FEATURE ARTICLE

Samuel Bayo ArowolajuSaturday, February 26, 2017
bayoeleolaju@gmail.com


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RUN, RUN SEGUN ONI, YES RUN - EKITI PEOPLE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU (CONCLUDED)

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"Perhaps when we face our maker, we will not be asked, 'How many positions you hold,' but rather, 'How many people did you help or serve?" - Thomas S. Monson

n Part 2 of this write up, we highlighted the ground breaking achievements of Engr. Segun Adebayo Oni as Governor of Ekiti state between June 2007 and October 2010. These were in the areas of Health Programs which ushered into the state unprecedented growth and development of the Health Sector; the efforts of the Government at removing the lingering effects of lack of adequate, if not constant electrical power supply, and the introduction of Housing Estate as a way of providing cheap yet decent housing accommodation for the people of the state. Part 2 was a continuation of what we did in Part 1 where we highlighted the achievements of the Governor in the areas of solid infrastructural developments like roads, water supply and education. To avoid repetitions, we encourage new readers to please avail themselves of the opportunity of reading Parts 1 and 2, along with or before reading this concluding part. This will bring a sequential knowledge and understanding of who is Governor Oni and why the Ekiti people are asking him to come back and finish the good work he has started. Now, find below is the concluding part of some of the achievements of Omoluabi Asiwaju Olusegun Adebayo Oni, Mr. Integrity.

THE ECONOMY - A time for Turning Ekiti State Economy Around.

The Ekiti State was euphemistically tagged or referred to as Civil Service state because the economy was almost 100% dependent on salaries paid to public servants including teachers. However, during the government of Governor Segun Oni, everything started to turn around. Even with the civil servants and teachers, life started changing for the better as spendable incomes from salaries and allowances began to be more available, reliable and regular, thereby increasing and improving the purchasing power of the people, which strengthened the economy.

Between 2008 and 2009 and because of the overall improvements in the economy and therefore the standard of living of the generality of the people, Ekiti state out of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of the Federation, was ranked first in Life Expectance value of 55 years. The state ranked second in the Primary and Secondary schools' enrolment and tenth in Human Development Index (HDI). The government focused its attention on improving the economy with a rapid growth of the GDP with emphasis on empowerment through Agricultural cultivations and processing; encouragement of the youth towards self-employment using Entrepreneurship Development Schemes; Tourism and Cooperative societies.

The specifics of Governor Oni Agriculture programs included engagement and empowerment of the youths for massive food production, using Agricultural Extension Services that would mitigate the perennial problems of production, preservation, storage and marketing. Adequate surveillance and policing of Ekiti boarders to prevent smugglers of Agricultural and Forestry resources to other states, thereby increasing maximum revenue returns to the state and re-generation of Forestry Resources. To this end, the Government started the Millennium Farmers Project where youth were settled and empowered in integrated farming at a cost of over N44million. Crops' areas of concentration were Corn, Cassava, Soybeans, Vegetables, while Poultry, Fisheries and Piggery were introduced as alternate to crops. 40 hectares of land were made available for cultivation with a projected income of about N1million for each youth farmer.

Other areas included the flagging off of the production of Ethanol and Biofuel from Cassava and Sorghum at Iyemero, Bee-Keeping across the state, Community Goat and Sheep keeping by women, Banana Plantations and processing program at the Ekiti South West. Under Forestry, government was refocusing on the regeneration of old reserve forests at Aramoko, Ikere and Ise; establishing new Reserves at Eda Oniyo, and the establishment of new Bamboo plantations at Ekiti South West. The Ikun Dairy Farms with specialization in fresh dairy products was reactivated with healthy big cows from South Africa with the hope of handing over to a very competent and creditable private investor. ROMACO Granite and Asphalt at Igbemo and the Ire Block Industry were resuscitated while a Yam Conditioning Center was completed waiting to be operational at Ilasa in Ekiti East Local Government area. All these would have created jobs for our youths.

