• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Disadvantaged in revenue, Gombe is ready for investors – Governor Yahaya

MUHAMMAD INUWA YAHAYA, was elected Governor of Gombe State in 2019, following stints in the private sector and also serving as a commissioner for finance. In this exclusive interview with BusinessDay’s BASHIR IBRAHIM HASSAN, general manager, Northern Operations, Inuwa shares insights on how Gombe’s investment climate and ease of doing business are being transformed.

This is especially after the Maiden GoINVEST2022 organised recently by his administration, which is the first of its kind since the creation of the State.

From the creation of the State of Gombe there has never been an Investment Summit. This is the first time the State is organizing a huge investment Summit and under your administration. Why now? What has changed?

To answer your question, I think I need to take you to the background. Gombe state is down the ladder in terms of allocation from the federation account.

And it’s equally down the ladder in terms of capacity to generate internal revenues for so many reasons.

But principally because we are part of the Northeast; and from statistics and records, you would know that the Northeast and the Northwest are the lowest in terms of indices that record human development, especially economic development.

Being the Governor and an expert in finance, because by my training, I’m an accountant with experience in public service and the private sector, I know a lot of interplays that need to be sanitised.

This includes the need to work on beefing up the security and the economic situation of the state. By my background I’m a businessman, and I will still remain in business even after I leave office.

Without proper financial backing, there’s no way you can execute any plan that you make; whether social, economic, infrastructural, or whatever.

And because we cannot get money elsewhere, and the global economy itself is going through a meltdown, we have to be ingenious enough to find ways and means by which we can build up the revenue of the state no matter how difficult the situation is, so that we will be able to deliver the social services and infrastructure needs of the people in order to uplift them.

Principally, these are the reasons. But, our ability to find ways and means by which we can deliver on the mandate given to us by the people is what stirs us to do all these things that we have done, and we shall continue to do so.

Gombe state is down the ladder in terms of allocation from the federation account. And it’s equally down the ladder in terms of capacity to generate internal revenues for so many reason

Because of the problems that the global economy and the Nigerian economy are facing, the order of the day is that states should now be able to be independent of the federal government in terms of sourcing and applying finances.

What are the key investment opportunities in Gombe state that are unique to the State?

The primary priority of businesses and investors is to a have a return on their investment; that cannot happen until the businesses are thriving.

By the accounts, everybody should know by now that Gombe state attained the number one position in terms of enabling business environment as ranked by KPMG, a reputable consulting company on behalf of the Presidential Committee on Enabling Business Environment. So, this means a lot of work has gone into our preparation to get to this level.

For businesses to thrive, there has to be incentives, there has to be facilities, and activities that will support business. And I have the belief that it is not only the job of government.

Government, should in fact, not be an employer, but government should enable employment to be generated from the private sector by commercial and industrial activities.

I mentioned that the finances in government circles are really dwindling and in fact, approaching the minus level not just as zero. So these are the key factors that we consider.

And for us in Gombe, besides providing the enabling business environment in terms of security, providing ICT facilities, encouraging small and medium enterprises which are the backbone of economies across the world. But above all, Gombe has solid minerals in a lot of categories: from uranium to limestone, kaolin, Gypsum, corn, and to even oil and gas. Secondly, our potentials are more in agriculture because 85 percent of our people are engaged in agriculture, whether in crop production or in livestock production.

And all those materials that they produce ends up going out of Gombe to Kano, Kaduna or even Lagos and so many other places that have industries.

Because of the problems that the global economy and the Nigerian economy are facing, the order of the day is that states should now be able to be independent of the federal government in terms of sourcing and applying finances

So, that should stir us now to realise that, if we put up or encourage people to put up industries, there will be development along the value chain, most importantly in livestock.

Gombe is among the states that have a large livestock compared to some other states. We have very high numbers of livestock, both cattle and the ruminants. And above all, we have many facilities, but one that is special is the grazing reserve which is 144,000 hectares of land.

If effectively utilised, that can provide home to not less than two to five million herds of cattle managed effectively and efficiently to increase yield and productivity and that will trigger processing around that value chain.

So from crops to livestock, if we join the two, I think there is no other state, especially in the northeast. Gombe is always on top compared to some others.

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What are the key incentives that you are proud to say you give to local and foreign investors that have interest or already in the state?

Number one, tax holiday; because of the geographic information system that we installed to cover the whole state, and to fast track processes of issuing certificates and titles for land, and even allowing people that come to establish businesses that have the capacity to inject up to 100 million as capital.

We fast track processes to facilitate their take-off, that is even what encouraged us to put up the Muhammadu Buhari industrial park- a 1000 hectare facility that has been providing all the services needed for manufacturers and industries to thrive properly without any hindrance.

