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My vision for honest leadership and responsible government, by Okowa

SHEDDING LIGHT

My mission today is principally to shed more light on our vision for Delta State predicated upon honest leadership and a responsible government. We have come into office at a very difficult and turbulent period in the history of our country. The spectre of broken promises and the profligate lifestyle of some of those entrusted with leadership have combined to erode public trust and confidence in government, and our people are beginning to lose hope.

Our first responsibility as a Government is to rekindle that hope, and give our people the power to dream again. Our people are longing for good leadership; they want to see true role models. Indeed, they want more than a simple change of guard followed by cosmetic reforms. This is the first crucial test we face as a government.

The starting point for us as elected leaders is to lead by example. It is a fact of life that people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. The followers will always do what they see the leader do, not what he says. So in our demands, attitudes and lifestyle choices, we must display the sacrifice, simplicity and discipline expected of every citizen in our current economic predicament.

STATE OF ECONOMY

•Governor Ifeanyi Okowa (right) and Monday Igbuya, Speaker, Delta House of Assembly
•Governor Ifeanyi Okowa (right) and Monday Igbuya, Speaker, Delta House of Assembly

Now let me touch a bit on the state of our economy. Upon my assumption of office, I was formally briefed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and the Accountant-General of the State on Tuesday June 2nd on the state of our finances. The highlight of that briefing is that the revenue receipts from Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) has dipped significantly, dropping to just N8.03 billion in April,(as received in May 2015), from a high of overN20billion in previous years.

Currently the State is grappling with a Revenue Bond and indebtedness to commercial banks totaling N98.62 billion (Principal sum), while outstanding contractual obligations is N538, 601,962,421.50. In 2011, the State Government took a N50 billion facility from the bond market, with a repayment period of seven years in 84 installments at N1.098 billion each month. This facility will terminate in September 2018 with 40 more installments (totalingN43.92 billion) to pay with effect from June 2015.

In November 2014, Delta State also acted as guarantor to some select contractors supported by the issuance of an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) of N2.23 billion monthly, for which the contractors received the total sum of N40 billion. The State now having paid four installments, has 20 more monthly installments totaling N44.60 billion (including interest payments) extending through year 2017 to pay. We also have a N19 billion and another N715 million overdraft facility outstanding with Zenith Bank Plc. Some other smaller loan and overdraft facilities totaling about N2 billion with other banks have to be paid.

As it stands today, a total monthly deduction of N4.60 billion will be made from our FAAC receipts with effect from this June through to March 2017, and thereafter N1.098 billion monthly until September 2018. This leaves us with a balance of N3.4billion assuming the FAAC allocation stays at N8.03 billion. Currently, the receipts from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is about N2.0 billion monthly, after deducting cost of collection.

IMPLICATIONS

The implication of the above scenario is that the fund available to run the State is N5.40 billion monthly in the next two years, except there is a significant rise in oil receipts and therefore FAAC earnings, as well as our IGR.

Unfortunately, the available fund of N5.4b is insufficient to offset our monthly wage bill, let alone fund overhead costs or for government to embark on capital projects. The State workforce as at May 28, 2015 stood at over 60,000 persons with a monthly personnel cost of N7,437,940,015.38 inclusive of the N678m State Government’s support to Local Government Councils for the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries.

The 2015 budget of N409 billion as passed is no longer realistic in the wake of current realities, which clearly show that our expected revenue is now far below what was projected. This budget, therefore, has to be reviewed. It is obvious from available statistics that the State will run a monthly deficit of about N2 billion, and would need to borrow to pay salaries of its workers, and finance the running cost of government. This is the dilemma that we face as we strive to deliver on our campaign promise of prosperity for all Deltans.

LET US THINK AND PLAN TOGETHER AND TIGHTEN OUR BELT

I have gone into this much detail regarding the state of our finances to put the Legislature on the same page with the Executive, so that we can think together, plan together, and tighten our belts going forward. The severity of this crisis and our response to it will shape the future of our beloved Delta State. I am told that when written in Chinese the word “crisis” is composed of two characters — one represents danger and the other represents opportunity. I see more opportunities in our current economic predicament than the threats it poses. Times of prosperity can easily breed complacency, dull our sensitivity and foster an indulgent lifestyle steeped in corruption. But because necessity is said to be the mother of invention, periods of adversity often task our creative abilities, engender discipline, and imbue us with the capacity to pull together as a family.

