At this stage we are very proud and happy to announce and tell the world that the Kwara State Health Insurance program received the 2016 FT/IFC Transformational Business Award for Achievement in Sustainable Development: Maternal & Infant Health
The FT/IFC Transformational Business Awards are presented by the Financial Times (FT) and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries. These awards recognize ground-breaking, long-term private sector solutions to key development issues. This year, the awards attracted 155 entries from 219 stakeholders, involving projects in 92 countries.
Among other results, Kwara has shown an impressive rise in women giving birth in hospital, including women who aren’t in the health insurance program: hospital deliveries rose from 50% in 2009 to 70% in 2013, an increase which can be attributed to the program. World Bank data show that, since the start of the program, Kwara has become the second-best performing Nigerian state in maternal and child care.
Governor of Kwara State, His Excellency Abdulfatah Ahmed: ‘The Kwara State Health Insurance Program has indeed had a remarkable impact on the lives of low-income families in very remote areas of our state. The FT/IFC award to our program is a key international commendation of our ongoing efforts in steadily and surely improving access to affordable and qualitative healthcare in Kwara State. Such results are a great motivation for us to find a long-term, sustainable health financing solution so that this program can be expanded to benefit people across the state.’
Transformational partnership In 2006, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided funding to pilot alternative mechanisms to the traditional development approach through the Health Insurance Fund. This flexible and long-term funding provided PharmAccess with essential legroom to test different innovative financing mechanisms (including health insurance and later mHealth) and build a strong network of partners such as and Kwara State Government and Hygeia in Nigeria. In a recent evaluation, the Boston Consulting Group concluded that the Ministry’s grant contributed to a significant change in the way the role of private sector development in healthcare is perceived today.
Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen: “This award is a great recognition. First of all, because improving the vulnerable situation of young mothers and their newborns is high on my agenda. And secondly, this program shows that progress can be made through the public-private model. Our public funding has enabled the private sector to play a crucial role in making healthcare available to people who until recently couldn’t afford an insurance. We hope this success will trigger others to support programs like this as well.”
Chairman of Health Insurance Fund, Kees Storm: “When we started with this initiative back in 2006, we asked ourselves: how can we make sure we use all available resources to protect low-income families in Kwara from the risks to both their health and their wealth? The long-term support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave us the chance to answer this question. Now, this unique public-private partnership has proven that it can be done: affordable, state-supported quality healthcare, bringing supply and demand together with the help of insurance mechanisms.”
Managing Director of PharmAccess Group Onno Schellekens: “As this program was treading new ground, we made scientific impact research an integral part of our approach from the very beginning. Not knowing where to start is no excuse not to. Advocating for policy change starts with proof of principle.” The creativity and perseverance involved in building this transformational program from scratch was one of the features that impressed the FT/IFC jury.
Improving maternal and child care Director of Hygeia, Fola Laoye: “While Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population it accounts for up to 14% of global maternal deaths. More than 12% of children born in Nigeria will not reach their fifth birthday. Health insurance still has very low penetration, leading to catastrophic health expenditure and overall poor quality of services. In Kwara, we proved that we do not have to accept this situation. In this unique public private partnership Hygeia as a private insurer could develop affordable health insurance and therefore access to quality services, improving the health outcomes in some of the poorest communities of Nigeria.”
The program aims to improve access to affordable healthcare for low-income households through complementary initiatives on both the demand and the supply side, including subsidized health insurance and stimulating investments in quality of care, such as upgrading healthcare facilities and implementing quality standards and improvement plans. Rigorous scientific and operational research has led to improvements to the program as well as insights into the impact of the program, such as a significant reduction in out-of-pocket spending on healthcare and an improvement in health outcomes.
CEO of Achmea and Health Insurance Fund board member Willem van Duin:“This insurance program shows that it’s possible to organize solidarity towards access to better healthcare, even among the lowest income groups in Africa – like farming families in Kwara. The great challenge ahead is now to start the Kwara State Health Insurance Fund, in which all citizens contribute according to their financial strength and assure access to care for the poor as well as the rich, the sick and the healthy, the young and the old. The Kwara program demonstrates how public funding can reduce risks and costs for all stakeholders. This has spurred private investments and allows even the lowest income earners to insure against health expenditures. With this kind of solidarity, families in Kwara can invest in their future.”
The Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has directed the slashing of the Right of Way (RoW) fee for telecommunications firms (telcos) from N5,500 per linear metre to N1 per kilometre of fibre.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by the state’s Commissioner for Communication, Murtala Olanrewaju, on Sunday.
The RoW charge is the levy paid to state governments for the laying of optic fibre by telecoms operators.
Before now, operators were paying N5,500 per linear metre as the fee for laying fibre cables in the state to strengthen their digital connections.
The commissioner noted that the revised fee which takes effect immediately is the second lowest in Nigeria after Kaduna.
“Governor AbdulRazaq has directed that the RoW fee be slashed to N1 only per kilometre, a decision designed to deepen digital penetration in Kwara State, jerk up the state’s ease of doing business ratings, and ease people’s access to the internet and other digital communication even in the remotest part of the state.”
“Apart from driving up investment in the sector, the long-term effects of this significant step such as strengthening access to digital communications and bringing more businesses to the hinterlands cannot be quantified,” Mr Olanrewaju quoted Governor AbdulRazaq.
Speaking on the reason for reducing the fee, Mr Olanrewaju explained that internet and broadband penetration has a direct correlation with economic development.
“A study carried out by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on Africa reported that a 10 per cent broadband penetration would lead to a 2.5% increment of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capital.
“The National Economic Council (NEC) had recently resolved to encourage technological advancement as a way to fast track economic development in Nigeria.”
He stated that the resolution was hinged on the need to create a favourable business environment for telecommunication companies and to further deepen broadband penetration for social and economic development.
Hike in other states
In January, Lagos, Kano, Anambra, Ondo, Cross River, Kogi, Osun, Kaduna, Enugu, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Imo, Kebbi and Gombe increased the RoW fees for telecoms infrastructure.
