We Are Getting Values For Oyo State’s Money – Makinde
As part of activities commemorating his first year in office, Oyo State governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, granted an interview to the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS). The interview touched on the programmes, policies and challenges of his administration in the last one year.
It is 365 days since you were inaugurated as the governor of Oyo State. Looking at the last 12 months, what would you say is on the ground now compared to the days before your assumption of office?
We thought we were dealing with a transparent system and we tried to have a feel of what is going on in there but when we came in, we found out that things are not really as transparent as they ought to have been but we kept digging.
If you listened to my inaugural address, one thing I emphasised to the people was that there must be continuity in governance; that any project that has been started by the previous administration, which is beneficial to the people of Oyo State, will be completed. Quite frankly, administrations will come and go but our state will remain. Those previous administrations did not use their personal funds but put our commonwealth into those projects and we have to derive value from them. That is what we have been doing for the last one year.
I have heard people say we are commissioning other people’s projects but let me tell them now that we have been extracting value for Oyo State’s money from the projects the previous administrations started.
It will interest you to know that we met projects that were started as far back as 2003, even up to the time of Alhaji Lam Adesina.
Recently, we went to commission the Police Mobile Squadron 72 in Ago-Are. That location was given to us by the Nigerian Tobacco Company and, on our way back, we stopped at Ijaye in Akinyele Local government. The Quarry and Asphalt plant there had been moribund. It was started by High Chief Rashidi Ladoja’s administration and there was an attempt during Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala’s time to put it back into shape but it was not successful. For like eight years, there was nothing, because the government did not put in a dime. We had to invite private investor and they came in. They put in their money and that place is alive now.
In some way, we met things rotten than we thought but we promised the people that we were not going to look back but always focus on the future. That is exactly what we have been doing. So, when you take such approach, nothing will surprise you, because whatever you see, you take it like that and forge ahead. That is what we have been doing so far.
When you came in, you met some debts on ground. Were you not disturbed about how to fix the situation?
True, we met huge debts when we came in. When we investigated it in Debt Management Office, we discovered that Oyo State was owing N99 Billion and foreign debt was 137 Million Dollars. If you calculate and convert everything together, it is about 150 Billion Naira. We found out further and saw that when Governor Alao-Akala was leaving office, he left N4.8 Billion. So, it means the administrations of 2011 till 2019 borrowed more than N145 Billion.
I came from a private sector where borrowing is not really an issue. To borrow money is not a problem because, sometimes, if you are expanding, you need to borrow but in such a way that it will be convenient for you to pay back and not leave the cross for the upcoming governments to bear. You should not borrow for consumption. We can borrow to expand economy and for infrastructure too. But we cannot be crying over spilled milk. So, we saw all these things and we thought we should be transparent with what we met on the ground. We have also moved forward to take charge of the amount that should be debited from federal allocation for the state. Where we saw they wanted to borrow for what would not yield anything good for the economy of the state, as the governor-elect, I went to Court and blocked them from accessing the money; about N7.6 Billion, which they had already signed. I wrote the Central Bank of Nigeria and we planned that the loan should be diverted to develop our farm estates in Eruwa and Akufo. And after we are done with that and they have seen what we have been able to put up there, we will develop other farm settlements into farm estates.
When we came in, there was really no money. As a matter of fact, all political appointees were using their personal cars until after the first anniversary in office, we just started giving cars to some commissioners and other political appointees.
Let me sound this again clearly, we have not come to feather our nest but to serve the people of Oyo State and that has been our guiding principle. We want to use the Moniya-Iseyin road as a heartbeat to expand our economy. When you talk about expanding agribusiness in the state, we need to open up Oke-Ogun. By the time the Moniya-Iseyin road is completed, it will be a flagship project and that is the standard we want to maintain.
Recently, we sought a N2.5 Billion loan to be injected into our health sector to deal with the spread of COVID-19 and further expand our health care facilities. Also, we sought for another N20 Billion for some other infrastructure projects that we want to do; junction improvement, light-up project and ultra-modern bus terminals. So, we are actually on the path to doing these.
There are two major ways that you can get revenue. One is either through the federal allocation or your Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). When we came in, we were generating less than N2 Billion in IGR and about N5 Billion of federal allocation was coming to the state. The salaries for the civil and public servants as of then were still around that amount.
If you ask anybody who wants to leave Lagos to any state in the South-West, Ibadan will be the first choice for them. For us, we are also the regional capital. Certain things were done in the past. We had Cocoa House, road infrastructure and all that but we allowed them to decay.
The impression being created in some circles is that Oyo State has not been doing enough in handling the COVID-19 challenges?
Six months ago, nobody could have known that the entire world will be brought down by this virus but in Oyo State, coming from an Engineering background, I said our reaction will be driven by science, logic and data and, so far, we have not failed. Many have called us to lock down but we said we would not because we were trying to look after the well-being of our people and their economic well-being. So, we had to strike a balance.
Also, we gathered experts in the health sector, professors and doctors, who exist and live in this state. We all came together to see how logical we could go on the issue of shut down without having what to give to the people. The N5,000 some of our people will make today will determine whether there will be food on their table tomorrow. So, we emphasised on physical distancing, washing of hands, use of face masks and other guidelines but this is very difficult for our people. What do you say to a situation whereby four or five people are living in a room?
First, we tried to look at the behaviour of the virus within our environment and quickly looked at what we could do. We brought in the Virology Department of UCH and set up the diagnostic centres. We need to, at least be able to test our people and get the result in there. We have looked at the Olodo Centre, which was not yet completed then, though it was passed on and commissioned a week to the expiration of the last administration.
We went in there, brought in experts, and asked if they could turn the place into an isolation and treatment centre and if works of research could be carried out there too. If people come in, how do you predict the behaviour of the virus? And in record time, it was turned into an infectious disease centre and also isolation centre all across.