Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Lasun Yusuf, recently paid a private visit to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital where he later spoke with some journalists on the state of the nation as published in Vanguard Newspaper of 9th January, 1017 pages 38 and 39..
One of the questions Hon Lasun responded to is: What is your message to the people of Osun in 2017? Hon Lasun responded that they have my sympathy; I know workers there have not been earning their regular salaries, and when they do, it is only in Osun that I hear people are earning half salaries. I am not so familiar with it now, I have been out of that system for about one and a half years, I cannot specifically say certain things but I know that people have not been earning their full salaries, and when such salaries come, they come in trickles. My message, first and foremost, is to workers, that they should know that things are going to get better and that it’s a lesson for all of us that when an economy is struggling, paid employment is the one that suffers most. Those who have to change the face of the economy are likely to use the money that is supposed to be used in paying salaries. So, they have my sympathy. I want to again generally touch on the people of Osun, I know that they are resilient, I know they are hard working but they should have hope that things are going to get better-Hon Lasun Yusuf
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led government of Osun has spent a total of N14.2bn to clear all salary arrears in the state. This was revealed by the governor who made the confirmation saying the amount was paid out by his government in less than two weeks before the end of December 2016.
Aregbesola stated this when the State government opened the year with supplications as the Governor led Muslim and Christian faithful at an interdenominational thanksgiving session at the Government Secretariat, Osogbo. Hon Lasun is ignorant that what befell the state before the close of 2015, it was gratifying that the state bounced back in what can now be felt as relief from the hardship of last year. Aregbesola said the ability of his government to pay workers’ salaries from September, October, November and December in less than a record two week period was a huge relief. The governor said it was in September 2014 that he had to call on workers to decide whether they wanted a staff reduction or payment of salaries according to available resources when the impact of the economic hardship in the country began to bite harder. He said in July 2015, the new Federal Government which had been sworn in May, 2015, listened to some of the solutions proffered to the national revenue crisis.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that huge expenditures on capital projects and sundry overhead have been identified as part of the reasons many state governments in Nigeria are unable to pay their workers’ salaries for many months. About 27 state governments in the country were owing their workers salaries for periods ranging from two to 11 months as at the end of May, 2015.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, has maintained that the state government cannot pay its workers full salaries because of dwindling revenue. The governor stated this during a meeting with members of the Bayelsa Elders Forum in Yenagoa. Bayelsa State had been paying workers in the state 50 per cent salaries since February 2016. The statement quoted the governor as saying, “In the area of public service, I appeal to the elders to be part of the discussions by engaging civil servants from their localities to accept the ongoing payment pattern as government at this point cannot pay full salaries.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Rivers State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, (NUT) Comrade Lucky Nkporgene-Dunata has threatened that the union would obey the two weeks ultimatum issued to state governments to clear teachers’ backlog of salaries or face industrial action. The National President of NUT, Comrade Micheal Olukoya, during his address to mark this year’s World Teachers’ Day had directed states that are owing salary arrears of four months and above to immediately proceed on strike after two weeks without further delay. In a statement, Nkporgene-Dunata maintained that the union in the state would obey the two weeks ultimatum as directed by the national leadership of the body.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that President Muhammadu Buhari, lamented on the 17th of October, 2016 that about 27 of the 36 states in the country that are still battling with payment of salaries. Since 1999 the only serving Judge that was forcefully retired for writing frivolous petition against a governor said she has no regret. In the history of Osun State, a judge that compromised her professional duty to play partisan politics said she has no regret even when NJC recommended her for retirement.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that when Nigerian workers in May 2016 joined their counterparts across the world to celebrate May Day, gloom, frustration, bitterness, anger, lamentation, and despair were not enough to describe their mood as not more than 9 states out of 36 states had fully paid workers’ salaries and allowances up to date. But Governor Rauf Aregbesola was the only governor in Nigeria that was facing double jeopardy that he had over three petitions including the one sent by Justice Folaranmi Oloyede, calling for Aregbesola’s probe and impeachment that were before members of the state House of Assembly and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the same time the opposition was calling for his resignation.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on November 28 2014 lambasted former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration over the state of the country’s economy, saying government was deceiving Nigerians with its claims of fantastic economic growth. “What the public know or see of the economy is not what the economy truly is,” the former president told guests in Abuja at the public presentation of an autobiography of the former Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, ICPC, Mustapha Akanbi.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said “the economy was in the doldrums, if not in reverse. The often-quoted GDP (gross domestic product) growth neither reflects on the living condition of most of our people, nor on most of the indigenous industries and services where capacity utilization is almost 50 per cent,”
