How Oshiomhole Mortgaged Edo's Future - Solomon Ibharuneafe

As the tenure of the Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, inches to an end, there seems to be gloom in the land, writes Solomon Ibhar...

As the tenure of the Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, inches to an end, there seems to be gloom in the land, writes Solomon Ibharuneafe

The present generation of Edo people may have started licking their wounds from the huge financial burden inflicted on them by the Adams Oshiomhole administration. They are worried as to the ugly story they have to tell their children and those yet unborn. And the story is where they were when Oshiomhole plunged the state into the huge financial debt. Presently, the state is said to be indebted to the tune of over N200 billion.

A breakdown of the debt shows that Oshiomhole took a N30 billion bond from the stock exchange, for the storm water project; N10 billion from the capital market, and three tranches of loan worth about $75 million each, that was alleged to be used to grow the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), bring in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) among other promises. In addition to this domestic debt is the huge external debt. According to the recent figure from the Debt management Office (DMO) in Lagos, Edo State is number four with the worst external debt profile out of the 36 states of Nigeria with over $123 million hanging on the necks and heads of Edo people, coming closely to Lagos, Kaduna and Cross River states.

This figure is frightening because with this huge debt, no new industries, hospitals, schools, airport, stadium, markets, library, laboratory or motor parks were delivered to the people as dividends of democracy. The roads and schools the governor kept showcasing are funded with counterpart funds and for want of better word being used as conduit pipe to milk the state dry. To make the matter worse, no single employment was created in the almost 8 years of comrade Oshiomhole, one time president of the Nigeria labour congress, NLC.

The 10, 000 youths employed some years ago in the Edo state youth empowerment scheme (YES) were sacked after being used for his re-election.
Under Oshiomhole’s watch, local governments were brought to their knees as successive chairmen could no longer pay their workers, necessitating the alleged forfeiture of their security votes monthly while Oshiomhole collects much more for urgent security challenges. The government is said to be owing judicial workers over 9 months salary arrears, while, pension arrears running into years remained unpaid.

All these huge debt are the result of financial recklessness through poorly conceived projects without transparency and due process. Going by the recent figure from the federal ministry of finance, Edo state local council received N1, 217, 148, 336,65 (gross statutory allocation) and a net allocation of N1, 655, 710, 228.36 in the revenue allocation for the month of November shared in December 2015. But the local councils cannot meet their contractual obligations to the workers. In the same vein, the state received a gross revenue allocation of N1, 744, 728, 505.82 and a net allocation N1, 421, 203, 606.24 bringing the state’s share to N3, 185, 229, 510.36 (total gross amount) and N2, 142, 046, 560 (total net amount) for the month of November shared in December, 2015.

Out of this figure, the government paid out N30, 994, 228.04 for the external debt servicing , N520, 000, 000.00 as contractual obligation deduction and N492,188,722.17 as other deductions totaling #1,043,182,950.21. This shows that over 40% of the statutory allocation goes to debt servicing due to his poor financial management. Worried by the huge debt profile of the state, the opposition politicians are saying loud and clear that Oshiomhole has mortgaged the future of the state with no projects to show for the huge debt. They are more worried that a state that receives less than N6 billion federal allocation could be paying out over N1 billion monthly for servicing loans that are not productive.

According to them, Edo state is committing over 40 per cent of its statutory allocation into financing the governor’s spending which is unhealthy to the financial stability of the state with no industries. The governor, burdened by this huge debt overhang, is said to have gone to the House of Assembly for approval to borrow more money as bail out running into billions of naira.
It is alleged that part of this bailout fund and the loan taken from the bank of industry for small and medium Enterprises were not properly deployed. About N2 billion is likely to be released soon with Godwin Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s anointed candidate as chairman of the disbursement.
As part of the governor’s spending, he proposed and got the approval of the House of Assembly to establish another state university in his home town, Iyamho at a time the state is groaning under huge domestic and external debt burden. Meanwhile, the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma is being starved of funds.

This may be responsible for the recent increase in school fees with over 100 per cent, thus making life unbearable for the students and their parents. Under this new school fees regime, medical students are now to pay N160,000 as against N70,000 while other students are to pay between N120,000 and N140,000 per session. The questions the Edo people are asking now are: What did the governor do with these loans? How much has been repaid and how much is left unpaid? What structure or facility has he put in place to repay this huge debts hanging on the heads and necks of the Edo people? What did he do with the statutory allocation from the Federation Account running into more than N1 trillion over the years? What happened to the internally generated revenue that he grew from about N500 million to the current over N2 billion monthly?

