With Kwara Infrastructural Development Fund, Gov. Ahmed Has Laid A Solid Foundation – Akorede (INTERVIEW)
In this interview, the Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor, Dr Muideen Akorede speaks with Oyewale Oyelola and Taiwo Adediran in his office recently. According to him, Governor Ahmed led adminstration introduced Kwara Infrastructural Development Fund to ensure completion all ongoing projects of all on on myriads of issues ranging from state-local government financial challenges, IGR, ownership of Shonga farm, local council elections, and the state university.
Local Government wage bill
Quite a few things. The first thing we did was to embark on an IGR reform, then we made them sign an agreement with KW-IRS to help them shore up their revenue and that has resulted, in some cases 100% increase in generated revenue. Another is the workers’ verification exercise which has resulted in savings, but you have to bear in mind the depth of the problem, the fact that they still suffer a short fall of about N700m in their allocation, remember I said they require N2.1bn. Now, what comes in is about N1.4bn to N1.5bn. Before you even get access to that money, the bank would have deducted N276m which is repayment of a N4bn loan taken for salary payment in 2015 before Ileya, ahead of a LG allocation that we were expecting which is yet to arrive till today. The Governor had to step in to convert the loan into a two-year tenure. So by the time you deduct N276m from the allocation that isn’t enough in the first place, you are left with N1.2bn or thereabout. Teachers alone require about N900m. By the time you deduct that, you are left with N300m. Local government workers require N500m. Pensioners require around N376m. So this is the point I am making, unless we return to a time when crude oil was about $100 per barrel, and the allocation goes back to N2.7bn again, I don’t see an end to this problem, because even the state government is suffering a drop
The state government receives about N3.4bn a month. It requires about N2.7bn to pay its workers and run government. Now it gets N2.3bn to N2.4bn. It means it suffers about N300m shortfall which it’s lucky to augment from IGR. The LG don’t have that capacity and as we speak, no bank will lend money to any local government in kwara. So, if you were here, what will you do? And all this about cutting government officials salary and allowances, those are mere palliatives that won’t solve all these problems. If a Governor doesn’t appoint commissioners and others, the savings he will make won’t be up to N50m a month and we are talking about N700m shortfall. One Governor did not appoint commissioners till a year towards the end of his tenure, how did that help his administration?
FUNDING OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Speaking as Muideen Akorede, I don’t know. The Governor’s view is to say let’s reform the local governments. Let the federal Government reduce its share of 52% and devolve more of that allocation to state and local governments. He has also advocated that the federal government should take over SUBEB funding directly. If it does that, that means another N900m is available for the LGs. Then, the problem is almost solved. But then, don’t forget that the FG also has its own financial problems.
No, it is not the restructuring we are talking about. Even this scenario I’m giving you now, do you think LG autonomy will solve this problem? We only like buzzwords in this country. Last year it was recession, this year, restructuring. If you ask 100 people what is restructuring, you will get 100 answers. At the core of these words is the fact that people are suffering? Was there call for restructuring when the economy was buoyant? Was there noise from the LGs when the allocations were high? No. So, at the core of this is the struggle over diminishing resources by an increasing number of people. So whether it’s a unitary system, federation or con-federation, if you don’t fix the economy, the problem still persists. So fix the economic problem and you are fine.
COMPLETION OF ONGOING PROJECTS
By the grace of God, they will and there’s a simple reason for it. The Governor has innovated an approach to project financing that acknowledges the current problem and finds a way around it. How? You pull resources together into a fund that is administered outside government. What that does is assure contractors that there is no more the usual government bottleneck of giving you work and it takes a long to pay you back. So, this same banks that are trustees of the IFK fund are the ones the contractor will approach and say, give me a loan of so-so amount, to be spent on this state project and the government is funding me from that same fund you are holding. So, as they pay me, you get your loan repayment. And it’s backed by law.
Even the Governor cannot say there’s pressure on local governments’ salary, let me go and take money from IFK, and this money is funded from IGR. All the adverts about IGR was pay your tax, and we build you roads, hospitals, good schools and all that. So he wants to build that commitment by saying we all keep a particular percentage of this money in an account for infrastructural use. The other part is spent to augment allocation to pay salary.
