By Abdulwahab Oba
We all embraced 2016 with varied expectations, filled with the hope that we were going for a jolly ride. After all, a major political tsunami had just swept the PDP, the then ruling party, out of office some seven months back. We were then on threshold of a genuine change. That change we had hoped would usher us into new levels of comfort and prosperity.
But alas, like the old saying, man proposes but God disposes, few months into the year, we began to sing a different tune as a people and a nation; government began to find it excruciatingly difficult to meet the most basic of its obligations; payment of salaries to workers and the multiplier effects soon splashed a lot of mud on several hitherto carefully packaged programmes and policies. It was a year Nigerians would never forget in a hurry.
So, how did we survive it in Kwara state that we did not crash? How did we navigate the many dangerous bends that confronted us in the year that just ended such that we still ended with a positive score card?
The chief pilot in the state, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed himself presented his score card for 2016 when he appeared before the state’s lawmakers to perform the statutory duty of presenting his proposals for the 2017 financial year before lawmakers in the state.
The governor, while reminding the lawmakers, who themselves played significant roles in the performance of the state in the year just ended, that his administration had sought to use the 2016 budget christened “Budget of Sustained Expansion”, as an avenue “to birth new programmes and projects in order to expand opportunities for collective prosperity and economic empowerment for all the citizens,” however noted that such noble aspirations were challenged by persistent shortfall in the level of revenue accruing to the State Government from the Federation Account. It was the reality of this challenge that intensified the government’s efforts at reforming its internal revenue generation activities. This has paid off substantially that Kwara ended the year 2016 not owing any of its civil servants. The take-off of the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service would become the most pragmatic decision by the government with far-reaching positive effects.
From the governor’s presentation to the lawmakers, the N350 million expended on water supply project to further close the potable water accessibility and availability gaps in the State and the current work when completed which will increase the coverage of potable water distribution infrastructure in Ilorin metropolis by about twenty-five percent, is a major developmental signpost of the administration in the year 2016.
Also, in the year 2016, N1.7 billion was spent on road works. They included 48 existing road projects which received serious attention from government while new road projects were also awarded across the State. This was in keeping with the administration’s resolve to providing and maintaining motorable roads, as well as improving connectivity with rural communities in the state.
Apart from this, the state also intervened on some federal roads to ease the socio-economic activities of the people of the State. These included:-Kaiama-Kishi and Patigi-Kpada-Rogun roads while the governor promised the lawmakers that work would soon commence on the expansion of Ita-Alamu-Ganmo/Afon Junction Road, Geri-Alimi Split Diamond Interchange and dualization of Kulende-UITH-Oke-Ose Road, all as part of the 2016 budget constrained by fund.
In its renewed effort to further strengthen the Kwara Road Maintenance Agency (KWARMA), a 30-ton asphalt plant was procured and installed for sustainable road rehabilitation and maintenance in 2016. The plant has substantially reduced the cost of road maintenance and ensured a sustained and avoidable repairs of our roads.
In the agricultural sector, government intensified efforts “at sustaining and improving agricultural activities in the State by facilitating greater participation of private investors in commercial farming and agro-allied industrial businesses.” In line with this, identification and selection of lead and down-line farmers for the Off-taker Demand Driven Agriculture (ODDA) and Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) were undertaken and the state is poised to access a N1billion loan for disbursement to qualifying farmers in the state to boost output and enhance livelihoods.
Government kick-started the repositioning of the state-owned Radio Kwara, Kwara State Television and The Herald, to improve on their statutory functions and to ensure self-sustenance in the face of stiff competition. New equipment for Kwara State Television were ordered in the first phase of the repositioning.
In the energy sector, government spent N4.9 million to connect more towns and villages to the national grid under its electrification programme. Also, N26.2 million was spent on procurement and installation of transformers, electrical plant and equipment at nine locations to cater for the growing settlements across the State. Another N7 million was spent on the injection of sub-stations and power evacuation Lines/Feeders in order to enhance stable power supply to various communities in all the sixteen Local Government Areas of the State while a total sum of N22.2 million was spent on the contractual obligation for on-going projects in the sub-sector.
In the health sector, the Health Insurance Scheme was scaled up with the injection of N100 million to expand access to efficient and affordable healthcare service delivery in the State. Attention was also paid to the rehabilitation and equipment of the Cottage Hospital, Igbaja, in readiness for use. In the same vein, Eggi-Oyo-Ipo Primary Healthcare Centre was rehabilitated. The State Government also supplied two Industrial Laundry Machines, three Mowers and one dryer to the General Hospital, Ilorin.
The state-owned tertiary institutions received Government’s attention in terms of Infrastructural Development which led to success in accreditation. For instance, the KWASU College of Engineering Project Phase 1 was taken to 90 per cent completion. In the same vein, the School of Midwifery, Ilorin got the sum of N128.6 million for the rehabilitation of the new site of the School. A total of N892.4 million was paid to the state-owned tertiary institutions as part of efforts at finding a lasting solution to salary delays in these schools.
In 2016, the Government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development distributed wheel chairs to physically-challenged people in the State and promoted entrepreneurship among women. Under its skill acquisition programme, the Ministry trained 80 women drawn from the sixteen Local Government Areas of the State in various skills such as Catering, Knitting, Sewing and Hair Dressing. A cumulative N1.9 billion was spent on revolving loans to cooperative societies and individuals in the State in order to promote and encourage a strong and organised Small and Medium Scale Industrial activities in the state.
To demonstrate his avowed commitment to the well-being of the state’s workforce, 1,323 Civil Servants benefitted from the 2016 promotion exercise by the civil service commission. Apart from ensuring prompt payment of salaries and allowances of the civil servants, government also ensured capacity building through training and retraining of various categories of the civil servants via seminars, workshops and conferences.
In all, though the water was troubled and navigating was difficult, we still sailed through as a state. Thanks to the benevolence of the Almighty Allah and the determination of our pilot, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. 2017 promises to be exceptional, as the worst is over. In God we trust.