Tuesday, July 7, 2020 12:27 pm
Gov Dapo Abiodun: Inherited humongous debt
By Paul Oladele
From the information in the public domain, the Dapo Abiodun administration, which assumed power on May 29, 2019, inherited debts totalling N421.55 billion from the Ibikunle Amosun administration. The debt figure is above the yearly budget of Ogun State, hence gives the stake-holders in the state a cause for worry.
N221.55 billion, representing 53 per cent of the financial liabilities, consists of the following: domestic loan of N107.6 billion; external loan of N32.2 billion; gratuity of N51.04 billion; contributory pension of N26.20 billion; and leave bonus of N4.51 billion.
The task before the Abiodun government to redeem and pull back the economy of Ogun State from the brink is no doubt enormous.
The balance of the debt figures, N200 billion or 47 per cent of the total debt has to do with contractor financing or debts owned contractors. Details of the final figure as it relates to contractor financing are scheduled to be released by the Contract Review Committee, which was set up by the new government to look into the myriads of projects embarked upon by the previous administration, which the same administration later abandoned.
However, it is not clear if the figures of the debt inherited from the last administration include the Severance Allowance of the political office holders that served the Amosun government. These public office holders were serially denied their legitimate entitlements by the former governor. From the news report, the special assistants have not received their Severance Allowance and have appealed to the Abiodun government to offset the debt in order to encourage sacrificial service by public office holders. Some senior/ special advisers have also not been paid despite having met the statutory number of years in the service of the state.
Abiodun is not vindictive. In spite of the fact that the former governor worked against his interest, he still retained the services of those civil servants employed by Amosun
When the news filtered to the media that the Abiodun administration had paid the arrears of salaries of about 2,000 workers hurriedly employed by the last government, there was jubilation among ex-political office holders that their Severance Allowance might equally have been paid by the new government. But it turned out that it was only the civil servants that received the good news.
The magnanimity of the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, caught everyone by surprise. No one in their wildest imagination could have believed those Amosun employees into the civil service would be absorbed let alone receive nine-month salaries! Prince Dapo Abiodun is from another planet! He deserves all the accolades. When viewed against the backdrop that the workers employed by the Gbenga Daniel administration were disengaged by the new government of Amosun after working for four months without pay, the kind gesture of Dapo Abiodun deserves the praises of everyone.
It was not only political office holders that suffered horrendous financial hardship under Amosun, the pathetic conditions of civil servants were summed by the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ogun State Council, Comrade Emmanuel Bankole at a press conference, in the twilight of the Amosun administration.
The pain the Amosun administration inflicted on the public servants are unbearable. Some homes have been broken, lives have been lost to common ailments
The NLC chairman said the “discomfort, pain and irreparable damage the outgoing administration has inflicted on the public servants and their families in the state are unbearable. Some homes have been broken, lives have been lost to common ailments due to lack of money for medications and treatment; wards and children admission to higher institution lost, personal project abandoned, professional training and development programme abandoned and predisposition of workers to many embarrassing situations making many of them chronic debtors as a result of non-payment of salaries and other entitlements due to them. You promised us better life and prosperity, what we see today is opposite of all that you have promised. We imbibed your ‘mission to rebuild agenda’ little did we know that your infrastructural programme was to be executed at the expense of the comfort and well-being of our families. Though we are helpless today and the excruciating pains and deep scars will take time to soothe, we leave you to God and your conscience.”
The Abiodun administration has been doing its best to salvage what it could from the motley of self-serving projects begun and abandoned by the last government
Abiodun is not vindictive. In spite of the fact that the former governor worked against his interest in becoming the governor, he still retained the services of those civil servants whose last-minute employment by Amosun did not really follow due process.
According to Abiodun, “Let me state that we very much appreciate the recommendations of the Review Committee, comprising eminent retired public servants, that the appointments and recruitments (by the Amosun administration) were fraught with non-adherence to the principles and laid-down traditions of the public service. But in line with our administration’s commitment to equity, fairness, justice and inclusiveness, we will not engage in any action or policy that may be viewed as vendetta. Rather, we will call on all to continue to put in their best for the service delivery to the people of Ogun State.”
Political office holders suffered financial hardship under Amosun. They have appealed to Abiodun to offset their Severance Allowance
We plead with Governor Abiodun to now complete the good work he has begun by paying the Severance Allowance of political office holders that served in the last government. Some of us are relatives of those political office holders who were left empty-handed by the Amosun government, despite giving their best while in the services of the Ogun State government.
It is worthy of note that the Abiodun administration has been doing its best on behalf of the people of Ogun State to salvage what it could from the motley of self-serving projects begun and abandoned by the last government. Some of those projects can be turned over to private hands with the proceeds paid into the government coffers.
A word for the critics of Dapo Abiodun. The funds expended on the numerous projects embarked upon by the last government which were abandoned by the same government belong to the people of Ogun State. Most of those projects were only 5 to 30 per cent completed as at May 29, 2019 when the new governor was sworn in. Abiodun could have completely ignored all the projects and allowed the resources of the state to go down the drain. But this governor is not the typical Nigerian politician who wants his name in all projects, no matter how irrelevant those projects are to the economy of the state.
Residents should also support the attempt by the current government to raise self-regenerating development finances in order to reduce the heavy debt burden inherited from the last administration. When you invest in productive infrastructure as against self-serving projects, cost of goods and services will reduce, companies will make more profit and disposable income with residents will ultimately increase. Company tax and income tax available to government will increase and the state finances will ultimately return on an even keel. The task before the new government to redeem and pull back the economy of Ogun State from the brink is no doubt enormous. Governor Abiodun needs and deserves all our support.
History will be kind to Abiodun for his consuming passion for the economic well-being of the people of Ogun State.
-Barr Paul Oladele, public policy commentator, writes from Akute, Ogun State.