TAX COLLECTION IN KWARA STATE
You see, people don’t know the worth of things until we lose it. Drive on the streets of Ilorin at 2:00am and nothing will happen. Try that in some other states and see what happens. What about projects on hospitals, roads, the transformers, schools? Your children won’t go to public schools, other children do. And I laugh when people say this sometimes, go to England and say you aren’t going to pay tax, you get sued. It’s not even a valid excuse, it’s a moral argument and there’s no morality in law. To still answer your question, the Garin Alimi underpass is ongoing, two new campuses of KWASU, one in Ilesha Baruba, the other in Ekiti. UITH to Sango is being dualized, ply Sango all the way to Michael Imodu, the government is putting street lights there. That’s where tax money is going. That’s why I answered you by saying, may we not know our worth because we only know when those things are no longer there. What about the operational support of the Governor to the security agencies that is not announced? Again, there a judicial committee looking into the clash between Odo-Owa and Ilofa, the state government has to fund them from the same purse. So I want to say tax money is being put to good use by this government, but you see, there’s no government in the world that can completely meet the aspiration of its people, no one. As affluent as Sweden is in terms of citizens’ welfare, there’s still aspiration that government isn’t doing enough. I am using Sweden where they even give you free broadband in your house, but your taxation is about 40% of your earnings. So no single government can do it all, but we will continue to strive, knowing that government isn’t one person. It’s a continuous, and where this one finishes, another will take over. But one good thing this government has done is that it has laid solid foundation for the future one with this IFK because it’s backed by law.
Any Governor that picks it up will not have to worry about where to start getting money to fund projects, because by the time the governor is leaving, there’s going to be a seed-fund of about N1bn based on projection. So you build on it.
REHABILITATION OF ROADS
Remember the government acquired an asphalt plant and the projection then was this asphalt plant will insulate us from spending money to buy asphalt whenever there’s need for that. But it still boils down to this same issue. At some time, it was hard to get bitumen. Those who bring in bitumen could not get forex to transact at the time forex was very bad. So we couldn’t get bitumen which is a core ingredient of asphalt. It was around that time that the cut in allocation set in. There was that outcry of salary, salary, salary. So, almost all our resources were being pushed towards paying salaries. So, once you have done that, you forget the other aspect of welfare which is infrastructure. A pedestrian example is you have a house and the roof is beginning to have holes, showing signs of leakages. But my children want to eat indomie. At the time, I can only give them akamu (pap). So, I took pain and gave them money for indomie and egg. It won’t be all smiles if they come back and say, dad the roof is leaking. It’s a pedestrian example, but demonstrates the challenge the government finds itself now. So, to come back to your question, the reason for that is still the shortfall in allocation. The Governor is still hoping that, out of this same Paris club refund, he will be able to give a portion of it to the road maintenance agency to completely fix all the compromised roads in Kwara state.
MoU with a Chinese textile company
We are still waiting on the federal government to give us some concession. Basically, this company will have to compete with smugglers. You if you are going to build a textile plant here, you’ll be faced with energy cost, labour cost, federal government tariff and all that which will make their produce non-competitive. So, we are expecting the federal government to give us some concessions or waivers that will make their price lower than the smuggled goods. So, once the federal government concedes those waivers, the plant will start.
It’s very simple. I keep telling those who ask these questions, if you are sure of what you are saying and so love this state than we do, go to CAC, pay N5000 to check the ownership of the so-called companies. We are saying Shonga farm holdings is owned by the farmers, the state government and a consortium of banks. And this company now own shares in each of the individual thirteen farms that they started with. So it’s simple. If anyone feels that they have contrary information, let them publish it instead of the rabble-rousing unless they don’t believe in our institutions anymore. In fact, I challenge those with contrary information, with all due respect, they should come, I will give them the N5,000 to verify.
And are we turning in profit?
Not yet, there are a lot of expectations that we had with that place which has not been fulfilled. They set up that place with the hope that there will be irrigation for them to do year-round farming. That has not been done because it was also based on expectation from the federal government. The unfriendly business environment has also contributed its own problem. So, it’s making money but not turning in profits yet. But it’s not a failed project. In fact it’s one of the best things that have happened to Kwara state economically.
ASSESSMENT OF KWASU
I think the school has done well and come very far. I saw the recent ranking in the paper. Kudos to its founder, Kwara state Government and the visionary, former Governor Abubakar Bukola Saraki who is now the Senate President. And to Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed for sustaining the institution and continuing to fund the university as a priority. It just shows we are resourceful people in Kwara state that we even have people here who have helped drive it to its successful height today. If that university was not established, a lot of Kwarans and people outside the state would have been out of the university system. Can you imagine the number of jobs that have been created in that university? So, how far it has gone within the short time is worthy of commendation and shows that the institution has the capacity to do more.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN TOP NEWS MAGAZINE