In politics, especially in Nigeria, abandoning the projects of one’s predecessor is a sport. It is not so for Governor Dapo Abiodun who came with a different mantra and mission, streets apart from what the people had been used to. Steadily, and without paying heed to the din of the market, he has been rejuvenating, revamping and rebuilding otherwise abandoned and deplorable infrastructures across the three senatorial districts to the amazement and appreciation of all, even the opposition. For him, taking the high road and doing what is equitable, not just to be politically correct, is the only way to ensure that the people feel the impact of his administration. Thus, he makes no distinction between whether a project was initiated by his predecessor or the opposition, so far it would benefit the people, Governor Abiodun is all for it. No wonder he has been running a people-centric government that is also cutting large swaths through what past administrations thought were thickets, writes Lanre Alfred.
That the people of Ogun State see the executive governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, as the much-awaited Messiah to turn the fortunes of the state around within the shortest possible time underscores the malfeasances, misplacements of priorities and mismanagement of resources of the past, and amplifies the shared hope of a better and brighter future which he espouses and evinces.
In that same past, while the people toiled and remained bedevilled with deplorable infrastructures, the accounts of their insensate leaders became fatter. This was the situation until Prince Abiodun came to power on May 29, 2019. His coming was, understandably, perceived as a breath of fresh air because he was not the typical desperate politician with no second address. True to his electoral promise of building a new Ogun State, Prince Abiodun rolled up his sleeves and has been working himself to the bone in his quest to restore the lost glory of the state.
Given his transformative strides, the media has been according him resounding mentions in their reportorial and expository responsibilities, mirroring him as the architect of contemporary Ogun State. It is noteworthy to mention that the media has not been a rubber stamp of all that is good in the state; it has equally played its role as the ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm’.
In setting agenda for the government, a section of the media has been constructively critical, which should be expected in a state like Ogun where civic education ranks high. The administration of Prince Abiodun believes that there are truly areas that require reparative and restorative attention and has set machinery in motion to ensure that infrastructural developments of the state are evenly distributed.
Before he assumed office, abandoned projects littered every nook and cranny of Ogun State trailed with bitter complaints from the indigenes. A countless number of roads not only remained uncompleted, but they were also totally abandoned by the contractors who were not adequately mobilized for the jobs. Despite the huge financial resources sunk into road reconstruction and repairs, especially the N7.5billion loan granted the state in 2012, the Prince Abiodun-led administration met Ogun roads in a sorry state.
Determined to return the state to the path of infrastructural excellence, Prince Abiodun pledged his administration’s best efforts to complete all the on-going road projects inherited from his predecessor irrespective of the financial constraints being experienced by the state like every other state of the federation.
One of his campaign promises was to provide infrastructure to all parts of the state. He specifically promised to rehabilitate and reconstruct the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road, not only to bring the needed relief to the people but also to engender the socio-economic development of the state. So far, he has kept the promise to place a premium on projects that have direct and positive impacts on the administration’s mantra of ‘Building our Future Together’ in the belief that full socio-economic benefits can only be enjoyed by the people when there is a good road network across the state.
As if the inherited infrastructural deficiency was not burdensome enough, Abiodun also requested that all the local government areas submitted at least a rural road project that was critical to their economy for immediate rehabilitation.
He has since embarked on massive road rehabilitation and construction across the three senatorial districts of Ogun State among which are Itokin-Ibefun-Ijebu Ode road, Iperu-Ilisan road, Sango-Ojodu Abiodun road, Ilaro-Owode road, and Abeokuta-Sango-Ota-Lagos road, while Osi-Ota-Awolowo-Navy-Kola road and Balogun Kuku road in Ijebu Ode have been completed.
Also, the reconstruction of Opako bridge in Adigbe, Abeokuta, and many other township roads have been completed, while the governor has directed construction workers to return to the long-abandoned 32-kilometre Akute-Ajuwon-Alagbole road, which is supposed to be a joint effort by the Ogun and Lagos State governments. So far, 50 roads have been completed in the three senatorial districts, with two of them already fitted with street lights. There are also 19 on-going road projects across the state.
Noteworthy is that the Sagamu-Isiun-Abeokuta road was awarded through Direct Labour as all the materials and labour are sourced through local suppliers, thereby, creating employment opportunities for the people.
But that was not the same a couple of years ago when the same Trunk ‘A’ road was awarded by the former governor at a prohibitive cost of over N60 billion to Chinese companies, a situation that cost the indigenes employment opportunities while the contractors also abandoned the worksites, citing debts owed them for previous jobs done. Governor Abiodun has specifically directed the contractor handling the Sagamu-Abeokuta road to source materials and labour locally to enable the people to benefit from the project.
The Epe-Ijebu road, currently being constructed with a 14-lane Toll Plaza with 17 culverts and bridges, is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that would generate significant sustainable revenue for the state, aside from creating jobs and developing the economy of the region.
In furtherance of the Abiodun administration’s resolve to explore road construction and rehabilitation to provide employment and regenerate the state’s economy, one of the first things the governor did was to assent to the Ogun State Road Management Amendment Bill, which paved the way for the creation of the Ogun State Public Works Agency (OGPWA).
As confirmed recently by the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ade Akinsanya, the governor has ordered all contractors handling uncompleted projects inherited from the immediate past administration to return to work without further delay as fresh funds were released to that effect.
