‘In Ekiti, Nothing is Too Big to Invest in Education’

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Kayode Fayemi
Kayode Fayemi

Victor Ogunje holds a discussion with Mr. Akin Omole, Ekiti State Commissioner for Information on the second anniversary of the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration, highlighting his achievements in sectors like education, infrastructure and agriculture

The Governor has just celebrated two years in office. How has the journey been?

The journey though has not been easy, but you know that our Governor Kayode Fayemi is not a novice in the art of governance. This is his second term and he knows how best to navigate the bumpy road and he has been doing that effectively well, particularly regrading the paucity of funds. In spite of the fact that the year 2020 has been a very challenging one, occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant devastating effects, which obviously hindered the pace of work in the state, the Fayemi -led administration has continued to ensure that governance and commitment to the pillars of the administration are faithfully implemented. Government has demonstrated uncommon grit and braveness in confronting not only the pandemic and its implications, it has remained resolute in delivery of quality governance to the admiration of our people. It is in the realization of this, that ‘Steady Strides Impacting lives, Building Legacies’, has been adopted as the theme of the celebration of the second anniversary of the administration. Recall that the theme for the first anniversary was ‘Walking the Talk’, Restoring our Values Enhancing Impacts’. Since then, government has continued o work towards the restoration of the dignity and prosperity of our state and her people. Restoration of our values, the pillar upon which the super structure of policies and programmes rest has continued to give direction to the philosophy and action of the administration. Whether in policy direction about access to education by all, our universal basic health coverage and our social investment intervention, the administration has remained undaunted in the realization of the objectives. Never again would our school- age children stay out of school due to inability of parents to pay fees. Never again will heads of families, mothers and even children face the indignity of having to line up in the open to be handed alms like people in IDP camps. So, guided by the administration’s 5-point developmental agenda of good governance, agriculture and rural development, infrastructure and industrial development , social investment and knowledge economy, the John Kayode Fayemi second term popularly called JKF2 has continued to ensure proper management of resources of the state to the benefit of the people.

But Governor Fayemi just established an additional university. How do you intend to fund it?

Let me start by clarifying this, Dr. Kayode Fayemi decided to establish an additional university in spite of financial drought to enhance the level of education in the state. The university of Education, Science and Technology that Fayemi just established through the upgrading of the College of Education, Ikere Ekiti, will improve learning and create avenue to expose people to modern training in education. The only thriving industry that had earned us national and global respect is education, it even earned us here in Ekiti the sobriquet ‘Fountain of Knowledge’, so nothing is too big for us to invest in education, it is part of our lives. The University of Education was an agitation by the college and Ikere communities that the College of Education in Ikere Ekiti town be upgraded to a university status and governor Fayemi as a listening governor acceded to the demand. If you check the trends, our people are no longer interested in NCE programme. The management of the College complained recently that admission for NCE programme was declining annually .
The University of Nsukka has a degree programme in the College and there was an opinion that there might not be what we called College of Education in five years time and that was why we granted that request. Even what we give as subvention to the College monthly has not been easy for the government to dispense. We have mapped out the scope and it will be limited to science, education and technology courses alone. Recall also that Governor Fayemi just built four model secondary schools in Ado Ekiti. They were named after four prominent sons of this state: Chief Deji Fasuan, Prof Banji Akintoye, Prof. David Oke and Senator Ayo Fasanmi. The four model schools established by government in Ado Ekiti metropolis were primarily conceptualised to decongest the public secondary schools. After a careful study, we saw that the number of pupils – per -teacher were higher and we knew that we had to decongest some of these schools for efficiency. If you check very well, the schools were located at the outskirts that were far from schools, so that pupils in those areas can walk a few metres and get to their schools.

Apart from education, what other areas has the government made tremendous impact?

We are doing excellently well in all sectors of the economy. When we came, the IGR was so poor that the governor said he had to think outside the box by revamping some of our moribund state ventures through Public-Private partnership. If you go to Ikun Dairy farm in Ikun Ekiti, the industry has begun production. The Promasidor Nigeria Limited has invested over N2 billion in the industry. Cows, both local and foreign ones have been brought. Milk production facilities were brought and soon that place will become a veritable milk production centre. The target is that, at full production, about 10,000 litres of milk will be produced per day. In the area of agriculture, the DANGOTE Company, Cosharis and Stallion Groups are building rice processing Mills worth over $50 million in the state. This will not only empower our youths in terms of employment and generate IGR for the state, it will also boost local production of rice to the level that the price can go down for our people to afford. Don’t forget that the Igbemo brand of rice is one of the best delicacies in Nigeria, with this huge investment, we are sure of better production and the branding of this specie of our own rice. It will also encourage our old and young farmers to go into rice production. The Social Security scheme to the elderly is also on course. In fact, it has been rejigged and expanded. In the first term of Governor Fayemi’s administration, what we were enjoying was the Owo Arugbo (Monthly stipend for the elderly above 65 years). But in this second term, we also have what we called Ounje Arugbo(food for the elderly). The government has a food bank where elderly who are poor and widows are getting monthly upkeep in terms of food supply to reduce their sufferings. All these we are doing to alleviate poverty and restore family value and dignity. Don’t also forget that the government employed 1,000 youths into the state’s civil service, 1,000 into the primary school as teachers and 1,000 into the Teaching Service Commission, I mean, secondary school teachers. These had also taken some of our jobless youths out of the unemployment market to the productive side. The government is also at the completion stage in the building of a Civic Centre around Fajuyi Park in Ado Ekiti metropolis where our youths can interact and exchange ideas. The centre will also have different departments where you can acquire skills and study about cultural things through a museum among others . We also have the airport project that will also boost our economy, it is ongoing and the idea behind it is to expose our local agriculture products to the international market, because it is an international cargo airport. The yams, cocoa, banana and plantains that we are producing locally here can also be seen in the world market for foreign earnings. We also have the Oja Oba Market, Civic Centre, Traditional Council Chambers, Judiciary Complex and other road infrastructure projects of the Fayemi -led administration that would be completed before the end of 2021 to expand the scope of our socio-economic facets for the betterment of all of us. The Agbado-Ode road has been completed and we are extending to Isinbode-Omuo axis.

