Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
It has been kudos galore for Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State in the past 100 days that he took over the reins of government in the pace setter state.
The praises have been coming from within and outside the state on the policies of the administration that have brought a fresh breath of freedom and hope to the people since he came to power on May 29, 2019, on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But the praises also came with knocks from the leading opposition party in the state – All Progressives Congress (APC), that has been criticising many steps being taken by the current administration. Stakeholders in the state have also been placing their expectations before the government.
The first assignment Makinde performed shortly after his inauguration was the abolition of N3,000 school levy introduced by the immediate past administration led by Senator Abiola Ajimobi for secondary school pupils in the state. He also announced the donation of his basic salaries to pensioners throughout his four-year mandate in order to make life more meaningful to pensioners in the state. The two actions attracted commendations from within and outside the state.
After the inauguration, he appointed a chieftain of PDP, Chief Bisi Ilaka, as his Chief of Staff. In the evening of the inauguration day, Ilaka announced that Makinde has approved the dissolution of chairmen of the 33 local government areas and 35 local council development areas, who are all members of APC. The dissolution pitched the current administration against APC in the state.
The case instituted on the dissolution by Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) under the leadership of former Chairman of Oluyole Local Government, Prince Ayodeji Abass Aleshinloye, is still pending in court. ALGON is claiming that the chairmen were elected and that they could not be dissolved by Executive Fiat. They claimed that the association had obtained a judgment in court, which restrained the governor of the state and other constituted organs of government from dissolving them. The judgment was obtained in the twilight of Ajimobi’s administration.
As gathered, the case was not defended by the government, a step that PDP faithful in the state noted was a premeditated move to plant landmines for the new administration. But the PDP-led administration said the party boycotted the election conducted on May 12, 2018 based on perceived illegality of the council poll, adding that the fact that the APC-led government conducted on the same day election into the 33 loca government areas that are recognised by the Constitution of Nigeria, and 35 LCDAs that are not recognised by the constitution, rendered the poll illegal. Makinde has also got the backing of the House of Assembly on the dissolution.
The steps that have been taken so far by Makinde on agricultural transformation in the state have also attracted praises. One of the steps is on the resuscitation of the abandoned 10,000 metric tonnes four-bin silo project. The project was embarked on by the immediate past administration in the state, and the contract was revoked from the contractor when work with the materials on ground had reached 85 per cent completion.
It was gathered that at the time the contract was revoked, the remaining money the state was to pay the contractor was N267, 578,013.68kobo, but the contract was rewarded for N486,840,685.48kobo.
The contract was rewarded afresh for a new contractor, which made the first contractor to sue ex-Governor Ajimobi and the government. The project was billed for completion by August 2017, according to former Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Prince Oyewole Oyewumi, in an interview with journalists in June 2017.
When Makinde came into power, he inherited the liability and he opted for out-of-court settlement. He visited the site of the silo in Awe in Oyo town recently, and expressed displeasure at the pace of work, which he noted should have been completed within 10 months, making it clear that his government was ready to explore all options to make sure the project is delivered so that farmers and the state could derive value from it.
“We have had court cases over the project, so we intend to solve all these challenges because the state has expended so much money on that project and we have not been able to get any value from it. So, if we will need to spend a little more to make sure that we derive value from it, we will do it.
“The case is in arbitration right now, but I will encourage the contractor to come to sit down with us so that we can explore options of out-of-court settlement. We are not arrogant about this thing. This is a project that should bring value to our farmers and to the economy of the state and that is what we set out to achieve”, he stressed.
Meanwhile, the move for out-of-court settlement has yielded positive results as the contractor has settled with the state government and he has returned to the site, promising that the project would be completed and delivered to the government by January 2020.
The Oyo State Executive Council rose from its inaugural meeting in the present administration on Tuesday August 27, 2019, and approved N832,650,000 for procurement of 100 units of KIA RIO 1.4 Executive Automatic Transmission saloon cars for security agencies, and N447,257,384.10kobo for purchase of 2,782,806 exercise books for 463,801 pupils in public primary and secondary schools in the state.
