Yesterday, February 6, a civic group issued a report to point out what it thought were instances of bogus allocation of public funds in the 2020 budget. We have studied the report and come to the conclusion that the claims were mostly uninformed and therefore unreflective of the true situation of things.
While civic groups are welcome to interrogate public issues, because government officials, no matter how meticulous, are humans who like every other person are susceptible to mistakes and omissions, it becomes a burden on the civic groups to ensure that their statements are thorough and factual. This is to ensure that they do not needlessly cast aspersions on officials of government in the name of scrutiny.
The truth is that the report failed the basic test of ‘ask if in doubt’. There is no documented record anywhere of the group asking questions on what it called ‘grey areas’. To build trust and avoid suspicion of motive, we urge that this basic standard be followed going forward in the interest of our democracy and peace.
Now, contrary to its needless innuendoes, there was nothing obscure or extravagant in the budget. The group talked about N1.2bn budget for purchase of vehicles for political office holders alone. This again points up the danger in one-sided narrative which could have been avoided had the group asked the House of Assembly or the executive about it. For the record, the total amount budgeted for purchase of motor vehicles (as captured on page 38 in code numbers 23010105/23010106) is N655,000,000. We really don’t know where the group got its own figures!
Firstly, vehicles purchased for political office holders are not gifts. Such vehicles are meant to ease their work. What is more, any public office holders who get official vehicles will pay for same as dictated by the monetisation policy. In other words, the money will come back to the treasury. Secondly, the government is making heavy investments on security this year. To that extent, government will purchase (patrol) vehicles to strengthen security and protect lives and properties across the state. This is covered in the same amount.
Thirdly, the money covers purchase of vehicles for principal officers and members of the Kwara State House of Assembly. Like members of the state executive council, the lawmakers have been using their personal vehicles to perform official duties. Also, whatever amount used to buy vehicles for the lawmakers will be deducted from their salary in line with the monetisation policy. The government recently purchased 27 vehicles for the civil service. This, of course, is like a drop in the ocean for a civil service that was until this administration starved of decent working conditions. So, part of the money will go into purchasing more vehicles for the civil service. Many of the vehicles in the Government House are in bad shape and are to be replaced in the fiscal year.
The N1.6bn item line in the House of Assembly budget is meant to pay the salaries and allowances for the House of Assembly staff, expenses on committee assignments and oversight functions that include public hearings and daily running of the House affairs.
While the administration understands the need to be modest, it is convinced that budgeting for 620,689 litres of petrol and 45,454 litres of diesel (both adding up to N190m) to power government vehicles, plants and generators for a whole year is within the bound of decency anywhere in this country.
The group also questioned the allocation of N360m for audit. In what seems like an attempt to incite the public against the government, it went ahead to say that the money for auditing is far higher than what was allocated to primary health care. The insinuation is noted and frowned at because it was made without any basis. Given the unabated discoveries of mind boggling financial recklessness of the past, it is in the public interest to do comprehensive auditing of government books covering at least the last eight years.
This audit covers all the MDAs and parastatals. The comparison of the budgeted sum with the allocation for primary healthcare was baseless because hundreds of millions of naira are budgeted for primary healthcare. The bulk of such allocations is the counterpart funding for polio, AIDS, malaria, maternal healthcare, nutrition, which is warehoused in the Ministry of Finance and Planning. It is also submitted that millions of naira are budgeted for repairs of primary healthcare centres as reflected in the budget of the Ministry of Health.
The group also questioned the allocation of N200m to Harmony Holdings. Again, merely asking questions from the House of Assembly or management of the firm would have cleared the air. Harmony Holdings was practically run aground. It was ripped to the bone so much that it is unable to pay salary on its own! The money allocated to it in the budget was therefore to recapitalise the company to achieve its set objectives. Perhaps it is right to mention here that AMCON has sued Harmony Holdings on account of huge debts, currently over N1bn, into which the past management has plunged it. The debt particularly arose from the many strange transactions at Shonga Farm, which had been sold out by the last regimes, even as the people of Kwara State continue to shoulder its debt as a result of ISPO (Irrevocable Standing Payment Order) it was committed to.
