We need bond to drive infrastructure in Kwara, says Ahmed
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State has bemoaned the state of the nation’s economy especially the frequent reduction in the Federal Allocations to the states, promising however a robust system in Kwara that would enable his government pay workers’ salaries as at when due. Ahmed, who described his being a governor as divine said he was saddened by the inability to pay workers’ salaries, during a recent interactive session with journalists in Ilorin. ABIODUN FAGBEMI who was there for The Guardian reports.
Herdsmen attacks and militancy in Niger Delta
Why have people that had hitherto lived together began to take arms against themselves. Certain things are clear. The first one, which is the common one, is economic. Perpetually, man is in a race of striving for control of power, resources and income. That drive propels you to key into opportunities. Situation happens and we react to it differently.
The concept of cattle rearing clashing with farming should not arise at all. But this is arising because agriculture has never been streamlined to be driven as a major focus of revenue generation for Nigeria. Otherwise, we would have put a lot of regulatory systems in place such as farmers’ protection platform, produce protection platform, land management issues, land in respect to either cattle rearing or cropping, strong research institutions.
We would have created areas that would have allowed our farmers to be seen in such a way and manner that we can attend to them and they can attend to us. You can imagine a situation where our grazing farmers are locked up in a given land where they can grow grass, harvest the grass, feed the cattle with less energy expended by the herdsmen and the cattle in moving around. They expend the energy derivable when they move around. But if they don’t move around and stay in a place, they can access the grass and their cattle can be attended to, they too can go to school and contribute their quota to the economic system.
Our agricultural policy has largely been concentrating on crop farming. We have not given attention to this sector in terms of strong support and organisation and optimal benefit from this sector of agriculture. There are no policies in place to enable cattle rearing to be seen as agribusiness in Nigeria and that is what we require to do. Once we get it done, anybody can go into cattle rearing. It is not the exclusive preserve of the Fulanis or other ethnic nationality.
Inability to pay workers’ salaries
I feel very sad that people work and they are finding it difficult to get paid. No matter what, it should not be a problem for workers to get salary. I had seen danger in the way economy of the state and local governments had been run. Apart from being a mono economic dependent, I saw little activities happening outside civil service. If it had been that civil service was run by IGR, it won’t have been a problem, but it’s run from proceeds accruing from sales of crude oil. We should have seen that it’s not a sustainable level of driving governance.
The challenges are huge. Again, we’ve always been saddled with high unemployment rate of 65 per cent of the population of young people of between 15years and 65years age bracket. Government is to make enabling environment for people to unleash their potentials. These government responsibilities include: security, infrastructure, and economic stimulus. Unfortunately, our capacity to put this in place had been gradually reduced by the consistent drop in the price of crude oil which has affected our earnings and money meant for disbursement.
Different states with different problems and we all apply different strategies based on exigencies we find ourselves. For us in Kwara, we’ve been managing our resources by ensuring that we don’t over stretch our growing capacities. And we try to work within a framework that allows our capacity to repay to be hinged and determined by our internally generated revenue capacity. That determines our borrowing growth capacity and informs how much to take from the market.
Our monthly allocation has consistently dropped, making planning difficult. We find ourselves augmenting salary payment as it comes as primary obligation. And that’s why we cannot continue to use everything we get to pay salary. And the situation has prompted us to cut the cost of running government in overhead and personnel costs. We have employed zero budgeting and ongoing verification of staff, certificate and employment respectively in these regards.
We must get it right and this data would enable proper planning. We have also improved our IGR with about 100 per cent growth. We are expecting 300 to 500 per cent growth in that area. It’s now electronically driven with large volume of success expected in collection of revenue.
Bond as a funding option
We looked for various platforms that funds could be available from. What platforms are they: the capital market; the money market; the developmental institutions, buyers credit systems. These are all windows from which a potential institution or state can access funds to drive business. In all these sources of funding for capital projects, they have one common denominator. It is the capacity to pay back. That is the determining factor whether you will raise money or whether you will not raise money and how much you can raise. Now what determines our capacity as state to go to borrow money? There are two key things: federal allocation funds and our IGR.
You can imagine a situation where our grazing farmers are locked up in a given land where they can grow grass, harvest the grass, feed the cattle with less energy expended by the herdsmen and the cattle in moving around. They expend the energy derivable when they move around. But if they don’t move around and stay in a place, they can access the grass and their cattle can be attended to, they too can go to school and contribute their quota to the economic system.
At the time we mooted the idea to go to capital market, we were premising our capacity at that time, which was over a year ago, either from federation allocation or IGR. As it were, the federally allocated funds had been going down. IGR system for us is something that we have just restructured which is growing from infancy to a desirable level. In a nutshell, that has impeded our capacity to raise the original N20billion we sought to raise because of the consistent drop in our revenue from federation account and has made us to begin to look at truly how much we can raise with the current inconsistent revenue capacity.
We have since looked at dropping it to N10billion, which is what we are pushing for now, subject to stabilisation of the revenue. A lot more things are being put in consideration in determining which of the funding windows we will take. We may ultimately go for the buyer’s credit. It depends if we are able to structure it with institutions. We can go on with buyer’s credit, which enables us to carry on with our capacity projects with a steady, strong repayment system that gives us a sense of comfort to the service provider. These are various options. But one thing is clear; we will do those projects, which we said we would do under those terms. The projects are clear, but they will be big enough to make a difference to Kwarans especially in traffic management. That is the under-pass in Gerin Alimi.
We want to ensure that the two campuses of Kwara State University (KWASU), Ilesha-Baruba and Osi are functional before we leave. We want students to resume for those colleges that will be there – agriculture and environment studies. We want to see that we extend the dual carriage to University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) to save more lives. Also, Ganmo road will be made a dual carriageway 100 meters to Ganmo town, then will do Agbabiaka road to link us so that it will create a bypass. We want to create dual carriages at all entry points to Kwara.
We hopefully want to renovate the Indoor Sports Hall. We also have some ongoing roads. Quite a few of them have been captured at the federal budget. We pray that funds are released. Whatever, you say, this is the best thing that has happened to Kwara in the last 16 years I know. For the first time, we are getting projects coming in to federal budget, budgets that we would have hitherto spent our money because they are projects that are critical to Kwarans. The Oha Bridge is in the federal budget.
Five years as governor of Kwara
First, I keep thanking God Almighty. Because I keep looking back to where I was coming from. I go back to my primary school days. I look at how I was wandering around the street, swimming in rivers, entering vehicles from Kaduna to Zaria to Funtua, coming back to finding myself sitting here for the past five years, I keep thanking God. He’s wonderful. That’s what I reflect on daily. I look at my classmates and I wonder did I ever think I would be sitting down like this as governor. I reflect on this and see it as strong sense of responsibility. It’s not luck. God has a purpose for it. It’s a responsibility, which has fallen on my laps, and I must take.