This newspaper reported how the federal government expressed dismay over the increment by the states, saying it contravened an agreement reached at the National Economic Council (NEC).
The communications minister, Isa Pantami, in a statement from the ministry said the increment is detrimental to the government’s digital economy agenda.
Mr Pantami said it was “disheartening to hear that some states have decided to disregard these resolutions and have, in some cases, increased the RoW charges by over 1,200%. This will no doubt impact negatively on the efforts’ being made by the federal government.
This year, there was some feeling of nostalgia about May 29 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day. When a few persons called me to ask if there were special plans for Democracy Day on May 29, I had to remind them that Democracy Day was now June 12. On June 6, 2018, President Buhari proclaimed June 12 as the new Democracy Day. I guess with time, Nigerians will get used to the new order, and June 12 will “take root” firmly as new Democracy Day. Hopefully no government will show up in the future to reverse what may well be remembered as one of the good deeds of President Muhammadu Buhari. As events turned out, on May 29, this year, many state governors marked either their first or fifth year in office; other states talked about Democracy on June 12. Ahead of June 12 itself, the Federal Government released a document outlining the achievements of the Buhari administration in five years. On June 12, President Buhari addressed the nation. Other political leaders issued statements. But there was no celebration as we knew it. The entire country had been overtaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its social distancing, physical distancing, new normal regimental orders. The deadly disease overshadowed everything. As at May 29, 2020, Nigeria had recorded 8, 915 confirmed cases of Corona Virus with 259 deaths.
By Friday, June 12, the number of cases in Nigeria had jumped to 14, 554 cases, with 387 fatalities. The total number of new cases rose to 681. This coincided with the disclosure that the report of the Economic Sustainability Committee chaired by Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo had projected a loss of 39.4 million jobs by December 2020 (an unemployment rate of 39.4%), a monthly revenue loss of N185 billion, a sharp fall in GDP rate, with many Nigerians likely to slide into extreme poverty. Twenty-one years after our return to civilian rule and 27 years after June 12, 1993, Nigeria is firmly at a cross-road. It is easy to blame the COVID-19 pandemic which since the first index case was reported in the country on February 27 has kept everything on hold.
But if anything, what COVID-19 has done is to expose macro-level governance issues in Nigeria. May 29 or June 12, each with its own symbolism, both provide an opportunity for government at all levels to give account and submit a report card to the people. This was what President Buhari did in his June 12 national broadcast. Many took that speech with a pinch of salt. A few state Governors used the occasion of their first or fifth year in office or the June 12 day to render account, but for the most part, many state governments did not even bother. Commentators were also distracted. The kind of rigorous assessment that was expected did not happen. But a few states made an effort. On May 29 and June 12, I observed an attempt by the Governors of the following states and their supporters and friends to engage the public: Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi, Yobe, Delta, Kebbi, Kano, Kwara, Sokoto, Enugu, Borno, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo. In addition, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), on June 12, published an advertorial titled “FCDA Continues to deliver on PMB’s Next Level Agenda”. The many claims made by these state governments need to be subjected to close interrogation and scrutiny. It is not enough to place adverts and congratulatory messages in the media: are the messages true? Are the claims verifiable? And those Governors hiding under the constraints of managing COVID-19 to sleep on the job, is anyone monitoring them closely? We often blame the Federal Government, but the real centres of failure can be found at the sub-national level. Before COVID-19 governance was a major source of anxiety in Nigeria. It is even more so now in the face of this man-eating pandemic, and will still be an issue hereafter.
It is not possible in a short newspaper commentary to attempt a review of the claims made by the aforementioned states in terms of service delivery to the people. For this reason, I have chosen to focus on just one state: Kwara. This particular state featured prominently during the last general elections in 2019. The main battle in the gubernatorial election in that state was between the All Progressives Congress (APC) which had as its candidate, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which fielded Abdulrazaq Atunwa. At the end of the election, Abdulrazaq, the former, was declared winner with a margin of 216, 792 votes to wit: 331, 546 votes (APC) to 114, 754 votes (PDP). The APC candidate won in all the 16 Local Government Areas of the state. The PDP alleged that the election was rigged but what happened was not just an election, it came across as a battle for the soul of the State.
For decades, Kwara politics had been dominated by the Saraki political family. That dominance was entrenched by Dr. Olusola Saraki, Senate Majority Leader in Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979 -1983) and the Godfather of Kwara politics for decades. In 2003, the immensely charismatic and popular Dr. Olusola Saraki “installed” his first son, Dr. Bukola Saraki as Governor of the state. The son will later replace the father as the Godfather of Kwara politics. The Saraki political machinery had a strong hold on the entire state, such that nobody could aspire to any position if such a person was not endorsed by the Saraki Godfather machinery. The ordinary people of Ilorin and other parts of the state depended on the Saraki family, and the man they called “Oloye” for their survival. Saraki, the father, did not disappoint them. His longevity as a power broker was a function of his mastery of populism and the common touch and his dexterity in building bridges to the centre.
In the 2019 general election, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the son who also became the Godfather, fell out with the ruling party at the centre, and back home, he and his chosen candidates faced a bigger opposition. The same APC machinery that Saraki had helped to strengthen in the state in 2015 was turned against him. The people were mobilized to reject the prevailing status quo. Atunwa was seen as Saraki’s candidate. He could well have had the making of a good Governor. But he stood no chance by association. The main slogan for that election was “O to o ge”. Literally, that was a statement of protest. It was an open rejection of the Saraki political dynasty and anything associated thereto. In a well-orchestrated, social media-driven advertisement of this protest, the people of Kwara were shown on the streets of Ilorin chanting and symbolically using the broom, the APC emblem, to sweep away the Saraki influence in Kwara politics. To an ordinary observer, something had changed. Saraki himself lost the February 23 Senatorial election.
