By ISMAILA UBA MISILLI
The challenge of underdevelopment in Gombe State is getting a pragmatic attention with the launch of the state’s 10-year development plan, a long term vision to reposition the state for growth and sustainable development.
Encapsulated in a document titled Gombe State Development Plan (GSDP) 2021-2030, unveiled by the state governor, Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya, at an event in Gombe, the state capital, the document represents an ambitious plan, loaded in socio-economic aspirations and broad in clear objectives.
It is actually a fitting answer to the remodeling of the state’s pathway towards a realistic and consistent socio-economic development paradigm, properly articulated as a long term visioning and planning that draws on the findings of the 2019 Needs Assessment Report commissioned by Governor Yahaya immediately he was declared governor-elect.
Thus the new document was built on the outcome of a state-wide consultation process that involved a broad section of the Gombe society including the private sector, civil society, community associations, state and local governments and the general public.
A major interest in the document is the fact that it mirrors the essentials of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the basic categories as index of development, which incidentally also has same year 2030 as expiration date for relevant assessment and reflections on the inherent aspirations and deliverables.
As stated in the foreword to the document by Governor Inuwa Yahaya, “ The Gombe State Development Plan, with a vision of growth, development, peace and prosperity for all, maps out the way forward for Gombe State and its people to realize their full potentials.
“Its implementation, strategies, with specific policies and targets are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first by any state in Nigeria. This is also the first plan by any state in Nigeria that is modeled and costed by putting into consideration the Integrated Sustainable Development Goals (iSDGs)”.
Thus the scope of the GSDP is comprehensive and embraces all the main drivers of development in the state as it sets up a definitive paradigm for decision making and resource allocation as a basic reflection of the philosophy and policy of the Yahaya administration and in tandem with the collective aspirations of the good people of Gombe State.
The mission and vision of the plan further reveals the big thinking of the state government which the documents says is to respectively “transform Gombe into a highly educated, innovative, healthy and prosperous state propelled by peace, efficient infrastructure, sustainable environment and good governance” and “to create an enabling environment for sustainable peace, cohesion and an all-inclusive development for the people of Gombe State.”
In specific terms, the document identifies five development pillars upon which the GSDP revolves, a strategic linkage of socio-economic and administrative anchorage that is also built on the model of the UN’s SDGs as a global trend.
The pillars are those of Economic Development, Infrastructure Development, Social Development, Sustainable Development and Governance, Administrative and Institutional Development pillars.
Each of the pillars has a wide range of underlying activities that border on the greater good of the people as government performs its duties within some basic institutional framework detailing the policy thrust, policy target and policy objectives and overall betterment of the people.
In this regard, agriculture has topics like crop production and animal husbandry and fisheries.
Then there’s manufacturing, oil and gas, solid minerals, commerce, trade and industry, micro, small and medium enterprises, tourism and cooperatives.
Under the Social Development category are health, education, science and technology, entrepreneurial development, youths and sports, women and children, social protection/ safety nets as well as security and safety, law and order and justice.
Besides, the infrastructure pillar encompasses issues like water resources, transport, electricity and power, renewable energy and ICT.
Just as agriculture as the mainstay of the Gombe economy got the right attention as specified in the document, infrastructure and sustainable environment in the state are equally important and duly accorded relevance , the latter in particular being critical as a factor of recent concerns on the danger which environmental degradation poses to the people in the state.
Consequently, issues like flooding and drainage, erosion control and climate change policy objectives are of major interest in the document.
And considering the challenge of water provision until the Yahaya administration came on board, it is gratifying that the development plan reckons as policy objective “to achieve sustainable provision of water for domestic, agricultural and industrial purpose to improve growth and development by 2030”.
Interestingly, all the stated major pillars of development including the critical infrastructure needs have such ambitious accomplishment target at the expiration of the development span in the next 10 years.
Overall, the purpose of the GSDP 2021-2030 is to set out the long-term spatial planning framework for the state between 2021 and 2030, the document says, adding that “this will signpost the quantity, quality and location of the development plan, and ensure that provision of infrastructure is aligned with growth.”
“This will provide a mechanism for coordinated decision-making on all aspects of social and economic life, including investment”, the document emphasizes.
Under the sub-title, “Development Strategy: From vision to Policy”, the document spells out the strategic direction to follow in achieving the various development pillars of the plan.
While the economic development pillar will promote investments in sectors that can create income and employment opportunities to reduce poverty, the infrastructure development pillar deals with provision of critical infrastructure that is affordable, accessible and capable of catalyzing public and private investments in productive sectors.
