…Speaks on youth development, assures on projects
Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, was on the state’s broadcasting corporation recently, where he fielded questions from panellists and residents of the state on the activities of his government in the first 100 days in office. Excerpts:
How will your government address the problem of unemployment in the state? There are many graduates without jobs.
Let me repeat what I said during the electioneering campaign. It is true that I said the youth is central to our government. Oyo State has a comparative advantage when it comes to the landmass that God gave to us.
We are blessed with many things, including solid minerals. People have been thinking that we should have achieved many things within a short period of time. For someone like me who studied Engineering, I know there are processes towards achieving certain things. In the Engineering field, at times, we complete the process of building a structure on the paper before the actual process begins. Truth is, it might take time to lay foundation that can bring about employment for the teeming youths in the state, though we have started.
About two weeks ago, we launched FarmCrowdy farming initiative with a private company and about 50,000 farmers will benefit from this programme.
Secondly, most of the farm settlements we have will be turned to farm estates, which would not only take care of farmers that will process what we want to plant. We will build schools and some other infrastructural facilities that will make people live comfortably in those places.
Of course, we have given our youths the impression that the future will be bright for them. There were also some of our youths who were engaging in some unwholesome acts before, but they are now retracing their steps. Some of them have approached us for help. They told us they want to be responsible and stop constituting nuisance to the public and we have been acting on that. I can tell you that three months of this government is too short to fix the rot and bottlenecks created by the past administration. But I know if we are on the right trajectory, things will be easier for us. Now, everybody knows the path we are moving towards, which is agriculture and its value chain to attract foreign investors into our state.
One last thing I want to say is, if we fail to do the right thing for the youth, it means that this government has failed already. So, I want this to be in the mind of our youths. They must know that they are our main focus.
In the last WASSCE result, Oyo State was in 26th position out of the 36 states of the federation. Also, there are some students in JSS3 and SSS3 in the state who cannot read. What do you want to do to effect a change?
On my way to this place, I came with a book without even knowing a question like this will come up. I came to show it to the people of Oyo State. The book is a compendium of past questions and answers for students preparing for WAEC and NECO, starting from 2012 through 2018. When I was in the secondary school here in Bishop Philip Academy, Ibadan, not [International School, Ibadan] ISI, but a public school, we looked for those who have sat for WAEC around the neighbourhood and requested for their past questions to study. We used that to prepare ourselves ahead for examination. But we published this book with the aim of giving them to our students preparing for exams for free. We didn’t have a book like this in Oyo State before now and it is the initiative of this government. The books will be distributed freely to those in private schools too.
Similarly, we have put in place free tutorial classes for students that would write the WASSCE exam and we are making it mandatory for them. We are doing this because we know that the evaluation process cuts across students in both private and public schools. The teachers too will be given these books for free to teach the students, particularly Mathematics and English.
We will employ teachers and deploy them to schools.
Therefore, I (Seyi Makinde) encourage the parents to cooperate with the government to make this happen.
There are many projects scattered around the state, which have been uncompleted or abandoned by previous administrations, what should the people of the state look forward to in this administration?
I actually passed along Iwere-Ile road and noticed that close to the election time, the past administration laid asphalt to a particular point and stopped. I am very sure that where the asphalt covered is not up to one kilometre before the election ended. There are many projects that have been abandoned since 2010 but I have promised the people that good governance supersedes the gimmick of politics. Because of this, I told the contractors who were paid by the immediate past government but abandoned the projects that they should go back to the site and do the work they collected money to execute. If they do well, we will allow them to finish with the work irrespective of the party that gave the project out. As long as it is Oyo State’s money, they can go ahead. This administration always wants to see value for any money spent on whatever project.
When I went to inspect the Silo project in Awe, I (Seyi Makinde) understood that the state government had paid over N1billion for the project but zero value is what is on ground for the state. The contractor handling the project said the case was in court because he had not been paid completely but I asked him to withdraw the case from court so that we could sit down one-on-one to discuss and settle the matter once and for all. During our discussion, he said if he could get another N350m, the job would be completed and I immediately approved the money to be given to the contractor. I learnt that he has gone back to site and he has an ultimatum of four months to complete the project.
So, for us, it does not matter when a project starts, even if it was awarded during the time of Governors Akala or Ladoja, what is important to us is the value it will add to the state. Our government will continue to show commitment to whatever will add value to the people of this state.
For instance, we have revoked the Moniya-Iseyin road construction project. But right now, we are in the process of re-awarding the road project to a more competent contractor.
With the election period now behind, what is the key message of your administration ahead of the next four years?