But was that enough? Will the new man in the saddle deliver? Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq was sworn in on May 29, 2019. Before long, an open quarrel had broken out between the state government and the Saraki family, particularly Senator Bukola Saraki. By February 2020, the public was inundated with stories about how the Saraki family had taken illegal possession of plots of land meant for the public, and how Senator Saraki as Governor had similarly seized government properties across the state. It was a very messy affair. Dr. Bukola Saraki was at the same time facing pressure from Federal Government agencies. There was trouble chasing him around in Abuja. Back home in his state, the new Governor seemed determined to embarrass him. I wrote a piece at the time, and in the concluding paragraph, I advised that Governor Abdulrazaq should face the business of governance, because at the end of the day, he will be assessed on the basis of his achievements, not his ability to humiliate the Sarakis.
It looks like common sense eventually prevailed in the matter. I take special note of the fact that on May 29, the Governor of Kwara State was one of those Governors who had something to crow about. Of him, one Yahaya Seriki writes: “…the government of Abdulrazaq has brought to the state unprecedented developments whose demonstration is now found in the nooks and crannies of our state. There are not progressive claims; they are activities of physical verity. So far 56 percent of his cabinet is made up of women, first of its kind in Nigeria, and yet the most accentuated gender equality demonstration in the country as at present…his government refunded the 450 million naira that was allegedly diverted from the Universal Basic Education (UBE) funds by the previous government… over 8, 000 final years students from Kwara State across varying tertiary institutions in the country were duly paid their bursary…scholarship of 100, 000 Naira was earmarked to students of Kwara origin in law schools across the county and numerous primary and secondary education facilities being built, and some renovatedâ€¦ rehabilitation of Patigi waterworks…roads, healthcare facilities, sewage systems…” (The Nation, May 29, p. A5.).
Two weeks later, on June 12, in a three-page colour advert titled “Democracy Day and a Dawn of Impactful governance in Nigeria, sub-titled “Ise’nlo”, meaning “work is in progress” the Kwara State Government offered a pictorial account of the infrastructure provided by the Abdulrazaq government in Kwara State. (see THISDAY, June 12, pp 55- 57). We are also told: “Abdulrazaq lives in his own house, drives his own car, and inspires his team to be prudent and people-oriented. And he is never tired of talking to any member of the public…” The Governor’s media spokesperson, Rafiu Ajakaye in a piece titled “365 Days of Impactful Governance in Kwara would admit that “Kwara, for the record, is not yet an Eldorado. No such state exists.” But, he says, “the administration inherited and has rescued a state that once tottered on the brink of collapse – at least in the area of human capital development indicesâ€¦ just 12 months down the road, the Otoge leader has successfully exchanged the Kwara narrative. From instant payment of relevant counterpart funds, which have brought back development partners, and taken the state off the UBEC blacklist, Abdulrazaq is taking steps to stabilize and reposition the state for growth.” In yet another report, the Kwara State Director General of the Kwara State Bureau of Lands, Hon. Bolaji Edun, wrote in April, that Governor Abdulrazaq has signed 175 Certificates of Occupancy, and taken steps to strengthen the ease of doing business. I hope one or two of those 175 Certificates went the way of the Sarakis as a peace-making overture!
There are obvious lessons to be learnt from the Abdulrazaq story in Kwara state. Here is the example of a Governor who almost lost the plot by focusing on perceived enemies. His saving grace is that he changed track and tactics and chose to focus on what is important. That is why he has a story to tell one year after assuming office. Many Nigerian Governors simply do not know what they are doing. They are confused. COVID-19 is their come-uppance. It has exposed their ignorance and incompetence. There are Governors who are obsessed with petty squabbles, even over the management of COVID-19. They have nothing to show, nothing to celebrate, they call themselves “silent achievers.” I have a strong aversion to that phrase. If the achievement is loud enough, everyone will see it. Nigeria faces a big challenge at the sub-national level.
With the survival challenges that COVID-19 has brought upon us, the Nigerian people must indeed “take responsibility” and that includes holding those who lead us to account. It is not a task that can be left to our lawmakers who from Abuja to every part of the country are a self-seeking bunch. We can restructure, reduce the cost and size of government, but if the wrong set of people continue to rule, Nigeria’s journey will remain recursive. The big, defensive response that I get to this is: “Look at America!” My response: Trump-ism is a virus worse than COVID-19.
Micro, small and medium enterprises has occupied the most critical aspect of any economy around the world today. This paper assessed the contribution of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) on employment generation in Kwara State, Nigeria. To gather information, survey research design method was used in this study. The population includes owners, managers and person in charge human resource/administration in the selected MSMEs which were deliberately chosen. A Total of 76 Questionnaires was distributed and 72 responses of them were usable for data analysis. Data were analyzed using descriptive form of tables while hypotheses were tested for with a parametric t-test with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The study found that the MSMEs in Kwara State are not well positioned to generate the required level of employment for the people due to poor level of MSMEs growth and inconsistent government policies. It was therefore recommended that there is the need for all the stakeholders (government, business owners/managers, individuals, etc.) in Kwara State to be committed to the need to reposition the MSMEs sector.