What roles are the international development partners playing under this context?

In fact, they have been so supportive. The World Bank, African Development Bank, Usaid, DFID, European Union have been so fantastic . The World bank recently approved a sum of 20 million dollars for the state and this would be expended on critical sectors of the economy like agriculture, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and and social investment, to create wealth for the populace. The European Union donated facilities worth over N30 million for the Turn Around Maintenance of Egbe Dam, so that the dam can be reticulated. The present rescucitation of Ero Dam and the reticulation of water to some towns especially in Olorunsogo and Olorunda and some parts of Adebayo in Ado Ekiti metropolis was largely funded by the World Bank. Most of our expenditures on primary education were also as a result of partnership with international donors because of the integrity of our governor.
Since we came on board, Ekiti is no longer a laughing stock in the comity of states. We have been able to establish a system in Ekiti on how a 21st century governance should be. We are not beggarly, what we do is to work hard and make a better life and that culture has been restored. Though, the COVID-19 slowed down commissioning of some of the projects that were billed for commissioning this year, but we have not abandoned those once, they will be taken care of next year. The state’s Anti Land grabbing laws promulgated to stop land grabbers from prowling across the state will be committedly implemented to protect the land owners. Wide consultations have been done by the Ministry of Justice to sensitize all stakeholders about the provisions of the law.

The civil servants and pensioners form the bulk of our voters in Ekiti. How has your relationship been with these group of elite?

We have been doing excellently well for them. Since two years we came on board, we have been able to build confidence in the civil service. We have been able to restore dignity, because now everything revolves around meritocracy. You have to rise through the ranks to become Directors and Permanent Secretaries, you don’t need to have a godfather or godmother or belong to any political party. In fact, it is even a sin for any civil servant to be romancing with political parties. We have not defaulted a single month in the payment of salaries and pensions for the past 24 months. Though, there are other issues like arrears of promotions, gratuities and leave bonuses that have not been resolved, but Governor Fayemi has been working with labour unions to find a way these can be resolved. Even, the governor paid a month out of the salary arrears inherited from the last administration and this underscores the level of trust the governor has built and we have assured them others will be paid as soon as our finances improve. Let me put on record, the immediate past administration owed over seven months salary arrears of workers and pensioners, but we have not owed one month since we came on board. On the protest staged by pensioners that the government was planning to deduct 25 percent of their gratuities, let me describe that as untrue and the claim that it was a scam. The state was owing N16 billion gratuity arrears when Fayemi came on board, but there was an internal arrangement made by stakeholders including pensioners with a financial institution to defray the debt with pensioners parting with 15 percent discount. Government after due consultations with the leadership of the NUP, established the Ekiti Discount Gratuity Settlement Scheme to fast track payment of backlog of gratuities via a negotiated discount process. Government consequently negotiated and obtained approval of the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners to commence the Scheme whereby a financial institution (United Capital) would pay the retirees under agreed terms and collect the funds from government between now and 2022 when the programme would end. Interested pensioners are to choose which period they prefer from March, 2021; June, 2021; October, 2021 and February, 2022 with discount of 15%, 10%, 5% and 0% respectively. Concerned pensioners would be guaranteed payment of their individual gratuities with promissory note that would be issued to them. Other pensioners who are not interested in participating in the scheme may however wait patiently for the date on their Promissory Notes which would be issued for February, 2022 and they would get their money in full without discount or deductions. The Scheme is completely optional. No retiree is forced or mandated to accept any discount, if they choose to wait until February 2022.

How prepared is the government to tackle upsurge in incidents of rape of minors and other related issues?

Ekiti is not only battle ready to stem the tide, we are leading. Governor Kayode Fayemi was the first governor to domesticate the Gender Based Violence Prohibition Law. Many of those found guilty through the implementation of the law were either sentenced to life imprisonment or mandated to serve a minimum of 10 years depending on the severity of the offence. We also have child right Law and equal opportunities Law to ensure that no one suffers any form of victimisation on account of gender. The First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi has been playing very pivotal role in this regard. Don’t also forget that the GBV law was recently amended for stricter penalties to be meted out to defaulters. Part of the amendments is seeking of medical castration for offenders. You can see how serious we are. The governor has also built a sexual assault home for victims of GBV. This is located within the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital. Whoever suffers any form of sexual violence will receive medical care and other treatments here. Looking at all these, you would agree with me that we are prepared to make this state safe for our female folks, either young or old.

QUOTE

The World Bank, African Development Bank, Usaid, DFID, European Union have been so fantastic . The World bank recently approved a sum of 20 million dollars for the state and this would be expended on critical sectors of the economy like agriculture, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and and social investment, to create wealth for the populace. The European Union donated facilities worth over N30 million for the Turn Around Maintenance of Egbe Dam, so that the dam can be reticulated. The present rescucitation of Ero Dam and the reticulation of water to some towns especially in Olorunsogo and Olorunda and some parts of Adebayo in Ado Ekiti metropolis was largely funded by the World Bank. Most of our expenditures on primary education were also as a result of partnership with international donors because of the integrity of our governor.
Since we came on board, Ekiti is no longer a laughing stock in the comity of states