Among other things which basically arose as a result of not asking basic questions, the group talked about the Ecological and Stabilisation Fund. It was in fact one of the funniest things seen in the report because budget is not a static document. It is an estimate which is subject to developments and reviews from time to time. Government reasonably expects to fund budget from various revenue sources, which are not cast in iron. For instance, the budget had been predicated on $57 per barrel of crude oil. Today, the price of crude oil has fallen to $54! So, there is nothing strange to make reasonable estimate as the government did with the Ecological Fund.
Finally, the N250m ‘honorarium’ in the budget is strictly meant to offset the severance package of cabinet members and statutory commissioners who served the state between 2011 and 2019. It is what the law (see Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission provisions) allows them to take for serving the public. This administration, led by a statesman, is concerned only about governance and giving to anyone whatever that is reasonably due to them. The amount budgeted was actually higher than the N250m but the House of Assembly in its wisdom felt that is all we could afford in the 2020 fiscal year.
Once again, we sincerely welcome constant engagements with civic groups and indeed all members of the public. However, we appeal for caution and thoroughness as misrepresentations and innuendoes as the ones contained in the report could constitute needless and unintended attack on the integrity of public servants. The administration believes that while the budget is not perfect as with any human document, it is a great attempt to build a new Kwara where everyone, including generations yet unborn, gets their fair share of public resources. That budget, we insist, is one of reconstruction and reformation. It is one of hope and redemption!
Saad Hamdalat Temitope
Ministry of Finance & Planning
February 7, 2020.
We are in government to serve Kwarans — AbdulRazaq
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has said his administration is determined to right the wrongs of the past, invest in human capital and physical infrastructural development, and improve the living standards of the people.
“We are in government to serve our people. We have made commitments and we will not disappoint. We were here a year ago to campaign for you and you supported us. Let’s do it again this Saturday by voting Adam Ahmed Rufai of the APC during the by-election,” AbdulRazaq said as he wrapped the campaign for the ruling party in Patigi where a House of Assembly by-election is holding this Saturday.
“We come with a solid team headed by myself, the speaker, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, former Speaker Benjamin Isa and other key stakeholders in the party. So, I can assure you that Adam Ahmed Rufai is in good company and will be supported in the Assembly.”
Accompanied by top government officials and party chieftains, AbdulRazaq had on Monday flagged off a marathon campaign tour that touched all the affected 10 wards of Patigi where he pointed out his various developmental strides in the local government and elsewhere in the state since his inauguration last year.
He pledged that the government would give the necessary support to farmers by providing farm implements, chemicals and funds to improve yields to guarantee food security.
“We are aware that some communities do harvest three times in a year. Come with your specific demands on the type of suitable farm implements and we will support you,” he added.
AbdulRazaq said the government was discussing with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to lend money to those who want fund above N250,000 to support their businesses through the bank’s Anchor Borrowers Scheme.
He added that the Social Investment Programme, which is due for launch anytime soon, would support smallholder farmers, artisans, small business owners, particularly women, and boost people’s purchasing power.
“You all can testify that we are doing things differently. That is one reason we need you to vote Adam Ahmed Rufai who is a member of our party and shares the vision of this administration,” he said.
Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly Salihu Danladi Yakubu urged voters to come en masse on Saturday and elect Ahmed Rufai to guarantee quality and effective representation at the parliament.
Chairman of APC in Patigi Muhammad Swasun promised that the party would deliver 100% victory on Saturday’s by-election.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor
11 March, 2020.
Kwara Gov seeks equal opportunity, empowerment for women, girl child
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Sunday rallied support for women empowerment, girl child education, and equal opportunity for all genders.
“I join the rest of the world to commemorate the International Women’s Day,” the Governor said in a statement by his spokesman Rafiu Ajakaye.
The statement is in commemoration of the International Women’s Day with the theme #EachForEqual.
“As an administration, we are unshaken in our belief that no meaningful development can take place when half of our population is unheard. We stand firm in our resolve to empower the girl child, as we do to our male child, to aspire to the highest height,” the statement said.