Private investors started showing interest in Ekiti state because the government provided investor friendly and conducive environment as found in other state capitals like Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan and Abuja FTC. They included Mutual Assurance PLC with a sizeable Corporate Building in Ado Ekiti. Others included Fast Food eateries like Tantalizers and Chicken Republic. Banks servicing the economy included Intercontinental Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC, Wema Bank Plc, and United Bank for Africa (UBA), First City Monument Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. All contributing to the expansion of sustainable economic growth and development policy and programs initiated by the Segun Oni government and the other private sectors.

MICRO-CREDIT LOANS - Making Small and Medium Scale Businesses Easier

One of the major strides towards turning Ekiti State around from being a civil service grown economy, was the introduction of the Micro Credit Scheme. The intention of government was to provide the initial capital much needed by all investors especially the small and medium scale business owners. That would enable them start their own business, making such sustainable and becoming employers of labor, thereby reducing the over dependence on government for labor and income. Between 2007 and 2009 government approved 23 channels of disbursing the loan to prospective borrowers. These included members of the State Executive Council who stood as Mentors to 8,413 beneficiaries with a total amount of N418,405,000ml; Faith Based Organizations, Artisans, Churches, Market Associations, Ethnic Communities and many other groups. In all, a total of 24,621 benefitted from a total sum of N993, 191,910ml.

GOOD GOVERNANCE - Delivering Services through Transparency and Integrity

Engr. Segun Oni did not come to the Government House by accident or unprepared but through years of meticulous and strategic planning experience. The whole idea of coming to serve his people was built on the foundation of Transparency and Integrity that heralded Good Governance. As a typical Ekiti home breed leader, he carved a special niche for the Traditional Institutions with the Obas and other Traditional rulers enjoying respect, honor, and dignity from the Governor and Government Officials, the Obas-in-Council were repositioned to contribute meaningfully to the idea of bringing government closer to the people, using the Local Governments as points of entry.

The government of Governor Oni worked collaboratively, in using the traditional methods for the selection and confirmation of new Obas, which enhanced the required transparency and openness in the process thereby reducing or removing the acrimonies and wars of attrition that were common trademarks of installation of new Obas. To this end, between August 2007 and February 2010, twenty vacant chieftaincy stools including such as dating back 1984 were filled. The welfare and wellbeing of all categories of Ekiti Obas were adequately taken care of with the provisions of brand new cars that were commensurate to their classes or status.

PUBLIC SERVICE - The Umbilical Cord between the Government and the People

Governor Segun Oni between 2007 and 2010 was the Number One Public Servant as he led by example in his service to the state. One can only know when he resumed at his desk in the Governor's Office but without knowing when he closed for the day, many a times at the wee hours of the following day. Those who worked directly with Governor Oni got responses from their memos or approvals for their requests latest within twenty-four hours if not 24 hours depending on the urgency. Yet, he was palpably civil and humble to all that came his ways.

The respect Governor had for the Public Service made Segun Oni the first Governor that granted autonomy to the different arms and agencies of government. The Local Governments in the state enjoyed full autonomy in the management of their resources. Neither the Governor nor the state government colluded with or withheld any kobo from the direct Federal Allocations to the Local Governments. In the same way the House of Assembly also was the sole manager of its own budgetary disbursement from the State Government. All expenditures of the House of Assembly were decided and expended as determined by the House as headed by the Rt. Honorable Speaker.

In the same vain, the Judicial arm of the Government under the Chief Justice of State was similarly granted autonomy to preside over all affairs of the Judiciary, including and especially its budgetary allocations. The Tertiary Institutions were not left behind, they were allowed to carry their fates in their hands in line with budgetary approvals in the same ways the state government carried out its affairs. All procurements, including contract awards and managements, were decided by these agencies but with strict conformity with the State Public Procurement Law; with monitoring and oversight functions by the Ekiti State Bureau of Public Procurement. This was and still uncommon in Nigeria for a state government to follow such openness and transparency in governance. Ekiti state was even ahead of the Federal Government in these highlighted areas then.

