The first thing on my mind while approaching Ilorin, the Kwara State Capital was ‘’what can a poor state like Kwara do?’’. However, spending a week going round the state and talking to people and top government officials resolved the doubt that sometimes, vision and passion can achieve much more than expected. Talking about vision and passion, one thing you can’t take away is the visionary leadership of the governor who has literally squeezed water from stone to achieve great milestones for a modest Emirate state of Kwara, created 50 years ago and ranking 28 in terms of GDP in the ranking of states in Nigeria.
The first magical achievement you can’t take away from His Excellency, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is the reform and gigantic milestone achieved in the state’s Internally Generated Revenue(IGR). Speaking with Mrs Adenike Babajamu, who is the Director Admin and Corporate Affairs in the Kwara State Revenue Services, ‘Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is one of the very few proactive Governors in Nigeria who took the bull by the horn and took steps to diversify its economy through revenue generation’.
Mrs Babajamu revealed that the vision of the governor is to develop the IGR of the State such that there is zero dependence on Federal allocation in the nearest future. The fall out of these visionary thinking saw the state in the first year of this revenue reforms rake in over 17 billion from a paltry N500M average revenue by the former Board of Internal Revenue. The most outstanding thing about this revenue reforms is the positive mass advocacy involved and the general willingness of the people of the state to comply without the state government using draconian means as it happens in several other states.
One of the approaches which NAIJ.com found amusing was giving of customized school backpacks to pupils with a message "play your part and pay your tax’’. With such simple approach, many parents on their own go to tax offices to pay their tax. There were several of such subtle persuasive approaches. 2017 is the 2nd year of implementing the Revenue reforms and the 1st quarter reports alone showed about N7B already generated.
The fall out of the additional revenue generated in the health sector saw the refurbishment of all the health facilities. One notable thing, when NAIJ.com visited the hospital, was the clean nature of the hospital environment and the wards. It was not hard to notice that the ambience reminds you of expensive private hospitals and the atmosphere was devoid of any form of stench or odour noticeable in many government health institutions.
NAIJ.com also visited the Renal Clinic where state-of-the-art equipment were procured, installed and are functional. We met patients going through dialysis which ordinarily is way beyond their affordability. The patients look so poor and obviously could never have afforded such treatment which the state government had to administer free of any charge.
The state of the art diagnostics centre which was started by the previous administration of Bukola Saraki (now Senate President) was improved on and made functional by the government of Abdulfatah Ahmed. Dr (Mrs) Jetawo Winters who is the DG of Kwara state Hospital Management Bureau spoke about how the network of all the hospitals in Kwara operate seamlessly especially in the area of referrals to ensure adequate care for the sick. While speaking glowingly of His Excellency, she premised that the number one underlying principle in discharging health care to Kwarans is on need basis and not necessarily affordability citing what we witnessed at the Renal centre as a case in point.
Kwara state enjoy good road networks pervading the nooks and cranny of the state. Naij.com went round to see these roads and also saw the ongoing construction of a great underpass which is strategically located in the major access road in and out of the capital Ilorin. In the words of the Honourable Commisioner for Works and Transport in Kwara State, Mr Jamiudeen Aro Yahaya, "One of the Cardinal focus of the The governor is to build First Class Roads to foster socio- economic developments, enhance productivity of our people and improve the general wellbeing of the residents of the state of Kwara".
Armed with this statement, NAIJ.com embarked on a review of the road infrastructure in the state. No doubt, the Governor has done so much in roads construction with so much obviously still needing to be done. It was however revealed during the chat with the Hon. Commissioner that more roads could have been done if the Federal Government can refund over N7B the state has expended in constructing and maintaining Federal Roads within the state in order to make life easy for Kwarans and Nigerian citizens living in Kwara.
The spending on these Federal Roads were inevitable due to their strategic importance in making life easy for Kwara residents. Such unrefunded monies has been a clog and it is quite evident as noticed by Naij.com that it should have been complete Eldorado in the state as far as road construction is concerned if the Federal Government can live up to expectations by refunding such monies so the state of Kwara can do more of their owned roads within her primary purview. Affordable Transportation is not left out in the achievements of the governor as several busses were recently commissioned to provide cheap and affordable transport to the residents of the State. NAIJ.com went to the depot to see these commuter busses all painted in blue colours at close of business while they were being driven back to base.
Other notable projects in the state include ‘’light up Kwara’’ which has ensured that street lights are installed and functional. The Governor, in order to encourage the development of science and technology also built a giant complex in the falculty of Engineering in the Kwara State University(KWASU).
Although, NAIJ.com could not meet with His Excellency, the governor one-on-one as he went to attend the fourth night council of state meeting in Abuja, enough on ground reveals the thinking of a man with a passion to better the lives of his people even in the face of myriads of challenges.
With reference to the revenue reforms, the best of Kwara State is yet to come especially when the seed of complete reliance on IGR is fully grown and yielding its fruits. What a luck for future governors of the state who will obviously find it easier to run the state with more funds as one of the viable states in Nigeria.
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has obviously sowed the seed of financial viability of Kwara State. The future can only get better for Kwarans. NAIJ.com says congratulations to all Kwarans in advance.
Written by Anthony Eshemokhai (Head, Public Sector Group, NAIJ.com)