By Lati Abayomi
I read this epistle full of lies and half-truths by Lolu Aderogba, hoping he would tell us the real governance issues not being addressed by Governor Seyi Makinde. Alas, I was disappointed! Therefore, I am forced to address the alternative facts presented by Aderogba with facts in the public domain available to all. Then, I will point out what the governor has done in the last six months that has somehow escaped Aderogba’s notice.
Let’s start with the Ibadan Circular Road project. At no point did Governor Seyi Makinde revoke the contract for the Ibadan Circular Road. Had Aderogba expended the level of energy he invested in calling out Makinde, to read his Twitter timeline, he would have known that the governor only suspended the project pending a meeting with the contractors.
A tweet posted on October 31, 2019, reads “We visited Ibadan Circular Road, Lagos-Ibadan Bye Pass, this afternoon for an on-the-spot assessment of the work done so far. The agreement for this project was signed in 2017 and the work done so far is about 5.5%. The concession value is N67B for 32 Kilometres of road. I’ve asked that the work be stopped for us to take a holistic look at the project, which isn’t proceeding as it should, for a road that’s so important to Oyo State’s economy. We’ll meet with the contractors to discuss specifics like funding/work plan & decide the project’s future.”
Following that meeting (The Nation “Ibadan Circular Road; Makinde Rescinds Stop-Work Order” – November 3, 2019) the governor rescinded the order after ENL Consortium Ltd (the contractors) assured him that they now had the required funds to execute the project. They admitted that inability to raise funds prevented them from executing beyond 5.5% in nearly three years. The contractors were told to deliver the project by May 2020, as stated in the agreement signed with the previous administration in 2017, and they agreed to do so.
So, Aderogba’s claim that ENL Consortium Ltd threatened to take legal action against the governor and Oyo State Government for revoking the Ibadan Circular Road contract is false and a figment of his imagination.
Did Governor Seyi Makinde refer to the contractor who was awarded Moniya-Iseyin road as faceless? Yes, he did. But in the English language, “faceless” does not mean “unidentifiable.” It would be preposterous to think so. The contract documents were in the government’s possession, so it is evident that the contractor awarded the contract was known to the government. A quick dictionary check on usage would reveal that the expression was to convey that the contractor was an unknown quantity without a track record, given the magnitude and importance of the work awarded to it.
Now, let us address Globus Nigeria Limited and the forest reserves. Oyo State has the following Forest Reserves; 1) Gambari Forest Reserves 11,431 Hectares 2) Osho Forest Reserves 3,704 Hectares 3) Ijaiye Forest Reserves 28,491 Hectares 4) Olokemeji Forest Reserves 7,511 Hectares 5) Lanlate Forest Reserves 7,507 Hectares 6) Igangan Forest Reserves 39,627 Hectares 7) Olaseinde Forest Reserves 686 Hectares 8) Ooko/Iroo Forest Reserves 2,300 Hectares 9) Opara Forest Reserves 248,640 Hectares.
What exactly was reversed? The Commissioner for the Environment and Natural Resources, Hon Kehinde Ayoola, explained this via a Facebook post on September 9, 2019. Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s government, hiding behind a nebulous Agriculture policy, allotted a total of 260,000 Hectares to himself (26,000 hectares -6,000 from Gambari and 20,000 from Opara), party members, friends and cronies; this is what was revoked by Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration.
Ajimobi’s administration permitted some investors to establish fishing and poultry business in about 2,000 hectares at Gambari Forest Reserve only. The company, Globus Nigeria Ltd, was the only company referenced in Aderogba’s article. Also in the same Gambari Reserve, Kopek Nigeria Ltd was given about 300 hectares for quarry services.
Globus Nigeria Ltd which rears fish and poultry inside Gambari Reserve has as part of the conditions to use that place, the planting of 1,000 hectares of trees yearly, as an environmental impact mitigation measure. This is in addition to paying N10M ground rent annually. Ajimobi’s allottees have no such stipulations in their agreements with the state government. It is important to note that despite lauding Ajimobi’s policy of allocating 260,000 Hectares of forest reserves, Aderogba could only reference Globus Nigeria Ltd with only 2,000 Hectares as the one company which was utilising the land for agricultural purposes.
According to Hon Ayoola’s Facebook post referenced above, “What makes these acquisitions reprehensible, and environmentalists and conservationists will agree, is that Forests are very vital in the fight against Global Warming and its attendant problem of Climate Change. Nations of the world are looking to not only preserve their forest resources but they are adding to it. But our man was trying to take away from our forest. Of cos, with the concurrence of His Excellency GSM, I have revoked the illegal allocations. We shall collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to take further necessary action.” The information is available in the public space.
Ironically, Aderogba claimed Governor Makinde cancelled the Schools Governing Board (SGB) when in fact, this is one of the policies of Ajimobi which Makinde commended, as various newspapers reported on August 1, 2019. The Makinde led government had upon assuming office, reviewed the mode of operation of SGBs to prevent the extortion of students in public schools. The claim that the government cancelled SGBs and reversed itself following an outcry is false.
