Atiku Bagudu, notorious for helping late dictator Sani Abacha to hide his loot, in 2015 rode on the wave of the popularity of the newly-formed All Progressives Congress (APC) to become Kebbi State governor.
After eight years in the office, Mr Bagudu is set to return to the National Assembly as a senator to represent the Kebbi Central District, the seat that he held before running for governor. So, how did the Northwestern state fare under his administration, and under what conditions will Nasir Idris, the governor-elect, meet the state when he mounts the saddle on 29 May?
One of the most important metrics in assessing a state is its ability to generate revenue for capital and recurrent expenditures, payments of debts and settlement of liabilities. Sub-national governments in Nigeria, apart from their internally generated revenues (IGR), also get monthly allocations from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
When Mr Bagudu took office in 2015, Kebbi State’s annual IGR was N3.8 billion, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), leaving the state heavily dependent on the FAAC handouts.
From 2008, the state’s IGR had hovered between N3.5 and N4.4 billion, only reaching 5.4 billion in 2012 before dropping back to N3.7 billion in 2013.
However, during Mr Bagudu’s eight-year tenure as governor, the IGR rose significantly and by 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic when many other states witnessed a decline in their IGR, Kebbi had the highest growth rate of 87 per cent from N7.37 billion in 2019 to N13.78 billion in 2020. The IGR, however, fell to N9.86 billion in 2021.
Despite the increase in IGR, however, the state still depended heavily on federal allocation to continue running.
For instance, in 2020 when the IGR recorded growth, it contributed only 20.14 per cent to total revenue, with FAAC allocation making up the remaining 80 per cent.
In 2017, IGR contributed only about 9.88 per cent and 8.2 per cent in 2018, with federal allocations amounting to 90.11 and 92 per cent respectively.
In 2019, the IGR represented 12.22 per cent of the total revenue as FAAC allocation remained at 87.78 per cent. IGR grew in 2020 to 20.14 per cent but fell back to 14.43 per cent in 2021.
Overall, Mr Bagudu increased Kebbi’s IGR from N3.8 billion in 2015 to N9.86 billion in 2021.
It is believed that Kebbi’s partnership with Lagos State to produce the Lagos-Kebbi (Lake) rice helped the state to leverage the ban placed on the importation of rice through Nigerian land borders to increase IGR.
Meanwhile, in terms of the ability to sustain spending, tax and other policies in the long run without threatening the government’s ability to pay its debts, Kebbi performed optimally under Mr Bagudu.
In 2017, Kebbi was 16th in the fiscal sustainability ranking by the civic tech organisation, BudgIt. But with the growing IGR, Kebbi moved upward to 11th place in 2020 and fifth place in the 2021 rankings.
The growth, BudgIt noted in its report, was driven largely by growth in the state’s IGR. “Kebbi State grew its revenue by 87.02 per cent from N7.4bn in 2020 to N13.8bn in 2021,” it noted.
States usually take loans to cover deficits in their budgets and Kebbi is not an exception. Under Mr Bagudu, Kebbi’s foreign debt burden was reduced slightly but domestic debt increased significantly.
However, between 2016 and 2021, the debt profile of the state grew by 120.33 per cent. It stood at $40.9 million in foreign debt and N61.3 billion in domestic debt as of December 2022, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO).
But the state has one of the lowest debt profiles in the country, ranking as the 34th most indebted state alongside Katsina, Ebonyi, Jigawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2021.
Kebbi State’s total debt stock as of the year-end of 2018 stood at N81.4 billion, with its domestic debt portfolio rising from N48.7 billion by December 2017 to N67.4 billion.
External debt, on the other hand, reduced slightly from the 2017 level of $47.8 million to $45.6 million.
In its annual ranking report, BudgIt noted that the increase in Kebbi’s total debt portfolio over the last three years can be linked to its over-reliance on FAAC allocation and weak IGR.
Ease of doing Business
The ease of doing business is generally used to measure how government regulations affect the establishment of a business from scratch. It is used to assess how a government’s regulation of businesses might encourage or discourage investors and entrepreneurs.
In 2018, a report titled, Comparing Business Regulation for Domestic Firms in 36 States and FCT Abuja, placed Kebbi in 20th where the ease of doing business is fair. Kebbi scored 76 of 100, according to the report by the World Bank group.
During Mr Bagudu’s eight-year administration, Kebbi improved in the ranking, which focused on the state’s rules and processes that can lead to good outcomes for entrepreneurs willing to start a business.
In 2022 the state was ranked 6th in a similar report by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC). In the PEBEC ranking, Kebbi scored 6.49 behind the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Gombe, which topped the list. Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, Taraba, Delta and Bauchi and Akwa Ibom tied for the fourth position.
Poverty deepens, Unemployment soars
In spite of the good numbers on the economic front, the poverty and unemployment data reviewed for this report showed that poverty deepened and became more widespread in Kebbi even as the number of unemployed people increased between 2015 and 2023.
In 2015, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) listed Kebbi as the second poorest state just after Bauchi, with over 70 per cent of its population living in poverty.
Also, in 2022, Kebbi remained one of the states with the highest number of poor people, according to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The 2022 MPI report is more inclusive. It measures multidimensional poverty using both monetary and non-monetary terms including residents’ access to healthcare, education, living standards, and work and shocks – which was expanded to include security and unemployment shocks.
