Kwara - Prioritising Investment in Infrastructure for Devt. By Hammed Shittu
The growing nature of Kwara state, the State of Harmony that was created in 1967, has witnessed higher influx of people to the state especially the capital, Ilorin, in search of the proverbial greener pasture.
Thus, the existing infrastructures on ground have become over-stretched and this has continued to give successful administrations in the state sleepless nights in addressing the challenges.
Most of these physical infrastructures have become dilapidated with serious negative effect on the socio-economic development of the state especially roads. Apart from roads, other infrastructures that have become dilapidated are hospitals, schools, and water development among others.
Against the backdrop of the infrastructure challenges in the state, the immediate past administration led by former governor Bukola Saraki now Senate President despite the dwindling federal allocations and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) initiated several infrastructures development of roads, health, school constructions, water among others to cater to the needs of the growing population in the state. The development had put the state on a sound footing of discouraging migration of the people to the state capital, Ilorin?.
However, under the present administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, more concerted efforts have been put in place, starting from his first term in office to his current second term in office to address the infrastructures deficit in the state.
Some of the projects left behind by Dr. Saraki were inherited by the succeeding current administration under the banner of Legacy Continues and all these projects were taken over and completed and unveiled for the usage of the people of the state.
Among such infrastructures inherited and completed include Sulu Gambari-Post Office road, Offa Garage- Asa Dam road, Coca-cola - Asa dam axis road, some faculties' projects at the state-owned Kwara State University, Erinle Water-works, and Ilorin Aviation International College, among others.
Focus on Infrastructure
In the first term of Governor Ahmed in office, his administration witnessed a pragmatic infrastructural development in roads construction, school buildings, construction and renovation of five State General Hospitals in Ilorin, Kaiama, Offa, Omu-Aran and Share. Apart from this, his administration ensured the development of water projects in the state, all to make life worth living for the teeming populace of the state.
Some of the infrastructural developments addressed during the year under review are Pakata- Sooto road, Omu-aran to Landmark University road, shouldering of expansion on Sango-Oyun bridge, and reconstruction of Ohan bridge. There were also rehabilitation of 240 blocks of secondary school classrooms and rehabilitation of a school for special needs.
In the area of rural electricity, the administration has installed 42 transformers across the towns and villages as parts of efforts to discourage rural-urban migration in the state.
In the area of health, the administration has rehabilitated five General Hospitals located in Offa, Share, Omu-Aran, Kaiama and Ilorin, the opening of Oke-Ode School of Nursing, supply of drugs and equipment to clinics and hospitals and employment of more medical personnel towards the growth of healthcare delivery in the state under the scheme of having access to healthcare delivery within 500 metres in the state.
Water supply also garnered huge focus under the review, as communities and towns that have had no water for the past few years had boreholes sunk in their communities.
There were rehabilitations of Pepele Waterworks, provision of 72 Motorised and Manual boreholes, while about N1billion has been earmarked for the ongoing water reticulation project, which is at eighty five per cent completion stage.
However, upon resumption in office for second term on May 29, 2015, Governor Ahmed's commitment and zeal to add more values to the socio-economic growth of the state became a priority.
In doing this, Governor Ahmed and his team went back to the drawing board to fashion out on how the administration can add more values to the entire populace of the state in the area of more provision of infrastructural development; moreso, the money from the federal allocations to the state from the federation account has been dwindling every month.
Even when the administration put in place its owned Internally Generated Revenue platform called Kwara Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) it saw it as having immense financial assistance to the cause of addressing infrastructural challenges facing the state.
Concerned by this development, a new platform called Kwara Infrastructure Fund (IFK) was put in place by the administration with the intention to garner revenue that would be used to address the infrastructural deficit in the state.
Upon re-assumption of office in May 2015, Governor Ahmed's first executive acts were the signing into law of the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service Bill and the Kwara State Public Private Partnership Bills. One outlined the strategic framework for the state's development aspirations and the other provided the financial structure for bringing that vision to fruition.
