Who am I?
My name is Muhammad Sani Abdullahi, a Development Economist and Public Policy Specialist, Over the past 12 years, I have built up significant experience in development policy, finance and project implementation in addition to holding several positions of responsibility within Nigeria and abroad.
Academically, I have an MSc in Development Economics and Policy from the University of Manchester, a second masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and I have studied Public Finance at the London School of Economics, Sustainable Development with Columbia University in New York and Advanced Project Management at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Do I have relevant experience?
I arrived Kaduna having just left a position of policy adviser at the executive office of the United Nations Secretary General in New York. In that role, I was a member of the Secretary General’s core team designing the next global development agenda that seeks to end poverty, transform economies and enhance shared responsibility across the world. This agenda, named the SDGs, will be launched in September this year and will replace the MDGS having significant impact in the architecture of development across the world.
Prior to my position at the United Nations, I was an Economist and Deputy National Program manager in Nigeria’s presidency where I was tasked with supporting the design and coordination of MDGs projects across Nigeria. I was subsequently appointed economic adviser of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum where I had the opportunity to interact with the country’s 36 elected Governors on issues of development policy. These positions have provided me with valuable experience not only across the world but particularly around Nigeria having visited and implemented projects in deep rural areas in at least 25 of Nigeria’s 36 states including several hundred project locations in Kaduna.
Do I understand Kaduna?
We all agree that the situation in Kaduna today is not ideal. By my own personal estimates, if we continue in a business as usual scenario projecting from what has happened over the past few years, the state’s economy would’ve shrunk by a further 30% by 2017 doubling the current level of unemployment and poverty notching up towards 80%. The state would have been unable to fund the operation of any hospitals, schools or even supply water by 2018. This situation would have rapidly degenerated into societal tensions exacerbating the security situation and testing the capacity of our already overstrained forces. One can only imagine the rest of the story
We are thankful that this scenario has been hopefully averted but there is significant work ahead. The challenges that we face today force us to think differently, act differently and work differently. This is truly a period of change.
But what does this mean in practice?
For starters, it means we must design credible, reliable and realistic budgets that bring our promises and priorities to reality. We must go beyond design and ensure these budgets are actually implemented. Over the past 10 years, Kaduna budgets have not been worth the paper they are written on. In the past 3 years, budget implementation has never surpassed 30%. In simple terms, this means critical infrastructure has remained un-built and unmaintained, government services have suffered and the state has failed its most vulnerable people. We can see clear evidence of this even today. For us to deliver change, this must change.
The Kaduna state development strategy has become an academic exercise involving only privileged government officials and a few consultants who sit in a closed room to decide the future of the state. This too must change. For development to be truly sustainable, it must be owned by the people. Already, the restoration master plan of this government encapsulates input from across the length and breadth of this state, this is a process that must continue to ensure everyone has a say in determining the greatness they want to see in Kaduna.
We must improve coordination and coherence across ministries, departments and agencies across the state. My short experience with the APC Kaduna transition committee exposed significant waste and duplication with overlapping mandates and weak procurement systems across government agencies.
Finally, for us to deliver change, these too must change and a significant amount of technical work must be done in the background to bring this change to reality.
Muhammad Sani Abdullahi.
Commissioner for Budget and planning, Kaduna state.