Hammed Shittu records highlights of a recent interaction with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State at Government House, Ilorin.
What are the major economic development highlights of your administration in the last seven years?
Firstly, we want to give sincere gratitude to God Almighty, for making it possible for us to take the state through these last seven years peacefully under the current economic situation. We came in with a strong desire to meet aspirations of Kwarans. We have modestly met our campaign promises.
During the campaigns, we clearly spelt our plans from the angle of continuity on programmes that were on ground and also adding new ones. The slogan then was ‘Legacy Continues’ through which we hit the ground running by taking programmes we met on ground to completion, jump starting new ones and taking them to completion.
One of the key areas we emphasised was economic development. We noticed that our people were largely in a civil service driven environment and we felt that the only way to change things was to create a small and medium enterprise agency. That agency was designed at inception to begin to change the purchasing power of our people, increasing their capacity to drive the economy and, most importantly, to create wealth. We created a Small and Medium Enterprise Agency with a seed money of about N250 million. We had since increased this on a cumulative basis to about N3.2 billion. Under this agency, we have been able to empower over 2,000 cooperative groups and we have also been able to support over 60,000 small and medium enterprise agencies who hitherto were not getting access to funding. But with the articulated SME agency, we’ve been able to create entrepreneurship for them and this has set them on a wealth growing path.
Of course, we’ve allowed associations, groups to benefit from the Small and Medium Enterprises. We set up the Artisans Congress which is made up of over 53 associations. They’ve all benefitted under this Small and Medium Enterprise Scheme, including our transporters under the NURTW. We have the Motorcycle Riders Association, Okada Riders Association and Keke Napep Riders Association who have all benefitted in one form or another through our Small and Medium Enterprise Scheme.
We also put buses on the road to help movement of people from different locations, especially some of our students who have had challenges getting to school on time. Under this scheme also, we regulated the use of auto cycles in transportation because we wanted to be sure that they are not involved in criminality. So, we streamlined their movement in the state and got them properly compartmentalized to specific locations with proper identity and profiled them under the scheme.
One major achievement of this administration is the reform in the collection and administration of our Internally Generated Revenue. Relying on funds from the federal government was not sustainable and the only way we could change the way things were done in the state was to come up with a new revenue generating outfit to ensure that funds are captured and expended accordingly.
For this reason, we repealed the law setting up the Board of Internal Revenue. We got a new law setting up the Kwara State Internal Revenue Services that changed the people and technology to drive the process. That alone ensured the increase of our revenue from N7 billion to N17 billion. The implication is that it created latitude for a lot of things. We were able to raise funds to ensure that parastatals run properly and ensure that tertiary institutions are captured. Most importantly, funds were available for capital development.
The other wonderful side of it is that funds that were accessed under the internal revenue were used to set up the Kwara Infrastructure Fund (IFK), to drive infrastructure development. These funds have gone into driving capital projects especially in water, roads, energy, schools and health sectors.
The IFK, which is the Kwara Infrastructure Fund started with an initial seed money of about N5 billion and has grown to over N11.6 billion. This fund has been deployed to critical areas that affect our people. We have been able to deploy about N3.5 billion to capital projects in Kwara Central, about N3.2 billion to projects in Kwara South and about N2.9 billion to projects in Kwara North.
This is apart from projects we inherited and ensured their completion. We also initiated new projects. Some of these projects have been completed, while others are on-going. Part of the programmes under the infrastructure fund is the Split Diamond Under Pass constructed in Asa-Dam Road in Geri Alimi which, by God’s grace, will be taken to completion in the next six months.
We witnessed the flag off of the Kwara State University in the three campuses across the three senatorial districts. We have the School of Governance in Kwara Central, School of Environment in Kwara South and the School of Agriculture in Kwara North.
We also witnessed the dualization of the UITH/Sango Road, which is expected to be taken to completion within next few months.
The benefit of that is immensurable, especially as it relates to movement of humans and vehicles. It also ensures free movement of patients under emergency service. This will not only improve the aesthetics of the area but increase access to better health care.
