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Shade Omoniyi: The Guru Behind Kwara’s Goldmine


With a background in engineering, Mrs Shade Omoniyi seemed like an unlikely candidate to head the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service. But in the two years of her service to the state, she is well-positioned as the first female to occupy the position and arguably the only female executive chairman of the IRS in the country. Interestingly, she has risen beyond expectations, shattering glass ceilings with her initiatives that are yielding more revenue for the state and blocking leakages, writes Vanessa Obioha.

It was not a busy morning at the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KW-IRS) in Ilorin on a recent Tuesday. Workers went about their duties with ease and a sense of purpose. The Executive Chairman of the agency, Mrs Shade Omoniyi was rounding off a meeting in her office while we waited for her at the reception — a cosy space where a banner with her image had caught our attention. On the banner was a congratulatory message from her alma mater on her appointment. A similar banner came into view at her expansive office. These banners, in a way, were gentle reminders of Omoniyi’s impact on her community.

Long before she attained the lofty position of heading the agency, Omoniyi was recognised in Offa as a true daughter of the land. In 2008, when she turned 40, she renovated two blocks of classrooms in her secondary school, St Clare’s Girls Grammar in Offa. Further, she converted one of the classes into a computer centre, furnished it with 18 systems, air-conditioning system, generator set, printers, servers and other necessary tools. For her charitable act, she was specially recognised by the former Senate President Bukola Saraki, who was the governor of the state.

“I am constantly in touch with my school. I, on a regular basis, do some programmes for them,” said Omoniyi who was also the first president of the Old Girls Association of her set.

Interestingly, some of her classmates are in key positions in Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s cabinet. She disclosed that the Director of Accounts and Finance of KW-IRS, state Head of Service as well as the Clerk of the state House of Assembly were all alumni of the school.

An advocate of girl-child education, Omoniyi runs a non-governmental organisation that focuses on young female students, some of whom are beneficiaries of her sponsorship initiatives. Last year, she provided a training session for some artisans on soap making.

“By the time they finished, I bought equipment for all of them and gave them some seed money to start,” she explained.

Sitting behind her big desk, Omoniyi, dark and dressed in a green outfit painted the picture of a peaceful but resilient woman. In her two years in office, Omoniyi’s performance has gone beyond expectations, demonstrating excellence and commitment to the task handed to her.

Many did not expect her to excel when Governor AbdulRazaq appointed her. Given her engineering background, she was considered an unlikely candidate to head the agency which was established in 2016. But for the governor’s vision and belief in women, Omoniyi was called to head the department where she is the first woman to hold the position under the new regime. She is also the only female executive chairman of the IRS in the country at the state level.

In a way, Omoniyi’s life is dotted with a lot of firsts. She is the first child and only daughter of her parents. Born in Kano State where she had her primary education before moving down to Ilorin in 1976 for her secondary education, the executive chairman was the only female student in a class of 50 boys at the University of Ilorin where she studied Electrical Engineering.

She worked with the Nigerian Television Authority in Jos, Plateau State during her National Youth Service Corps and returned to Lagos to work for a computer company. However, she cut her teeth at Tara Systems which was owned by Seni Williams. She worked as a network IT engineer.

“I was a pioneer in a lot of networking, and IT projects in the industry. So many things were introduced based on my activities in Tara Systems,” she disclosed.

From Tara Systems, Omoniyi moved to Africa International Bank (AIB) where she equally achieved trailblazer status. She was appointed as the system administrator and developed all the IT infrastructure and systems for AIB. Her career began to leap during her time in AIB.

“AIB really got me the recognition that really helped me to leapfrog into what I was able to do in First Bank. I got three promotions in four years. My former MD is the immediate past Minister for Agriculture. I remember the time he gave me another promotion, six months after I was promoted. And I took the letter to him. I was seriously upset with the Human Resources department (HR) because I thought they made an error. How can they give me two promotions within six months? So, I went to him to report HR, that they must have made this error, and the man was just laughing. He didn’t take me seriously. ‘Sir, you don’t understand what I’m saying. How could they do this, HR needs to…’ I was seriously abusing HR. Apparently; he was responsible for it. So I got three promotions in four years,” she narrated.

Omoniyi left AIB for First Bank in 2001 when it ran into troubled waters. She became the first Head for Network Infrastructure and reported directly to the Head of IT in the bank.

“I set up the entire network infrastructure for First Bank just like I did in AIB. And after working in IT for eight years, I reached my peak as Head of IT and I had to move to business because there was nowhere else to go. You can’t just be an IT person; First Bank is not an IT company. So, I was moved to business. I was made the Business Development Manager for the Yaba area in Lagos and had like eight branches of the bank reporting to me. I wasn’t a banker. I was just an IT person, so I had to learn from the people who were reporting to me.

“But it was a life-changing event because it moved me out of my comfort zone. There was really nothing more to learn in IT except new things, and it wasn’t going to take me anywhere. It affected all of us who were seniors in IT then and they moved everybody to business, but I was the only one who survived.”

Two years later, she was appointed the Head of Public Sector for the financial institution and handled all the federal and state infrastructure in Lagos. She occupied the role for two years before attaining the Deputy General Manager position. But then, the bank needed someone who had experience in banking and IT to run operations. Again, Omoniyi’s name popped up and she was moved to the bank’s Head Office where she occupied the seat of Head of Operations, responsible for running operations of all branches of the bank.

Omoniyi’s next appointment was to head the mortgage arm of the bank, namely FBN Mortgages.

“I did that until the place was eventually sold. CBN said all banks should take their business out of the mortgage, and it became a policy issue. I successfully handed it over to those who eventually bought it,” she explained.

