Kogi State: State Of Affairs And Matters Arising By Governor Yahaya Bello
BEING A PRESS RELEASE TO THE MUSLIM UMMAH AND THE ENTIRE CITIZENS OF KOGI STATE BY HIS EXCELLENCY, ALHAJI YAHAYA BELLO, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE TO MARK THE 2015 EID-EL-FITR CELEBRATIONS.
Eid Mubarak to my fellow muslims in Kogi State, around Nigeria and all over the world. I pray today for our State and our Nation that the sacrifices of the Ramadan and the joy of the Eid-El-Fitr will bring benefits to every one of us. As we observe our prayers today, let us ask the Almighty God to help Nigeria so that as fasting in Ramadan is followed by Celebrations during the Eid, so may the current sacrifices required to rebuild Nigeria by the Administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, be followed by a prosperous and functional country that we will be proud of and be happy to celebrate.
From the very beginning of my Administration, I chose to govern by only democratic precepts and I promised in my Inaugural Speech to be open and transparent with you. In fulfillment of these promises, on Monday the 4th of July, 2016 to be precise, we held an interactive session with Kogi People at Government House, Lokoja. Attendees came from the 21 LGAs, including representatives of numerous Community-Based Organisations, Traditional Institutions and Trade Associations.
The Government activities were outlined and the reason behind some of the decisions taken so far. The recent events in Kogi State were x-rayed from everyone’s perspectives, attendees asked questions on any issue bothering them and answers were provided openly and satisfactorily. It was a very fruitful session which addressed burning issues in the minds of attendees and the cross-section of people they represent.
Since I believe that anyone committed to the prosperity and progress of Kogi State will find that meeting interesting, I crave your indulgence to address some of the issues raised for the generality of all Kogites.
CIVIL SERVICE AND PENSION REFORMS
In my inaugural speech, I made a solemn promise to priotise Civil Service and Pension Reforms. We all know that the system had become very rotten and criminally bloated. Our monthly wage bill was more than the monthly Federal allocations at a time Crude Oil dependent economies like ours were suffering a global crash in prices.
We responded by setting up a Screening Committee to tackle the menace of ghost workers, clean up the Civil Service and free valuable funds for the business of governance. Labour had a front row seat in that Committee and we have treated them with great respect throughout. When they reported problems with the style of the former Chairman of the Screening Committee and after we promptly looked into their complaints, the Chairman was removed and replaced with another candidate almost unilaterally chosen by Labour.
The screening exercise is gradually winding down and I give you my words that it was worth every effort and resources we put into it. There was no way our Civil Service would not have collapsed under the weight of the fraudulent manipulations and overburdened by the past Administration. It was only a matter of time before a total non-payment of salaries and emoluments or the tiny part-payments, which had become the norm in successive past administration. The grave consequences of which would have been eruption of massive uprising by suffering Civil Servants and a crippled State.
It is a disappointment that the Labour leaders went ahead to call a strike even though they were in the forefront of the screening exercise and saw firsthand the corruption that was found nearly everywhere. The supposed strike was ill-fated because our workers turned up for work as usual, while those not physically in their offices were found at the screening centre or the Banks, putting their houses in order. We want to believe that happened because they understood that we are working hard for their benefits.
Many Questions come to mind:
1. Should the Administration not have conducted the screening exercise at all and let it be business as usual?
2. Should we have overlooked the daylight robbery uncovered and pretended that we did not find all those conduits for siphoning the resources of our State through ghost workers?
3. Or maybe, having discovered these acts of unpardonable criminality we should have taken our cut, looked the other way, and allowed the rape and dispossession of our people to continue unchecked?
Well, anybody who knows Yahaya Bello will also know that I cannot stop without getting to the bottom of the matter. I swore to always act in the best interests of Kogi State and by the help of God, that is what I will continue to do. I was threatened, I was the subject of highly toxic calumnies but I choose to remain intrepid and focused. I am undeterred and I cannot run from my duties, no matter the obstacles.