Hon Lasun is ignorant that the former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said during a media briefing in Abuja 2014 that “in spite of global uncertainty, the country’s economy continues to evolve with dynamism, stability and resilience riding on sound macroeconomic management, even in the face of oil price and quantity shocks.” According to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the government’s strong macroeconomic management capacity had resulted in the country’s GDP growth (estimated at 6.5 per cent in 2013) being one of the fastest in the world (26th), with the recent GDP rebasing making the country the largest economy in Africa ahead of South Africa.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said if nothing is done to check the situation, the former president said the country may in future find it difficult to fund its budget and may have to borrow to pay salaries and allowances. Revenue allocations to states and local governments, he noted, had already drastically reduced in recent times, with capital projects at all levels drastically cut or stopped.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Former President Olusegun Obasanjo warned that sooner or later the country may be compelled to drastically devalue again without any benefit to the commodity economy. We will all sink deeper in poverty, except for those who have corruptly stashed money abroad and who will start to bring such illegal and illegitimate funds back home to harvest more Naira. All the economic gains of recent years and the rebuilding of the middle class may be lost. “In the end, more businesses will close down, business men and women, entrepreneurs and investors will incur more debts. Foreign investors may temporarily stop investing in a downturn economy. Because of the Naira depreciation, workers, particularly in the public sector, will ask for pay increase, which may be justified, but will sink us deeper in the swamp.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that by contrast to those who left Osun state in ruins, Aregbesola is the first Governor to have launched a RESCUE AGENDA for a state that was moribund when he came to the helm of affairs six years ago. There is hardly any family in Osun State today that has not been directly affected by the Aregbesola administration’s projects, RESCUE AGENDA such as O’YES, O’REAP, O’CLEAN, O’SCHOOL and attempts to turn the state into the economic hub of the Southwest. It is more than 6 years that Osun state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has been steering the affairs of the state. He was returned to office in November 27, 2014 for a second term. So many things can be said to have be achieved by Ogbeni’s 6 year old administration in the state. In order to address the falling standard of education in Osun State, Governor Aregbesola set up educational programme charged with the responsibility of resuscitating the sector and rescuing it from total collapse. Osun State under Aregbesola has been on a steady pedestral towards all-round economic growth and infrastructural renewal in the last 6 years. Virtually every sector is feeling the impact of the strategic planning of the administration, a development that is fast attracting foreign direct investments into Osun State.
Only a few aspects of the RESCUE AGENDA can be touched upon here, but, the government of Osun State had taken this as the guiding principles of the administration. In other words, this is not a government flying blind, it has a compass. Two components of the agenda are worthy of mention and notice: The purpose of Rescue Agenda is to restore Osun State to a peaceful and secured state; to speedily unite the diverse people of Osun State; and to urgently transform the state in order to guarantee its sovereignty and sustainability, and ensure the wellbeing of its citizens.
Hon Lasun is ignorant that Governor Aregbesola thinks globally and acts globally. There are two global education concepts that Governor Aregbesola has introduced in developing Nigerian educational system: the concepts of OSUN SUKUK FUND FOR EDUCATION AND OSUN SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME that every Nigerian must study and cherish. The Osun State HGSFHP, now known as Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O-MEALS), commenced as a pilot programme of the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP) introduced through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) 2004 Act. The programme was designed to provide a minimum of one meal a day to each primary school pupil in all 1,378 public primary schools in Osun State and providing a Direct Employment: Food Vendors; women who cook and serve students are 3,007 workers. Indirect Employment: farmers, food commodity suppliers, transporters, sundry handlers: 500,000 workers. The programme costs the state N3.6billion annually. The Federal Government enacted the school-feeding programme as one of the rights of every Nigerian school-child under the UBE Act of 2004. The section of the Act that deals with meals, Section 3 (1), reads, “The services provided in public primary and junior secondary schools shall be free of charge.”
Section 15 (1), titled “Interpretation”, states that “‘Services’ that should be provided free of charge are books, instructional materials, classrooms, furniture and free lunch.” This has not been implemented in many places. In 2005, the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme of the federal government was piloted in 14 states, including Osun State. By 2016, the programme had collapsed in other states leaving only Osun State as the only state in Nigeria today that is implementing the progragramme.
Inwalomhe Donald, a public affairs analyst writes from Benin City([email protected]) www.inwalomhedonald.com.ng