The report noted that the poverty rate in Kebbi, as in Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Gombe and Yobe, was above 95 per cent.
Despite housing some of the highest numbers of people living in poverty, Kebbi still managed to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
According to the NBS unemployment data, 17.25 per cent of Kebbi’s working population are unemployed.
The 2017 Labour Force Statistics by the NBS showed that Kebbi, alongside Zamfara 6.5, Taraba (6.2 per cent), Adamawaa (5.9 per cent), Osun (4.6 per cent), and Katsina (2.8 per cent) have the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
However, by 2020 when states like Sokoto had reduced their unemployed working population from 16 per cent in 2017 to 14.5 per cent in 2020, Kebbi’s grew.
Another important index used in measuring the well-being of a state is the health condition of its residents.
In Kebbi, the appalling situation of the health sector hardly improved under Mr Bagudu’s eight-year rule, according to several reports reviewed.
When Mr Bagudu became governor in 2015, the state had one of the worst health indices, ranking 31 out of the 36 states in the State of States ranking by the Kingmakers. The ranking used a combination of figures from Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Child Mortality (CMR), Child Nutrition and Life Expectancy.
In the IMR ranking, Kebbi was placed at 25 of the 36 states with the lowest number of deaths of children under one year of age.
According to the Kingmakers’ State of States ranking of infant mortality rate (IMR), Kebbi as of 2015 recorded 56 deaths per 1,000 live births of children under the age of one. Edo and Ogun states, which ranked first and second respectively, recorded 14 deaths per 1,000 live births, the ranking shows. Yobe and Kaduna ranked the worst with 118 and 110 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively.
Kebbi also recorded 266 deaths of children under the age of five per 1,000 live births in 2015, according to the CMR ranking.
The ranking, which also measured children’s access to child nutrition, puts Kebbi at no 34 of 36 states, only behind Kano, Katsina and Kaduna. Also, the state’s life expectancy was at 53.7 per cent in 2015.
But the health indices, measured again in 2020 by the same organisation, showed that the health conditions of people in Kebbi had worsened with the life expectancy dropping by six years to 47.4, the worst in the country.
The report noted that any gains (or reductions) in life expectancy can be attributed to a number of factors, including rising (or lowering) living standards, improved (or deteriorating) lifestyle and better (or worsening) education, as well as greater (or reduced) access to quality health services.
Kebbi is also ranked worst – 37 of 37 states and FCT – in the overall quality of health measured by the Kingmakers’ report.
Also, spending for the health sector, when measured in percentages fluctuated under Mr Bagudu.
The budgetary allocation for health in Kebbi State was at 7.1 per cent in 2015. It rose to nine per cent in 2016 but back to 7 per cent in 2017.
In 2019 and 2020, the state government committed a total of N8.09 billion or 6.6 per cent and N9.64 billion or 6.98 per cent, respectively of its total budget for the health sector, according to BudgIt.
Indices in Kebbi’s education sector revealed that the sector recorded some improvements under Mr Bagudu’s watch.
Over 1,000 teachers in primary schools were trained under the World Bank-Federal Government-funded Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) Programme, aimed at solving the menace of out-of-school children in the country.
BESDA and the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) – both World Bank-assisted programmes – are also believed to have helped drive enrollment and retention of children in schools. Mr Bagudu’s government also recruited about 2,000 teachers during his tenure due to the death of teachers. Yet, during the Teachers Qualifying Examinations by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) in 2023, Kebbi had the lowest number of candidates, TRCN Registration, Josiah Ajiboye, said.
When he assumed the position of leadership in 2015, Kebbi’s performance in education was unimpressive, ranking 33 of 37 states including the FCT.
Primary and Secondary School attendance rate was at 34.9 and 34.6 per cent respectively. And the education quality was one of the worst in the country at an abysmal 12.01 per cent when measured by the pass rate of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). It was only better than Katsina (10.35), Gombe (8.69), Jigawa (7.03), Zamfara (5.37) and Yobe (4.37).
The metrics, however, showed an increase in enrollment over the subsequent years with the number of candidates that secured at least five credits – including English and Mathematics – in 2017 rising to 43.67 per cent.
In 2021, 77 per cent of candidates who sat for the WASSCE in public schools got at least five credits including English and Mathematics.
However, school attendance dropped to 26.4 per cent and 18.4 per cent for primary and secondary school respectively, in 2020, according to the Kingmakers report, which also sourced its data from the NBS and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program.
Also, more than 95 per cent of children in Kebbi State are multi-dimensionally poor, according to a 2022 report by the NBS, which means they, among other things, lack proper access to quality education.
This could perhaps be linked to the increase in the mass abductions of students in the Northwestern region around this time. More than 1,500 students were kidnapped in multiple attacks in the Northwest between 2020 and 2021, most of them in the neighbouring Zamfara and Niger state.
But Kebbi did not witness any mass abductions until June 2021 when gunmen abducted some pupils and teachers of the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri.
When it did, Mr Bagudu promised to join in the search for the schoolgirls, assuring parents of their release. But as time went by, his words become mere rhetorics and parents would later accuse the government of leaving them to their fates.
However, the pupils were released in batches after payment of huge ransoms, most recently N80 million by the parents. The last batch of students were released on 25 May —almost two years after they were abducted.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.
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