By Abu Micheal
If you are one of the citizens who have been brainwashed by the haters of the Wada Administration, the following revelations will shock you to the marrow! And indeed all perceptible readers of this article.
Kogi State under Wada is one out of few states that did not collect bailout funds and is owing its workers two months salaries. others that collected bailout are owing about five months. We all know how government reacted sharply to the setback suffered in the sustained salary payment when it could not pay in April 2015 and how the situation was quickly resolved. The April salary was delayed as the N3.7bn monthly allocation to the state came down by about N1bn shortfall for that month, fueling speculations that Kogi might resort to 60 percent payment. But of course the stories around the April salaries have become history as full salaries were restored with no outstanding. This efforts of government happened at a time Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State in an SOS to President Muhammedu Buhari lamented that 22 states in the federation, mostly APC States were unable to pay salaries.
The grim economic situation in the country was brought to the fore by the Imo State Governor and Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum who painted a picture of desperation in several states that have not been able to pay workers salaries and the state of hopelessness that the situation might improve soon. At the time of writing this report, between four states, Ogun, Benue and Osun, Imo, state workers are owed 17 months salary. The Oyo State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress had only last week suspended its strike after a memorandum of understanding was signed with Oyo government over outstanding salary arrears . And yet, APC in Kogi at the slightest opportunity would harass Wada whose government must be brought to public opprobrium as if their political survival is dependent on his fall.
To say these attacks are aimed at a governor whose state is reputed for paying its workers one of the highest salary structures in the country, in the words of Mr Ralph Agbana, Media Assistant to Governor Wada on Research and Documentation, can only be attributed to a three-pronged poverty induced ailments.
“Anybody that wants to come and govern Kogi State must be prepared for the most difficult assignment in the country, because you are coming to manage a three-in-one poverty, namely, poverty of resources, lack of appreciative public due to poverty of information and poverty of ideas.”
In the same vein the role of the state government in the issues surrounding irregular payment or half-salaries to local government staffs has been over flogged despite repeated explanations by the government and common facts in the public domains that the problems afflicting the third tier of government is a national problem and not peculiar to Kogi State alone.
Kogi state government under capt Wada has not been pilfering monies meant for Teachers through SUBEB as being alleged. The basic causes of the problems of the various councils are over staffing and the short falls from allocation from the federation account due mainly to international oil price fall. Some of these are self-inflicted as people at the helms of the affairs of the councils indulged in mass recruitment of ghost workers in the days of the oil boom without saving for the Rainy Day. The allocations have been coming less on monthly basis such that even the retrenchment of illegal workers appointed between 2010 and 2012 did little to augment the shortfall. Governor Wada had the option of further trimming the over bloated local government staff but the governor loathe the idea of sending people out of job despite mounting pressure. Capt Wada at a recent function admonished the advocates of retrenchment to forget the idea on humanitarian ground. Saying half bread is better than none, the governor noted that sending people out of job will pose further threat to the society and can only complicate the real problem government is trying to solve.
Agbana while calling on the federal government to declare a state of emergency on Local government finances said the issues are beyond party affiliation, That of Kogi State should not be politicized. He disclosed that whereas the local government as the third tier of government has other important statutory roles to play and institutions to cater for such as the local vigilante and traditional institution, “we have been robbing Peter to pay Paul, concentrating only on payment of workers salaries.”
He added, “in business, when your revenue base is x and your recurrent expenditure is x + 20 then it is a failed business. But government is not business. As we speak keeping the contractors on site is herculean task. So even If you merge APC with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) there is no magic they can perform. That goes to tell you that The type of sacrifices made by Governor Idris Wada, no governor has made it in the history of this state.”
Although no gainsaying the fact that the state had been at its lowest ebb of economic indices, prior to Wada’s government, it is a shame and should be considered a sin in the sight of God that all the efforts and sacrifices made by Wada were overlooked by mischief makers to constantly seek to give the governor a bloodied nose by quickly rushing to the public domain to create a state of fear.
Even with the money coming from the federation account was not enough to combat the infrastructural decay, the administration at inception took the bull by the horns to complete projects started by its predecessors.
These include road projects, the Lokoja Greater Water Works, Confidence Beach Hotel and the confluence stadium among others.
Instead of playing to the gallery and engaging in politics of blame game, the administration, after a well articulated policies before take off, frontally and decisively tackled the enormous challenges of increased wage bill, pension arrears from as far back as 1991 and a huge infrastructural deficit amongst others.
