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Wednesday, 24 May 2023 12:20

[OPINION] How Kwara Governor pushed innovations, reinvented Government in four years - Ibraheem Abdullateef

In 2019, Kwarans turned to AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to lead the state through the worst socio-economic crisis since its inception. He promised to make government work for all, share the dividends of democracy to the remotest of communities, and make resources work for the public good. Four years later, records show that the newly-elected chairman of Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF), AbdulRazaq has created jobs, boosted enterprise and industry, and rebuilt the economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity. 

There is, however, one more thing. Though it appeared under-celebrated, he might have pushed innovations and reinvented Government more than most governors in recent years.

From 2019 to 2023, Kwara now has added at least six new institutions with most being products of legislation, targeting far-reaching reforms in public service delivery, social development, and economic prosperity.

These include Kwara State Social Investment Programmes (KWASSIP); Kwara State Geographical Information Service (KW-GIS); Kwara State Sports Commission; Kwara Health Insurance Agency (KWHIA); Kwara Leading Education Achievement and Reform Now (KwaraLearn); Kwara Education Trust Fund (KWETF); and Kwara Residents Registration Agency (KWSRRA). 

As this article would reveal, the introduction of these institutions had a significant impact on the scope of the administration, as well as deepened reach and efficiency, and delivery of government policies and programmes in the last four years. 

Kwara State Social Investment Programmes (KWASSIP)

The establishment of this agency will never be talked about enough. So also will the impacts. 

For a state sliding down the tables on critical socio-economic indices such as poverty index, unemployment, and comatose local enterprise, a well-rounded policy had to be introduced to arrest the consequences of a failing economy and social system. 

The introduction of KWASSIP, a localised but upgraded version of the federal government's NSIP, with four components, has not only reversed the trends but also pushed Kwara further up the tables in the socio-economic ratings in the country. 

KWASSIP is the first legislated social investment programme in Nigeria. The legislation is now being emulated by the federal government. 

Unemployment in the state was 21.1% during Q3:2018. However, the unemployment rate for Kwara state improved to 13.8% during Q2:2020 from 21.1%, representing a 7.3% improvement, according to the National Bureau of Statistics Report (2020). 

Similarly, the state's poverty index rate which stood at 30.2% in 2020, dropped significantly to 20.4 as at 2022, according to the World Bank State by State Poverty Index in Nigeria -- just two years after the creation of KWASSIP. 

Under the four components, KWASSIP has about 200,000 beneficiaries including 'Owo Arugbo', 'Owo Isowo,' 'Digital Kwara,' 'Kwapreneur,' and 'Kwasupport.'

A well-run social investment scheme reduces hunger and poverty, promotes enterprise and local businesses to keep the economy running. Hence, it averts a significant shortfall in revenue generation as a result of a dearth of economic activities. 

Although the internal revenue generation plummeted in 2020, a year after it hit an all-time high, it quickly bounced back in 2021 and by 2022, it posted unprecedented records. 

It would be hard not to connect the stability the social safety scheme provided in safeguarding and protecting the people and the economy from hunger and collapse before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is equally noteworthy how it became the state's coordinating agency for national, multinational and global interventions from development partners including the federal government, Bank of Industry, World Bank, United Nations, Google and Microsoft. This expertise has reinvented key partnerships and attracted opportunities worth millions of dollars to the state. Yet, the future looks even more assured. 

Kwara Leading Education Achievement and Reform Now (KwaraLearn)

With a firm understanding of the place of education in human development, one is safe to say AbdulRazaq may become the most impactful and influential Kwara governor for many generations. 

At the center of this belief is his ambitious repositioning of basic education in the state. Although the public is quick to reference the renovations of over 600 schools, impartial employment of about 5,000 new teachers, and prompt payment of their salaries when counting his interventions in the basic education sector. The game changer in the Kwara basic education sector is KwaraLearn. It was introduced to change the system of teaching and enhance learning outcomes in the public schools. 

Prior, the reports from the State of Basic Education in Kwara State study conducted by the KwaraLearn team were disturbing. For context, data collected from 64 schools and 2,558 pupils showed that only about 1 out of 5 could solve a simple word problem using division or subtraction. Similarly, only about 4 out of 10 could study about other subjects throughout the grades, indicating weak numeracy and reading skills. 

