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Gov Ahmed: Building a secured Kwara -Abdulwahab Oba

Abdulwahaab Oba
Chief Press Secretary
to the Kwara State Governor

In the last few weeks, the state governor, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed has been engaging various strata of the community in a town hall dialogue. It is a programme that started from the inception of the administration as a feedback mechanism; a channel to feel the pulse of the community without the usual officialdom often associated with government-public relationship.

And the feedback has been huge, and immensely beneficial to the administration. The last few meetings, particularly with the youths have yielded good insight into the feelings and understanding of the people from the side of government while giving the governor ample opportunity to lay the cards before the future leaders on course of events in the state and what the stakes are in the push towards making Kwara a state of developmental reference.

These meetings are always frank; no pretensions, no deceit. For instance, youths from Ilorin West told the governor during their own turn their concern about the fate of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress, their worry over the issue of outstanding local government salaries, the outcome of the last local government election in which the opposition won eight wards (they dont want any other party to win even a single polling unit, let alone a ward in any election in the state), the water challenge facing the community, the condition of many roads in the municipality and how desirable it would be for the Light Up Kwara project, to be extended beyond its current areas of focus. 

The youths also talked about the tax regime in the state; some with frowns and some with smiles over the activities of the tax agency.
These are well founded issues not even only in Ilorin west, but across the state. Our communities are hungry for development. They want good roads; they want access to clean water, they want salaries to be paid as at when due and in full and they want to enjoy the benefit of a Light Up Kwara that seeks to transform the night economy in the state. Some want upgrade of their community health services, repairs of their beidges and culverts. These were legitimate concerns of the people and Governor Ahmed allowed everyone to speak. He listened with wrapped attention and jotted down every down every point, no taking offense with any one, not even a boy who said he was pulling the governor's ear. 

Taking his turn and time to recce, the governor made everyone understand the linkage between tax and development. No sane government would suddenly stop paying salaries on the 27th of every month, as has happened in this state, even when there are conflict between the state and the workers and when in reality, every government understands the constitutionality of salary payment.
Of course,  as such one common thread that ties all these together is funding and its availability. The reality is that while government also desires these amenities, availability of fund has been a big challenge; indeed a headache, for the man trusted with the responsibility of leading Kwara at this point in time.  

In the years preceeding Dr Ahmed's tenure, though the state's internally generated revenue was below N500m, it earned about N3.4b and an additional quarterly revenue of over N2b. These allowed us pay salaries as at when due as well as carrying on various infrastructural projects. But, just two years in to this administration, federal allocation nose dived. From N3.4b it dropped at a point to about N1.7b with an estimate of between N2.4b required for payment of salaries. The governor who gave this brakedown to the youths, explained that this is exclusive of running costs to oil government's machinery. This unexpected fall in expected income from the federal government, has been responsible for the noted inadequacies in the payment of salaries at various levels of local government. 

And this is the reason while the vision behind the repositioning of the states capacity to generate enough internal funds must be commended. With the vision, the accomplishment, Kwara State has been able to pay the state's workers and its pensioners. What can be surmised from the performance of the Kwara State Internal Revenue Services, KWIRS, in the last two years of its operation is that we have the cspacity to make things work, if we would be determined to stay true to the demands needed for such an accomplishment. If KWIRS could double the monthly tax revenue of the state without raising the tax payable and without introducing new ones, then we have the platform for such an accomplishment.

It is the reality of the benefits of tax payment that informed the setting up of Infrastructure Fund-Kwara (IF-K) whereby the state still sets aside the sum of N500 million every month and distributes the accumulated sum every quarter to contractors. This way key projects are ongoing despite the paucity of fund: the new secretariat complex is ongoing, the two campuses of KWASU are ongoing, the Diamond Underpass is ongoing; dualisation of Zango-UITH road is ongoing, each m of them multi-billion naira projects. And these in addition to less expensive road projects such as Airport-Egbejila road, Ilorin, Share-Oke Ode road, construction of Arandun-Rore-Aran-Orin-Ipetu road, construction of Kankatu-Samsudeen-Okelele road, construction of Erin-ile Street, Gaa-Akanbi, Ilorin, construction of Ilala Bridge, rehabilitation of Offa-Ipee road, Ilorin, construction of Ilesha Baruba-Gwanara road, construction of Arobadi Maigida road, Moro, rehabilitation of Anilelerin Agun-Ita-Erin road, Offa, construction of Amule Bridge, and a host of other ongoing road projects across the state.

The government would, through these projects demonstrate its faithfulness to the people on the utilisation of tax revenue and hope to stir more commitment from them in response. With a stable tax income that can meet a greater portion of the infrastructure needs of the state, it would be much easier to focus what comes as federal revenue,  whose quantum would continue to be at the mercy of the international price of crude oil; up today and down for the next few weeks, to meet salary obligations. That is the way to go and that is the appeal we need to make to our youths to understand and support because tomorrow belongs to them.

In the meantime, the governor explained what he is doing about the lingering salary crisis at the local governments.  Every pronouncement from the government on this has been amplified in different ways and coloured several times to suit the interest of whoever is speaking on it. But no matter the colouration, the truth remains that local government salary is a duty of the local government but local government workers being part and parcel of the people of Kwara, it has become imperative for the state to do something on their challenge. The government is looking for a lasting solution and not palliative, stop-gap initiatives that will still return us to the same point after a few months.

In the meantime, the rise in the price of crude oil with the attendant increase in allocation to the local governments is expected to help ensure better times for the workers. If that is the case, then it would put paid to all the negative insinuations that someone was behind the salary crisis to punish the council workers. Who did they offend? No one. Therefore, one cannot but ask the youths of Kwara to remain steadfast with this government because no matter the noise from the other side, Maigida is doing well. He has set the platform for the economic manifestation of Kwara as a blessed state. Lets play our part, by paying our taxes.

Gov Ahmed: Building a secured Kwara -Abdulwahab Oba Reviewed by Unknown on January 30, 2018 Rating: 5

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