Governor Ahmed said then that the two laws are significant because they set the foundation for his developmental vision for Kwara State based on current financial realities. While the internal revenues have tripled since the establishment of KWIRS, the Public Private Partnership (PPP) law has institutionalised PPP as a development strategy. The PPP Law has also created the legal backing for the Kwara State Infrastructure Development Fund (IF-K).
However speaking at the official launch of the state's Infrastructural development Fund projects (IFK) in Ilorin recently, Governor Ahmed said, "The purpose of the IF-K, therefore, is to pool funds for infrastructure projects, optimally leverage private sector resources for infrastructure development and channel state internal revenue to directly impact economic diversification and growth strategies."
The event was well attended by partner Banks, contractors, engineers, consultants and other important stakeholders.
According to him, "IF-K is also designed to ensure maximum quality assurance for asset and services procured by government and encourage broader and deeper interactions with the Kwara State Government from private and non-private partners".
He said, "The fund will be financed through a N5billion seed fund and a N500 million monthly contribution from the state's Internally Generated Revenue through an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO).
"This implies that the money will be taken at source from the state's Internally Generated Revenue and provides an additional layer of assurance to project partners. Additional non-IGR funds, such as those from the Federal Government and global development partners will be added to IF-K as they become available.
"Under IFK, funds will be disbursed on a quarterly basis, and are projected to grow by N6 billion by the end of the year. In order to ensure accountability and insulate the funds from political control, the IF-K will be managed by a reputable investment company, Investment One, which has been appointed by law as trustee for the scheme".
Ahmed added, "Investment One is also to market the fund to potential investors and mitigate against payment risks by ring-fencing the funds and limiting their utilisation to the approved purposes for which they have been earmarked.
"In other words, the trustees are independent of the state government, and will only disburse funds upon the presentation of a certified certificate of completion and at agreed project milestones. As an added measure to ensure quality standards, the certificate of completion is also subject to further authentication by an independent project inspector. IF-K is therefore not susceptible to interference from any other party".
The governor noted, "I must also emphasise that we will continue to fund smaller projects through other platforms as only projects worth N300 million and above will be included on the IF-K payment grid".
Ahmed stated further that, "Following today's launch, the payment grid will commence in December, 2016 with all ongoing and new projects targeted for completion by December, 2018. Furthermore, the total value of ongoing project debts to be addressed through IF-K is estimated at about N11.1billion.
"As a demonstration of faith and a token of our commitment to pay all outstanding contractor debts, we have disbursed N1.7billion to significantly reduce current debt to contractors. The balance to be paid from IF-K is estimated at N9.4billion.
"This amount will be reduced on a quarterly basis until all debts are finally liquidated before the end of the administration. Simultaneously, contractors will drop off the IF-K grid as their obligations are terminated to allow for the introduction of new portfolio of fresh projects.
"Over the next 10 months, therefore, over N5.8 billion will be pumped into the state's economy via IF-K. Our expectation is that this injection will keep our project partners in business and have a positive spiral effect on employment generation. In the medium term, the remaining N5.3billion of government spending will boost the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for about 18 months while sustaining the multiplier impact on job creation.
"Given the benefits of stable and reliable funding provided by IF-K, I state without any equivocation that the era of abandoned projects is over in Kwara State. As a demonstration of this determination, all ongoing and new projects will be funded to completion under the IFK before the end of my tenure.
"Once the rains are over, we will commence major projects in the road, education, energy and health sectors across the state in a manner that accelerates development and ensures its even distribution. We will start with the flagging off of the construction of a Diamond Underpass at Geri Alimi, Ilorin and the unveiling of our newly-acquired asphalt plant", he added.
By and large, with the launch of the state infrastructural development fund projects, a new lease of life is now unfolding in the State of Harmony where socio economic development would touch the rural areas and accelerate the economic growth of the populace.