But by the time she returned to the Head Office, all the suitable positions were occupied. Hence, she voluntarily retired in 2018 even though the bank was reluctant to accept her resignation.

One of the instructive lessons Omoniyi learnt throughout her time in the bank was that each rung on the ladder she climbed presented new challenges.

It was during her retirement that she was called upon to serve her state. It was not an easy task, she confessed.

First, she met a system that was unstructured with over 900 workers. Since almost everyone from the last management left, the responsibility of running the agency was entirely in her hands. The first thing she did was streamline the structure.

“The structure I met was more like creating jobs for people, rather than it being a strategic structure. There was a lot of lopsidedness, so I had to reduce the number. I think direct reports to the Executive Chairman were about 26. I reduced that to nine. We had some job functions that should be departments, that were directorates, as the case may be. I created five directorates and four direct reports to the Executive Chairman. The Executive Chairman’s office is effectively a directorate on its own. That means we have six directorates now of which the Executive Chairman is heading one.”

She also created area offices in all local governments for easy access. Leveraging her IT and engineering background, Omoniyi was able to solve the automation process of collecting data and taxes for the agency.

“We have automation already, that was the impression that I was given but I came into the service, and apparently there was nothing. There was a system but the system was not working. You are supposed to add value. If you don’t add value, then what are we talking about, it’s not making any sense.”

She carried out an assessment that was staff based, which surprised her staff because everyone thought she was going to scrap the system and implement a new one.

“Everybody said no, take it out. I looked at the application, it’s not a local application, it is an international application. So obviously, the problem is not the application. The problem is the implementation because we implemented it. The application is world standard. It is well-known, they use it elsewhere.”

She got consultants to work on the system with a two-month deadline. Still, at the expiration of the deadline, the system was still not functioning. But Omoniyi didn’t fold their hands while the consultants worked on the system. They looked for other options which came handy by the time the system crashed on December 23, 2019.

“It was more like they were going to hold us to ransom kind of. That was the impression we got and we tried everything to bring the system back on. We wanted to make it work, but it didn’t happen. On January 3, we signed on the alternative we had prepared, hoping that we wouldn’t have to sign. We had to get this report out because we were also being compliant and we didn’t want anybody to take us to court. We started effectively from scratch.

“What helped us was the fact that with my background, I was able to save a lot of data from the former system. The data belongs to Kwara State; it was the system that belonged to someone else. The information inside was ours. We were able to sieve out a lot of information. We did the backup ourselves without even knowing that that was going to happen. So we started the new system, in January, and then, we reviewed our processes because, for IT, you only have effective IT permutation. If you implement, and you don’t change your processes, trying to run how you were running before the new system, doesn’t usually work.

“Unfortunately for us, COVID happened. Three months was not enough for us to get anywhere. And of course, what happened was, by the time we got to Q2 of last year, everything just came crashing down. And essentially, our collection was contact-based. This is Kwara; it’s not enough for you to have a system at the backend, people are also going to connect with you. They should also have the ability to connect to you. Since everyone was locked down, revenues in Q2, Q3 went down, but we were trying at the backend to see what we could do to use that period to build up the system.

“As at the third quarter of 2019, we had done over N23 billion. The last quarter, which was the one I ran, we made an extra, close to N7 billion, so we ended 2019 with N30 billion effectively, but because of all these challenges I spoke about; IT, lockdown and all of that, we ended 2020 at N19 billion. Now that N19 billion was 76% of our budget. And like I said, those were the factors that affected us but what we now did was when we got to 2021, lockdown had relaxed. It relaxed in Q3 of 2020. So in the first quarter, we did N7 billion I think, second quarter we crashed to N2 billion, in the third quarter we went to N4 billion, last quarter we went to N6 billion, so you could see the effect of all of this was quite evident. So we ended last year with N19 billion.

“When we started in 2021, we needed to run. We had some leftovers of 2019 because of COVID. So when we hit the market, Q1 of this year, we were getting more into the technology of it, and using our system the way they’re supposed to use it and blocking leakages. So Q1, we made N9.6 billion, which was the highest the service has ever made without an extraordinary item of course because I remember, Q2 of 2019, that was before I got here, there was this back duty audit of about N5 billion that came in. If we added that to the total, that Q2 of 2019, the total was N9.8 billion. People have questioned how I can be referring to Q1 of 2021 as the highest, and I always add that provision, without an extraordinary item.

“But what really helped us in Q1 was the fact that there were so many collections in 2020 that we were not able to collect, that we went after in 2021. We ended with N9.6 billion, and we were all quite excited, and then it shows that things are improving. As of today, even though we’re unable to hit what we did in Q1 and Q2 and Q3, we are N21 billion, which is higher than what we did in the entire 2020, and we are hoping that we should be able to meet the target for this year which is N29 billion.”

Nowadays, instead of disbelief in her capabilities, Omoniyi is hailed for her outstanding performance in the agency. More importantly, she is impressed by Governor AbdulRazaq’s resolve to have female administrators in his cabinet.

“I am quite impressed with His Excellency and quite delighted to be in his team. I must be sincere and I’m not just saying it because I am in the team. With due respect to men, women do a lot better because we always have a point to prove. We always want to prove the point. I can tell you for free that I wasn’t given the light of day when I got this assignment. I wasn’t supposed to succeed. I was expected to fail.

But her training as an engineer prepared her for this mindset: make things that look impossible work. And that’s where trust comes in.

“I believe that is the way His Excellency is also looking at it. The women who are on the team have a mission. They have a point to prove. If he could do this and have this level of trust in us, we have to deliver. It is very simple. It is something I believe other state governments should emulate because women always get things done,” she concluded.


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