We must muster the resolve and political will to boldly – and decisively – confront the challenges that we face, right the ship of our State and lay a solid foundation of prosperity both now and for future generation of Deltans. It won’t be easy. It is not supposed to be easy. But there is no gain without pain, no prize without a price. A good place to start is for us to reject the old ways of doing business. First, beginning with me and this honourable House, we must be ready to make the necessary sacrifices to reduce the cost of governance. Secondly, the endless turf battles and approach to legislative action would need to give way to civility and respect for each arm of government. Thirdly, the House must make laws that protect and promote the interest of the State and our people. Fourthly, we must act with the sense of urgency that our current situation demands, and navigate the ship of state aright.

RESTRUCTURING OF FACILITIES

I have already directed the Ministry of Finance and the Accountant-General to restructure the Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) on contractors’ guarantee and overdraft facility over a period of 42 months as a first step to reduce our monthly exposure. We are frantically working at putting the necessary machinery in place to boost our IGR, and steps will be urgently taken to plug the loopholes in our revenue collection process. In our land resource management, action will be taken to re-certify Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) beginning with our urban settlements, while MDAs will be made more accountable in the generation of revenue.

Without doubt, much progress has been made in infrastructural development of the State by preceding PDP Governments and it is our intention to further enhance the infrastructural facilities. As we prioritise the completion of ongoing projects, there is the need to engage on our urban-renewal plan in order to make our cities more habitable and environmentally friendly. The Asaba Airport, recently downgraded, requires urgent attention, and many on-going road projects including the Trans Warri – Ode Itsekiri Road need to be funded, while the menace of flooding in some of our key urban settlements such as Asaba and Warri need to be addressed as a matter of exigency.

SECURITY

In the area of security, we certainly need to commend the efforts at containing youth restiveness and militancy which nearly ground our economy to a halt in the wake of our nascent democracy. It does appear, however, that we are now courting the more invidious phenomenon of kidnapping, cultism, sea piracy and crude oil theft with its attendant environmental challenges. We are also faced with intractable inter/intra communal land disputes, conflicts between oil companies and their host communities, post-amnesty agitations as well as clashes between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers. All these constitute serious security issues which we are obligated to tackle headlong. Security is a very weighty subject and, deliberately, it is one of the great objectives of our government that need to be funded.

As part of the efforts at ensuring the security of life and property, successive governments have sought meaningful engagement of the youth and the unemployed through investments in agriculture and wealth creation. The engagements have come in the form of microcredit schemes and youth empowerment programmes. Unfortunately, most of these programmes have not created the desired effect as countless number of our people are still without meaningful employment. As I stated in my inaugural address, our goal is to “…to enthrone a legacy of wealth and prosperity for all our people and communities. We are committed to the building and consolidation of a State in which there shall be more employment opportunities, a flourishing agriculture and agribusiness sector….” Agriculture and creation of wealth will therefore receive significant attention of this administration.

In the effort to drive social development in the State, I should commend the efforts of previous governments for the tremendous progress made especially in sports, and youth and women development programmes. To consolidate these efforts, we will provide further impetus for social development through effective management of information with regard to the rich cultural heritage and huge tourism potentials of the state. It is our firm conviction that if our tourism potentials are harnessed fully, the frequent recourse to government jobs will be drastically reduced.

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

The State’s Human Development policies have over the years focused on the achievement of the Education and Health related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which include:

  1. Achieving Universal Primary Education (Goal 2);
  2. Reducing Child Mortality (Goal 4);

iii.       Improving Maternal Health (Goal 5); and

  1. Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases (Goal 6).

These goals culminated in the free education at the primary and secondary levels of education in addition to bursary and scholarship programmes. Government also provided free rural health scheme, free under-5 and maternal health programmes, free ambulance service and subsidised dialysis. These efforts are commendable. However, lack of learning and instructional materials as well as neglect of technical education have created a gap between government investment in education and the output. As a matter of fact, our educational system needs serious reawakening and overhaul.

Although the health sector has performed well, the free health programme has limited coverage and with the current economic realities, the policy needs to be tampered with and replaced with a comprehensive health scheme through a Universal Health Coverage Scheme that encourages our people to embrace a health insurance policy with sustainable outcomes. The situation with the education sector informed the newly enacted law on Technical and Vocational Education in my first week in office as Governor of Delta State. The Bill on Comprehensive Health Coverage for Deltans has just been forwarded to this House through Mr. Speaker.