One of the significant roles of MSMEs in any economy is employment generation (Survey Report on MSMEs in Nigeria, 2012; Batool & Zulfiqar, 2013) but with the persistent increase in the rate of unemployment in Nigeria and more specifically Kwara State, one begins to wonder whether the existing numbers of MSMEs are inadequate or poorly managed. Ofoegbu, Akanbi, & Joseph (2013) remarked on the high potential of MSMEs in providing employment opportunities because of their dispersed nature which make their presence in both urban and rural areas. In a country like Nigeria 2 where the unemployment rate is high, one of the antidotes is no doubt to have robust MSMEs because the sector has the propensity to employ more hands since its production process is often labour intensive. Kasimu (1998) confirmed that the MSMEs have through Nigeria Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) assisted projects created more than 300,000 jobs in Nigeria and through the Nigeria Agricultural and Cooperative Bank (NACB), 700,000 jobs has also been created. A number of researches have pointed in this direction (Daniel, 1994; Fisseha, 1991; Awosika, 1997; Schmitz, 1995; Gunu, 2004; and Aremu, 2010, Safiriyu & Njogo, 2012). There is a general believe that the desired employment generation in this country can be achieved through the development of MSMEs (Awosika 1997, Schmitz 1995). Gunu (2004) and Aremu (2010) posited that Small Scale Enterprises provide income, savings, and employment generation. United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in (2010) admitted that MSMEs are major contributors to private sector employment. But, in this part of the world MSMEs are confronted with many challenges like lack of financing, low productivity, lack of potential managerial abilities, access to technology, heavy regulatory burdens, etc.( Ajayi, 2000; Wang, 2003). These challenges have impeded their growth chances and the possibility of meeting their expectation in the society. In explaining the contribution of MSMEs in employment generation, Adeyemi and Badmus (2001) opined that if MSMEs sector is well funded, it will reduce the rate of unemployment in Nigeria. According to them, a developed MSMEs sector creates more jobs than large companies who are often capital intensive and require fewer hands. The Nigerian Government seems to be aware of this and that was why at all levels effort is geared towards how to create enabling and friendly environment in which MSMEs would flourish (Survey of MSMEs in Nigeria, 2012). Various programmes, institutions and effort have been put in place to assist MSMEs in order to develop them for the capacity to generate employment (Jimodu, 1998; Kayode, 2001; Hassan, 2003). The survey report on the MSMEs in Nigeria (2012) estimated the employees of MSMEs at thirty-two million, four hundred and fourteen thousand eight hundred and eighty-four (32, 414, 884) and put the MSMEs in Kwara State at four hundred and twenty eight thousand one hundred and eleven (428,111). In spite of these encouraging estimates, the State is still reported to be one of the States in the country with high rate of unemployment (Daily Independent, 2014). Although the Kwara State government claim to have done well in employment generation through her different programmes like the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (KWSEEDS), LEAH Charity Foundation (LCF), SME fund, QuickWin, to mention few coupled with the ones extended by the Federal Government of Nigeria like, The Nigeria Bank for commence and industry (NBCI), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), The Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND), Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Small and Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS), Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWin), etc. In spite of this claim, MSMEs in Kwara State, Nigeria continued to be confronted with numerous challenges and this made government to remains the largest employers of labour unlike what it is in some developed nations of the world. Average MSMEs in the State go into extinction within their first five years of establishment while another smaller percentage disappears few years after.
The situation is more disturbing and worrisome when compared with what is happening in other States in the country and what they have been able to achieve with their MSMEs. Regrettably, all the stakeholders’ (government, owners of MSMEs, organised private sector, etc.) are insensitivity to this issue, most of the MSMEs in Kwara State are still crawling after years of floating them. It is against this background that this study assesses the performance of MSMEs in Kwara State in respect of employment generation drive. 3 2.0 Review of Related Literature and Conceptual Framework There is no universally accepted definition of MSMEs (Beyene, 2002). Many of the definitions have considered the size as the name suggest; micro, small and medium. Others have considered number of staff and cost of assets among others. Hashim (2000), opine that MSMEs are defined by a number of factors and criteria, such as location, size, age, structure, organization, number of employees, sales volume, worth of assets, ownership through innovation and technology. In United States of America (USA), a small business is defined as any business with fewer than 500 employees. This may represent a medium to large enterprise in the African context. While in South Africa, Micro enterprises have less than 5 employees, Small enterprises have from 5 to 50 employees, and medium enterprises often employ up to 200 persons and have capital, excluding property, of about 5 million Rand. In South Africa, the term Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is use, while recently in Nigeria, the term captured ‘Micro’ from what use to be SME now Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The Survey Report on MSMEs in Nigeria (2012) defines micro enterprise as those enterprises whose total asset excluding land and building is less than 5 Million with a workforce not exceeding 10 employees, small enterprise as those enterprises whose total asset excluding land and building are above 5 Million Naira but not exceeding 50 Million Naira with total workforce of above 10 but not exceeding 49 employees. While the medium enterprises are those enterprises whose total asset excluding land and building are above 50 Million Naira but not exceeding 500 Million Naira with a total workforce of 50 to 200 and above. Central Bank of Nigeria (2012) described MSMEs in this order: Micro Enterprises are enterprises with less than10 employees with a total asset of less than N5 million (excluding land and buildings) and operated by sole proprietor, Small Enterprises are defined as entities with asset base of N5 million and not more than N50 million (excluding land and buildings) with labour force (employees) of between 10 and 49 while Medium Enterprises are defined as entities with asset base of N50 million and not more than N500 million (excluding land and buildings) with labour force (employees) of between 50 and 200 above. The agency envisaged conflictive position in the classificatory system and opines that the employment based classification will take precedence. In the instance of enterprise with asset worth 52Million Naira with 47 employees, the enterprise shall be small enterprise. S/N Size Category Employment Band Assets (#=Million) Excluding Land and Building 1 Micro Enterprises Less than 10 Less than 5 Million 2 Small Enterprises 10 to 49 5 Million to Less than 50 Million 3 Medium Enterprises 50 to 200 and above 50 Million to Less than 500 Million Source: Central Bank of Nigeria, 2012. Considerable theoretical grounds can be linked to unemployment, job creation and MSMEs in any society. Keynesian economics emphasizes the nature of unemployment and recommend interventions such as public fund, financial stimuli and expansionist monetary policies to generate employment. This intervention assists MSMEs to grow and in the process create more jobs and reduce unemployment. Schumpeter’s idea about new business emergence also promote employability; when new