“This administration believes that half of our developmental challenges are rooted in not giving the right opportunity to women to reach for the stars. An educated woman is many times more likely to raise a healthy and successful family. Enlightened and empowered, she is more likely to save her family from malnutrition, extreme poverty, ignorance, and other social malaise that now plague our world.
“Today, therefore, I join the rest of the global community to seek fair treatment for all women and girl child. I align myself with the global rejection of sexual violence against women, forced marriage, and other oppressive policies targeted at anyone, especially women and other vulnerable groups in our society.”
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor
8 March, 2020.
Climate change: Kwara closes forest, to launch tree planting
Kwara State Government has announced at least a month closure of the forest for all activities except farming, expressing worries that indiscriminate activities in the forest are fast disrupting the state’s ecosystem and exposing it to severe effects of climate change.
“The (government) is very worried about the rate of wanton deforestation for both legal and illegal purposes such as charcoal and other wood resources/products without commensurate regeneration,” Commissioner for Environment Architect Aliyu Saifudeen told newsmen in Ilorin, the state capital, on Monday.
“This is causing a tremendous imbalance in our ecosystem and Climate Change. Accordingly, the ministry has taken a painful decision to ‘close the forest’ for all kinds of activities for a minimum period of one month and maximum of three beginning from the 2nd of March to 31st of May 2020. This will enable us take stock of what is left of that natural endowment for further action and the inventory of what goes on therein. Consequently, all economic activities except farming are hereby suspended within the period forthwith with offenders liable to prosecution.
“During and at the end of the closure, all those who have any business to do with the forest are required to make themselves available to the ministry for fresh registration, including farmers whose farmlands are in excess of 25 hectares.”
Saifudeen said the government will embark on massive tree planting to be flagged off by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and Minister of Environment Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar later in May, a step he asserted was needed to address the question of deforestation and climate change.
“There is a policy of cut one tree and plant five and for each new site being developed a number of trees be planted. This has not been complied with totally. A strict adherence to this policy would have salvaged to an extent our predicament of deforestation,” he added, saying the policy would be replicated at every local government area of the state.
Saifudeen, who announced ongoing sensitisation of the populace on the need to sanitise their state, said the government would also embark on enforcement of the law banning obstruction of traffic flow through indiscriminate trading on roadsides and median and street begging.
He lamented that such practices constitute serious threats to millions of people.
“We have received positive feedbacks as it concerns ‘Post Office’ and ‘Challenge’ junctions. I want to use this opportunity to call on road users to adhere to the traffic rules and to our traders to desist forthwith from displaying their wares including firewood on the roads especially on the pedestrian walk ways,” he said.
“Another major concern is the invasion of our road median by beggars and refuse. Affected areas are mostly at Oja Oba, Gambari, Balogun Fulani, Ipata, Idi Ape etc.”
The commissioner, meanwhile, announced a reorganisation of the state waste management contractors for efficiency, saying a new model is being explored to ease the incidents of refuse dumps in the state, especially in the capital.
Calling for mass supper for the state’s environmental sanitation, he also appealed to Kwarans to vacate flood plains and to keep their environment clean and free of refuse to ward off flooding as another rainy season draws near.
“A new and more mechanized approach will be unleashed especially in Ilorin Metropolis by the beginning of April. Preceding the foregoing and in the whole of March, an experimental Waste Management would be conducted strictly by the ministry. All residents are requested to give maximum cooperation to the operatives,” he said.
“We shall soon welcome the rains, we call on residents to embark on the desilting of the gutters and run-off channels around their premises to keep them clean for ease of water flow and make such places uncomfortable for rodents and other vectors of diseases such as mosquitoes and even dangerous reptiles. This is also important to forestall the calamity of flood. The ministry, on its own part, will soon begin the massive desilting of major drainage channels across the city. All those living around the Asa River banks and any other river across the State e.g. in Pategi, Kaiama e.t.c. should ensure zero tolerance for refuse dump into the rivers. We also appeal to those living on flood planes to please quit with immediate effect.”
Press Secretary, Ministry of Environment
2 March, 2020.
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