Whereas the social development and welfare pillar is meant to facilitate investments in education, training and skill acquisition programmes, provision of efficient healthcare services and social safety nets to improve the welfare, including the security of the people.
Yet the strategic direction of the sustainable environment pillar is improved management of the environment to ensure a clean, healthy and sustainable environment that incorporates the key issue of climate change and its dynamics.
Lastly, the governance, administration and institutional capacity pillar relates to the creation of a workable and accountable governance framework for the attainment of the GSDP through: deepening democratic systems, building effective institutions, promoting human rights, strong civil society, rule of law, fighting corruption and strengthened access to media and information.
Obviously, the collective of the Gombe people have been given the opportunity to participate in the process and play crucial roles in their future.
“The strategic direction is predicated on an understanding of the fundamental developmental needs of Gombe State, which is to create a strong economy that will in turn create jobs and wealth, and so help the state to fulfill its other responsibilities and goals’, the document stated.
Financing the plan, the document further revealed, could take various models including using costing/planning tools, estimating total resource needs/requirements, linking plans and budgets through costing and system dynamics model.
However, the GSDP rests on five priority areas namely security, health, education, infrastructure and agriculture and agro-allied industry. The aim of the government, the document says, is to initiate a long-term growth through fiscal stimuli, leading to the development of agriculture and related industries.
Thus in consonance with the fidelity and integrity of the Yahaya administration to good governance which is expected to rub off on the execution of the new plan, we hope to see the direct and induced effects of government policy on strong business enablers like health, education, security and infrastructure sooner than later…and ultimately on induced investments, both local and foreign, on government revenues and on employment.
It is noteworthy as the document stated that in order to achieve the vision and mission, goals and objectives of the development agenda, subsequent state budgets will derive explicitly from the document and subject to periodic reviews.
“Of course, the plan is organic, hence it is amenable to periodic reviews to accommodate changes in the socio-economic environment in the future”, it stated.
Perhaps envisaging the implication of the document on his legacy, Governor Inuwa Yahaya was forthcoming when he wrote passionately in the foreword to the plan document that “the decision to develop this plan is a clear indication of our determination to leave lasting legacies for succeeding generations of our people.
It is a unique initiative in the history of Gombe State because it demonstrates the people’s willingness to place much greater confidence in the future we are working together to build.
“This plan, otherwise called a Development Agenda for Gombe State, DEVAGOM, has inclusive socio-economic development at its heart, and its strategies are designed to empower our people who all showed their delight and enthusiasm during the consultation processes and throughout the course of developing the plan.
“I am fully aware that our accomplishments shall be measured by the establishment of a prosperous and all-inclusive society.
This undoubtedly will require unprecedented mobilization of resources, far-reaching administrative reforms across all sectors of governance, substantial and consistent investment in infrastructure, human capital and social inclusion.
It will also require concerted efforts at positioning the state as the hub of economic activity not only in the North-East sub-region but Nigeria at large.
“The plan thus offers a clear pathway for successive administrations in the state to pursue inclusive development. Its implementation will be monitored to keep track of and ensure that our collective vision is realized”.
These are quite memorable and inspiring comments by a leader who’s conscious of his place in history even as there would be monitoring and evaluation by appropriate organs in the life of the development plan: a platform for constructive engagement with stakeholders by tracking progress, coordinate and help MDAs, LGAs, private sector and other stakeholders to also track progress of the implementation of priorities regularly and systematically, assess performance in accordance with the agreed objectives and performance indicators and targets.
With these array of interrelated monitoring and evaluation processes, we hope to see a system built on integrity and transparency not only in the implementation of the development plan but also one that is anchored on watertight monitoring process which guarantees integrity and actual delivery as repeatedly demonstrated by the Inuwa Yahaya administration in Gombe State.
Possibly as a mark of validating the foregoing, the authors wrote in the document that “The Gombe State Government will institutionalize government-wide Annual Performance/ Monitoring Reporting and Performance against targets for each year will be monitored and reported to the State Executive Council every quarter and annually”.
For those who have examined the document, the crucial indicators for a successful performance are obvious which should leapfrog Gombe State from underdevelopment to a state of true development in due time.
Also there’s the inherent Governor Yahaya’s leadership factor which could help to match aspiration with actual success especially on the critical legal backing the governor promised to get from the state house of assembly to truly institutionalize the plan and make the process transparent and accountable.