Governor Oluwaseyi Abiodun Makinde of Oyo state while marking his 30days in office promised to raise the state’s IGR and plug leakages in the state finance. Bayo Agboola brings except!
Your government threatened to deal with officials of the last administration that are yet to return government vehicles and other property in their possession. How far and how much debt did your government inherit exactly?
You should recall that I told the people that we were not afraid of being treated the same way we will treat those who just left government. You know that the Yoruba would say eniyan t’o lo sin egbon re n’ihoho, ko ranti ko mu aburo re l’owo (Someone who ventures to bury his elder sibling naked should endeavour to take his younger one along). We won’t mind if anyone does to us whatever we do to the past administration when we leave office, because we are not going to witch-hunt anyone. It is more of us doing what is right and that is what we will do.
On the question of debt, we are still looking at the books. But the one we have seen and confirmed; the debt owed by the past administration is about N150 billion. Once again, I will tell the people of Oyo state that if we change N150 billion to dollars, it will be about US$500 million.
If we do what we are supposed to do in these four years and we expand the economy of Oyo state, the debt will not hurt us. But if we verify that some of the debts are questionable; for instance, if you float a bond, it is supposed to be tied to a particular project. So, if we look at the bond they floated, was it used for the project it was meant for? We can do a value-for-money audit, using a baseline of what happened at certain periods so that as we go forward, we would not also fall into the same ditch. But if we calculate everything being owed as of now, it is going to about N150 billion.
As we speak, the money that comes from Abuja is N4.5 billion and the workers’ salary is N5.4 billion. That means we need to take at least N1 billion to plug that wage bill and there are many things that we want to do. But where I am coming from as an entrepreneur, I started my business with N50,000 and so, I am not afraid about whether we can surmount the challenges facing the state or not. If we have the support of the citizenry and they know what we are doing and the direction we are heading, there is no doubt that we will succeed because the Yoruba would say that aja to ba l’eni l’eyin a pa obo (a dog with the support of a hunter can kill a monkey).
You removed the N3,000 levy on secondary schools, though some have criticised that decision. How do you intend to raise the standard of education in Oyo State and sustaining School Governing Boards?
The standard of education is worrisome and we have to do something. People came to me saying that I should declare a state of emergency in the education sector. I asked, what that meant; is it just for me to make a pronouncement? On the issue of N3,000, I told the people of Oyo state during campaign where I would get money from without even opening the books at all. What I have to do is to plug the leakages, and I have seen a lot of leakages.
It will interest the people of the state that during the second week of my assumption of office, I had a meeting with the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the body is returning N1.3 billion to Oyo state. That was money found in someone’s account and it belongs to Oyo state. That money had been confiscated and taken over by the federal government.
But I met them and clarified that that money does not belong to the federal government, but Oyo state. They have agreed and we have written to them and we expect that money to come to a special fund recovery account for Oyo state.
Once we have that N1.3 billion, it will effectively pay for one year of payment of N3,000. So, one year is down and it is better that the money be in the pockets of the people of Oyo state.
Also, if you look at a programme championed by the federal government and World Bank called BESDA, it is looking at the out-of-school children. The entire Northern states are on that programme and for the Southern zone, it is only Oyo state that is on BESDA from the South-west. Others are Rivers and Ebonyi. These are states where you have a large number of out-of-school children. This is another money that will come to Oyo state and we will utilise it for the purpose it was given.
If you look at the SSG that we have just appointed, she is well educated. She finished from the University of Benin as a pharmacist, went back to the same university to do her MBA and she is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, both here and in the UK.
So, we are telling our people that you need to send your children to school, whether a boy or a girl, because opportunities are opening up to break the glass ceiling. This is the first time in Oyo state that we will have female SSG and HoS at the same time. So, the civil service in Oyo state is headed by females and I trust that they will do well because they are calm.
On the School Governing Boards, we will leave them as they are, but as they are right now, we have to strengthen them. Their managements came to me when I was reviewing the files of the ministry of education. I asked them how much they collected for the past one year and the percentage compliance, but the figures were not adding up. So, that money must be going somewhere. And instead of Oyo state money leaking off, I will rather put it in the pockets of Oyo state people.
You promised to establish a state anti-corruption agency, is this really necessary since there are anti-graft agencies at the federal level? Won’t this amount to duplication of policies?
The EFCC is a federal agency and when I met its officials, I told them that the agency already had a lot of responsibilities. I’m concerned about the fact that the money of Oyo state is being embezzled and I felt that by setting up such agency, named Oyo state Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, we will be able to better monitor how our funds are spent.
I can take a case to the EFCC in Abuja and they might have a lot of issues to address such that before it gets to Oyo state, those who embezzled might have escaped or left office. We don’t have control over the federal agency. We are talking about true federalism and the state government is not subordinate to the Federal Government, it is a coordinate government.
With the agency, we will be able to address our own pertinent issues in our state. No one should be scared; anyone who has not embezzled public money should not be scared. We will not tolerate public money being in the pockets of private individuals.
How do you plan to commit more money to education as promised?
We are not the one that drafted the budget that we are currently operating. It is that of the immediate-past government. N280 billion was approved as the 2018 budget and the expected revenue is N80 billion, inclusive of IGR and federal allocation. So, we have a gap of N200 billion. I asked government workers where they expected us to get the money allotted to some projects from and they told me that was money on paper.
Then, I have asked the civil servants to work on the budget that we will operate from now till the end of the year. For the first time, we will reduce the budget. The budget performance for previous years is 38 to 40 per cent. I will run a budget with a performance that must be 65 to 70 per cent. In that way, we will embark on projects based on resources that are available. We will reduce the budget from N280 billion to about N150 billion for the year. People are saying that it is out of pride that we have such a huge budget; that we want to be behaving like some other states.
For example, people are told that a certain road project is included in the budget, but there is no money for the project in the budget. When it is not done, it is included in subsequent budgets and runs into several budgets. I don’t want to operate a deceitful budget. We want to operate a government where the people can hold us accountable whenever we make a promise. Right now, finance and budget and planning are in the same ministry. We will go to the House of Assembly to decouple that ministry. Budget and Planning should be alone and focus on planning.