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[Opinion]: Time to rescue Ogun State - Sina Kawonise

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INTRODUCTION
In a few weeks, it’ll be seven years since Senator Ibikunle Amosun took over Ogun State as Governor. He came with the slogan “Mission To Rebuild Ogun State” (MITROS). His promise was to ‘rebuild’ the State in all critical sectors - education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, employment generation, community development, empowerment of women, creating enabling environment for business, etc.

Having spent his first term and another three years out of the second and final term in office, all that Governor Amosun has got to offer Ogun State are already manifest. We all have seen Amosun’s very best, we’ve seen his MITROS - warts and all!

WHY THE RESCUE MISSION?: FACTS AND FIGURES
Besides the normal recurrent expenditure, which has been consistently high under the Amosun Administration, about 90 percent of what remained for capital expenditure has been spent on expansion of very few existing urban roads in a few locations in the State. Out of a total of 2,545 kilometers of state (Trunk B) road across the State, Governor Amosun has spent almost N300 billion to expand a total of 347 kilometers. This represents a paltry 13.6 percent of state roads crying for attention. Virtually all internal (Trunk C) roads in every city, town and village in the State have become impassable. This is the case because all federal allocations to Local Governments (LGs), as well as their Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) are seized by Amosun using the instrumentality of a law he enacted immediately he got into office for what he described as State/LG Projects Joint Account.

Apart from all other sectors neglected due to this mono-focus on urban road expansion which, in real terms, adds little or nothing to the GDP of Ogun State, the real tragedy is the huge debt Amosun will be leaving for all of us and our children to settle in at least the next 30 years.

The incompetence and irresponsibility of the current government are vividly captured in the 2016 Financial Statement of the State published in some national newspapers on December 28, 2017. In that Statement, Ogun State had a total revenue of N114.8 billion. From this figure, FAAC allocation from Abuja was N32.6 billion, IGR N71.5 billion, and others (not specified - most probably short-term loans from banks) N10.7 billion.

From this revenue of N114.8 billion, N70 billion (or 61 percent) went on recurrent expenditure in 2016. While salaries and emoluments took N39.5 billion, overhead costs consumed a whooping N13.8 billion, with debt servicing taking away N16.7 billion (this amounts to N1.39 billion monthly).

From the figures above, it would be seen that only N44.8 billion was available for capital expenditure. To appreciate the level of incompetence and corruption of the Amosun government, I’ll cite two roads that are typical of the road expansion projects executed by it.

1. OGTV-Brewery junction road with a distance of 8.7 km at a total cost of N17.2 billion and per/km cost of N1.98 billion.

2. Sagamu-Benin Express junction/Oba Erinwole junction road at a total cost of N11.87 billion and per/km cost of N1.7 billion.

If the total amount available for capital expenditure in a typical year (as it was the case in 2016) was N44.8 billion, how does anyone justify spending N1.98 billion to expand one kilometer of an existing road with no strategic importance or the potential to boost the local economy? At that rate, it means the whole N44.8 billion could expand a total of only 22.6 kilometers in a budget year out of the 2,545 km Trunk B roads and tens of thousands Trunk C roads needing attention.

Now, the reported costs of the road projects are another matter entirely. The Lagos-Ibadan express road being executed by the Federal Government is 124 km at a cost of N167 billion, which translates to N1.35 billion/per kilometer. While the Sagamu-Lagos end is 8 lanes, the Sagamu-Ibadan portion is 6 lanes. Apart from the width of the FG’s road, the construction is a total overhaul of existing road with massive excavation and very thick concrete and asphalt overlay that are several times the volume and dimension of any of Amosun’s roads. Yet, the FG’s road is far cheaper than what is delivered to us in Ogun state.

The foregoing is the very reason there are no passable roads in the towns and villages of Ogun State outside of the 300+ km in the few urban locations. It is the reason the education and health sectors have deteriorated so badly. It is the reason unemployment is at its worst in the history of the state. It is the reason the 7,334 CDAs and 55,000 cooperative societies in the State receive no attention whatsoever from the government. It is the reason only one out of the 22 so-called Model Schools started 6 years ago is operational. It is the reason the government is owing civil servants 18 months salary deductions and 4 years of backlog in gratuities and pension. It is the reason so many manufacturing concerns in Sango Otta, Agbara, Igbesa, Akute, Ogijo, Mowe and Ibafo axis have shut down and retrenched thousands of workers because there are no motorable roads to their factories. It is the reason agriculture receives no tangible government support and it is the basis of the lie and fraud called MITROS rice. It is the reason all the taps hitherto serviced by public pipe-borne water are dry. It is the reason the whole economic environment of Ogun State is so dreary and mournful.

