At least 1,000 traders, marketers and artisans will benefit from a N1 billion soft loan to run their businesses under the Kwara State Social Investment Programme being considered by the State House of Assembly, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said on Thursday.
AbdulRazaq said at a maiden breakfast meeting with journalists in Kwara State that the focus of his administration centres around human capital and infrastructural development, which would attract investments, combat poverty and take Kwara to the top of the table of revenue generation and competitiveness.
He listed his major landmarks to include fixing the perennial water crisis within Ilorin metropolis, taking Kwara out of its pariah status as the least performing state in the Universal Basic Education Commission ranking, getting contractors back to work to complete abandoned or uncompleted projects, paying counterpart funds that have changed the story of the state in health and education sector, paying years of arrears owed Colleges of Education, and re-accreditaion of the state’s tertiary institutions, among others.
AbdulRazaq said his administration has done these without touching the N4.8 billion it inherited from the previous government headed by former Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed, adding that the fund is reserved to kickstart the state’s social security programme and putting basic infrastructure in place.
He said: “Under the Kwara State Social Investment Programme, for instance, we plan to spend N1 billion to help traders and artisans with soft loans.
“We are looking at roughly 1,000 beneficiaries of such soft loan.
“We cannot watch while our people are suffering.
“We have to do something in that regard.”
The event was also attended by top government officials and party leaders that included the Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi; Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Mamman Sabah Jibril; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Aminu Adisa Logun; Head of Service, Susan Modupe Oluwole; and All Progressives Congress Chairman in the state, Bashiru Bolarinwa.
The Speaker, the Chief Judge, and the Grand Khadi were represented at the event.
AbdulRazaq also said Kwarans should expect something concrete on cabinet formation from next week, saying the delay had been due to wide consultations with all stakeholders within the ruling party and dismissing claims of rancour within its ranks.
Dwelling extensively on his development priorities, he said the recent budget review and the 2020 budget would help redirect funding for infrastructural projects that fit into his campaign promises to the people.
He said: “We have prioritised and will always prioritise water, education, health, road and general infrastructure.
“Agriculture is also a priority and we are looking at ensuring that a lot is done is the area of agro processing because of our comparative advantages.
“We want to completely change the story of this state and our plans revolve around just that, beginning from the budget review.”
AbdulRazaq said the World Bank has indicated interest in supporting the scheme, which is the first of such state-led initiative modelled after the Federal Government Social Investment Programme, with components including TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni, among other supports for small and medium scale businesses.
He said: “We are targeting 1,000 beneficiaries under our own scheme.
“We are working with the Federal Government agencies that handled the market moni and trader moni.
“They will help to train our own officials.
“And we are also working with the Bank of Industry, which will do the disbursement to allow for transparency and ensure that the money gets to the real beneficiaries.”
The governor said he has spent the last 100 days putting in place basic infrastructural needs of the people that ought to have been done in the past, citing the lack of water, access to basic healthcare and dilapidated schools as examples of the rots he inherited and has started acting upon with prompt release of funds.
He also said the school feeding programme, a key component of the KWASSIP, will begin next year, and is designed to address the menace of malnutrition such as stunting and wasting, which the Governor noted affected many children in Kwara.
AbdulRazaq said Kwara will also access N7 billionn from the Universal Basic Education Commission to fix the infrastructure deficits in primary education once it pays its own counterpart fund of N7 billion, adding that such funds would go a long way to turn around the fortunes of primary schools in the state.
The Governor also said he has discussed major road projects in the state with President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the focus of his administration is to change the story of Kwara for good in the area of infrastructure and human capital development.
Modelled after the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programmes, the KWSSIP would comprise Kwara State Conditional Cash Transfer to support those within the lowest poverty bracket by improving nutrition and increasing household consumption; Kwara State Poverty Reduction Programme to assist Kwarans to acquire and develop lifelong skills; Kwara State Government Entrepreneur and Empowerment Programme, which shall lend money to petty traders, artisans, farmers, enterprising youths, men and women; and the HomeGrown School Feeding Programme.
“The HGSF will ensure school feeding of schoolchildren in order to increase school enrolment, reduce malnutrition, empower community women, and support small farmers in the state,” the Governor said.
AbdulRazaq said a major challenge he inherited was a culture of previous government officials selling public properties to themselves at ridiculous prices, insisting the administration is disappointed at mindless mismanagement of public resources and would take steps to redress the excesses.