Let me try to set the records straight:
Like most other States in Nigeria, the monthly FAAC Allocations constitute the major bulk of our income. The money is almost entirely made up of the Federal Government’s Crude Oil earnings. The result is that now the global price of crude has slumped, there is also the inevitable slump in the monies that accrue to the States. Everyone is feeling the pinch, including Kogi State where the monthly salaries of about 25,000 Civil Servants amount to nearly twice the current monthly allocations – technically leaving nothing for the rest of our 3.5m residents.
A comparative analysis of the January to June allocations to Kogi State in 2015 with what we have received over the same period in 2016 paints the bleak picture more. In 2015 it came to a total of about N22.06bn while in 2016 it is just over N13.1bn. Our Local Government Areas got about 10.8bn in 2016 as against N15.1bn received by Captain Idris Wada for the same period in 2015. Anyone can see the harsh reality. The situation will suggests that we would be justified if we do only half of what those before us did, no matter how bad, but our mindset at all times is to not only do our best, but to make sure that our best answers the challenges of the times.
Do not think the temptation was not there to hide under the dirty skirts of the past PDP Administration in the state to start paying minor percentages of salaries or none at all. I certainly had the precedent left by my predecessor and the excuse of dwindling allocations and could have had a field day at the expense of the workers. I just did not have the hard-heartedness required to do it. I sympathized with the plight of our workers. While campaigning, we promised them as much welfare as our resources would allow if I ever made it to the Government House, how could I have turned around to worsen their sufferings as the Governor? God forbid.
Shortly after my swearing-in I started paying full salaries, even multiple times in a given month while we worked to get the bailout funds. Happily, our efforts paid off and we were able to accessed 40% of our Bailout funds, a little above one month ago. Between Zenith and Access Banks we have been able to commenced draw down on N20bn out of the N50bn approved for us by the President through the Central Bank of Nigeria. As at today, there is no genuie civil servant in Kogi State who will say he or she has not received salary payments. Some have received 3 months payment or more.
We started payments with the the Judiciary and the Tertiary Institutions. They received 4 months salaries leaving only one month outstanding. All the Local Government Areas have paid staff 3 months salaries and are currently in possession of funds to pay another 2 months once the formalities are done. All MDAs have also been paid as at today. That means we have paid every category of workers who have scaled screening.
Zenith Bank and Access Bank funded the bailout for Kogi State. Of course we could have rejected Zenith Bank and Access Bank and looked to other Banks for the money, but that means we may still be looking for money now. To be honest, we too do not completely like the conditions one hundred percent, especially the requirements for account openings. However, the integrity of the entire Screening Exercise depends a lot on it to round off the exercise. We cannot compromise that.
Like we have reiterated many times before, the bailout funds are not a grant of money from the Federal Government to be spent without obligations. It is a loan which must be repaid to the financing banks on stipulated terms. What we do with it has implications for our posterity. This means the funds must be judiciously applied to the purpose.
The vast majority of our genuine workers have their money in their hands, and I promise those that are yet to complete screening that they will be. No genuine worker will lose his or her job under me. However, there are people who will never see our monies again. These are persons who have posed as our staff, some for many years, and collected our monies fraudulently. They know that any attempt to show up now may spell the last time they enjoy liberty for a while.
Many of these people have voluntarily disappeared but the security agents are on their trails. It is this category of people and their sponsors who have been scandalizing the Administration and trying to throw a spanner in the works. We are however undaunted and will continue to work till they are apprehended, reveal their accomplices and vomit what they have stolen and swallowed.
It has come to our notice that some Banks operating in Kogi State lent active support to the failed attempt at strike action last week. Some of them actually ordered their workers to stay home in misguided attempts at solidarity. They also went so far as to illegally reprogrammed ATMs in their premises to reject cards issued by certain Banks, thereby throwing the populace into unnecessary suffering.
Other category of businesses in the private sector opened as usual, and remained unmolested by Labour. These recalcitrant Banks are therefore without excuse. Their said actions amount to deliberate breaches of the banking regulations which ended up undermining the authority of the Kogi State Government. We shall definitely have a hard talk with them soon but in the meanwhile, I hereby direct any financial house still engaging in such ill-advised misconduct to retrace steps immediately and desist from a repeat in the future.
