THE government of Bauchi State in the North East geo-political zone of Nigeria is mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework as a linchpin for achieving its developmental targets aimed at improving the wellbeing for the people and alleviating poverty.
Alhaji Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, the state Governor has embraced the SDGs which he says aligns with his blueprint for the development of Bauchi State. Indeed, in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, Governor Abubakar had declared that his administration's strategic plan is “making governance work for the people of the Bauchi State” and ensuring sustainable development.
To drive the implementation of the SDGs in the state, Governor Abubakar appointed Hajiya Fatimah Halilu as the Director-General and Focal Person of the Bauchi State Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Director-General of Bauchi State SDGs swung into action by organizing a workshop on SDGs for staff and local government desk officers of the project in the state in September 2016. Hajiya Halilu explained that the workshop was to sensitize staff and stakeholders on what SDGs entails.
She explained that the state government had a smooth transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the SDGs and demonstrated its commitment to the success of the project with the payment of its counterpart fund of N600 million.
Since he established the Bauchi State SDGs Office, Governor Abubakar has been striving to achieve global goals by focusing on critical areas including poverty reduction, ensuring quality education, enhancing women's empowerment and creating the enabling environment for peace.
The United Nations report on Nigeria's Poverty Index conducted in 2014 put the poverty rate of Bauchi State at 86.6%. This index shows clearly that the scourge of poverty in the state is widespread and in the past few years, it has been compounded by the Boko Haram insurgency as many displaced persons from neighbouring states have moved to Bauchi State in search of succour.
The Bauchi State government has initiated programmes targeted at poverty reduction. In August 2015, the state government paid N36 million counterpart fund for the implementation of the World Bank-Assisted Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) component. The CCT is one of palliative measures for the most vulnerable in the society. Each of the 5,000 households from the local government areas in the state was placed on monthly allowance of N18, 000 for a period of two years.
As part of efforts to provide employment for the teeming unemployed youths in the state and alleviate poverty, the Bauchi State government had in July 2017 commenced the induction of the first batch of 4,736 youths out of the targeted 16,350 beneficiaries in the Public Work Fare (PWF) component of YESSO under the World Bank Project.
Governor Abubakar said the beneficiaries were selected from the single register of the poorest households in the identified communities of six local government areas of Bauchi, Dass, Ningi, Misau, Jama'are and Katagum, using processes, procedures and guidelines of the World Bank.
While reiterating his government's efforts towards poverty reduction in the state, he described it as “yet another government commitment to poverty reduction by engaging the poor people of Nigeria towards having access to increased opportunities and social service delivery.” He said the state government had released the sum of N42, 624,000.00 as counterpart funding for payment of allowances and stipends of beneficiaries.
Governor Abubakar attributed the security challenges bedevilling the North East to illiteracy and poverty. He said that high level illiteracy and poverty had dragged many young people into the Boko Haram insurgency, hence his government will not relent in its efforts to empower the youths.
To further alleviate poverty among the youths, the Bauchi State Social Investment Programmes Office (BSSIPO) is partnering six commercial banks to open accounts for the beneficiaries of Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) in 20 Local Government Areas of the State. GEEP is a cluster of the SIPs which seeks to address the challenges of accessing finance faced by an estimated 40% of micro businesses in the country. Bauchi State was selected by the Bank of Industry (BoI) as one of the priority states where 30,000 beneficiaries are targeted for the immediate disbursement of the average sum of N1.5billion in 2017. Recently BoI disbursed N21million loan to 438 traders in the state through the scheme which is also known as Market Moni or Kudin Kasuwa.
To boost food production, the state government has keyed into the Anchor Borrowers' Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make it easy for farmers to access funds for the cultivation of rice, sorghum and wheat.
The state fertilizer blending company, hitherto comatose, has been resuscitated.
Bauchi is one of the educationally less developed states (ELDS) in Nigeria. The data on literacy index recently published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that it is among the states in the North East geo-political zone with poor literacy rate. According to the data, the literacy rate of Bauchi State is 19.26%.Governor Abubakar is desirous of changing the dynamic through investment in education. For two consecutive years' budget, education has taken the lion's share of 20%, 6% shy of the target recommended by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This huge investment has seen the rise of the percentage of passes by candidates from Bauchi State in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) and National Examination Council (NECO) from a dismal 3% in 2015 to 27% in 2017.
His administration has also taken concrete steps to enhance quality education. When Governor Abubakar assumed office, he discovered that of the state of education, particularly at the basic level was deplorable, requiring complete restoration. He appointed the Deputy Governor, Engineer Nuhu Gidado as the commissioner in-charge of the education ministry as a deliberate act to immediately address the problems of that sector.
His administration also met its obligation of sourcing 50 per cent of the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) counterpart funds for the 2014 and 2015 UBEC of N1.9 billion. The state government then embarked on the rehabilitation of schools and provision of furniture.The State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has also been collaborating with relevant donor agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank in its effort to provide quality compulsory basic education in the state.
In March 2016, USAID said it will invest the sum of $58 million through a five-year programme known as the Northern Education Initiative Plus, to help improve educational performance of students in the state and serve as a model to other states. The project will equally reach out to more than 500,000 out-of-school children and youths attending 11,000 non-formal learning centres, including the Almajiri education system. The USAID Country Director, Michael Harvey said the initiative is aimed at building Bauchi State's capacity and systems that will teach approximately two million pupils how to read and give nearly 551,000 children the opportunity to attend classes in community-based learning centres by the year 2020.
