‘We’re Driving Economic Activities that Would Become Taxable’

19 Jan 2013

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Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed in his monthly interactive programme with journalists tagged ‘The Governor Explains,’ recently gave account of his stewardship so far. Hammed Shittu was there

The 2012 budget was dubbed the budget of consolidation and development. How will you assess the level of implementation?

When we started the administration in 2011, we promoted the concept of continuity of legacies. What did we refer to as continuity of legacies? What were we expecting people to see in the continuity of legacies? We looked at it from the angle that we have just come out of an administration that had driven governance under clearly spelt out policies. It would only make sense for people to begin to see benefits of some of the programmes that were carried on from last administration to this administration. We needed to ensure that there is benefit to the people in terms of completion of projects to fruition level. We wanted to be sure that these legacies that were promoted in the last administration were taken to finishing levels.

A typical one was the Aviation College. The structures had just been completed when we came in. We needed to ensure that every other area that was needed to make it a functional school was taken care of and we diligently pursued that by injecting money. I am happy to tell you that our students are already flying. It is one of the very few aviation-training institutions in Africa today. Our people might not feel the direct impact yet. We will begin to see the impact of this school when we attain economy of scale with additional aircraft.

Federal Government, through the Vice President, is willing to support Kwara State government in this regard. Hopefully, within the next two or three months, we will be getting additional 10 to 15 aircraft that the school needs to expand to the level where we will begin to feel the economic impact directly in the State.

We also have the International Diagnostic Centre. We met it at the level when it was almost completed and we had to take it to the level where people will begin to benefit from it. I am happy to let you know that we have since completed that project. It has been inaugurated by the Vice President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo and will become functional soon. In order words, Kwara State is going to warehouse the first internationally recognised Diagnostic Centre. Inaccurate diagnosis has been the bane of healthcare delivery in Nigeria today. Quite a number of people have lost their lives because their ailments were not properly diagnosed. So no matter how perfect or advanced our doctors are in terms of knowledge without accurate diagnosis, it will not get desired results. This is part of what we call ‘shared prosperity’.

Can you explain why the recurrent expenditure is higher than the capital expenditure in the 2013 budget?

It is a structural problem in the country. We have allowed government to grow to the level that it is being run with a substantial part of the budget, which ordinarily should be used for capital projects. There is no hard and fast rule to it. If you take a state like Kwara State that is largely a civil service driven environment, what we have is a plethora of workers that we inherited in current civil service. Go to the federal level, go to local government level; you will see what government is experiencing. Unless there are deliberate efforts by governments to begin to create a structural change that will not allow for further growth of the civil service, the situation will remain the same. I saw a lot of criticism coming out in the papers. I just laughed. If you don’t give it a holistic approach you will not understand how these things are done.

You just harped on the importance of States being less dependent on federal allocation.  How do you want Kwara State to reduce its dependence on federal allocation?

You see our dependence on federal allocation is largely borne out of very low capacity to generate your own revenue. Ordinarily the federal allocation should have been icing on the cake, but the reverse is the case. We have been heavily depending on the Pay as You Earn to augment our recurrent expenditure, to augment our internally generated revenue. Our commercial agriculture is designed to generate what you call a value chain concept, which will see people making money from agriculture away from the subsistent level we used to know. This, in itself would generate and drive taxable environment. Revenue comes from taxes, fees, fines, commissions and royalties. Out of all these ones apart from taxes, which make up of close to eighty percent of what we earn in internally generated revenue, our fees are very small, our commissions are small and of course fines are small because of lack of compliance. And we don’t want to put much pressure on a very low economic environment. To that extent, we have a responsibility as a government to continue to inject some money into driving economic activities that would become taxable. If you want to have an environment where you can raise money, you must first inject money there; convert into an environment that can generate revenue.

Sometime ago you promised to intervene on the Ajasse-Ipo-Erin-Ile road despite the fact that it is a federal government road. Can you give us an update?

Yes, there were two forms of intervention we had in mind. The last time the Minister of Works came to Kwara, we spoke at length on our federal roads and how the state is willing to look for money to execute these roads on behalf of federal government subject to the fact that the federal government would pay us back our money. We wanted to reach that agreement.

Unfortunately, the federal government has not given a concrete answer on that. Rather, what they have told us is that there is a policy in place, which would allow states to carry on federal roads and get paid back. Then we asked them to give us the guideline. They gave us the guidelines regarding Kaiama-Kisi road and they gave us some guidelines on how to engage contractors, bidding process and getting to the levels of award. We have other federal roads in the State. If we can get a nod to embark on these roads today, I would access money and start rehabilitation immediately. But don’t forget that the money would be borrowed. Unless I get assurance that I would be paid within a specific time frame, it would be dangerous for me to go and borrow money that I don’t have a source of repayment to execute roads.

The second is that if the federal government is not responding as we expected, we will on our own embark on the rehabilitation of that road and I think we are taking a combination of the two options. I recall that I went to Offa some time last year and I emphatically said that we as a state would take over the rehabilitation of the road. I meant what I was saying. In order words, we are not going to wait for the federal government. Offa-Erin-Ile road is something that we will try in the year’s budget to rehabilitate. I know it is around N600m to get it to a desired level. Kaiama-Kisi is going to take a minimum of N6 to N8billion to take it to completion and of course Omu-Aran-Kabba. I don’t think that would take less than N8 to N10b and of course Jebba to Eiyenkorin cannot take less than N4 to N5billion. You see all these are more than our monthly allocations.

There are some stakeholders that say the government is concentrating infrastructural development in Ilorin to the detriment of other areas. Can we get your reaction to this?

I will completely disagree with that. Firstly, let us look at our policies. The reason why we try to drive government business with policies is to be able to isolate the impact that people should feel. Now, look at our roads. We have spent over N2.7bn on rural roads. Not up to 10 percent located in Ilorin metropolis. All these roads are located in the three senatorial districts, largely in the villages and other communities. The essence of it is for our people at these levels to begin to feel the impact of government. When we renovated up to like 400 classrooms not up to 10 percent are within the metropolis.

They are scattered across the three senatorial districts. We are renovating five General Hospitals and only one is located in Ilorin. We have two in Kwara South and one in Kwara North (senatorial districts). If you keep going you will see that a lot more activities are spreading to other parts of the State. What they are seeing as concentration is completion of on-going projects.

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, Politics, Abdulfatah Ahmed

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