The decision of Governor Bello of Kogi state to sell some selected assets belonging to the state as a source of funding the 2018 Budget has shown the governor’s readiness to merchandise the state’s destiny and rip it of its hard earned patrimony.
If such a cold-hearted step grows to fruition, besides emptying the state of the legacies its past leaders bequeathed it, the implication of such horrendous and atrocious decision is the endemic dearth of strategic leadership approach in delivering democratic dividends especially for the unborn generation.
Though I have maintained a dignified silence in the last few months about some happenings in the state but it will rather be a great disservice to the good people of Kogi state if I should continue to maintain the silence mood in the heat of this inordinate administrative merchandise of the people’s destiny.
You may recall that the state government has through its commissioner for Finance, Asiru Idris, hinted that efforts were ongoing towards selling the under listed legacy assets for the funding of 2018 budget. The assets are viz: Kogi Hotel, Conference Stadium, Confluence Beach Hotel, Commissioners’ quarters, Lokoja International Market; 12-story building of Kogi Liaison Office, Abuja, Kogi Liaison Offices in Kaduna and Lagos, among others.
It saddens to note that, the state that claimed of hitting over one billion naira per month from its Internally Generated Revenue just in November last year, will still have the temerity to insulting the sensibility of the people of Kogi state by selling the state’s legacy assets to fund the phantom budget of the year.
Recall that, Dr, Yakubu Oseni, the Executive Chairman of Kogi State Internal Revenue Service while addressing a cross section of journalists in Lokoja sometimes in November, 2017 said that, the Governor Bello led administration has been able to raise the state’s IGR to one billion naira far above the 300 million naira of the previous administration.
However, Dr. Oseni was quick to add that, only 400, 000 persons alongside Kogi workers on the state’s payroll pay their monthly tax faithfully while millions other evade tax.
Rather than searching for a holistic way to finance its 2018 budget, Kogi State government has resorted to the selling of some assets put in place by past leaders who through their visionary leadership erected and built those things for posterity. It is rather the matter of an individual subtracting from what he has not added.
It is therefore the Bombshell of the Century for any state government in this digital age to complain of people evading tax despite the digital architecture used in tax collections.
What baffles concerned sons and daughters of the state is the opaque way the various revenues either generated within the state or those coming in from the Centre are being used last year. A transparent system in the 21st Century should be ashamed of not knowing the strategic thing to do to improve on revenue generation.
But the question that is begging for an answer is what Governor Bello and his team did with the influx of billions of naira that came to the state last year? What happened to the bailout funds? What about Paris Club Money? How well did we use the Ecological Fund? At what point did we stoop this low in our economy management as a state government? Were those funds properly and judiciously used in the diversification of the economy, we shouldn’t be thinking of selling our hard earned legacy assets.
As a two time commissioner for Information in the state with open and direct access to privileged information till day especially about the state , it suffice it to say that, most of the property enlisted for sale by the state government under Alhaji Yahaya Bello are of high revenue profile if consciously and properly harnessed.
It remains to be seen if Structural Stress Analysis (SSA) of those property was taken before the final decision of selling them was reached. For instance, Kogi House in Abuja could go for a ten year lease with its present level and stage of construction, following the high demand of property in Abuja in general and its beautiful location, and the maximum revenue realized from same could be used for completion of the building.
With Lokoja designated as a Conference Centre in the Tourism Plan of the Country, it was in the light of this that the Initiator, Prince Abubakar Audu built Confluence Beach Hotel with intentional choice of its location. It was done for the collective benefit of the state. However, it was still an ongoing project considering its Master Plan which contains a Gulf Course, and a Foot Bridge connecting the Hotel and the epicenter of Confluence between River Niger and Benue. The Initiator felt that since government is continuum others would come and complete even after his administration. But is a pity that, rather than maintaining and improving on this monumental structure, it has rather become a property carrying a sale tag while enjoying patronage from rodents.
If the assets were not sold when the country was in recession, how come a government that has boasted of turning the state to Holland will now resort to selling of the state legacy assets when the same government at the center is boasting of speedy recovery of the country’s economy? There should be a stinking object smelling somewhere.
May it be known to those that care to listen that selling those listed assets for the funding of 2018 budget is mortgaging the collective destiny of the state and it is tantamount to a man selling his degree certificate in order to pay the tuition fee of his primary one child. If there is no more certificate for him to sell, how will he pay the tuition fee for the following term and the remaining part of the child’s education?
The Governor and his team should brace up for the reality of what governance entails by broadening their revenue generation base. It therefore means that, if the government goes ahead to sell those assets, he may need to sell our university, polytechnic and college of education to finance the budget of 2019 since assets sale has now become the sole source of budget financing while putting the entire state on sale by 2020 just to finance the budget of that year.
Watch out for my next article on the fate of Cattle Colony in Kogi state especially that the state government has adamantly gone ahead to offer over 15 thousand hectares of land to the federal government despite the heart cry in the land and the outright rejection of same by the people of the three Senatorial Districts of Kogi state.
– Dr. Tom Ohikere
Former Commissioner for Information
Kogi StateShare this on WhatsApp