It will be recalled that when Oshiomhole came to power in November 2008, he announced to the whole world that the state had been brutally plunged into huge financial debt by the 18 months administration of Prof. Osunbor. But that debt then was a paltry sum of N4 billion compared to the over N200 billion he is leaving behind for the state. Oshiomhole’s government, it must be mentioned, attracted a lot of goodwill at the inception, maybe because of the long legal battle he fought to reclaim his mandate freely given him in 2007 by the good people of Edo State. That goodwill may have accounted for the World Bank and other donor agencies’ contributions to the developmental agenda of his administration.

It is worthy of note that those who live in glass houses must not throw stones. Oshiomhole has become the mouthpiece of the APC in its fight against corruption. In fact, he had sentenced former president Goodluck Jonathan and our most respected former finance minister, Okonjo Iweala to unpardonable jail terms for what he called mismanagement of the nation’s resources. Today, the APC in Edo State is divided and in shambles because of Oshiomhole’s godfatherism. He said he came to fight godfatherism but he himself has become the great grandfather of godfatherism. This, he is demonstrating by his choice of a governorship candidate in the person of Godwin Obaseki.

However, as it is customary for every segment of government from the federal, state and local government to give their annual budget to the people whether real or imagined, the Edo people got their fair share when on the 14th December, 2015, their governor presented his 2016 budget (his last budget) to the House of Assembly for consideration.

In the borrowed words of Femi Abbas in the Nation newspaper of January 1, 2016, the season of budget is a period most government officials often perceive as a festival of largess in which the doors of looting are thrown wide open and for the ordinary people it is a period of mourning in which monetary figures of hope are announced but which often end up in a paroxysm of despair. For many years, he said, this has been the portion of Nigerian masses even as the nation remains static at the instance of official thieves and greedy oppressors.

Governor Oshiomhole, while presenting the budget praised his administrations doggedness to excel even in the face of dwindling fortunes from the federation account. The highlight of the 2016 budget, christened “Budget of finishing well” puts the figure at 111.5 biliion naira which is 12.5% lower than the 2015 approved budget of 156.551 billion naira. According to the governor, the reduction is in line with current economic realities especially development in international oil market and the dwindling inflows from the federation account. The proposed budget consists of 58.9 billion naira as capital expenditure representing 52.84% of the total budget while the recurrent expenditure is N52.6 billion, representing 47.16% of the total budget.

The breakdown of the budget shows that the administration will take N14.567 billion for recurrent and N2.444 billion as capital expenditure, social gulped N16.546 billion, and N36.226 billion for recurrent and capital expenditures respectively. Others are economic, law and justice that would take N4.787 billion (recurrent), N20.013 billion (capital), law and justice N1.440 billion and N0.280 billion for recurrent and capital expenditures respectively. The policy focus of the 2016 budget according to the governor would be the conclusion of ongoing road construction/rehabilitation projects across the state. The sectoral analysis of the budget shows that Agriculture, which is the mainstay of the state's economy is allocated only N0.30 billion; Commerce and Industry N0.050 billion, rural electrification 0.30 billion naira information and communication technology (ICT) 0.400 billion.

Education got N14billion and Health N14 billion, flood and Erosion Control/Environmental Protection N8 billion; Water Supply N0.10 billion; Housing and Urban Development N0.850 billion while Law and Justice got N1.72 billion. There seems to be a lot of contradictions in this year's budget. First, the accident/emergency hospital project keeps featuring in virtually all the annual budgets under Oshiomhole. This may have prompted the Edo State PDP chairman’s press briefing recently in which he accused the governor of using the hospital as a conduit pipe to siphon the state resources. According to him, voting 3.5 billion naira for the hospital amounts to siphoning the resources as funds had been allocated to the same hospital in the past two budgets (2014/2015). He also accused the governor of allocating a whooping 10.65billion naira representing 9.6% of the total budget to his office while neglecting the provision of water to majority of the citizens by voting only a paltry sum of 100 million naira for the sector and 300 million naira for agriculture.

While Oshiomhole is asking Edo people to tighten their belts because of the dwindling fortunes of the state, he (Oshiomhole) is loosening his by appropriating a whooping sum of 10.65 billion naira to his office. From this budget, there is no way employment can be generated for the teeming youths as the critical agencies that could generate employment such as agriculture, commerce and industry are allocated paltry sums, moreso when the state has to cough out over N1 billion monthly to service its debt.