Makinde has also promised that he would not cancel good policies initiated by the past administration because government is a continuum, adding that his administration has zero-tolerance for corruption, hence the need to set up and anti-corruption agency. He has vowed that he would waive his immunity to stand before the anti-graft agency if he is found wanting. This development has, however, sent a strong warning to his appointees and civil servants to be above board.
Workers and pensioners have also been commending Makinde for prompt payment of salaries and pensions in fulfilment of his promises during electioneering that he would ensure payment of salaries and pensions on the 25th of every month.
The Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in the state, Mr. Bayo Titilola-Sodo, and Secretary, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Oyo State branch, Mr. Segun Abatan, have both commended Makinde for the prompt payment of salaries and pensions since the mantle of leadership of the state fell on him.
Abatan specifically appreciated the governor for paying the pensions of both retired primary school teachers and local government pensioners in full, compared to the previous administration that paid in percentages, saying: “Right at his inauguration, the governor pledged his four-year salaries to the payment of retired primary school teachers. Oyo State pensioners couldn’t have got a better compassionate friend than Governor Seyi Makinde.”
However, the NLC and NUP are expecting the governor to implement the N30,000 National Minimum Wage. The NUP particularly urged Makinde to declare a state of emergency on pension matters in the state.
The pensioners made the request based on the whopping N62.5billion over a period of eight to 56 months of unpaid pensions and gratuities owed retired primary school teachers and local government pensioners in the state by the immediate past administration led APC.
However, Makinde promised to give everything that is due to the pensioners under the law to them at the right time, saying a line had been drawn between May 29, 2019 that he took over the reins of government in the state and what transpired in pension matters before he came on board.
The governor said: “In this journey, there are two parts. Part one started on May 29, 2019. We have drawn a line there that from May 29, 2019, till the end of this administration, whatever is due to you under the law, will be done for you. “So, what we are saying is that salaries of workers, pensions and all other statutory payments that government should pay, we will pay them as and when due. But what had transpired before we came on board, we will roll them together, and look at how to deduct money in installments to offset the arrears. This is what I promised during the campaign. Whatever we can devote to it every month, we will devote it.”
Makinde, who said the past administration left a debt profile of over N150billion for his administration, later said the state has become technically bankrupt, though APC contended that the actual debt left behind for PDP was in the region of N92billion. But Makinde assured the people that they should not be afraid because the economy of the state, according to him, would be driven through agriculture and agricultural value chain, as he promised during in his manifesto.
“But I must let you appreciate the position we are in Oyo State, as of today. There is no hide-and-seek game in what we are doing inside the Governor’s Office. We will make it completely open. I want you to hold me accountable for that.”
Commissioner for Finance in Oyo State, Mr. Akinola Ojo, told Daily Sun recently: We have a debt profolio of close to N150billion that we met when we came on board. From revenue generating perspective, the state gets, on average, N4.8billion and N4.9billion as FAAC monthly from the Federal Government.
“Our own Internally Generated Revenue, on average, is between N2.2billion and N2.4billion monthly. So, in total, we generate about N7billion on average monthly.
“We have a wage bill of about N5.2billion and N5.3billion every month. So, that brings us back to a surplus of N2.3billion.
“We pay commissions to the consultant, who generate this IGR for us in the region of N400million to N500million. So, that brings us to a surplus of about N1.3billion.
“So, what that tells you is that from a state’s perspective, what we have to play with to do our capital projects, and to make all our loan repayments, is only N1.3billion to N1.4billion.”
The fiscal standing of the state, however, made the governor to, in July 2019, seek the approval of the parliament for a N10billion loan to improve infrastructure in the state. The governor said the loan would be sought from three commercial banks. Some of the roads that have been receiving the attention of the state are Ibadan-Iseyin Road, Idi-Ape-Bashorun-Akobo Road in Ibadan, and Ibadan-Eruwa Road.
But the people of Olorunda in Lagelu Local Government Area of the state have also appealed to Governor Makinde to extend the reconstruction of Idi-Ape-Bashorun-Akobo Road beyond the second gate of the 2 Division of Nigerian Army, to their community because their road has been dotted by potholes and craters, and has become appalling.