THE DEBT OVERHANG
In the 2016 Financial Statement referred to earlier, the government reported a total debt stock of N113.2 billion, being internal and external loans. This is partial reporting and concealment of facts. Non-flow debts of liabilities to workers and pensioners, outstanding payments to contractors and suppliers are not included. Informal estimates have it that total non-flow debts are about N150 billion. With the interest-based debt of N113.2 billion, the $300 million (= N109 billion) World Bank loan recently and dubiously approved for Amosun by the National Assembly, the current government will be leaving a whooping N372 billion debt overhang for Ogun residents to sort out for the next two generations. For, if the debt repayment rate remains at the N1.39 billion per month level of 2016, it’ll take a minimum of 30 years to settle the debt at a conservative single-digit interest rate of 9 percent.

‘THIRD TERM’ FOR AMOSUN?
It is ironic, therefore, that the man and his government that promised to rebuild Ogun State at the inception, through their own publicly presented records, which obviously must have been doctored - suggesting that the reality would be worse than presented -  have only succeeded in effecting monumental destruction and degradation on the State. This makes it imperative that conscious and concrete efforts be made to retrieve our State from him and halt its decline. Yet, this is the Governor that has been boasting that he’ll foist on us a successor to continue the pillage and cover his back. Evidently, this man has no worthwhile interest or plan for the State beyond dominating and cornering its resources. For, it is certain that anyone from his camp would definitely continue along his line of bad governance.

It should be obvious to all right thinking observers that Ogun State cannot and should not be allowed to continue under the tutelage of Governor Amosun and his ilks in All Progressive Congress (APC), as the party and its standard bearer have shown themselves as incapable of rebuilding Ogun State as promised. And in the light of the stark evidence staring us in the face about the level of denudation that the State has been subjected to under the APC government, it should be the responsibility of all Ogun State indigenes and residents to work assiduously to see that APC is prevented from further mounting the saddle of governance in the State. The case against APC cannot be made better than the way the current government has misused its mandate.

NEITHER APC NOR PDP
Incidentally, it is not only APC that should be consciously prevented from governance in Ogun State. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in his celebrated open letter on the current APC-led government at the federal level has this to say on the two leading political parties in the country at the moment: “I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties - APC and PDP - were wobbling. I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise. If anything, I am reinforced in my view. The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria … If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria (and we must painfully add Ogun State here) at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do?” We know all men and women of goodwill in Ogun State want the best for the State and would want to stop in its tracks the bad governance which the former President has remarked as basic characteristics of both APC and PDP. The former President, has of course, recommended the urgent need for people of goodwill across Nigeria to come together and present an alternative to both discredited parties which have woefully failed our people and pauperised them. I offer myself to be part of this new crop of leaders in Ogun State.

I believe we in Ogun State, having been witnesses and victims of the deleterious effect of the high-handed and pernicious rule of the APC-led government in the State in the last seven years, have an abiding duty to come together to rescue the State from falling further into morass or getting into the hands of those who only know how to prey on the State or those who are so poor in everything that the only thing they have is money with which they think they could lord it over the good people of the State.

NOW THE REAL DEAL
We have the capacity to prevent further denudation in the State and it should be our responsibility to ensure that the State is put back on the path of development that was its hallmark under the tutelage of its founding fathers like the late Governor Olabisi Onabanjo. The time to act is now! This is why it has become imperative for me to ask all men and women of goodwill in Ogun State to rise up and join me in this onerous task of rescuing our State from the present miasma of hopelessness to which it has been consigned by those currently superintending over its affairs and their ilks who are seeking to perpetuate the hopelessness. The time to rescue Ogun State is now. We have a duty to rescue the State and I am pledging myself to this task even as we are sure that SUCCESS would be ours. Omo Ogun, ise ya!

• For a well thought-out programme of action on how to effect a new deal for our people in Ogun State, kindly visit:www.sinakawonise.com.ng

‘Sina Kawonise (SK) is an Ogun State gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP)

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