One is left to wonder why the new regime of revenue drive to boost the Internally Generated Revenue of Kogi through mandating e- collection of revenues rather than the desk collection by MDAs, has failed to catch the attention of Wada’s adversaries. That singular action, which drew the ire of the cabal who were profiting from the old system of cash collections and other humane means of improving IGR employed by the administration have seen the states IGR increase by over 300 percent since 2012.
Essentially, more damage had been done to the state’s wage bill through the payment of relativity to workers. In other states, relativity was effected to bridge the gaps between the junior and the senior civil servants through increment from below to the middle. However implementation of relativity in Kogi was manipulated by the cabal in the Civil Service to proportionately effect increase in the salaries of the senior officers. The implications are grave for Kogi’s economic survival! For example, in neighboring Kwara, while a permanent secretary’s monthly take home is N200,000, his equivalents in Kogi earn salaries in the neighbourhood of N500,000.
The result is the huge wage bill hung on the neck of Kogi State government, incomparable to what obtains elsewhere; such that N3.2bn out of the N3.5bn gross earnings of Kogi State monthly go to the civil service which constitutes less than one percent of the population of the state! The rest of the 99 percent is left with N500m to cater for infrastructure, governance and the general well-being of the state.
Kogi’s Bond of Development
The measure to approach the capital market for a bond of N20 billion naira. After a long campaign of calumny mounted by opposition elements masquerading as elders of the state. The bond was eventually approved in tranches of N5 billion naira by the former Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. The state government applied the bond to various capital projects spread across road construction, provision of water, health, transport, housing etc. They ensured that about half of the projects are revenue generating.
One of the major projects being financed by the bond is the upgrading of the Welcome to Lokoja road. This main highway was in a terrible state of dilapidation because of poor quality of work done when it was constructed by the previous administration. By the time, the construction works is completed, the face of the city of Lokoja would have been transformed and the nightmares commuters face on that road would have been eradicated.
Another road that will bring succour to the commuters of Lokoja is the New Otokiti- Ganaja dual carriage bypass which is being constructed by this administration. This road will open a new part of Lokoja up for development.
Another projects that is worthy of note is the 250 bed University teaching hospital that is being planned as a reference hospital that will serve not only residents of Kogi State but patients from all over the country. The hospital was designed by Indian consultants and plans are underway to affiliate the hospital with a hospital in India so that our people can benefit from leading medical expertise from abroad. Five Zonal hospitals have also being upgraded to provide back up for the hospital. The Odu Orthopedic hospital was also constructed from the bond.
In the area of housing, the government has embarked on the construction of 500 housing units- the first phase is being built in Lokoja- While the remaining will be built in Ayangba and Okene. The Modern Motor park which will serve as a central terminal for all transportation activities in the state is also completed. When completed, the terminal will serve as a hub for the Kogi Transport project which has already kicked off with pilot project of the first publicly subsidized transport system in the nation tagged the Lokoja city bus service (LCBS). Other aspects of the transport project are the Kogi Line- the interstate franchise scheme and a intrastate transport scheme that will be run in conjunction with NURTW.
Hitherto, Kogi was the only state that did not have a state house in the central district of Abuja. the land allocated for this purpose had been converted to personal use by unscrupulous citizens of the state. After a long tussle, this administration- regained control of the land and has begun the construction of the 11 storey Kogi House project. This project which will dwarf other state houses in Abuja will serve as a huge source of revenue for the state.
Mathew Jobele an engineer and long time resident of Lokoja described Wada as a ‘Leader with great foresight ‘. “People may not see the motive of the administration in the immediate. But it will soon be clear to all that the Governor is laying a solid foundation for the future growth of the state”, he says.
Till date, the state has only accessed N8 billion out of the N20 billion approved and most of the projects are well underway. The campaign of calumny and misrepresentations by self styled opposition elements has continued unabated. Their various petitions and the decline in the capital market contributed in no small measure to the delay in accessing the second trance but the administration is committed to leaving no stone upturned to achieve Capt Wada’s dream of taking Kogi State into the comity of twenty most developed states in Nigeria by the year 2020.
Notwithstanding that Governor Wada was a first class aviator with a masters degree in Public Administration and his Deputy, an architect and masters holder in urban development, it is the highest degree of mischief to seek to paint the duo as misfits who in the words of some paid columnists, needs to be relieved of the burden of leadership. Governor Wada’s critics should stop loosing their sleep and realize that there is a gulf of difference between the Wada Administration and its predecessors.
Finally, as Kogites, we should stop seeing ourselves as people that can believe any lie. That way we could be able to save our dear state from ourselves!