The Abubakar administration has recorded tremendous successes in the educational sector in terms of school teachers' assessment and verification exercise, prompt payment of the salaries of teachers, improving of school structures, provision of teachers' welfare packages and establishment of additional learning centres.
The State government is also promoting girl-child education. The efforts of the state government in the promotion of girl-child education received a boost recently with the launch of the Girls-for-Girls (G4G) project, targeting 100 schools in the state. The G4G project is being carried out in the state by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with Federal Ministry of Education and the Bauchi State government.
Abdulai Kaikai, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF, Bauchi, said that the project is being established in six focused Girls Education Project 3 (GEP3) local government areas, namely, Alkaleri, Ganjuwa, Ningi, Shira, Toro and Zaki. According to UNICEF statistics, the average northern Nigerian girl only stays in school up to the age of nine while only one out of 10 girls generally completes secondary education. The UNICEF chief, however, said that in recent years, there have been promising improvements in the enrolment of girls in basic education in Bauchi State. According to him, Bauchi State recorded an 8 percent increase in enrolment of girls.
Bauchi is among the states in Nigeria which is benefitting from Federal Government's free school feeding programme. Alhaji Mohammed Maikudi, Director of Social Mobilization in the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) said that the sumptuous meals served under the programme led to the increase in enrolment of pupils in schools by 36 percent in the 2016/2017 academic session.
In the tertiary education level, the Bauchi State government has equally done fairly well. It provided funds to the State-owned tertiary institutions for accreditation of their courses which has resulted in the commencement of degree programmes leading to the award of Bachelor of Technology in Technical and Vocational Education at the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi, in affiliation with the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi.
In accordance with the SDG-5, which focuses on gender equality, the Abubakar administration has been implementing programmes geared towards the empowerment of women to reach their potential. Abubakar said that the state government has designed numerous programmes for women and youths to be self-reliant.
Recently, the Bauchi State Commission for Youths and Women Rehabilitation (BACYWARD) distributed empowerment kits worth N1.5 billion to women in Small and Medium Scale businesses across the state. Mr. Ahmed Faruq, Chairman of the commission, said the programme was aimed at boosting the economic activities of women in such businesses. According to him, the commission received approval of the governor for partnership with Jaiz Bank under which more than N1.5 billion worth of empowerment was distributed to women across 20 local government areas. “This is in realisation that 80 percent of small businesses are carried out by women, and no economy will wax stronger without the active participation of small businesses,'' he said.
The Bauchi state government has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNESCO to train 50, 000 girls and women in basic education through the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT). Mr. Macaulay Olushola, National Professional Officer, Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO Abuja, said the programme was meant to give opportunity to women who lost the opportunity of education during their childhood. “It will also empower women on literacy and skills development through the use of ICT,” he said.
Hajiya Hadiza Mohammed Abubakar, wife of the Governor has been supporting the state government towards the empowerment of women through her project –Bauchi Sustainable Women Empowerment and Peace Initiative (BSWEEP). In July, 2017, BSWEEP started skills acquisition training for 6,000 women across the state. Hajiya Abubakar explained that the training, being done through LINE Oxfam, a non-governmental organisation is aimed at promoting agriculture-driven growth and improving the living condition of 10,000 rural farmers in the state, 60 per cent of whom are women. BSWEEP has so far empowered thousands of women, especially, widows, the indigent, artisans and the physically challenged through numerous skills acquisition programmes such as hair dressing, tailoring, bead-making, soap making, tying and dying. After training, the beneficiaries are provided with equipment as well as monetary take-off grants to establish small scale business. In addition, BSWEEP has awarded scholarship to many internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable children to acquire education in various schools in the state
During the celebration of the 2017 International Women Day (IWD) in the state, Hajiya Abubakar charged women to adopt bold and result-oriented actions to bridge the gender gap.
Governor Abubakar appears to be making some efforts to ensure gender equality. In June 2016, he appointed Justice Rabi Talatu Umar as the first female Chief Judge of the state.
The Abubakar administration has continued to promote inclusive and sustainable employment and decent work in the state civil service through capacity building and motivation of the work force.The Governor demonstrated interest in the wellbeing of workers when he paid the backlog of three months salaries owed workers and pension arrears when he assumed office in 2015. Since then, his administration has been paying workers and pensioners as and when due because the Governor believes strongly in the old maxim that that “a labourer deserved his wage.”
The Bauchi State government has been strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. It considers desertification, erosion, flooding and other ecological problems as constraints to sustainable environment which is strategic to economic development. Dr. Dije Bala, Director-General of the Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency (BSEPA), said that the state government has been fighting these environmental challenges through the annual tree planting campaign and the establishment of shelterbelts. The state government has also set up a committee to check the activities of some unscrupulous elements that endanger the natural eco-system of the state.
Peace, justice and strong institutions
The Abubakar administration believes that to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions by 2030, efforts should be intensified to secure the lives and properties of Benue people. His administration has therefore accorded priority to security. Recently, the state government donated patrol–vehicles to security operatives to enable them fight insurgency, cattle rustling, armed banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities that have destroyed economic and social activities and retarded the development of the North East geo-political zone in the past few years.
As a lawyer, Governor Abubakar has created a good working environment for the judiciary to effectively serve as “the last hope of the common man”, through the dispensation of justice without fear or favour