By Demola Akinyemi
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, fondly called,”Maigida”, rode on the crest of ‘’Legacy Continues” to take over the reins of power from Dr Bukola Saraki in 2011.
At the initial stage, he struggled with the running of the affairs of the state as a result of poor allocations from the federation account. Today, he has not only surmounted the financial challenges faced by his administration, he has also finished all the projects he inherited from the last administration and embarked on new ones which are at various stages of completion.
Ahmed, an expert in banking before he was appointed as Commissioner for Finance in 2003 in the administration of Saraki, took steps to boost the economy of Kwara, among his many bold decisions to deliver on his campaign promises.
He reformed the tax system in Kwara such that today the returns have largely enabled the administration to fulfil many of its promises while many ground breaking projects were also executed from the resources.
First, the governor explored the opportunities available in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which are the drivers of economic development.
In March, 2012, he launched the Kwara Micro-credit Intervention Scheme to assist small and medium scale enterprises in the state. N250 million was approved to kick-start the scheme under the supervision of the Bureau of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.
As of today, the state government has injected N1.28 billion into the scheme, leading to a turnover of N3b.
Under the scheme, a total of 1,848 cooperative societies have benefited with the programme helping members, spread across the state, to grow their businesses, thereby promoting even development in Kwara.
Since the objective of the scheme is to provide financial support to small business owners, the entrepreneurs are better for it as the loans utilisation is monitored, leading to timely repayment which has stabilised their businesses.
Furthermore, about 53 associations, under the aegis of Artisan Congress of Kwara State, have benefited from the scheme while 150 taxis, 25 buses, 193 motorcycles and 25 mini buses were given to beneficiaries across the state.
In a bid to transform Ilorin, stimulate commerce and attract investors, the Ahmed administration commissioned an ultra-modern shopping and office complex- The Hub. A similar project of 48 office spaces is being executed in Abuja.
Today, all the major streets in the state capital have street lights which make Ilorin a beauty to behold at night, while businesses are transacted far into the night.
In the state government’s commitment to expand employment opportunities and entrepreneurial development, a N500million computer village is under construction which will directly employ about 600 youths apart from the hundreds of indirect jobs to be created in the process of the construction.
Recently, the state government commissioned 10 buses, Maigida Soludero Mass Transit (MST), purchased for the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) through a credit facility under its micro credit scheme.
Also, over 160 farmers’ associations across Kwara benefitted from the micro-credit funding under the State’s Off Taker Demand Driven Agriculture Scheme.
Overall, the state’s MSME scheme has created economic opportunities and expanded the livelihoods of thousands of people with over 60, 000 people benefiting so far..
Also, in order to scale up his performance so as to further bring dividends of democracy to the doors of all and sundry, Ahmed established a revenue collection body, Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS).
KWIRS, instituted over two years ago, replaced the state’s Internal Revenue Board, with the mandate to boost the revenue collection capability of Kwara through a change in People, Process and Technology.
Due to the effectiveness of KWIRS in opening up more collection points in the state with a stunning turnover of more than 300 per cent in its first year of existence, the chairmen of the 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state handed over to KWIRS the contract of collection of all legally designed areas of taxes points in their respective councils.
The MoU with the councils has a sharing formula of 30 per cent (KWIRS) to 70 per cent (councils) under an arrangement named Joint Treasury Committee (JTC).
The result has been an incredible return of about N200 million in all the councils within months. For the year 2017, KWIRS has projected N664 million as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the 16 LGAs.
The interesting aspect of it is that the revenue collection body did not introduce new taxes but simply blocked the loopholes and enforced the payment of all forms of taxes electronically.
The state government deliberately used the revenue strategy to rise from its current position to achieve the second highest IGR per capital in Nigeria by 2019 being convinced that the State has the population, commerce, resources and opportunities necessary for achieving a target of N60billion annually.
In furtherance of this, Ahmed also approved a 5-year tax holiday for new small businesses in the state. These interventions are designed to accelerate the informal sector by encouraging more entrepreneurs to start businesses without worrying about paying taxes until they are fully set up. These decisions are in the firm belief of the governor that increase in revenues will not only enhance the lives of the people through better infrastructure but also see an increase in opportunities for collective prosperity.