business come into place due to encouragement by the intervention programmes of government, employability is stimulated and unemployment reduces substantially. Lucas (1978) and Jovanovic (1982) summit that when propensity to set up enterprises is low; the rate of unemployment will be high. 4 Churchill and Lewis (1983) indicated that small enterprise growth model also determine the level of employment generation. At the start up stage few hands are often needed depending on the size of the enterprise but as the enterprise move to the next stage, activities add up and to ensure task performance efficiently more hand will be required because small business engages labour intensive production process, jobs are created. Conceptual Framework The variables in the conceptual framework are discussed below: MSMEs Growth: Researches into organizations explained different stages of growth; the MSMEs also follow this pattern without exemption. Churchill & Lewis (1983) opine that MSME growth has indicated a series of stage-models in which the business moves through a number of defined stages. The simple model identifies pre start- up as the first stage followed by start-up stage, growth stage, maturity stage and possibly grows into large firm. The argument here is not really the stages but how SMEs move within the stages to attain maturity. The development factor and the pace of development considering the time and its expansion rate are key issues here. For any MSMEs to achieve sustainable profitability, it must win new markets and introduces new products. Once it starts to grow it will either plateau off or enter a further stage of expansion in which transitions from a small to a medium or even large firm before reaching maturity (Scott & Bruce, 1987). The Start-up usually lasts for a period of one to three years during which the founder supervises the whole business activities that may be carried out by family members, friends or small number of employees; the accelerated growth phase usually lasts three to four years. During this period, the founder or a management expert handles management. At this point, a corporate organization is developed thereby leading to separation of ownership from management, the stable growth phase typically has duration of two to five years. During this period, management expertise and the corporate organization are divided into numerous departments and in flow of stable, long-term venture capital from corporate investors begin to appear, and the Maturity phase may start after MSMEs Performance Employment Generation Factors Impeding MSMEs Growth:
1. Paucity of Fund
2. Poor Infrastructure
3. Attitude of Owners MSMEs Growth Government Policies and Programme Owners/Managers Philosophy 5 several years of beginning in the business adopts the same type of management as stable growth phase but major difference being that sources of funding may become more diverse. The growth cycle of MSMEs is therefore a dynamic process involving the combination of a variety of different elements, partially concentrated within the owner-manager or entrepreneur, and partially within the firm itself. How successful the firm is over time will depend on the capacity of the management team leading it, and their ability to set clear strategic goals and implement such strategy via formal planning. Government Policies and Programmes: Bundle of policies and programmes has been put in place to guide actions of MSMEs while some are considered favorable others are obnoxious while most policies failed due to poor implementation others however, succeeded (Oni & Daniya, 2012). The authors admitted that financial and monetary policies over the years introduced schemes for promoting improved access to credit for industrial development particularly in MSMEs but affirmed that some of these policies never go beyond black and white. For instance, Banks which are supposed to complement and implement government policies in this regard often demand for huge collaterals which MSMEs do not have. Akoja and Hasret (2010) asserted that ‘some of the programmes of government like credit financing schemes and institutions; technical/managerial development and policy framework to support MSMEs have helped the growth of the sector.’ They also remarked further on government policy framework for the support of MSMEs especially in the areas of tariff, fiscal and infrastructures. For instance, tax relief is granted for SMEs in the first 6years of existence. However, Ofoegbu, et al (2013) found out in their study that attitude of government in kwara state is unfriendly towards the micro enterprises in the area of policy formulation and implementation. Owners/Managers Philosophy: The performance of MSMEs is to a large extent determined by the mind-set of the owners/managers. In Nigeria, most of the owners/managers are autocratic in approach and build enterprise around themselves and family. Self-interest put ahead of enterprise interest and this makes it difficult to separate them from the enterprise when it comes to a lot of issues. Based on previous research (Baron & Hanna, 2002; Baron, Hanna & Burton, 1999; Baron & Burton, 2001), the owners/managers philosophies are classified into three arms namely: In autocracy model, the owners/managers retain tight hands on enterprise and operate as sole visionary of the enterprise; the high-commitment model believes in building enterprise around family while professional model separate enterprise from themselves and share the interest of the enterprise beyond themselves. MSMEs Performance: This is the extent to which MSMEs is able to attain the essence of being. Among the performance indicators for MSMEs are profit, production of goods and services, employment generation, to mention few. Lawal (2011) and Okputu (2002) discovered in their respective studies that irrespective of MSMEs nature, performance is imperative to their continued existence. Employment Generation: Chepkwony, Charlse, & Julius (2009) opine that the promotion of micro enterprises in developing countries is justified in their abilities to generate employment. Afua (2008) remarked earlier on the ability of MSMEs to generate employment. This opinion was also shared in the studies of Bowale & Akinlo (2012) as they discovered substantial increase in the number of employees in MSMEs that have grown from micro enterprises to small scale enterprises and medium enterprises over the span of 5years. They also discovered that of all the three levels of enterprises, the micro enterprises has more potential to grow than the two others; their findings revealed that small and medium grew at 75% and 45% respectively while micro grew at 133%. 6 MSMEs in Kwara State Kwara State is one of the 36 States in Nigeria located in North Central geopolitical zone with 2.7million people. It was created in 1967 and made up of 16 local government areas with fertile land, good climate and peaceful environment. According to the Survey report on MSMEs of Nigeria (2012), 428,111 MSMEs exist in Kwara State with 427,668 Micro enterprises, 415 Small Enterprises and 28 Medium Enterprises (Table 1). MSMEs in Kwara State can be classified under three pathways namely: those on low growth development pathway, moderate growth development pathway and high growth development pathway. Some drawbacks confronting the development of MSMEs in Kwara State, Nigeria are similar to what Ting (2004) identified as the five key challenges of SMEs namely: lack of access to finance, human resource constraints, limited or inability to adopt technology, lack of information on potential markets and customers, and global competition. Several other issues affect the MSME sector in Kwara State in spite of the acclaimed efforts of the government (KWSEEDS- the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, LEAH Charity Foundation (LCF), SME fund, QuickWin, etc.). Some of these are institutional, as represented by absence of a focused and supportive policy or framework or access to appropriate credit. Others are endemic to the manufacturing sector as a whole and are caused by problems of transformation from a low technology / low skill environment, and personalized / inefficient