy is one thing, do­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate things to make the as­pi­ra­tion a re­al­ity ap­par­ently re­mains a ma­jor chal­lenge. But Niger state must not be left hold­ing the can in the process.

It is time that the ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tions are asked about the var­i­ous in­ter­ven­tion funds ap­proved by the fed­eral au­thor­i­ties and their ju­di­cious ap­pli­ca­tion. The rul­ing party must find a way to ac­knowl­edge the over­whelm­ing sup­port it gar­nered from Niger state in the last gen­eral elec­tions. And one way to do so is cer­tainly not by deny­ing them ac­cess to the elec­tric­ity that is partly-sourced from their back­yard. It is so in­ex­pli­ca­ble to con­tem­plate that as of to­day, even the near most com­mu­ni­ties to the three dams have not been con­nected to the na­tional grid.

The peo­ple of Niger state cer­tainly de­serve more re­spect for their sac­ri­fice for the na­tional good like their coun­ter­parts in the rest of the na­tion whose con­ta­gious re­sources con­trib­ute to na­tional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

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