The first key problem of the Civil Service confronted and solved by Segun Oni as Governor was office accommodation. The new secretariat buildings were constructed in phases, thereby providing conducive office accommodation for hundreds of civil servants. Instead of wasting money for hotel accommodations for government guests, VIP chalets were constructed within the premises of the Government House. There was the Chief Judge's Quarters, the Federal Court of Appeal building, the Commissioner of Police Residence, the new Governor's lodge in Abuja and the new House of Assembly Complex at Ado Ekiti all constructed under Segun Oni

As at December 2009, the total employees in Ekiti Public Service was 62,557 spread across Civil Service, Parastatals, SUBEB, Teaching Service, Technical and Vocational Education. Also included in public sector are the staff of the Local Government Service, House of Assembly, Judiciary and the Higher Institutions. Yet, Engr. Segun Oni was the first Governor that embarked on an open, transparent and competitive recruitment of thousands of unemployed people into the public service of Ekiti state irrespective of political party affiliations.

The Ekiti State Workers Index saw a phenomenal lift up under Segun Oni in 2008. The workers loan was N22ml in 2004, N252ml in 2005, N451ml in 2006, N858ml in 2008 but N3billion in 2008 under Governor Segun Oni. The number of beneficiaries also commensurately rose, for the Housing Loan, 1,874 benefited between 1996 and May 2007. But between June 2007 and December 2009 the beneficiaries rose to 3,554 under Governor Segun Oni. For the same period the numbers of beneficiaries of Car Loan rose from 1,562 to 3,795. The teachers were not left out of the Housing and Car loan regime of Segun Oni. For Housing Loan for teachers, there were 1,397 beneficiaries between 2005 and May 2007. This rose to 3,163 December 2009. The Car loans for the same period rose from 1,178 to 2,462 beneficiaries. Yet, government was planning and working hard to improve funding and accessibility to meet the economic realities of the time.

PAYMENT OF GRATUITIES AND PENSION - Retired Workers Welfare

Governor Segun Oni came to office in 2007 with virtually no asset but with tons of liabilities. The greatest of these involved the welfare of retired workers including those workers from immediate past governments who's Governor did not pay entitlements like severance allowance to political appointees and gratuities and pensions to workers who had retired since 1999. This sounds incredible and impossible but it was true.

Between 1999 and 2009, the past governments in Ekiti were owning its Public Servants gratuity for 735 beneficiaries in the amount of N5.5 Billion; pension for 8,154 beneficiaries at N10.4 Billion, making a total sum of N15.9 Billion. By the end of the year 2009, Governor Segun Oni had paid gratuity and pension arrears of eleven years for retired Ekiti State public servants in the sum of almost N16 Billion. The Governor without owning a kobo of gratuity and pension put a policy in place that forbade retired public officers in Ekiti state; from waiting more than 90 days from the date of retirement before collecting their gratuities and pensions, which was implemented to the letters. This did not in any way affected regular payment of salaries and allowances to all the state public officers including those in the Local Governments.

All these were in spite of the economic and political challenges, if not crisis, the government was passing through then. Fiscally, the monthly Federal Government allocations coming to Ekiti were almost half of what other subsequent governments received. As a matter of fact, Ekiti State was the second poorest state in terms of monthly take home Federal Allocation. The welfare of Ekiti State workers addressed was not a factor of the abundance of resources accruing to the state but a consequence of the determination of Governor Segun Oni to make the welfare of working and retired workers a number one priority.

The secrets of the successful management of men and resources by Governor Segun Oni was his unrepentant adherence to Budgetary and Fiscal Discipline anchored on sound Procurement Policy and Fiscal Responsibility that were weaved around Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and personal characteristics of Segun Oni and his team, which was incorruptible and lacking in unguided and unbridled corruptive acquisitive instincts. The kernel of the Public Procurement policies and programs under Governor Segun Oni was the unwritten Public Procurement Law of: "Spend Less to Achieve More." This was what protected the Governor and his team from "After Service Hiccups". No invitation, no arrest and no prosecution of Governor Oni and any member of his team or government official for any corruptive and criminal commission or omission.

Governor Segun Oni is a workaholic who tolerates no excuse for any untimely or late completion of any assignment. On any given day, weekends inclusive, Segun Oni took his lunch and dinner in the office where he often closed in the wee hours of a new day. I can vividly recall in 2009 when reporters from an opposition Newsmagazine started an interview with Governor Segun Oni in his office by 2.30am. Before leaving for their hotel after the interview which lasted till 3.45 am, they said to me; "Governor Segun Oni has been grossly misunderstood by the People and the Press".

Continued from Part 2

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