The kernel of the issue was teachers' utility and attendance, pedagogical practices displayed by teachers, and the amount of instructional support that they received.

The introduction of KwaraLearn, a transformative programme using data and technology to implement modern approaches and instructional techniques, is leading the delivery of 21st century education in Kwara. Kwara's comes only after Lagos' and Edo's in the entire country. 

As of April 14th, 2023, the end of second academic term, the programme is now running in 10 LGAs in the state. Data released by the agency also puts the number of pupils impacted by KwaraLEARN at 125,461 in 873 public schools. 

KwaraLearn has successfully re-trained over 6,000 government teachers in line with standard pedagogical practices and distributed 5,669 tablets to guide lesson plans and assessment, eradicating perennial lack of standardisation of lesson plans and adherence to curriculum. It is also fostering work accountability and improved learning outcomes. 

With distribution of 1,184,915 textbooks and teaching aids, it is expected to enhance the reading levels in all subjects. It is good news that there have been good postings on all the key performance indicators of the programme, including teachers motivation, teachers and students attendance, time on task, and outcome of learning. But it is even better news that Kwara is tipped to be one of the top 5 subnationals in education in the country in the near future. Do you feel the immortality of AbdulRazaq now?

Kwara Geographic Information Service (KW-GIS)

The Land and Property management system in Kwara State could make use of technology and become data-driven to improve accountability and efficiency. 

Therefore, the Kwara State Bureau of Lands, Office of Surveyor-General, Physical Planning Authority and Directorate of Urban and Regional Planning ceased to exist as separate Agencies with the establishment of Kwara State Geographic Information Service (KW-GIS) by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. 

As spelt in the bill of creation, the development merged all the four (4) previous Agencies to perform their functions and duties under KW-GIS.

They are now known as Directorate of Lands, Directorate of Physical Planning and Development Control, Office of Surveyor-General/Directorate of Survey, and Directorate of Urban and Regional Planning respectively.

The four previous Agencies also come under the leadership of the Executive Chairman, Kwara State Geographic Information Service (KW-GIS).

KW- GIS' objectives were to improve land and property files, decrease data loss, preserve mutilated records, enable easy retrieval of data, receive reports and statistics, and improve long term planning. This is being run with a computerized information system for Land and Property Administration.

Before the creation of KW-GIS, land and property administration in the state was considered obsolete, bogged down by bureaucracy, and mired by unplanned physical development and lack of accountability. 

In its 2022 report, KW-GIS generated about N1bn in its operations through applications for land titles from prospective landowners in the state. 

Coming barely two years after establishment, this feat was made possible due to reforms introduced to achieve the vision of modern land administration in line with international best practices which has helped in stabilizing the service.

Admirably, the use of automated operations had also made the application and processing of a Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) possible within 30 days and prospective builders in the state could obtain a building permit within 15 days of application.

But it is all the more remarkable that Kwara State Government has not only successfully built a system to avert the loss investment opportunities which is often one of the banes of improper land administration, but it has also launched an ambitious urban and physical planning to maximise social growth and economic development in the future. 

With its unveiling of the Ilorin Urban Masterplan which is the second of its kind since the creation of the state in 1975, the state capital has been repositioned for sustainable socio-economic development in the next 20 years. It is cheery news that the government is looking into producing the same for the other two senatorial districts. The introduction of KW-GIS shows the possibilities of innovations and goodness in reinventing government. Nothing must be spared in strengthening the agency for better services. 

Kwara State Sports Commission 

Sports, despite the fact that it used to be one of the high points of the state, was in comatose in 2019. It suffered from lack of critical investments in facilities, bureaucracy, and bad management. But within four years, Kwara found national acclaim in sports development. The turnaround included the reintroduction of the sports festival in 2020– 15 years after it was last held. Afterwards, the state football team, Kwara United, returned to the premier league for the 2021/2022 season. 

To build on the achievements, critical changes needed to be made to truly open up sports development in Kwara State in line with emerging sporting realities. 

In August 2021, Kwara State Sports Commission was created to reduce bureaucracy, foster sports engagements and management, and lead reforms to enhance sports development. 

The Commission was carved out of the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development. 