Let me start by saying that I am happy to be serving this state. During the electioneering period, we came up with the roadmap for the accelerated development of Oyo State. Now, what we plan for the state is anchored on health, security, education and agriculture. We know if we perform well in these areas, people will enjoy the dividends of democracy.
For you to know that we are making efforts in raising the standard of education, I just came back from Oyo where we went to commission a SUBEB project of 20 blocks of classroom. If we give our children the necessary education, exposure, they will succeed. We also know that if we take the issue of health seriously, this will make us productive and make our economy favourable.
For us, once the economy is tackled such that the means of livelihood is considerably improved for all, you will see that standard of living will be okay for everyone and even the government won’t be preoccupied with the expectation of federal allocation. The federal allocation we get is not enough, but if we can expand our own economy, the money government gets from Internally Generated Revenue IGR will equally increase. If we can also utilise most of our infrastructure to target our economy, things will take a good shape for us in the state.
So, we believe education and healthy living of the people will lead to productivity and expansion of our economy.
I must sincerely repeat that all of these cannot be done in an atmosphere that is not safe and secure and that is why the fourth thing we want to do is to enhance security. We want to ensure that everyone goes about his lawful business without hindrance. We want absolute peace and security in the state for the people.
A lot of controversies have surrounded the local government system. What is your government (Seyi Makinde’s administration) doing on the election into the local governments, which are the closest to the people at grassroots?
Actually, we are working on the local government administration. When we came in, we observed there were some cases in court but some of the cases have been disposed right now, so the coast is now clear. Those who conducted the local government election did not follow the provisions of the constitution duly and we don’t want to make same mistake. We (Seyi Makinde’s administration) have Local Council Development Areas and we cannot conduct election into LCDAs but what we can do is to appoint caretakers to manage the areas while we plan to soon conduct the election into the LGAs as provided by the constitution of the a Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We will work with Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) within a short time and conduct election within the first quarter of 2020.
You have made a lot of lofty promises on the areas of health, security, education and economy expansion, including provision of 100 security patrol vehicles. When they become operational? There are also talks about the CCTV project embarked upon by the last administration, what will you government do about it?
I think we need to always pass our messages across to the people comprehensively. A secure and safe environment is what we cannot compromise. If you look at it very well, investors, investments and foreign money won’t come to an environment that is not safe.
Concerning the security vehicles, in a matter of days, you will start seeing them on the streets. I (Seyi Makinde) always say that good governance is beyond razzmatazz. I (Seyi Makinde) rejected a proposal to paint the secretariat because the furniture, key governance issues, computers, toilets and other things that are inside are not in good condition. I (Seyi Makinde) can do all these things inside even without anybody knowing. We have not been going around to announce some of the things we have done and those that we would do but silently, we are going about our service to the people of Oyo State. I may or may not commission the 100 vehicles, as it does not mean anything much to us but we are after people seeing them on the street and having confidence that they are in an environment where they can go to bed with their two eyes closed. I think that is what is important.
Concerning the CCTV cameras, we have some of them in store. During the electioneering campaign, I did say I was going to scrap them but when we got in here, we checked what the past administration has done and we observed it may not be possible to identify or go after offenders with the CCTV cameras. But of course, they have already spent money on the project before we came in and we thought scrapping them would be a disservice to the people. So, we decided that we will keep them, enhance them and, maybe in a few years, we can get to the point where it would be useful to identify and trace offenders.
Looking at some new areas in Ibadan, there are places that are supposed to signpost modern Ibadan and not embarrassing structures. The roads are bad, even the type of urban planning you expect is lacking. What are you going to do to empower urban planning department of the state to fix them?
You will agree with me that a lot of people seem to be so much in a hurry and they thought we have been in government for the past one year or so but this is just 100 days, which is still early for us. We (Seyi Makinde administration) do have plans. When you are in the public space, you should always provide enabling environment for the people that will come after you. But in a situation of a hostile take-over, you follow procedures and processes laid down to conduct government businesses and we have been doing that. But, unfortunately, it has been slow. They come to you to get the final approval to execute and there are things we are looking at dispassionately for us to be able to get some certain things right; to cut that cycle where people can come for one comprehensive approval and once they are able to get the approval, they go ahead and execute.
We are aware that we have to do certain things but I will give an example. I did not declare my assets publicly for fun. I declared them so that I can be held accountable. What we met when we came in was a situation where you have some amount of money voted for someone you appointed as the head of a public department. They came to me and said that whatever project you give to us, 50 per cent of it will go back to the governor. And whoever is heading the agency will also take 30 per cent and out of that, the governor’s wife is entitled to 10 or 15 per cent. So, how much are they really using to execute the job? It is about 10 per cent because there will be some wastage here and there from people that are going out to execute the job. So, we only have value for 10 per cent. We are trying to turn that situation around.
