By Ibrahim HassanWuyo
Kaduna may not be the commercial nerve centre of the Northern region but being the defunct capital of Northern Nigeria before the creation of states by the Gowon military regime in 1967, the crocodile city still occupies a central position and had remained attractive to many notable personalities, groups and corporate organizations who have over the years enjoyed a flourishing business climate in the state.
At a point Kaduna was like a mini Manchester where textile and other agro allied industries held sway. It was a city that hardly sleeps because the textiles were working on shifts all through the days and nights. Together with the automobile assembly plant, furniture and beverage making industries, the oil refining and petrochemical plant which came up in the late 1970s and many other cottage industries within and outside the state capital, this sector complemented the government in providing employment to hundreds, thus making the local economy so viable and life was good to many families .
Succeeding administrations however, were not able to sustain the tempo as many of these industries are either nonexistent currently, dysfunctional or grossly underutilized .This has in no small measure, affected the economy as many were thrown out of jobs which further compounded the socioeconomic problems of the local fledgling economy.
Over the past few years however, especially with the advent of the incumbent administration in the state which had a blueprint of turning the state into an industrial hub where citizens could find what to do and live meaningful lives, attempts towards industrialization were made and investors once again, found Kaduna attractive for the setting up of industries and other businesses.
For instance, Souhir Mzali of the Oxford Business Group had said Kaduna’s performance in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index has been instrumental in attracting investors.
According to her, Since 2015 Kaduna has secured investments in excess of $180m. Singaporean agri-business firm Olam International has invested $150m in poultry facilities, while the African Industries Group is investing $600m to build a steel plant that is currently under construction. She explained that Kaduna has attracted many other small and domestic investments in the tens of millions of dollars.
“In total, companies have committed to investing nearly $2.1bn over the next two years. We hope that both local and foreign investors will continue to recognise Kaduna as the preferred destination for investment in Nigeria,” she said.
Sadly, an increase in banditry, kidnap for ransom and other forms of criminality which bedeviled the state over the period, had affected business activities in many parts of the state.
Labour leader, Comrade Issa Aremu who had expressed sadness over the situation, opined that insecurity would discourage investment and industrialization would suffer in the country.
“ The activities of bandits all over the country are undermining farming cultivation, Agro-allied and industrial expansion. Insecurity will further make Nigerian industries uncompetitive with negative impacts on employment. “He said there can be no industrialization during conflict.
In many farming communities across the state for instance, locals no longer go to farms due to fear of bandits. These are people who cultivate crops and other food items that which the city dwellers relied on. They also produce certain raw materials needed for the continued survival of local industries such as edible oil refineries ,bakeries ,animal feed production firms, etc.
As long as these farmers keep away from their farms for fear of their lives, the local production of food and these raw materials would be affected and the resultant effect will be an unprecedented increase in price of food and other human necessities in the markets.
Although the state does not have designated camps for the settlement of the internally displaced persons , IDPs ,such persons that fled from farming communities have since reintegrated with their relations in safer places. They’ve a abandoned farmlands in troubled areas like Birnin Gwari ,Giwa, Chikun, etc, and have no immediate plans of returning to their farms which were in the bushes occupied by bandits.
Birnin Gwari for example, has been described as a killing field where occasionally, bandits terrorize the people with sophisticated weapons, killing, maiming and abducting peasants for ransom. The Emir ,Malam Jibril Mai Gwari who recently escaped bandits attack, has been crying for help from the authorities to come to the rescue of his people. Farming ,animal husbandry and other activities like mining in his emirate has been consistently threatened by these non state actors .Sadly, the famous Birnin Gwari -Lagos road is now deserted as drivers and other commuters are afraid of plying the route.
Although the state government has since embarked on its urban renewal programme, transforming the state capital and other major towns to more befitting centres in line with modern trends, the consequences had a toll on small scale businesses and traders whose places of business were demolished.
In Kawo, Kasuwan Barci, old Kwari market etc, the demolition of the old markets for the construction of new ones, had made many to lose their shops. While others were able to relocate to manageable locations, others have to fold their trade in the interim, a situation that has affected some livelihoods.
Also, the purchasing power of some families has reduced, particularly the ones whose breadwinners were retrenched by the state government The massive sack of civil servants and their inability to get other jobs, has it’s toll on the local economy.
Although the state government sees no reason why labour leaders shut down Kaduna in protest over the sacking of civil servants, the leadership of the labour unions faulted the timing, saying it was wrong for the workers to be so treated at a time of heightened insecurity and high inflation.
However, a former governorship aspirant in the state, Alhaji Idris Miqati ,has craved the indulgence of Labour for restraints, cooperation and increased understanding so that all the issues tabled are resolved amicably and to the satisfaction of all concerned.
According to him, “Labour would have to learn and accept the hard fact of the need to right size the workforce of the state. While not speaking for His Excellency, i most sincerely believe that he has no ulterior motives in the right sizing exercises he has embarked. Indeed it’s always painful to have to approve disengagement of staff.
“No member of a team would drive joy to see people being sent to their homes. Productivity of workers have declined over the years. Technology has made several positions no longer relevant. Skills and competencies of staff has declined. Above all income generating ability of the state particularly our federation account share has significantly reduced over the years in absolute terms. These are facts that Labour should be aware of so as to see reasons behind the wisdom in having to take the painful decision of disengagement of staff. Labour leaders should endeavour to be fair and reasonable so to allow peace to rein.”
For now, the military and other security agents are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that ultimate peace and stability returned to Kaduna.
Governor El-Rufai has continued to assure the people that his administration was doing everything possible to tackle the situation.
“I want to say again, that we are not sleeping and by the grace of God we will overcome this evil act and the terrorism being unleashed on our people,” the governor had said.