As it is evident in the sports participation, promotion and developments, sports-loving states have made a trend of focusing on management of sports under a commission. Such now includes Delta, Edo, Lagos states, etc with Kwara becoming the 9th state to join the league in the country. 

In what stakeholders called an improved participation in sports, Kwara is one up in sponsoring athletes to National and International Tournaments

The Commission is also credited with leading Kwara United to the qualification for continental competition after many years. 

It is now leading the ongoing efforts to give infrastructural facelift to several sporting facilities in the state by fostering key partnerships with private bodies and philanthropists. The fruits of this include the regrassing of the Kwara State Stadium Mainbowl with the support of A.U Mustapha SAN, the remodeling of the Stadium Complex entrances courtesy of Rotamedics Pharmacy. 

This is in addition to supervising the construction and management of the following impressive government sports facilities including the soon-to-be-completed 8-wing Squash Court, new Table-Tennis Hall, renovation of the Swimming Pool complex, newly renovated baseball and volleyball park, Kwara Football Academy students' hostel, among others. These were facilities majorly left to rot out of neglect because of proper sports administration in the state. 

The creation of the sports commission is not only solving that but is proving capable of decentralising sports, building investors' confidence, and producing talents for the global scene in the next few years. It could not have come any better than now for the state to catch up with lost grounds in the sports sector. 

Kwara Health Insurance Agency (KWHIA)

Barely a year into his administration, Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq launched a health insurance scheme for residents, saying the initiative would boost life expectancy and the economy. It was another major step in Kwara’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 by 2030, which promotes access to good health and well-being. 

Quite a segment of the public has argued that it is not new. The point has been that two previous administrations headed by Bukola Saraki and Abdul Fatah Ahmed pursued community health insurance and state health insurance respectively. However, while Saraki's community health insurance scheme did work and became outdated, Abdulfatah's only existed on papers despite being launched. It was not active. 

The implementation of Kwara Health Insurance Agency (KWHIA) is officially credited to the administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who got it funded and running.

This is a worthy addition to the achievement of the governor in the primary health care sector, together with the resuscitation of Kwara State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (KPHCDA). 

As of the official launch of Phase II of health insurance enrollment in October 2022, the scheme had over 50,000 beneficiaries in two years. 

It had earlier enrolled 29,000 Kwarans through the FG-funded Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), which the state invested in, before onboarding the 21,750 new enrollees to bring the total beneficiaries of free healthcare in the state to 51,750 for 2022 - 2023.

What is impressive is the scope of the agency in partnering with private bodies, philanthropists, and community development associations to widen the net of beneficiaries, making healthcare accessible to an average Kwaran.  

KWHIA offers three distinct State-sponsored health care plans to residents of Kwara State at subsidised rates. The Informal Health Plan which targets artisans, farmers, self-employed, families is put at N6,000/Year. The Formal Health Plan which is for local and state civil servants, private organizations go for N9,000/Year. The last package, Equity Health Plan, is available for low-Income families, vulnerable groups at rates stipulated by laws. 

The healthcare package benefits include consultation, eye care, neonatal, impatient care, chronic care, maternal care, emergency care, laboratory investigations and diagnostic tests, surgical services, among other specialities numbering over 250 scopes. 

Between 2020 and 2022, KWHIA shows that it performed 107 surgeries, including 48 cesarean sections and 138 deliveries; managed over 200 diabetic and hypertensive cases; with at least 1,324 other services during the period.

The scheme deserves a top mention in AbdulRazaq's people-driven policies and decisions in his first tenure. 

Others are Kwara Investment Promotion Agency (KWIPA) and Kwara Ease of Doing Business Council. While the former is not running in full gear yet, the latter is leading the state's reforms on Ease of Doing Business. According to the 2nd Subnational Ease of Doing Business ranking by Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Kwara recently moved three places up to 27th from 30 in 2021. 

Although elections have been held and winners have emerged, the true winners are Kwarans who have a chance to continue benefiting from the above-mentioned institutions that were all created in the last four years in the state. But it does suffice to put the records in context for the sake of the greater Kwara story when more will be written for May 29, 2023 to May 29, 2027, by His grace.

Abdullateef is Special Assistant to Kwara Governor on Communications 

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