The governor reaffirmed this on July 2, 2020, when he posted on his Twitter page; “The viable road connecting Abeokuta to Yewa and Oyo State had caused hardship to residents, business owners, residents and road users. So, it became extremely important for our administration to return construction workers to site.” He added, “This economically significant road is just one out of the many sites where work has resumed including Kuto, Elega, Panseke-Adigbe, Adatan and Owode-Ilaro. I made a pledge to the Ogun State people to look beyond politics and focus on their welfare, and this informs our readiness to complete all the projects abandoned by the last administration and littered across the state on the mantra, Building Our Future Together.”
It would be recalled that the last administration had in September 2016 sought the approval of the House of Assembly to access N14.16billion budget support facility from the Presidency to enable it to meet its financial obligations. Yet, decayed infrastructure including projects that were hurriedly constructed and commissioned in the twilight of the administration ushered in Abiodun to the Government House.
A major example was the Judiciary Complex at Kobape Road in Abeokuta, which was purported to have been commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari, with the last administration saying the cost of construction had been fully paid for. But the building was not only soon after certified as flawed based on engineering procedures, but also inhabitable.
It is already on record that the Abiodun Administration inherited a whopping financial liability of N221.55 billion, excluding over N200 billion in contractors’ liabilities. The N221.55 billion financial liabilities as at May 2019 comprised domestic loan (107.6 billion); External loan (N32.2 billion); gratuity (N51.04 billion); contributory pension (N26.20 billion); and leave bonus (N4.51 billion). Details of the contractors’ liabilities are currently the subject of the Contract Review Committee which is expected to publish its findings on completion of the review soon.
Some of the loans obtained by the past administration between 2015 and 2017 are Restructured Term Loan; Salary Bailout to State and Local Governments; Infrastructural Loan (Excess Crude Account); Special Socio-Economic Development Intervention Loans; and Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme.
Instructively, the people of Ogun State had expressed fears about the capability of the Abiodun administration to pay gratuities and other entitlements to the retiring civil servants who had dedicated their productive years to the service of the state among other liabilities left by the former administration. Governor Abiodun has, so far, spent a total of N15billion to service the loans and liabilities.
This burden, coupled with recurrent expenditure, has forced the present administration to establish a long-term financial plan for infrastructure that would drive the state’s economic revival and position it for revenue generation while implementing reforms to reduce recurrent expenditure.
The first step among the initiatives towards an efficient and sustainable financial management for the state was the loan restructuring and refinancing proposal approved by the House of Assembly on March 25, 2020, even as the world battled with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the shutdown of economic activities. The lawmakers unanimously agreed that granting Governor Abiodun’s request would allow the government to meet the shortfall in the price of crude oil at the international market.
Other reforms implemented to help diversify the revenue base and block leakages while enhancing robust financial transparency and accountability included renewed Land Use and Amenities Charge; reorganization of the Ogun State Signage & Advert Agency; the ongoing transformation of the Ogun State Internal Revenue Service and implementation of digital initiatives in revenue generation and payments.
Perhaps because of his astute business background, Governor Abiodun understands that it is unwise to fund long-term infrastructure projects with short-term bank loans. He also understands that infrastructure projects boost economic activities and generate revenue for the long-term while global best practices and conventional wisdom suggest that these projects are best funded with matching long-term bond instruments and financing structures with relatively lower interest rates and improved regulatory oversight and accountability to ensure judicious utilization of the funds.
An infrastructure bond of this nature requires many stringent regulatory and debt service requirements including rigorous analyses to evaluate credit rating (done by independent credit agencies), revenue potential and the proportion of the total loan to the balance sheet of the state or its GDP; measures that help to ensure that the state pays back. On all these measures, Ogun State would still have to pass the Debt Sustainability Test, without which the regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Government Development Management Office (DMO), Pension Commission (PENCOM) and the Central Bank of Nigeria would not approve the bond.
Lagos State, with an official Internally Generated Revenue of N30billion per month, is on its third Bond Programme since 1999, out of which several Bond Series or Issues have been raised by each of the past governors from Babatunde Fashola to the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu who has just raised N100 billion from a similar programme established before his administration.
Virtually all the south-west states have raised bonds to fund their infrastructure deficits. A bond programme only establishes the limit of all the series or issues that can be raised, it does not mean that the entire programme will be raised at once or in a financial year as it is subject to the financial capacity of the state at any point. The World Bank facility called the Ogun State Economic Transformation project (OGSTEP) is a Programme for Result (P4R) facility which is not an outright loan disbursement but a facility based on the performance of key objectives as a pre-condition before the facility is disbursed.
Also, given the enormous governance requirements before facility disbursements to a state, a Project Preparatory Advance (PPA) is given and in the case of Ogun State, $5million was disbursed in 2017. The money was meant to put in place governance structures and documentation protocols and requirements that will enable the processing and approval of the real facility. As of May 2019, about 20% of activity had been performed, which was the reason the facility was not approved. Kaduna State, which commenced the process at the same time with Ogun State, has since obtained the World Bank facility on satisfactory performance of all the conditions.
Thanks to Governor Abiodun, the facility, which covers Enabling Business Environment, Education and Capacity Building, Agriculture Value Chain and Public Sector Transformation, all of which are geared towards building human capacity, output and productivity as well as the efficiency of government processes, was approved for Ogun State in January 2020. And it speaks to the transparency and accountability of his administration that it got the approval in six months what his predecessor could not get in two years.