• Gov lists strategies to change course
By Steve Oni, Ilorin
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has pledged to implement reforms to ease business climate in the state, saying the current narrative about it ranking lowest in the North Central region is unacceptable.
AbdulRazaq, who was represented by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi, said various concrete steps are already being taken to make business transactions a lot easier and faster to attract investors.
The Governor spoke on Tuesday at the North Central regional engagement on Ease of Doing Business which was organised by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and the Kwara State Government.
The event was attended by the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business Dr Jumoke Oduwole; Secretary to the Kwara State Government Prof Mamman Saba Jibril; Chief of Staff to the Governor Aminu Adisa Logun; Kwara Commissioner-designates; PEBEC Enabling Business Environment Secretariat Project Manager Ayokunnu Ojeniyi; representatives of federal government agencies; several small and medium-sized enterprises; and regulatory bodies from across the region.
The Governor expressed dismay at a World Bank report in 2018 which ranked Kwara 30th out of 37 states including the FCT — and the lowest in the North Central — in the ease of doing business.
“On the national average, according to the report, Kwara ranked the lowest among its peers in the North Central. In terms of starting a business, Kwara ranked 7th out of the seven states sampled in the zone, including the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). In dealing with construction permit, we ranked 4th out of seven; in registering of properties, Kwara ranked 6th out of seven; and in terms of enforcing contract, Kwara ranked 7th out of the seven states/places,” AbdulRazaq said.
“This was the stark reality of our state — and it only confirmed our position that this state was practically run aground, notwithstanding the propaganda. We have decided to put these figures in perspective not necessarily to brood over the past but to challenge ourselves on the need to do things differently as we get set to rewrite the story of our state. Our officials are to note that this narrative must change going forward. Kwara must reclaim its glory.”
He added however that many steps are already being taken by his administration to turn the page, citing the ongoing reforms at the Kwara State Internal Revenue Services (KW-IRS) and the efforts to run e-governance which have begun with the strictly online administration of students’ bursary and upcoming take off of e-learning from the Kwara State Library.
“Apart from security and peaceful environment which we enjoy, this administration believes that human capital and infrastructural development constitute important incentives for any investor as they contribute to significantly reducing transactional costs. To this extent, our first budget in 2020 will focus more on basic education, healthcare, and road network, among other things. We are also irrevocably committed to building strong institutions to drive growth.
“Kwara means business and our target is to make our state one of Nigeria’s friendliest in the ease of doing business. We are seriously working on e-governance whereby you can be anywhere in the world and transact business with the government or anybody in Kwara State. As we speak, the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KW-IRS) is in the process of rearranging of our processes such that tax assessment, payment, printing of receipts for tax payment down to processing of tax clearance certificate can be initiated real time and completed online. Another upcoming reform is the harmonisation of bills and structured payment of tax/revenue obligations.
“We have also built a full digital bursary process which has cut off the influence of middlemen and potentially ended a regime of criminal diversion of bursary funds. Now you can be anywhere in the world and apply for our bursary and get paid once you satisfy all conditions without visiting any office or knowing any official in charge.”
Oduwole said PEBEC has done a lot within the last three years to ease the business environment in Nigeria, with the country moving many inches up the ladder in global ranking.
She charged the North Central zone, which she called a vital trade corridor in Nigeria, to break some barriers against SMEs by implementing reforms already recommended by PEBEC which itself has carried out over 140 reforms.
Participants took time to narrate their experience about running businesses, with many of them urging government to work on the cost of running business and cut interest rates.