On Oyo State’s debt, according to data available on the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) website, Oyo State’s debt in December 2018 was $104,997,383.47 – external debt (~N32B at the official exchange rate of N306/$1) and N91,515,756,366.15 – domestic debt. That is in total, N123B. This does not take into account debt incurred between January and May 2019 before the Governor Seyi Makinde administration was sworn in. Aderogba lied when he claimed that Oyo State debt was below N100B and his claim that Oyo State isn’t one of the top 10 most indebted states in Nigeria is only half true. Oyo State ranked 9 in the top 10 states with the highest external debt profile in 2018. Considering the fact that Oyo State is ranked 27th out of 36 states in the 2019 Budgit States’ Sustainability Index (up from 30th in 2018), its debt profile should not be treated with such levity.
It is extremely mischievous for Aderogba to suggest that Oyo State debt of N123B (as at December 2018) is mostly made up of the potential World Bank loan of N72B ($200M). This is an outright lie. To be clear, while the World Bank loan for flood management is potentially $200M (N72B at the exchange rate of N306-$1), the money is not paid out at once and anyone familiar with the way World Bank loans operate will know that this is the case. The Ajimobi led government accessed 25% of the amount – $45M (N13.7B at exchange rate of N360-$1) which has already been added to Oyo State’s external debt profile of $104M.
So N72B ($200M) is what the Oyo State government will be able to access in total from the World Bank, but the money is not paid out at once, it is given in tranches. It is only added to Oyo State’s debt profile after it has been accessed. For the record, only $45M has been paid out till date by the World Bank, and this was paid out to the previous administration led by Ajimobi. Had the entire $200M been paid out by the World Bank, Oyo State’s external debt profile would have been a whopping $259M as at December 2018, not $104M. At the risk of being pedantic, I urge Lolu Aderogba to confirm facts before putting pen to paper.
On the N7.6B Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme, there is no record that the governor condemned the loan. Governor Makinde’s position was evident even before he was sworn in as governor. As Governor-elect, he instituted a suit in April 2019 to restrain the Ajimobi-led administration from accessing and spending the money a month to the end of its tenure. He was only against the loan being spent on “agricultural equipment” one month to the end of Ajimobi’s tenure as he believed that it would be embezzled. The governor shared the court documents via his social media accounts on October 10, 2019.
Upon assuming office, the governor then approached the Oyo State House of Assembly to approve a change of purpose for the loan so that the loan (which was already being repaid as a first line charge by the government) could be put to use. This new purpose – farm estates in Eruwa and Akufo was approved by the Oyo State House of Assembly. All these facts are readily available in the public space for anyone interested in the truth and not looking to mislead with lies, half-truths and propaganda.
Since he was sworn in on May 29, 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde has gotten down to the business of governance, crafting and implementing people-centred policies. He has consistently stated that his administration is resting on four pillars – Education, Healthcare, Security and the Economy.
In education, Makinde’s administration has scrapped all fees and levies leading to an influx of students into public schools, provided exercise books for both primary schools and secondary school students, provided textbooks for secondary school students, started renovating all public schools in the state in tranches of 100 at a time, increased the budget for education from 3% to 10% of total budget allocated, paid N500,000 bursary to the backlog set of Oyo State students of the Nigerian Law School, approved the hiring of teachers to meet current shortfalls and approved the retraining of teachers. Oyo State had 400,000 out of school children in the latest data released before Makinde assumed office. This is a ticking time bomb and the government must focus on improving access to and quality of education in the state.
In healthcare, the government has embarked on renovating and equipping of hospitals (Adeoyo and Jericho Specialist) and Primary Healthcare Centres across the state.
For security, the government has embarked on the nearly completed ‘Light Up Ibadan’ project, provided an emergency contact number, 615 and recently distributed 100 security patrol vehicles to enable security agencies to react speedily to reports of criminal activities. The proscription of NURTW for security reasons still subsists.
On the economy, since June 2019, the government ensures the salary payment of civil servants on or before the 25th of the month, providing liquidity for the local economy. The government has also by improving revenue collection and plugging leakages, increased internally generated revenue by N400M without raising taxes. The re-awarded Moniya-Iseyin road when completed will aid economic activities in the state. In September 2019, the government entered into a partnership with agritech company, Farmcrowdy, to work with 50,000 farmers in Oyo State over the course of 3 years.
The government has transmitted Executive Bills on investment and financial crimes to the Oyo State House of Assembly which is still deliberating on these bills. Governor Makinde set up a Due Process Office in June 2019 to ensure that due process is followed for the award of government contracts.
These are some of the things the six-month-old government has done. There is still a lot to be done but with each passing day, Governor Makinde demonstrates that the people of Oyo State made the right choice in electing him to office with a wide margin of victory over his opponent. Lolu Aderogba should take his own advice and ensure he only communicates the truth about governance in Oyo State in his opinion pieces going forward.