management and organization structures out of tune with knowledge based economies of the 21st century. There is also an absence of institutional arrangements for change management, i.e. transmitting new skills (technical and non-technical) and monitoring their long term assimilation and internal sustainability. The major issues are identified as: 1. Low levels of technical skills and information at the level of product, process, management, or marketing, all of which can affect quality and competitiveness; 2. Issues of verifiable quality and standards; 3. Complex and unfriendly set of labour, tax and industry legislation and implementation procedures, which can encourage official abuse, push up the cost of starting or running an enterprise, and discourage the MSMEs from joining the formal economy; 4. Low access, low availability of financial resources, and high transaction costs; 5. Industry / sector newsletters are missing which can disseminate market trends and demands quickly and reliably; and 6. Absence of reliable and timely data /survey on assets, turnovers, employee numbers and employee skills in the country’s SMEs Most of the residents in Kwara would have ventured into Micro businesses and or expand their business in order to create more job but the factors around remain a big threat to their actualization of this vision. Estimating the Unemployment rate in Kwara State It is not easy to measure the rate of unemployment because of the conceptual problems of defining who is employed, unemployed or underemployed. Unemployment figures include those out of work, able to work and looking for a job through recognized channels. This definition should be extended to include those unemployed persons who give up job-seeking out of frustration and retrenched or laid-off persons. Unconfirmed statistical data on the trend of unemployment in Kwara State show that there had been increase in the rate of unemployed persons in the State. Contributions of MSMEs to Employment Generation MSMEs role is always seen from perspectives of employment generation, contribution to export earning, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Abdulraheem, Yahaya, Etudaiye-Muhtar, & Abogun, 2012). In industrialized countries, MSMEs are major contributors to private sector employment. Empirical studies have shown that SMEs contribute to over 50% of GDP and over 60% 7 of total employment in high income countries. SMEs and formal enterprises account for over 60% of GDP and over 70% of total employment in low income countries, while they contribute about 70% of GDP and 95% of total employment in middle income countries (World Bank, 1977). In most developing countries, MSMEs account for the majority of firms and a large share of the employment. The relative importance of small business varies significantly across countries and within a given country, across stages of development over time. A comparative study of manufacturing firms by Snadgross & Briggs (1996) shows common pattern in the transformation of the size distribution of firms as industrialization by concluding that small-scale enterprises play a declining role as countries develop. In the same vein, because they are often labour intensive, they employ a large share of the labour force in many developing countries. Theoretically, MSMEs are regarded to be more labour intensive than large firms. Labour intensity exhibits more variation across industries than among firm-sized groups within industries. Another direction in which MSMEs have generated employment is based on their chances of growth, when the enterprise expands, more jobs are created. The phases in MSMEs growth as discussed; pre start up, start-up, accelerated growth, stable growth and maturity. At each stage, MSMEs grow bigger and often need more hands. Through MSMEs growth, employment is often generated (See table 2 – 4). 3.0 Methodology Survey research design method was used in this study. The study population involved all the MSMEs in Kwara State which is 428,111. Owing to this large population, it was imperative to work with a handful number of them for effective coverage within the time frame of the study. This was done purposively, and nineteen (19) firms within MSEMs (See table 1) were selected across the sub-sectors in the MSMEs sector using the following criteria: Not less than 10 years of existence, location (rural and urban), and enterprise size. Four (4) respondents who are Owners, managers and person in charge human resource/administration filled the questionnaires. The respondents were deliberately chosen based on the information the study required. In all 76 respondents were envisaged but only 72 questionnaires were retrieved while 04 questionnaires were either not distributed due to non-availability of respondent like we have some enterprise under micro with only 3 personnel while some were not returned as well. The analysis was based on the 72 questionnaires (N= 72). The questionnaire was self-designed and assessed by three senior lecturers in the university before administration. This research used broadly two (2) distinct datasets; primary and secondary. The primary sources data were those practices most often included in management styles, employee’s behaviour, age of firm, workforce size and composition, performance measurement, etc. While the secondary sources extracted data from the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN): The data cover facts on subjective, general and specific MSMEs employment generation, MSME growth rate in Kwara State, Sectoral distribution, and other facts from their publications relevant to this present study, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) fact sheet on MSMEs between 2003 and 2012 was also used as it provided some useful information and Finally, the selected MSMEs records and books also serve as another source of vital information. Records of staff strength, within the period of study in the MSMEs are vital in this instance to give room for comparative analysis. Data collected from the survey were collated and analyzed using descriptive analysis in the form of tables. The hypotheses were tested using a parametric t-test with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). 8 Hypotheses Development Based on the assumed relationship given in the conceptual model and the review of relevant literature on MSMEs and employment generation in Kwara State, these hypotheses were developed: H1: There is no significant relationship between MSMEs growth and Employment generation H2: Government policies and programmes do not hinder the growth of MSMEs 4.0 Results and Discussions Table 1: Selected Micro firms Staff Strength as at December of each year Firms/ Yrs 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 A 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 3 3 4 B 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 C 3 5 5 5 5 5 6 5 6 6 6 D 2 2 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 E 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 F 4 4 4 4 4 4 6 6 6 6 6 G 8 8 8 8 7 8 8 8 8 8 8 H 5 6 6 6 6 6 7 6 6 6 6 I 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 5 Source: Field Survey, 2013. As presented in Table 1, Micro enterprises, the selected firms (A – I), in term of staff strength did fairly well except for firm E that had a drop in staff strength from 2 to 1 staff. But it should be noted that the highest strength under the selected micro enterprise is 8 and on the average 4, this is insignificant to the teeming number of unemployed persons in Kwara State. Table 2: Selected Small firms Staff Strength as at December of each year Firms/ Years. 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 A 9 12 12 18 18 20 22 22 22 22 22 B 25 25 23 26 26 28 30 30 30 38 34 C 52 55 55 55 55 54 54 58 58 58 60 D 8 10 14 14 14 15 16 16 16 16 16 E 95 95 94 90 92 92 92 98 98 98 98 F 76 80 80 80 78 80 85 85 85 85 88 Source: Field Survey, 2013. Table 2 revealed that small enterprises had a relatively stable growth rate with 98 as the highest staff strength while only firm B has a drop in staff strength in 2012. A remarkable growth is observed in firm A and D under the small enterprises, in the early part of their establishment they were micro enterprises but moved to small enterprises at the wake of their establishment. 