ByÂ WOLE MOSADOMI
WHEN the global economicÂ meltdownÂ came,Â the reality dawned on Nigeria that there is no hiding place or pretence that nothing was happening.
The situation called for serious â€œbelt tighteningâ€ measures. One of the voices that saw the reality in the â€œglobal economy doomâ€ was the governor of Niger State, Dr. Muâ€™azu Babangida Aliyu, who askedÂ Nigerians to see the situationÂ as a reality and should therefore be prepared for the negative impact.
â€œNigeria is not an islandÂ and what is happening and what is going to happen economically is a global phenomenon and no country can be exempted and so for any economic expert to isolate Nigeria from the economic meltdown is a deceit,â€ the governor had said.
To tackle the problem in his state, Aliyu tightened all loopholes capable of draining the scarce resources accruing to the state knowing fully well that the federal allocation will dwindle.
Even when former chairman of Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), Alhaji Umaru Ndanusa, suggested to Niger State government to reduce its workforce by 40 per cent in view of theÂ meltdown, the governor, though appreciated his concern, preferred to take other steps than lay workers off.
He reduced the overhead cost to ministries and parastatals in the state by 50 per cent, suspended the payment of allowances and other fringe benefits to all political appointees including himself. He has also prioritised all the on-going capital projects in the state as they are being financed according to the urgent need and the impact it has on people.
Aliyu has made it clear that no worker in the state will be retrenched neither will their salaries be delayed or not paid. He said that whereas the allocation accruing to the state has been dwindling, dividends of democracy will continue to be brought to the doorsteps of the people.
The governor said his administration would be more prudent in handling the scarce resources to the state during the retreat of secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) with secretaries to the state governmentÂ (SSGs) in Minna, Niger State when he reminded public officers across the country that their call is to serve humanity and not embezzle public funds, saying â€œif you are in the public service to make money, it is a wrong choice and you are advised to quit now before it is too lateâ€.
And to boost the revenue of the state, Aliyu has charged the state Board of Internal Revenue to brace up as he set a N650m monthly revenue target for it from the former N200m.
That was not the first charge to the Board. Just a month after being sworn-in in 2007, the governor charged the Board to increase its revenue generation from N60m to N200m and the Board not only complied but surpassed the target. And in order to brace up for the challenges ahead, the state governor approved a refresher course for theÂ chairman of the Board, Alhaji Muâ€™azu Bawa, in America.
His return few months ago has done wonders as the Board did not only meet another target of N400m monthly revenue but surpassed it by N18m thus generating N418 for the month of April.
Secretary to the state government, Dr. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya, in an interview, said government envisaged a possible drop in the federal allocation some months ago as a result of the global economic recession and had to prepare ahead to tackle the challenges.
He said even though the economic crisis is biting harder, the state had been proactive in tackling most of theÂ on-going projects through Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative which, according to him, include the 5000 housing units going on simultaneously across the state, the Murtala Park, the multimillion naira Gurara falls, the Zuma Rock projects andÂ some road projects.
Yahaya also saidÂ the monthly N650mÂ revenue targetÂ givenÂ to the state Revenue BoardÂ is not aimed at over taxing the people but to generate more income which â€œwill subsequently be ploughed back to the people by way of providing social amenities for themâ€. The SSG said one thing the people of the state especially the civil servants should remain grateful about is the fact that the chief servant has vowed never to retrench any worker, reduce or delay their monthly take home as a resultÂ of the economic meltdown. He has lived up to his words.