ROLE OF THE LEGISLATURE

As Honourable Members of the House, the Constitution requires you to make laws for the peace, order, and good governance of the State. My charge to you today and to all Deltans, is to do right at all times and in all situations. Our primary focus as lawmakers should be the collective well-being of our people and the economic development of the State. This is the trust that our people have reposed in us as elected representatives, and I am confident that this Assembly will do us proud.

The legislative arm of government will carry out its responsibility creditably well when it partners with the Executive and Judiciary.   As the head of the Executive, I offer you my hands of brotherhood, fellowship, and partnership in the service of the people of Delta State.   As someone with experience as a former member of the Nigerian Senate, I believe that I am sufficiently acquainted with legislative duties and procedures to lead by example in forging cordial relations between our two arms of government.   With your understanding, I promise that the relationship between the Executive and Legislature in Delta State will be a model worthy of emulation throughout the nation.

For the Executive and Legislature to work together effectively in the promotion of the well-being of the people of the State, we should share the same goals, appreciate the challenges involved in meeting those goals, and agree on the mechanisms to be adopted in the pursuit of the goals we have set for ourselves as a people, a government, and a State.

AREAS OF CONCERN

I shall now expatiate on some issues that are of great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the general public. Shortly after I was sworn in, I caused to be issued the suspension of:

i.Recruitments by the Civil Service Commission made after 31st December, 2013 to date;

ii.Payment of 20% Cost of Collection (CoC) of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR);

iii.Consultancy contracts entered into by the Board of Internal Revenue and approvals for

  1. deductions of IGR Collections by MDAs pending their review;

v.All contract approvals or commitments entered into for and on behalf of the State Government from 1st April, 2015 or any contract tied to the 2015 budget;

Also, within the first week of taking oath of office, two bills were sponsored by this administration to the immediate past Assembly viz:

i.Technical and Vocational Education Board Bill, 2015; and

ii.Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency Bill, 2015.

The two bills were expeditiously passed, for which I must thank the Members. As you begin the process of legislation and your journey in the 6th Assembly, many more Executive Bills that will impact greatly on the lives of our people will be sponsored. We count on your support.

I am mindful of the controversy that the suspension of the civil service recruitment has generated. Nothing is more difficult, more agonizing, and more painful than for a Government to take this unpleasant action. But we came to this inescapable decision because the entire recruitment exercise was riddled with fraud and corruption as it violated established Civil Service Rules and Regulations. More so, it was not logical that a State struggling to meet its payroll obligation should employ more persons. The immediate past administration underscored the failure of the recruitment process when it suspended the chairman and members of the Board of the State Civil Service Commission. In essence, if the process was faulty as they found out, the end result (the recruitment) could not have been otherwise.

I did say in my inaugural address that we should be ready to make hard choices and take tough decisions that are imperative for our economic recovery and well-being. While I sympathise with those affected, you have my highest assurances that in the long term this decision is for the benefit of everybody. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. I, therefore, urge honourable members of this House to explain to their constituents who were affected by the suspension order to be patient and understand that we do not mean them any harm. We just want to ensure that the right thing is done.

FOR AN ENDURING PARTNERSHIP

Finally, I seek the partnership of this House to join me in doing whatever is necessary to bring us out of the woods and deliver prosperity to all Deltans. The road ahead demands a new spirit of sacrifice and perseverance and, on our part, a willingness to run an open, honest government. It is true that the times are hard, but in the words of the Scripture, if you fail in the day of adversity then your strength is small. We must, therefore, stay strong, confident, and courageous. There is need for greater commitment, efficiency, and accountability in service delivery on the part of all, not least of which is the Civil Service, the Government’s main vehicle for policy implementation. In measuring outcomes, we must ensure that workers provide value for salaries earned and there must be zero tolerance for the “ghost-worker” syndrome.

Mr. Speaker, honourable Members. I want to assure you of one thing; we shall overcome. And to achieve that, we must see our calling at this point in time as an invitation to write a new chapter in the history of our State and make our mark on the sands of time. We must rise to the occasion and prove to our people that we are ready – and able – to do the job we were sent here to do. The focus of responsible leadership is not always about the next election; it is about the next generation.

We would have written our names in gold if in the next four years Delta State can boast of a functioning public school system that ensures that the children of the poor are provided quality education, accessible and affordable primary and secondary healthcare system, a flourishing agricultural and agri-business sector, and the proliferation of Micro, Small, and Medium Scale Enterprises (that ensure our teeming youth population is productively engaged), well planned and environmentally friendly cities, and integrated rural development. These are our promises to Deltans, and by God’s grace and guidance, we shall make them good.

 

  • Being address by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to members of Delta State House of Assembly


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