9 Table 3: Selected Medium firms Staff Strength as at December of each year Firms/Yrs. 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 A 90 100 100 125 126 126 130 130 138 146 150 B 102 101 109 112 112 112 115 115 120 120 124 C 150 145 146 150 150 160 159 158 162 162 166 D 88 96 100 112 125 150 150 160 160 165 170 Source: Field Survey, 2013. As presented in Table 3, medium enterprises surveyed were doing well with consistent increase in their staff strength and have high tendency of generating more employment in the years to come and become a large enterprise. Similarly, a remarkable growth is observed in firm A and D under the medium enterprises, in the early part of their establishment they were small enterprises but moved to medium enterprises at the wake of their establishment. This confirmed the view of Bowale and Akinlo (2012) who noted substantial increase in the number of employees that have migrated from either micro or small enterprises to medium. Hypothesis Testing H1: There is no significant relationship between MSMEs growth and Employment generation Table 4: One Sample Statistics N Mean Standard Deviation Standard Error Mean There is significant relationship between MSMEs growth and Employment generation 72 2.01 .986 .116 Table 4 indicate that the mean of 2.01 show an average response in disagreement with MSMEs growth and employment generation in Kwara State. Table 5: One Sample Test Test Value = 0 There is significant relationship between MSMEs growth and Employment generation T df Sig. (2 tailed) Mean Diff 95% confident interval of the difference Lower Upper 17.336 71 .000 2.014 1.78 2.25 Table 5 is a two tailed test with d.f (72-1) =71. The statistical value for 0.05 at 71 degree of freedom is 1.99 and the calculated value t=17.336 which is greater than table value. We reject the null hypothesis. This implies that there is significant relationship between MSMEs growth and Employment generation. 10 H2: Government policies and programmes do not hinder the growth of MSMEs Table 6: One Sample Statistics N Mean Standard Deviation Standard Error Mean Government policies and programmes hinder the growth of MSMEs in Kwara State 71 1.99 1.049 .124 Table 6 indicate the mean is 1.99, this shows that the average response disagree with government policies effect on MSMEs growth Table 7: One Sample Test Test Value = 0 Government policies and programmes hinder the growth of MSMEs in Kwara State T Df Sig. (2 tailed) Mean Diff 95% confident interval of the difference Lower Upper 15.956 70 .000 1.986 1.74 2.23 Table 7 is a two tailed test with d.f (71-1) = 70. The statistical value of t @ 0.05 degree of freedom is 1.99 and calculated value = 15.956. Since the calculated value is greater than the table value, we reject the null hypothesis. This implies that government policies and programmes can hinder the growth of MSMEs 5.0 Conclusion This paper has provided evidence on the contribution of MSMEs in Employment generation in Kwara State, Nigeria, The study found that the MSMEs in Kwara State are not well positioned to generate the so required level of employment for the people. However, government has fairly tried in providing a schemes, institutions and policies to drive MSMEs. This by implication means that if Kwara State MSMEs sector is to generate more jobs, it must be repositioned to improve upon the existing structure. 6.0 Recommendations The study therefore recommends the following: 1. There is the need for all the stakeholders to be committed to the need to reposition the MSMEs sector in Kwara State for steady growth. 2. Government should introduce programmes and policies that will promote MSMEs growth in Kwara State. 3. Business owners/managers should be more dedicated to excellence in operation in order to ensure the growth of enterprises. 4. Individual should develop enterprise spirit.
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara state 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.
The governor spoke 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.
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 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 permits, we ranked 4th out of seven; in registering of properties, Kwara ranked 6th out of seven; and in terms of enforcing contracts, 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 said.
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, the printing of receipts for tax payment down to the 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 the 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 the government to work on the cost of running a business and cut interest rates.
This heaven on earth is located in Owu Isin Local Government of Kwara State. The existence of Owu falls is untraceable, but the fall has been described as the highest and most spectacular natural waterfalls in West Africa. The water fall cascades 330 feet down an escarpment with rocky outcrops to a pool of ice cold water below which gives a beautiful landscape and offers visitors a refreshing atmosphere.
Owu Falls is always at its best during the rainy season which spans 200 meters across making it a wonderful vacation spot. In Owu Falls, you experience a fine mix of awesome attractions and access to top quality accommodation as it offers a range of quality assessed accommodation with good quality restaurants. Its perfect location and memorable vacation experience makes it the perfect destination to host your next vacation.
A fun filled and unforgettable vacation experience awaits you. Owu falls is the highest and most spectacular natural water fall in West Africa. The water fall stands as one of the symbol of nature which it existence is untraceable, but can only be appreciated and promoted by exploring. .
The water fall is 120m above water level and cascades 330 feet down an escarpment with rocky out crops to a pool of ice cold water below. The water falls is surrounded with a beautiful natural ambience and hills which makes sightseeing a memorable experience. The waterfall is characterized with fall of ice cold water, beautiful rocky part and walk ways, and evergreen surrounding.
The Owu Waterfall in Kwara State is sometimes referred to as a “wonder in the wilderness.” It is one of the highest and fascinating waterfalls to watch in West Africa, cascading from a height of about 120 metres to a pool of foaming water below. Visitors will enjoy swimming in the pool or just watching others enjoy themselves while taking part in a picnic. It is also possible to check out Owe Kajita waterfall, the Ahoyaya falls in Jebba, and the Ubo Aiyegun Lakes.
Just Now, I got on a road trip to Ilorin with one of my friend. As you may already know, I love incorporating enthusiastic and tourism-orientated friends in my travel plans and trips. We got on the road to the ancient city of Ilorin, which is the capital of Kwara State. There are many untapped tourist attractions in Ilorin which are sadly, not known to many people. Those who know them don’t seem to appreciate them as places of tourism interest.
On arriving Ilorin, we visited one of the most beautiful lake resorts in the ancient city- the Unilorin Lake Resort located inside the University of Ilorin. The resort is actually still under construction, but it’s a very good place for boat riding and picnic or party. From the resort, we moved down to the palace of the Emir of Ilorin. The Emir’s palace is one of the most beautiful palaces I have visited in Nigeria. At the palace, my travel buddy and I learned a lot including the history and culture of Ilorin as well as that of the Emirate. The Ilorin palace is known to house smaller palaces meant for other Emirs from other parts of Nigeria because of the Emir’s cordial relationship with them. There are Royal suites that can accommodate the Emirs as well as their entourage at the same time. Call them guest palaces, and you would be right. There is, for instance, a house named after the Emir of Sokoto where the Sultan of Sokoto normally stays when he’s in town. There’s a also a house for the Shehu of Borno.