In the area of human capital development, which includes health and education, we have been able to renovate close to 600 classrooms, inclusive of the School of Special Needs. We reduced the amount payable by students of Kwara State University, by 30 percent to reduce the burden on the parents in terms of payment of school fees. We have also established the School of Engineering at KWASU.
Part of the reasons why we setup the university was to drive technology. We want to ensure that we have a conducive environment for the study of engineering, therefore, we established an ultra-modern Engineering Faculty, to keep students abreast of modern engineering techniques.
Another area which is very critical to Human Capital Development is vocational training. You’ll agree with me that in as much as we are creating an environment to teach and make our youths learn and develop themselves, there are gaps that exist in terms of what the market needs.
Our administration reasoned that these gaps can only be filled with vocational training programmes. In other words, we have an institution that trains people. The Ajase Ipo International Vocational Training and Entrepreneur College which operates in conjunction with City & Guilds, London trains artisans on international best practices so that they can export their acquired skills to any part of the world.
In the 70s and 80s, one of the biggest earners of foreign exchange for India was remittances largely from people that they exported to other parts of the world to deliver services. This is why we set up the International Vocational Training and Entrepreneur College, Ajase Ipo. Their training is subsidized by the state government while some are sponsored by various stakeholders. The most important part of it is that the World Bank is currently funding 75 students under this programme for entrepreneurship under the Human Capital Development programmes to ensure that drugs are available in our health institutions through a well-structured drug revolving scheme.
Under our health-for-all-programme, we remodeled five general hospitals in Ilorin, Offa, Share, Omu Aran and, Kaiama. These are critical areas that are supposed to serve as secondary health care facilities. In addition, we also re-modeled 50 primary health care institutions which are largely to serve the rural environment.
We’ve also improved on accessibility to healthcare services through the expansion of our community health insurance scheme which hitherto covered one local government to a comprehensive state wide health insurance scheme. The law to drive the health insurance scheme has already been passed. This will, no doubt, make healthcare services available to an average person in the rural environment with as low as N1,000 or N2,000 all year round.
About 4,000 female civil servants have been screened for cervical and breast cancer. One of the biggest challenges healthcare services is faced with today is non-communicable diseases, like cancer, tumor etc. It has become imperative to make information available to encourage them to go for checkup and ensuring their status before it gets really bad. We are able to achieve this through the office of the First Lady through her LEAH Foundation.
Ilorin has continued to expand as a result of its peaceful environment. People keep moving from other parts of the country to Kwara State. We’re very happy with it even though it comes with its own attendant pressure on our infrastructure. A lot of resources have been invested in sinking boreholes, a lot more in expanding roads to allow people to move from one place to another. The issue of water supply is taken very seriously. The last administration embarked on expansion of water supply to over 25 million gallons. This came to about N8 billion project. I’m happy to let you know that we’ve been able to take that project to completion. We’ve been able to rehabilitate over 17 water works across the state and improved water supply to a lot of communities by sinking boreholes to serve over 400 communities across the state.
Road is a critical infrastructure that has great impact on the economy. Predominantly, our people are farmers and they need to move their produce from one location to another which presupposes that there is need to make roads available in every nook and corner of the state. We inherited close to 21 ongoing road projects totaling 250 kilometres scattered across the three senatorial districts. We’ve completed them all. Some of them are Afon/Eiyenkorin/Balla road, Akerebiata, Offa Garage-Olaolu dualisation, construction of Alabi Owo road, Lafiagi township road, Eruku/Koro road, Ganmo/Afon road, Sulu Gambari road, including Omu-Aran township road, Isanlu-Isin/Ijana-Isin road and so on.
We set up Off-Taker Demand Driven Agric programme and a Youth Agric Development programme to support the Off-taker Demand Driven programme. This has discouraged our youths from seeking white collar jobs. I’m happy to let you know that a lot of Kwara youths have benefitted from our Off-Taker Demand Driven Agric Programme that is funded under the Central Bank Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS).
We have a partnership with Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and other commercial banks. Over 6,000 hectares of land have been cultivated for various crops and these crops are largely tied to specific off-takers. This is planned to upscale what we have been doing in the past. We are now going further to increase hectares of land to be cleared and number of people that will participate. Of course, a lot of people have also keyed into poultry farming which is part of the value chain that is dependent on the maize and soya bean circle.
