Population explosion in Kwara: The pros and cons
Going by the population census of November, 1991, Kwara has over 1,548,412 and by the March 2006 population estimate; Kwara has a population figure of 2,371,089. As at then, commercial activities was so low to the extent that Kwara was tagged "civil service state", implying that only civil servants have the purchasing power to make meaningful purchases or buy the available goods and services in the state. This accounted for why some citizens fled to other states like Lagos and outside Nigeria in search of greener pastures.
Then, only federal allocation is available to the state and only federal projects are visible in places. The streets are free of congestion and the number of people that can be found plying the streets and roads are so few. Today, though there are no empirical statistics to back up this increased population argument, studies and random sampling of opinions from staffers of the state population commission, who spoke pleading anonymity, said the population of Kwara state has almost doubled as it increased at a geometric rate, putting the new estimate at 4.4 million. Birth statistics from hospitals and the various unrecorded births in towns and villages, coupled with influx of displaced persons from the north all account for the population explosion. Aside this, land development has extended beyond estimated scope such that villages like Ganmo, Amayo, Oyun, Elekojanga, Eiyenkorin, Gaa Akanbi, Danialu, etc around Ilorin, have almost become part of the state capital. Some civil servants even claim that they have their houses built in places like Idofian and so travel to Ilorin every day because the distance is fast been eliminated by development.
However, since the commencement of democratic governance in Nigeria, the story changed; the Mohammed Lawal administration in Kwara started the new face of commerce. His civilian administration awarded contracts to indigenes, though mainly to party loyalists increased the purchasing power of the people at a noticeable average level. This trend exploded when the Dr. Bukola Saraki-led administration opened up investment opportunities to complement the peaceful environment of Kwara, resulting in the influx of banking institutions and other investors.
These institutions, however, were ready to pay any amount to get offices accommodations in choice locations, while their staff too paid whatever was requested to get residential accommodation; prices of land and landed properties eventually sky rocketed. A general survey of prices along roads like Taiwo, Wahab Folawiyo (formerly Unity road), Muritala Mohammed way etc. proved that rents in those areas has risen beyond 300 per cent, some of immeasurable proportion.
In a particular house along Tipper garage area of Tanke, the tenants said they pay N36,000 per annum as house rent but when their landlord realized that some bankers wanted to rent the house at any amount, he inflated rent of his house to N150,000 per annum and that whoever cannot pay should quit within a stipulated time.
A tenant, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said "I had to delay my daughters' further education for one whole year as I had no alternative than to pay what the landlord requested but am not happy. Imagine a whole year in the life of a girl wasted as if she didn't make her papers? It is demoralizing and frustrating. Our rent jumped from N36,000 to N150,000; imagine?"
Other areas of commerce and daily life affected by the population explosion include price of provision items, food stuffs and other essential commodities. There was a little relief when the minimum wage was introduced but this was short lived as this again had its own impact on price increment.
The increase in number of students admitted into various tertiary institutions is another factor. Since the schools cannot provide enough hostel accommodation for them, students resort to living off campus. The resultant effect on the villages hosting the campuses comes in terms of increased house rents, increased population and commercial activities. Though commercial activities increase, the poor in such domain that do not have their own houses live at the mercy of landlords, who prefer to give rooms to students at a higher fee than what the poor residents can afford.
Another effect of this population explosion is the effect of air pollution from exhaust of companies and automobiles. There are noticeably more vehicles plying the roads leading to more work for the various traffic management organs of government. This write up would not be complete if the negative effect of security is not mentioned. Due to influx of the people, the few available jobs cannot go round the number of people who either ran to Kwara from Boko Haram infected states or are in search of greener pastures, so they resort to crime as a way of livelihood. The Bode Sadu-Ilorin express way section of the Northern link road is assuming a worrisome dimension. The police seem to be doing their best but their best may seem not be enough, as motorists and traders now ply the route in fear of possible attacks from men of the underworld.
At this juncture, it is expedient that the federal government realize that population explosion is fast becoming a burden to the government of Kwara state and it requires urgent response from the federal government, who should grant states the status of an unofficial refugee camp, hosting displaced persons from the crises prone north and as well find a way of coming to the aid of the state through increase in monthly allocation.
If Kwara is well nurtured, the abundant human resources, the mineral resources, tourist sites and newly discovered petroleum crude oil deposit (?) can be harnessed to boost federal revenue and resultant impact on the state revenue.
Aside all these mentioned resources, the peace available in Kwara state can be quantified in monetary terms just like goodwill in accounting because this is part of the yardstick considered by investors and people who tend to relocate to sojourn in Kwara state. Calculating how much it has cost the federal government to maintain peace in the troubled zones of Nigeria, one can calculate what the peace and harmony available in Kwara state is worth, in monetary terms. All major towns in Kwara have busy commercial sites that provide employment for people of the state, at least to find their daily means.
Kwara is a big bag of potentials, only a little more push from the federal government would make Kwara a state that the federal government could rely on for national development.
With the new promising administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in Kwara, it is certain that the new ray of hope that is seen by the people would brighten up into a beam of pride by Kwarans in the state and in Diaspora as well as residents, who are indigent from other states.
Long live the State of Kwara, Long live the State of Harmony, long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Culled from National Pilot Newspaper
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