The 2016 budget portends danger for the teeming masses of Edo people. With the reduction in the budget following the decline in revenue from the federation account, the government is shifting focus to internally generated revenue to augment whatever he could get from the federation account. In the words of the governor, it is now a common knowledge that given the vagaries in the international oil markets, we can no longer depend on the revenue from federal sources to implement our development agenda. Therefore, it is imperative for this administration to look inward through expansion of our internal revenue base.

In year 2016, he said focused attention will be given to the actualisation of new revenue sources such as the land use charge and automation of revenue collection process via the implementation of integrated tax administration system (ITAS). “It is our desire to sustain the sensitization of our people to see the need for prompt payment of taxes in order to execute the laudable people oriented programmes/projects of this administration,” the governor said, stressing that government will be committed to the principle of transparency and accountability.

It is instructive to know that Oshiomhole, who promised to put an end to the suffering of the people over the years, has himself inflicted more hardship on them through his unpopular policies. For instance, the increase in school fees in the state tertiary institutions, the land use charge, huge personal income tax and various taxes that have driven most small scale businesses underground. Though Oshiomhole knows the importance of education to the development of the state, his recent increase in school fees is seen as chasing out the children of the poor.

His allocation of a whooping N14 billion to the education sector, one would have thought would ameliorate the suffering of the students and their parents, but the reverse seems the case. In his words, “education remains a veritable tool for long term development. In recognition of this fact education will continue to occupy the front burner in the delivery of social services to our people. In year 2016, we are determined to complete ongoing projects in primary secondary and tertiary institutions. We shall also sustain and improve on the development in technical education through the rehabilitation and provision of technical equipment in all the technical colleges in the state.

“As part of efforts to raise the quality of education, recruitment of teachers would be carried out while the existing teaching staffs will be exposed to training and retraining programmes. In the same vein, instructional facilities including science and laboratory equipment will be provided. Accordingly, the sum of 14 billion naira has been proposed for the education sub-sector in the 2016 capital budget,” he submitted.

To the sane mind, this is a clear admittance of systemic failure in the education sector in a state which main industry is education. This admittance is a testimony that the governor may have swallowed his pride and bowed to pressure from his opposition criticism of the RED ROOF REVOLUTION, which they described as a sham. They said the schools lacked teachers, tables, chairs, library, laboratory and other teaching aids.

The lack of teachers had led to the recruitment of both qualified and unqualified by the parents/teachers association of the various schools now known as community teachers. The situation, where a secondary school with over 15 subjects would have just three teachers and one principal to teach all these subjects leaves much to be desired. But the governor and his APC members did not realise the danger of the half baked students been produced from this ill-equipped schools.

His assessment in his introductory speech at the budget presentation seems to contradict the glaring systemic failure in the education sector. He told the bewildered state that his administration took the bull by the horn by reinventing education in Edo State through infrastructural uplift and provision of instructional materials. According to him, apart from improving the learning environment in terms of school rehabilitation and provision of chairs and desks in all primary and secondary schools across the state, school teachers were also exposed to training and retraining programmes as part of his total school transformation programme.

He did not stop there, he said this had led to the improvement in standard of education as evidenced by the students performance in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, which moved from the 28 position at the inception of his administration to the third position in 2014 and second position in 2015.

Oshiomhole as the commissioner/inspector of education in the state, in the words of Idemudia Osaretin, a social commentator, is being economical with the truth. He challenged the governor to publish the names of the teachers and the courses they attended during his administration. Except for the public embarrassment he gave to a female teacher on national television, where he engaged the woman to a reading and spelling contest, I do not know where these teachers were exposed to training to enhance their performance.

He added that as an educationist himself, he knows that the quality of the teachers has a direct effect on the quality of the students. If he could disgrace that teacher, who the whole world has condemned as a failure, I wonder where and how the products of such a woman could produce the excellent students and their results in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. The Edo people demand a proper explanation to know if these brilliant students are from the public or private schools in the state.

The Edo people also want to know why he committed a whooping sum of N14 billion to education if the quality of education was so high and why he had to make provision for teaching aids, benches and desks, training and retraining of teachers as he claimed in his introductory speech. This huge amount could have been channeled to agriculture, electricity or commerce and industry that could generate employment for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.

-Ibharuneafe, a media/public relations practitioner, wrote from Lagos


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