Our youths have also keyed into fish farming in which we made fingerlings available. Some of them have been put under the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme programme to develop fish farming and other forms of farming, not just cropping.
The most interesting things we are doing in energy today is Green Energy. We have decided to exploit the Green Energy platform by setting up a solar farm to small communities. One or two communities have been adopted for our pilot scheme for Solar Energy Support Scheme. Those communities are enjoying uninterrupted power supply which today is aiding one of those communities in driving irrigation and energy dependent for vegetable and other power related agriculture programmes.
Our streets will enjoy regular light under the light-up programme which is completely funded under the Infrastructural fund. We’ll soon move to other local governments like Offa, Omu-Aran, Share, Lafiagi and Kaiama.
All programmes tht are funded under IFK are destined for completion because the funding is from taxes and as long as taxes are efficiently collected, funds will be available for infrastructure development.
From a modest perspective, we have been able to deliver on goods and services to the good people of Kwara State.
What is the magic between your arm of government and the legislature, especially in the passage of budget every year vis-à-vis what is happening at the national level?
The issue of budgeting in the state and passage of budget by the state house of assembly should be considered from an inclusive perspective. At the budget formulating process, the legislative arm is carried along. This allows understanding of where the funding and what amount is available. We usually outline our medium term expenditure clearly. The sources of revenues are also well articulated and framed out in such a way that it is clear and seen by all. This gives the passage of budget an easy flow because, if you are part and parcel of a development programme, it makes it easier for you to believe in it and own it. I’m sure that, if this is imbibed at all levels, it will help the federal government overcome the seeming budget delay.
What’s your reaction to the police indictment on you and the Senate President on the Offa robbery?
It’s very unfortunate and disheartening that the incident caught us unaware. It was sad that 33 innocent lives were cut short by the dastardly act. We sympathise with their families, friends and associates. Our heart is with them at this moment. May Almighy Allah console and comfort them.
We also deeply commend the Nigeria Police for swinging into action swiftly and the promptness with which they apprehended the suspects. They have displayed high level of professionalism equal only to those found in technologically advanced climes. That singular success of early apprehension of the suspects has reinforced our confidence in the competence of the force.
Don’t forget that similar incidents had occurred in Share and Oro, my senatorial district without success in bringing the culprits to justice. So, ordinarily the feat recorded in Offa should have been applauded by the people whose economic and social activities were disrupted. Rather than the media trial, the police should have followed up confessions of the suspects on their intents and actions. The armourer has been named. How did he get this type of sophisticated weapons? What are the sources? Where is the named armourer? These are questions begging for answers.
Our political system in the state is inclusive and grassroots oriented. There is no need for violence. We’ve never experienced any form of violence in our elections, especially since 2013 elections. We’re not a violent state. This is a state of harmony. So, if anyone regards himself as a political thug, then it’s his business. As a state with over 60 per cent youth population, various empowerment opportunities through the SMEs are offered to them. If any one turns opportunity to criminality, he must face the full wrath of the law.
The state government is committed to strengthening the cordial relationship with the police as demonstrated through various support to the force and therefore will restrain itself from politicising a serious security issue like the Offa robbery.
What’s obvious is that we need to put everything in place to restore confidence and comfort in the mind of our people. We need to put measures in place to prevent future occurrence of the unfortunate incident.
But to accuse the state executive governor and a sitting senate president of complicity is to trivialise and politicise a serious national tragedy which the Offa robbery symbolises.
But the suspect confessed that your government gave them cars and that your chief of staff gave one of them guns?
And so what? If God gave you super intellect to enable you contribute to humanity and you willingly and willfully deployed it to internet fraud and weapons of mass destruction, should we blame God? I don’t know or identify with any thug, not to mention a political thug because, of course, there is no need for it. Our people are peaceful.
And for my chief of staff, this is a man who has deployed substantial part of his time and energy to see how our teeming youths can be gainfully employed and taken out of the streets. He is someone who can’t even hurt a fly. What do you expect of a drowning man in the jugular of a crocodile? He would want to hang on to anything he erroneously thinks can rescue him.