By Demola Akinyemi
Ilorin…The ongoing facility tour of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq across the government ministries and parastatals in Kwara state since he took over the reigns of governance had enabled him to know about the probles first hand.
Abdulrazaq while on an unscheduled visit to Magistrate court at Zango in ilorin said he had embarked on statewide visit of various government facilities to fully appreciate the extent of the rot in the system.
He said the rots were so deep and that they would need proper planning, spanning multiple budget years to fix.
He said,”I have come to see things for myself. We have always known that the rot is unimaginable. But it is important that I see things for myself.”
“I have seen things for myself and I have asked the Chief Judge (and his team) to raise a memo, stating what the problems are and what we can do to solve them in short and long term.”
Abdulrazaq said he would ensure that the judiciary is given the support it needed to function as an independent arm of government.
Chief Judge of the State Suleiman Kawu told the Governor he had long prepared a report detailing the problems faced in the sector, especially the decrepit state of the facilities and lack of any modern courtrooms.
“I will soon forward the report to you and I trust that you will do your best to address the problems,” the state Chief Judge said.
Abdulrazaq also visited the Shariah Court of Appeal on Ahmadu Bello Way and Customary Court at Centre Igboro.
Many of these tours were strategically unscheduled to enable the Governor see the problems raw as they are. He had arrived Radio Kwara and met it off the air. He inherited that from the last administration and expressed sadness, saying that what he met in terms of performance was below zero level.
The latest was the issue of Universal Basic Education Commission(UBEC)where he discovered that Kwara state was on the lowest performance chart among other states in Nigeria.
The current rots in primary and secondary education in the state prompted him to visit UBEC headquarters office in Abuja where he was told that the last administration fleeced the funds and stopped participation for more than three years now.
He had approved immediate payment of the N450m that the previous administration had diverted from the UBEC funds, clearing the way for immediate readmission of Kwara to a scheme that is meant to improve access to basic education.
The approval came a few days after the UBEC officials narrated how the previous administration had diverted the N1.5bn 2013 funds allocated to Kwara and how that had led to the official blacklisting of the state from UBEC.
Abdulrazaq signed the documents approving the refund of the N450m during a meeting with the Permanent Secretary for the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Bayo Onimago and Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Finance Benjamin Fatigun in Ilorin, the state capital.
The payment of the N450m was a precondition for readmitting Kwara back to the UBEC after a five-year ban.
Lamenting the ‘criminal neglect’ of the education sector and the decrepit state of infrastructure in a statement , Abdulrazaq said he immediately paid the N450m in the interest of the children, restore Kwara’s relationship with UBEC and commit whatever fund accessed only for the purpose for which it was meant.
Rafiu Ajakaye, spokesman to the Governor, said one implication of this crucial step is that the state can now access UBEC funds worth over N5bn since the counterpart fund has been paid.
“The situation before now was such that Kwara could no longer approach UBEC because the previous administration diverted the 2013 funds. That sullied the name of the state. Now, the governor has put that ugly chapter behind the people of Kwara State,” according to a statement issued by the media aide.
Kwara state before the intervention of the new governor
ranked 37th or the lowest on the UBEC Matching Grant Disbursement Performance.
But the immediate past governor Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed in a sharp reaction refuted the claims that his administration mismanaged Universal Basic Education Commission(UBEC) counterpart funds
His statement was issued by his spokesman, Dr Muyideen Akorede .
He, explained that the federal agency essentially canceled a N2,090,101, 208 grant to the state when the government borrowed from SUBEB its fifty-per cent counterpart fund of N1,045,050,604, for the payment of salaries at the height of the 2015 economic recession which prevented most states in Nigeria from meeting salary obligations to workers.
While stressing that the government’s temporary borrowing of the counterpart fund for salaries was based on its concern for workers’ welfare and a commitment to repay from then expected refunds from the federal government, the statement added that the administration had partly refunded the money but was prevented from paying the balance of N450m from funds received by the administration in the last days of its tenure due to its accounts being frozen.
But in another counter reaction Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq dismissed these explanations saying that they were neither justified nor acceptable based on the rots he met in the education sector which consequently placed the state as the lowest in performance among other states of the federation.
Since health is wealth as the saying goes, Abdulrazaq is currently in the health sector where he approved the immediate release of N282m for nutrition, primary health care.
The N282m is a counterpart funding to deepen access to primary healthcare, health insurance and nutrition for under-three children in the state, according to a statement by his media aide.
Rafiu Ajakaye, giving the break down, explained that the N282m covers N100m counterpart funds for Basic Healthcare Provision Funds (BHPV); N50m for Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRIN); and another N82m to access global grants for malaria.
The statement said the release of the counterpart funds for BHPV would grant Kwara access to the World Bank/Federal Government’s grant to cater for health needs of pregnant and nursing women and children.
UNICEF has said stunted/wasted children —all of them victims of malnutrition — are at risk of early death or becoming liabilities to the society as they are unable to cope in school or contribute to economic growth.
“Experts have decried malnutrition rate among children in the North Central, where Kwara falls. Because these children are so key to the bright future that this Governor envisions for Kwara, it is important to urgently key into any initiative that would boost their nutrition and give them a brighter chance at life,” according to the statement.