When money is voted, please don’t bring 50 per cent back to me because if you do, I (Seyi Makinde) will probably put you in jail because if I take it from you, it means I am also an accomplice and we are both robbing the people of the state. That is why the second bill that was sent to the Oyo State House of Assembly is the Oyo State Financial Crimes Commission Bill. Once it is passed by the Assembly, I will sign it and all of us that you see in government will operate under the same law. It is something that is quite serious.
If we are able to increase how much we are using to execute the actual roads and public work mandate, you will see appreciable improvement on those internal roads. I have, during the campaign period, gone through Oranyan, Idi-Arere, Molete, Beere and observed that those places are riddled with pot-holes. We can go ahead to resurface all the main roads because there is a project going on right now at that place; the median from Gate all the way to Molete is being replaced and one would wonder what that is meant for. That contract too was awarded by the past administration. But we are left with the option of either losing some money or allowing them do whatever they want to do but try to derive as much value that is practicable under the situation we have found ourselves.
On healthcare delivery, you must be thinking about mortality rate of pregnant women and children in the state…
The statistics being put out there could be real or not but what is most important for us is to go to our primary health centres and also the state-owned institutions to know what exactly they have there. This is also same with the health family. If I ask for the number of patients being attended to in our hospitals and the number of doctors we have on ground to attend to these patients, you will be surprised that they may not be available. How much do they budget for drugs they get in the hospitals? What we will find out is that the amount that is being released does not tally with the drugs being procured. If you also ask from them how they register patients, you will find out they don’t have. There have not been records and we are starting from the basics. We are looking at how we can capture the data in a reliable manner. No offence to the past administration but it is our responsibility to do the needful as a government. If there was mistake in the past, we don’t have to continue but make some corrections. There is also a programme which the World Bank is supporting on nutrition and to ensure that pregnant women deliver safely. There are many primary health care centres that have no equipment and facilities.
I (Seyi Makinde) can remember that when we got to the Radiology Unit of Adeoyo Hospital, Yemetu we saw all the facilities inside. But we were told that they have never been used since they were installed. Meanwhile, I saw letters from 2010 that everything was working perfectly there because I went with the contractor that installed the machine in 2010. So, we do have challenges and that is why we have been encouraging people to say something to us when they see something. This is because if we keep silent about everything, we will continue to go in the same circle. I believe that the Commissioner for Health would perform better in this area, considering his antecedents and wealth of experience. He has been in the system for long and he used to be the Permanent Secretary in the same ministry. So, we were deliberate in looking for hands that can assist us to quickly turn things around. And whatever it is that is required of us to release as resources to get things on track will surely be provided for.
When I (Seyi Makinde) got to Adeoyo Hospital, Ring-Road, Oyo State already paid General Electric GE close to N1bn or thereabout but they said they were yet to get the balance of N200m before they could come to fix the radiographic equipment. We have done it. We provided the money. We will walk the talk. We are not saying that we are perfect or once we decree something, it will happen immediately. No, we need to follow through the due process and our feedback mechanism will be such that we are not going to be fooled. I am not going to commission a project that will work while I am commissioning it and when I turn my back, it will stop working. Anyone who tries this in Oyo State in the next four years would be dealt with decisively, either big or small scale corporation. The standard is the same. If Oyo State is providing the resources, we have to get back the value for whatever the state is giving out.
You approved N500,000 each for indigenes of Oyo State in the Nigerian Law School in the 2019/2020 backlog session, a development that has led to protests from the main batch of Oyo State students in the Law School. Similarly, other students are wondering if the bursary would reach all Oyo State students or just be restricted to Law Students.
Concerning the Law School students who were given bursary award, those who came to me were the backlog session students and we did our research and got to know that the school fee each student paid was over N200,000. The last time they were given the bursary award was in 2012. So, those who came to me brought their list and I looked at it carefully and we approved an amount we knew the state was capable of providing.
So, let me say sorry to the main batch of Law Students, by next year, we will plan for both the main and supplementary batches. We will lump everybody together and ensure that we are consistent with whatever amount we want to be paying them.
Moving forward, those students we have not been able to reach out now will be placed under the scholarship board and we will have a proper estimate and budget for them. That was why this government separated the Ministry of Budget Planning from the Ministry of finance. I can also assure that there won’t be abandoned projects, because we will properly plan for those projects.