Interview: Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya

What is your evaluation of the current economic situation in Gombe State?

MUHAMMAD INUWA YAHAYA: The economic landscape has improved in recent years across several key indicators. The state’s debt, for example, is at a sustainable level following the settlement of over 30% of legacy pension liabilities. Moreover, all local governments have maintained positive balances and we were among the first states to implement a N30,000 ($71.48) per month minimum wage. Furthermore, Gombe’s internally generated revenue increased to an average of N1bn ($2.4m) per month.

Achieving these milestones amid persistent global headwinds underscores the growing resilience of Gombe’s economy. This is largely due to our commitment to the principles of prudent resource management, accountability and transparency. Gombe’s strategic location at the centre of the north-east region, bordering all five neighbouring states, offers a distinct advantage in bolstering infrastructure, trade and commerce. The shared commitment to peace and stability among the 3.9m residents further reinforces Gombe’s emerging position as the economic powerhouse of the north-east region.

How critical is federal and state government collaboration to infrastructure development in Gombe?

YAHAYA: A strategic partnership with the federal government and other stakeholders led to the establishment of the Budget, Planning and Development Partner Coordination Office. The entity is responsible for securing and managing partnerships that aid in the development of Gombe State. By facilitating the federal takeover of the Sani Abacha International Airport, which is critical to regional security, commerce and trade, the state executive has been instrumental in fostering intergovernmental collaboration. Infrastructure is pivotal in economic development, given Gombe’s strategic location for regional trade and commerce. The federal government’s rehabilitation drive in the north-east after a decade-long Boko Haram insurgency has the potential to engender the requisite infrastructure for the movement of people, goods and services.

The expansion of the Gombe Regional Water Scheme serves as a prime example of the significance of intergovernmental cooperation in developing infrastructure. The Dadin-Kowa water treatment plant was built in 2006 with a daily capacity of 50m litres to serve a population of 2.6m. By 2022 the population had increased to 3.9m due to urbanisation and the influx of internally displaced persons seeking refuge from the Boko Haram insurgency in the Gombe metropolis and surrounding communities. This created undue pressure on basic services and triggered billions of naira in contractual liabilities to repair the deteriorating plant. In 2019 a task force was convened to reverse the decline, enabling us to resume full operations. However, the long-term solution necessitates securing 30% federal funding to extend and enhance the plant’s reach and capacity as per the new National Water Supply Policy. Upon completion, the new plant will pump 100m litres of water daily, involving three booster stations and numerous boreholes, spanning a distance of 160 km.

Which factors are the key drivers of investment flows?

YAHAYA: The inaugural Gombe State Investment Summit 2022 took place in November, attracting both domestic and foreign investors. This event bolstered the favourable business climate in Gombe State, which was ranked number one in the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council’s ease of doing business index for 2021 and 2023. With its abundant natural and material resources such as oil and gas, coal deposits, sizeable dams for both irrigation and hydropower generation, and a vibrant and enterprising youth population, Gombe State presents a promising investment destination. To maximise this, the government is investing in infrastructure such as road networks, stable energy and security, and promulgating investment-friendly policies.