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Osun finance and excitement of economic revisionists

By Adebayo Adedeji

In recent times, a number of Rauf Aregbesola's lieutenants have been falling over themselves to rewrite history of how Osun debt leaped from N15 billion in 2010, when their principal, Aregbesola, took the mantle of authority, and to almost N200 billion when he exited the government in 2018. Some of the interventions are the same jaded and vacuous rhetorics the unsuspecting citizens have been fed with for years. The revision started with Kolapo Alimi, ex-commissioner in charge of local government. It was followed by Sikiru Ayedun, another commissioner in Aregbesola government. The claims of these two politicians have not only been found tainted, misleading and spurious, they have also been found mendacious and seditious. They are capable of provoking the citizens to revolt against the government. The address of Dr Adewale Bolorunduro, spanning over 30 minutes, during the general meeting of a rebel group in the governing All Progressives Congress, is the most disturbing of all. Disturbing not because of the disclosure. Not at all. Any faithful reader of Bolorunduro would not found his commentary new. They are mere rehash of his constant commentaries on Osun finance on his social media pages. However, his current intervention is disturbing because it gravitates towards personally attacking his successor in office, Bola Oyebamiji, a man of friendly mien who silently does his job without paparazzi and media embracement. Dr Bolorunduro, who I am aware Oyebamiji holds in great respect, chose to deride the person of the current commissioner for finance and with unexpected phillipic question his professional competence. Going personally when public policies are discussed should not be the appropriate style to be institutionalised in the public discourse. Political leaders should do well to moderate their emotion in order not to impair amity. 

Having said that, the concerns raised by the amiable engineer and banker, who recently declared his support for the rebellious Osun progressives group owned by Aregbesola, are to be looked into.

His remarks are slanted, speculative and aimed at diminishing the good work of the present government led by Governor Oyetola. Whereas, the state internally generated revenue has improved substantially under current government, the state equally undertakes additional responsibilities which demand financial commitment. This is against the claim of Bolorunduro. One of these fresh responsibilities is the Osun Food Support Scheme launched early this year. The scheme provides food items for 30,000 vulnerable citizens monthly. 160,000 citizens have so far been covered and serviced. 

Again, since last November, the N30,000 new minimum wage, from N19,001 old wage, has been implemented in the state and commensurate adjustments have been done to emoluments of workers in other cadres. This feat, which the labour unions have described as demonstration of Governor Oyetola's commitment to their well-being, comes at a great price to the state finance. 

The mandatory group life insurance for workers is also one of the welfarist programmes introduced by the current government that stretches its finance. Osun State is one of the few states that have complied with the law on group life insurance for workers. 

The state finance again contends with bill arising from the Osun Health Insurance Scheme. To make the health delivery service in the state a comprehensive one, the Gboyega Oyetola led government inaugurated a new Osun Health Insurance Scheme with an initial grant of N150 Million and an addition of N477 Million equity grant to fund the Vulnerable Programme of the health scheme. The vulnerable population, numbering 24,712 across the senatorial districts in the state, have been enrolled in the scheme and have, since November 2020, been receiving free medical services in the no fewer than 86 accredited (private and public) healthcare facilities in the state. So on what basis did Bolorunduro postulate that the previous government had more financial commitment than the current government? Did Bolorunduro even consider the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the finance of the state to the limits? At the height of the pandemic, the government of Osun State made special allocations to provide health facilities and palliatives to the people. The completion of the multi-million infectious diseases diagnostic laboratory in the state university in Osogbo is an ennobled reference to how Oyetola was responsive and creative to fight a pandemic which humbled the best of mankind. 

Contrary to insinuations created by Bolorunduro in his address at the referenced meeting about cessation of O'YES and O' Meal in the state, the programmes are still up and running in the current dispensation. In November 2019, no fewer than 2100 O' Meal food vendors were inaugurated by the state government. And plan is also in top gear to commence fresh recruitment into O'Yes Scheme.

Nothwithstanding the disadvantage the State suffers on the account of heavy deductions occasioned by debt owed by the previous government, Osun is doing more because the government has elected to spend its scarce resources on projects that would give value for money. Projects are undertaken based on the Citizen Needs Assessment, a World Bank scientific document, and not based on whims and caprices.

Since inauguration in November 2018, the government of Oyetola has lost N67 billion as a result of debt repayment --- N67 billion that would have been invested in the infrastructure and social engineering revolution going on in the state. 

Amidst the financial challenges, as well, the state government in just 33 months of Oyetola at the helms of affairs has released over N150 billion to settle salary and pension commitment. In comparison, it took the previous government 48 months, from 2010-2014, to pay N130 billion to settle the pension and salary bill.

The previous government also had the financial buffers of N42 billion Paris Club refund to cushion the effect of whatever challenges it might have encountered. The refund was given to the state in four tranches. Paris Club refund is a partial settlement of long-standing claims by state governments relating to over-deductions from their Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) payments for external debt service between 1995 and 2002. The funds were released to state governments as part of the wider efforts to stimulate the economy and were specifically designed to support states in meeting salary and other obligations, thereby alleviating the challenges faced by workers. The releases were conditional upon a minimum per cent being applied to the payment of workers’ salaries and pensions. Unfortunately, Doctor Adewale Bolorunduro wilfully left out the narrative in his address and delved into realm of speculation when he curated imaginary figures of what the state would have benefited, for instance, from savings from temporary suspension of deductions from the federal allocation and its equity in the Living Trust Mortgage Bank.

" A social affairs commentator is respected not only because of the elevation of his language and enchantement of his scholarship, but respected because of the sanctity and integrity of his data and relevance of the context in which the data is deployed. When these conditions are not met, the commentator's credentials as a genuine and sincere interventionist are shaded and cast in doubts and eternal opprobrium."

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Adebayo Adedeji Aregbesola Kolapo Alimi Osun Sikiru Ayedun


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