The Emir of Ilorin palace is also one of the most visited and most attractive tourist destinations in Ilorin. If you’re interested in history and education, the palace of the Emir of Ilorin is a very good place to acquire knowledge and understanding of the rich history of Ilorin. Within the palace, there are places of interest such as the Central Mosque which is the oldest Mosque in the ancient city of Ilorin. According to our Tour Guide, the palace Mosque is older than Nigeria and the palace itself, having been built in 1351 Islamic year (1932 in Christian calendar). The Mosque is very significant in that all Emirs, including past and present, were all turbaned in the mosque. The ceremony for a new Emir starts from the Mosque, it’s also an important place for the chiefs to visit before they can be turbaned.
We also visited the National Museum in Ilorin. It is one of the best and loveliest Museums I’ve visited in Nigeria. By the way, it’s the 12th Museum I have visited in Nigeria. The Museum Guide told us the museum was established in 1945. I remember telling her that Jos Museum was also established in 1945 and that I’ve known Jos museum as the first and oldest museum in Nigeria. But she explained that although Jos Museum was truly established in 1945, it was not commissioned. In the other hand, Ilorin Museum was opened and commissioned in 1945, making it officially older than Jo’s Museum and all other Museums in Nigeria.
Ilorin Museum has archaeological, ethnographic and craft shops. The Museum Guide gave us a little lecture on the clay that was used during the early days to mold the structures before being brought to the Museum. However, they’re no longer called clay but rather Terracotta. The Museum kitchen is where traditional food of different tribes are being prepared and sold. We actually ordered some food but unfortunately it was not available at the moment. We were disappointed, but we enjoyed taking some drinks.
Sadly, Ilorin is not one of the well known or popular cities in Nigeria, but it’s actually one of the most interesting cities in Nigeria. There’s a lot to see and there’s a lot of knowledge to acquire in the Kwara State capital. You should make some effort and visit this ancient city. When you’ve made up your mind to visit Ilorin, here is a list of the places you might want to visit while in Ilorin: 1 The Emir of Ilorin Palace 2 The Lake Resort, Ilorin 3. The popular Oja Oba market 4. The National museum 5. The Palms Mall 6. Dada Pottery You will definitely enjoy your time while in Ilorin.
the sate regulations on the pandemic — except vehicles carrying goods and services such as food and drugs and categories earlier exempted in a recent address by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The administration also commended Abuja and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their technical supports, including recently helping to strengthen government’s response team and training of its LGA disease surveillance and notification officers (DSNOs) on COVID-19 preparedness, response and surveillance.
The government, however, said a total lockdown was necessary to flatten the curve of transmission at this time.
“The government hereby bans all vehicular movements, including private and commercial vehicles, from 6 p.m. tomorrow, Friday 10 April, 2020,” Kayode Alabi, Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Technical Committee on COVID-19, told a news briefing in Ilorin, the state capital.
“The only exceptions are commercial trucks carrying goods and services who would operate with absolute respect for social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols. All kinds of shops, bars, pubs, and markets are hereby shut until further notice. Markets where foods and medications are sold will open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, between 10 a.m. and 2p.m.
“Contractors working on government projects are allowed to proceed to work with no more than 20 workers on site at one time.”
The total lockdown is for initial 14 days and may be reviewed as government monitors the situation, he added.
He said previous restrictions remain and would be enforced.
Commending the federal government and the WHO, Mr Alabi said the NCDC has sent down a crack team of experts to strengthen its capabilities to combat the spread of the virus.
“The government also commends the World Health Organisation for the recent training of our health officials across the 16 local government areas on community-level COVID preparedness, response and surveillance. All our LGA Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) are now back in their localities to do a step down training for community informants and focal persons,” he said.
Mr Alabi also expressed strong disapproval of the alleged stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients or other persons and communities on account of their contacts with any patient.
He warned that anyone caught doing so may be prosecuted in line with the regulation and relevant laws.
His words: “The government is dismayed by reports of some people stigmatising the families, relations and acquaintances of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. This development is not only unhealthy but it is in fact inimical to the efforts to trace contacts and flatten the curve of transmission of the virus.
“As was aptly observed by His Excellency in his live press briefing of Tuesday April 8, the government repeats clearly that contracting COVID-19 is neither a death sentence nor a crime. Anyone who has contracted it is a victim of an unknown enemy. They are not villains to be stigmatised. Just anyone can be victim of the deadly virus. All the patients and their families are persons to be catered for at this time. This is a tough time for them and nobody will be allowed to add to their worries!
“We state also that the government has carefully refused to mention the names of patients or their families. It has accorded the patients and their families all the rights, privileges and confidentiality due to them under relevant laws and ethics. The government will not hesitate to prosecute anyone found guilty of stigmatising patients and communities, or robbing them of their dignity. We warn that sharing of the picture of any COVID-19 patient qualifies as a crime and government will treat the despicable characters behind it as suspected criminals going forward.
“We assure the public that everything is being done to prevent community transmission and there is no use destroying years of community peace and relationships in the guise of identifying (COVID-19) contacts, whether primary or secondary. The cases at the isolation centre are stable and without any symptoms, and are getting the right care and support every step of the way.
“Fellow Kwarans, we repeat that this is no time to panic. Please stay calm. The Government will do everything to keep you safe. But we also need you to play your own role. Stay at home. Keep social distancing. Avoid crowd. Prioritise personal hygiene. And please do not spread unverified news. Once again, we pray for all those infected to get well soon. We assure them of getting the best care possible. We also thank all our healthcare givers for their priceless contribution to humanity. We are grateful to all of you and we urge you to do your best for us at this time and always.”