May I also remind these Banks that they have profited for long from doing businesses in Kogi State, including carrying salary and other state accounts and the least they can do is give back in these difficult times. That will certainly be more proactive and profitable than sulking and instigating revolt. Our doors are open and we are willing to hold conversations on how to move forward together.
We also believe that Labour can be of help by leveraging members’ mass market appeal to pressure some of these Banks to do their bit for Kogi State. They ought to be initiating competitive products of their own which the Administration can access on the right terms to improve the lot of our workers and the generality of our people.
Our State is under attack from wicked people. Some of them are hiding in plain sight among us while others steal in from outside to wreak their havoc. Some act personally, others by proxy. Their chief weapon has been lies and deliberate falsehoods. They use the media and they go from community to community, and person to person. In all cases, their aim is to create misunderstanding around the actions of Government in order to engender mischief and disaffection among the governed.
For as As you can all attest, ours is a divine mandate safeguarded by the Hands of the Almighty. We know God and good are with us at all times and we have developed an iron will to contend with all who try to foist on us anything less than the Will of the Almighty.
I address you today to make assurances that with us you are on the winning team to arm you with the weapons of truth. When you leave here your questions will be answered, your worries assuaged and your capability to answer the questions of your constituents strengthened. After this speech, several key functionaries of the Administration will brief you on aspects of our governance that impinged on their portfolios and you can ask questions, any question.
The ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Kogi State University Branch is very unfortunate to say the least. The Tertiary Institutions were the first line charge in the disbursement of the bailout. They have received 4 out of the 5 months of salaries outstanding. We cannot accommodate more now. Other sections of the service need to be considered too. Happily, we have only accessed 40% of the bailout funds approved for Kogi State. We will continue to proportionately revisit ASUU members’ entitlements as we access more.
Right now I urge ASUU to return to the classroom. Our children need to be taught. Money can be paid but lost lives and opportunities cannot and our students are in danger of both each day they remain out of the classroom. These times call for sacrifice and I am confident that ASUU, composed of our finest brains and most educated personnel, will show leadership in this regard.
ASUU has also approached us to grant her members tax waivers and rebates. We have had to regretfully decline. Taxes are the way forward globally, and more particularly so in the present socioeconomic challenges in Nigeria. It is the the heart of our reinvented Internally Generated Revenue Policy. Anyone who loves the progress of Kogi State will not ask for tax rebates or exemptions of any kind now. Our position has not gone down well with ASUU and others and they have made it clear. Their displeasure is noted, but the answer is still NO.
The past Administration does not cease to amaze us with her fecklessness in governance. How a government that could not pay her existing workers could find wisdom in further bloating the workforce in the twilight of her tenure is a major puzzle. All appointments made in 2015 remain suspended till further notice. We will dispassionately review them in the light of the current realities and decide way forward with compassion.
NEW DIRECTION AGENDA
The Kogi State New Direction Agenda of my Administration is firmly on course. The New Direction Blueprint is finally out and has been unveiled to key stakeholders. It will be made public very soon. The Blueprint is a roadmap for Accelerated Development of Kogi State during my tenure. We are working with the Blueprint Team to organize Training, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Masterclasses for the Administration’s functionaries, MDAs and LGAs. Kogi People will begin to see more and more development in the days ahead as we synergies and focus our efforts.
I have gone to this length to update us in this manner on the activities of government so that all people of goodwill will have the insights they need to interpret events. By putting this information at your disposal, I trust you are better positioned to make informed decisions concerning programmes and efforts of government and to communicate same clearly to your circles so we can combat the pernicious lies peddled by our detractors together.
I felicitate with the Muslim Ummah again on the Eid-El-Fitr and pray for God’s blessings on Kogi State and each citizen. I task all and sundry to live in harmony and maintain the peace in the fear of God.
God bless you.
God bless Kogi State.
God bless Nigeria.
GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO
4TH EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR ,
6TH JULY, 2016.