I continue this week the earlier recap of key issues that came from the interaction between Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the people of Kwara during the August edition of the popular programme, The Governor Explains.
We have seen in an earlier edition of this column the importance of such an interface between the governor and the people; where there are no intermediaries between the two except for the mediated channel of radio and social media technology. The programme has therefore become a veritable barometer for gauging public opinion and presenting positive alternative views on governance all in the very best interest of the state.
For instance, in the previous edition, I highlighted the governor’s response to enquiry on the reason behind turning our International Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC), Ajase-Ipo into an NGO-run enterprise. According to the Governor, “our plan to set up an International Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC) in the first place is as a result of the need to create a training ground for a middle man power need and development plan. Most importantly, if you look at the typical colleges that were introduced in the past, most of them have either gone moribund or largely being converted to regular secondary schools as a result pervasive mentality of seeing government business as a no man’s business”.
“Now, how will the school run differently from what we used to have in the past? So, our desire to set up a vocational training institution that will not go the same way as the ones in the past was responsible for running the school the way it is currently modelled”.
On salaries of local government employees and local government autonomy, the governor explained that “the State run its own account while the local government run its account. Local government in Kwara are completely autonomous because they are financially autonomous. Their allocation comes into what we call the joint allocation account of local governments. The joint is not between the state and the local. It is amongst the 16 local governments.
But more than that, the last edition of the programme also gave the governor opportunity to assure Kwarans that our economy is in safe hands; that we are not overburdened with debt, either domestic or foreign. “We have succeeded in reforming the economy through selective funding of our infrastructural programme and making funds available for small entrepreneurs”, the governor told the people.
Gov Ahmed assured kwarans that even though the state cannot be isolated from the recession hitting the nation, his administration has however brought certain levels of intervention, through medium and small enterprise funding windows. “We have also changed ways and manner through which the state accesses its Internally Generated Revenues”, he said.
A budding farmer himself, Gov Ahmed encouraged every one to venture into agriculture; a core focus of the administration. According to him, driving the agricultural sector, is also a key way to change the economic environment of Kwara. “I am happy to let you know that quite a number of people have signified interest; some have accessed funds under the Commercial Agric Scheme of the Central Bank”, he said before adding, “we have been able to get quite a few people interested in agriculture and I’m sure by the time we add the one billion naira loan we have gotten, we expect it to translate to probably two, three billion increase. So for us, these are ways by which we’ve sought to improve and drive the economy at the state level”.
One other issue that was raised by the interview panel dealt with the rumoured exit of some key companies from the state due to alleged imposition of excessive taxes. Several companies were mentioned, and even when we still see such organisations working in town, many would choose to stick with the rumour than accept official explanation. As such this matter had been on ground for some time and although key state officials had taken time to ward off the insinuation as blatantly untrue, it still came up at the studio.
The Governor Explained: “It’s not true that manufacturers are complaining of taxes. What taxes do we ask manufacturers to pay? The first one is company tax which is not paid to Kwara State. It’s paid to the federal government. The second one is ground rent. The ground rent is normal and expected to be paid. In the past, we’ve not been efficient in our responsibility of collecting ground rent. So, our introduction of efficiency is now being seen as a level of pressure. It is paid yearly and anywhere in the world where land is used, you pay for it and we have not asked with rates that are outside the law.
“The third one is probably the income tax by workers which ordinarily should have been paid as salaries are paid. So, there is no taxation in Kwara that is extra-ordinary that would push any investors to move away. If they move away, there is nowhere they will go and function and would not have to pay the same type of taxes. So, it is likely to be untrue that people are moving away because they are asked to pay taxes”.
There was a question on Lassa fever in the state. The governor thanked stakeholders for their efforts and assured Kwarans that the loci of the challenge had not only been properly identified, but necessary steps had been taken to ensure it is curtailed and our people protected. The state is following laid down international procedure for dealing with such outbreak.
On environmental sanitation, especially the generally perceived disappearance of RORO bins from designated points in the metropolis without making adequate plans for how residents would dispose off their wastes, Dr Ahmed also explained that contrary to the general belief, the waste disposal system is working, but due to a daily increasing population of residents, the infrastructure that were provided few years ago have come under severe pressure to the extent that they now appear inadequate.
Hear him: “The system is effective but additional people are coming into the system. For instance, if you provide 100 RORO-bins to ten houses and now we have four hundred houses there, it is not as if your provisions are not there but they are additionally been put under pressure and that is the situation we have. You see, social services will continue to be put under pressure. Social services like water, roads, energy, environmental services would continuously be put under pressure, so it is the collective responsibility of the government and the people that are served to jointly work on this to ensure that there is adequate support for these social services.
“It is the weak level of local government interventions that is making the state intervene at these levels, because these are municipal issues and that is where local governments should be making money from by ensuring that these services are rendered”, the governor explained.
By and large, the explanations by the governor have helped to give proper shape to the discussion of governance in the state. There were so many calls and messages on social media handles of the programme that the presenters lamented they could not go through even one third of them due to time constraints. I am already looking forward to the next edition which I’m sure would be much better than this very good one.