Lamentations As Sokoto State Maintains Its Lead
For the umpteenth time and back to back, our dear Sokoto state has been listed by the national bureau of statistics (NBS) as the poorest state in Nigeria with a 90.5% rate of poverty. The 2022 multidimensional poverty rate analysis by the NBS is unique as it captures other aspects of human development- monetary poverty, education and basic infrastructure among others.
As a matter of fact, there is every reason to be concerned on the consistent lead of Sokoto state in the poverty ranking for the part 7 years. It is on record that Sokoto state has been listed by the NBS as the poorest state in Nigeria year-on-year consistently in the last 7 years. Sokoto state has been the gold medal winner back – to – back unapologetically and by a reasonably high margin of poverty: 90.5% in 2022 which implies that out of every 10 indigenes of the state, at least 9 are living in abject poverty. This is utterly unacceptable.
The obnoxious non-stop gold medal year-on-year ‘victory’ of our dear state in poverty can be seen from the 6-year poverty figures of the poorest state in Nigeria as follows:
2022-Poorest state Sokoto 90.5%
2021-Poorest state Sokoto 87.73%
2020-Poorest state Sokoto 81.2%
2019-Poorest state Sokoto 81.2% 2018- Poorest state Sokoto 81.2%
2017-Poorest state Sokoto 81.2%
The major problem is that there is a lack of political will by the Sokoto state government to reposition the state along the lines of technology, trade and commerce. Even when the raw materials are in abundance in the state, there are no factories to process these raw materials and create jobs.
Virtually no effort is made to create a private-sector driven economy in Sokoto state. Everything is politics and politics is everything in Sokoto state.
Those who find their way at the helm of affairs in the state do not have the mentality of industrialisation, business, trade, commerce, jobs, ICT, skills acquisition or any of the above.
Clearly, there is a big problem regarding the humongous rate of poverty in Sokoto state which needs urgent attention. The fact that our dear state is winning the legendary Gold medal in poverty every year for 6 consecutive years means something must be fundamentally wrong.
According to NBS figures, Sokoto state is in the top ten states with the highest number of out-of -school children in Nigeria.
Out of the 20 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, Sokoto has (462,164). The number of out of school children is significant in analysing the multidimensional poverty. High out-of-school represent high poverty and a clear danger to any society.
Infant And Maternal Mortality
Sokoto State has one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria. The maternal mortality rate is 1,576 deaths per 100,000 live births, the infant mortality rate is 78 per 1,000 live births, and the under-five mortality rate is 119 per 1,000 live births. This is utterly unacceptable in a state that should serve as a role model to other states particularly in the North-West geopolitical zone. Sokoto state should be the rallying point for younger sister states such as Kebbi and Zamfara. This is not the case at the moment.
Civil Service State
Sokoto has been dubbed, and rightly so, a civil service state as a result of the near-absence of economic activities. Almost all hopes of survival in Sokoto state revolve around the monthly salary of workers in the state and local government civil service. No major trade and commerce activities to drive economic growth.
When you see the ATMs buzzing with life, it means salary has been paid. I asked one concerned resident in Sokoto that whenever I visit Sokoto sometimes I find the ATMs busy with long queues, other times, the ATMs are free. No queues at all. Why is it so?
The indigene replied to me ‘Oga the answer is ‘busy ATM means salary is paid otherwise the ATM is as free as air.
There is virtually a complete absence of the private sector as there are very few industries in the state. At best, what obtains is a skeletal assembly of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with no big companies to feed them. Almost all supply lines to the MSMEs are outside the state.
The only factory currently standing is the BUA cement company located in Kalambaina on the outskirts of Sokoto city, formerly the cement company of Northern Nigeria (CCNN).
The manufacturing sector is virtually non-existent. Agriculture, which is the mainstay of the Sokoto state economy has been relegated on the altar of politics. Sokoto can feed the whole of Nigeria with rice of the right commitment from the state government is available.
The concern about the relegation of Sokoto as the poorest state in Nigeria grows when juxtaposed with the fact that Goronyo Dam in Sokoto state is the biggest Dam in Nigeria with huge yet untapped potentials for rice farming, irrigation and power generation.
Anything and everything is tied to politics. Lately, the only identifiable investment the state makes is in politics. In the last 30 years that I can recall, no big industry has been set up in Sokoto state.
Resources In Abundance But Remain Unexploited In Sokoto State
Sokoto state is richly endowed with natural resources to be undeserving of its current status as the poorest state in Nigeria and gold medal winner in poverty.
In particular, the state is awash with CaCO3 (Calcium carbonate) which is the major raw material in the production of CEMENT. Records have it that CaCO3 is available in commercial quantities in 14 out of the state’s 23 local government areas yet there is only cement factory in the state owned by the BUA group.
Sokoto is the home of the RED GOAT SKIN which is adjudged the best in the world. There is currently no factory to process Sokoto’s red goat skin. The Sokoto leather factory is not only down but out as no leather processing is conducted. Most of the machines are obsolete.
Sokoto is one of the states with the highest output of tomatoes in Nigeria but the state cannot boast of a tomato paste factory. Most of the tomatoes produced in the state end up for micro usage or as waste due to lack of processing factories and storage facilities.
Commendable Efforts By The Sokoto Chamber Of Commerce And Industry
The Sokoto state chamber of commerce and industry chaired by Hon Muazu Bello deserves commendation for the giant strides it has recorded towards repositioning the economy of Sokoto state. One of such efforts was the joint trade fair with the Moroccan chamber of commerce held last month November in Abuja. The state chamber of commerce is leading the charge for the creation of a vibrant private sector driven economy in the state. The Sokoto state government needs to compliment the efforts of this chamber.
The Way Out
For our dear Sokoto state to navigate its way out of the current alarming poverty, it must build a strong base for industrialisation technology, trade and commerce. In particular, the state needs to prioritise SKILLS ACQUISITION amongst the youths by building at least one skills acquisition centre in each of the 23 local government areas. The economy of Sokoto has to be remodelled from the current ‘civil service foundation’ to a private sector driven economy through industrialisation, trade, commerce and technology.
There Are Prospects For Crude Oil In Sokoto State
There is the urgent need for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Ltd (NNPCL) to commence feasibility studies for crude oil along the fringes of the Nigeria-Niger Border. It is this type of foresight that led to the discovery of oil in Bauchi state. Kudos to the former GMD of NNPC, late Maikanti Baru. His efforts and legacy are what we are seeing today at the Kolmani oil field in Bauchi state.
There is every reason to believe that there is crude oil in Sokoto state in commercial quantities as the state shares borders with Niger Republic which has since discovered crude oil. The crude oil exploration and possible discovery in Sokoto state will certainly create jobs and ginger the economy of the state. In this regard, the Sokoto state government has a role to play in liaising with the NNPCL and making the push for the commencement of exploration studies for crude oil in Sokoto state.
Sokoto state is richly endowed in terms of both human and natural resources but the problem is that our dear state has not been lucky to have leaders who understand industrialisation, business, trade, commerce, technology and how to build an economy. Everything in Sokoto State is about politics. No efforts to build a sustainable economy for the State.
In ameliorating this problem, the first thing to do is to resuscitate the moribund Sokoto leather factory or build a new one under a public private partnership (PPP). This will ensure the creation of a swathe of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to start a new era of job creation and economic prosperity for the state away from poverty. Sokoto can be the best, but being the best is not a piece of cake. It requires hard work, knowledge and commitment particularly from the leadership which are all lacking at the moment.
Dr. Abubakar Alkali who wrote this piece can be reached through email@example.com