With security, tax holiday and other incentives like land acquisition and registration, so many things are working to our advantage. These are the key incentives.

Captains of industry, officials of government and delegations even from international organisations came and saw. I believe they are now well informed and they will sell Gombe to the world

What are your key achievements that you are proud of, from the inception of this administration, till today?

Honestly, it will not be easy for me to tell you in one or two words. But what propelled us to get to this level is the vision, the mission and capacity, plus the team that we’re able to set up in order to perceive and project all those things thatwill propel us to get to the level and even get to a higher level.

Mind you, at the beginning of the administration, we were able to make assessment of our basic needs across the state, and prefer a development plan that we call the development agenda for Gombe state that is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, which are the clear goals of humanity as enshrined by the United Nations.

I think my greatest achievement is that I have set up Gombe to go on the right trajectory – forward — from where we found it, take it to the next level.

And you’ve gotten affirmation from the Vice President that we’ve lifted Gombe. Gombe now is now really at the next level, we see Gombe somehow as a sovereign state, and that should be the objective, the clear mission of each state government so that we can relieve the federal government of certain responsibilities .

We should seek for ways and means by which we can devolve authority, leverage on authority and the constitutional requirements in order to propel individual states so that as a conglomeration, where each of the sub nationals is able to get to a good level, it then means the federal government is at a higher level too.

What clearly is your vision that drives the entire process?

I’m inspired by the successes achieved by world leaders. It didn’t take China more than 40 years. It took the vision of Sheikh Khalifa in Dubai. Then talk of Indonesia, Malaysia, and so on.

Leadership is what guides and propels societies to change and progress. I think the vision is for us to make sure that we uplift our people and take them out of poverty to prosperity, and that is what we’re doing and that is what we shall continue to do.

How happy are you with the conduct, the organisation and the outcome Summit?

Well, I feel very happy and fulfilled for obvious reasons. Despite the challenges, we were able to organise an event for three days consecutively. It attracted people of high calibre — captains of industry, officials of government and delegations even from international organisations came and saw.

I believe they are now well informed and they will sell Gombe to the world. And people will start to reap the benefits of the efforts we made. That is the level to which I can say I’m fulfilled.

And we shall continue to pursue those goals until we see that, whatever we agree on, and the results or requirements of the summit that are forwarded to government are fully implemented. Because we shall always keep the pace and be moving fast in order to catch up with development.

What about the MOU you signed to the tune of about 70 billion?

Government on its part will ensure that it fulfils its own part of the obligations so that when we join the two, we move forward. We have so far gotten six confirmed on the strength of which we signed memoranda of understanding.

This was witnessed by the Vice President. We wouldn’t have allowed the Vice President to get in if we know for sure that we shall fail. We shall work and see that we actualize whatever we sign because our words are our bond.

What motivated you to join politics and contribute your quota to the development of this state and also the country?

The motivation for sure is change; change for the better, improvement on the lives and lots of the people. With the resources available to us, and with a good, focused and determined leadership, a clear vision, Nigeria can reach the ultimate level that each developed nations has reached.

That is the motivation, and I believe that it is enough motivation. We shall work hard to see that we reach that destination.

What legacy do you want to leave at the end of your administration?

It should be enormous in number, not just one or two. My prayer from day one has been that at the end of the day, I will leave Gombe better than i found it.

That is the legacy that I aspire to have, and I hope that with my determination and the support of the people, we shall reach that destination.

How confident are you in winning the election?

I am absolutely confident. Go round Gombe and get the feelers from the people.

In your own opinion, looking at the economic situation; now dollar in the black market is over 700, and it affects almost everything. Being an import-dependent economy, how concerned are you with the situation in the country generally?

I am absolutely worried and concerned. But that should not deter us as leaders not to look at how best to address the issues and make remedy where there are mistakes, so that we can move forward.

The issue of the economy is global, due to the pandemic and further exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war which affected the global economy and so many more other factors.

The issue of insecurity that you mentioned equally has a global dimension, especially around the Sahel and West African sub region. Countries around us have one problem or another with regards to security; from the Middle East to Asia, even in America and Europe, especially with what is happening in Russia and Ukraine.

It is very unfortunate, but like I said earlier, as leaders, we have to find ways and means by which we alleviate the problems people encounter from such problems – economic, social and security, problems.

That is what leadership is about. It is about finding ways by which you can uplift the people and secure them with the dynamics at play.

Going forward, Nigeria will be able to find a solution to all these dynamics. There are a lot of forces that come to play. But with the crop of leaders that we have, and with the determination coupled with the support of the people we can overcome.