Olalekan Osiade, Special Assistant on Information to the Governor of Ogun State writes that the state’s next fiscal year will follow the same pattern of an inclusive approach which has always allowed the people to make inputs and take ownership of the budget
“The main thrust of our capital spending programme in 2021 is the completion of many ongoing and new projects as possible across the State. Accordingly, we have prioritised projects that can be rapidly completed to benefit our people.
Those were the words of the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, while presenting the 2021 budget to the state House of Assembly on Wednesday, where he emphasised the need to improve on the welfare of the people.
The Appropriation Bill, which is now before the state lawmakers, is expected to be passed into law by the third week or fourth week in December, going by the assurances from some of the lawmakers that the passage of the Bill would be expedited, and not exceed this year.
Abiodun had during the presentation pleaded with the Speaker of the state Assembly, Rt. Hon. Olakunle Oluomo, and his colleagues, to allow the state run the January to December fiscal year by passing the Appropriation Bill into law on time.
Recalling how challenging the implementation of the previous budget had been, the governor noted the difficulty that characterised the outgoing year due to the outbreak of coronavirus and the EndSARS protests that rocked the nation, but he was quick to add that the state was able to address the needs of the people despite the challenges that faced his administration.
He noted that the next fiscal year will follow the same pattern of an inclusive approach which has always allowed the people to make inputs and take ownership of the budget while thanking the monarchs and all stakeholders for standing by the government in the period of difficulties.
He said: “We are proud of how, in spite of a difficult year, we have continued to record giant strides in infrastructure development across the state, youth empowerment, job creation, human capital development, agriculture and food security, education, conducive environment for business, as well as fiscal responsibility, amongst others.
“The preparation for the next fiscal year has followed the same inclusive approach our administration instituted last year, with Town Hall meetings held across the three Senatorial Districts. The meetings afforded us to obtain inputs of all relevant stakeholders into the 2021 budget, achieve the ownership of the budget process and the outcome, and align the budget with the expressed needs of the people.
“I fully understand the difficulties many of our people are going through as a result of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the road to economic growth is the establishment of a sustainable public finance management that will bring about, better allocation of our scarce resources and improved public service delivery”.
To many people that witnessed the budget presentation and listened to the governor on Wednesday, there is every reason to leap for joy. This is because Abiodun has raised their hopes and given them a new confidence through the ‘Budget of Recovery and Sustainability’.
Abiodun did not only increase the expectation of his people, he equally reminded them of how he had been a caring and responsive governor, as he relayed his efforts in the last few months, especially how the government was able to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recalling that the state government under his watch was able to alleviate the sufferings of many people and rescued many businesses, Abiodun implied that many households would have been left in jeopardy if not for the prompt intervention of his administration.
He said: “Apart from medical and pharmaceutical interventions, we also extended palliatives, at different times, to about 400,000 households across the 20 local governments of our state. With an average of between five and six individuals per household, we were able to reach close to three million people with various items to cushion the effect of the pandemic and consequent reduction in household incomes.
“Businesses were not left out. Palliative measures to provide reliefs included six-month extension of the 2019 income tax returns deadline for self-employed residents from March 31, 2020 to September 30, 2020. Others were eight-month extension of filing of 2019 annual PAYE returns by PAYE operators/tax agents from January 31, 2020 to September 30, and complete waiver of interest and penalty for late filing for the extension period
These statements were corroborated by some of those that witnessed the legislative event, as they recalled how they were given succor with palliatives and how their businesses were saved from collapsing.
One of the respondents, a female retailer in Adire clothing business, who identified herself as Mrs Taibat Sharafa, informed of how she and her friends were given tax waivers from their businesses after the COVID-19 lockdown. She also explained that she and many of her colleagues and even some artisans got so much support from the state government during the tough period.
“Truly, a new life is possible in Ogun State. We have seen a remarkable difference since the inception of this administration. There is a fresh hope in the air and we believe that there are goodies in the pipeline. If the governor could help us when we needed to get relieved, there is no doubt that he will do more as he promised in this new budget.
“If you get to town, ask people, they will tell you how many people were helped in the past six months, some were given money, some got drugs, others got foods and many welfare packages. Some of our schools and students are still being funded till now, especially with the digital and online classes.
“Somebody who did all these will definitely do more, we are in for a good time in the gateway state. We are so grateful to God and the governor for helping us out of our difficulties. We have no doubt that this 2021 budget will impact positively on us”, she said.
On his part, Chief Adebodehinde Afonkagba, who travelled all the way from Ijebu-Igbo to witness the presentation of the financial estimates was so much elated as he expressed hope in the new budget. He was also hopeful that the budget would truly recover the economy and sustain the growth of the state.
Afonkagaba further noted that the governor did not just come up with the budget, noting that Abiodun had the inputs of almost all the stakeholders in the state before compiling the needs of the people. He also pleaded with the Assembly to accede the governor’s request and return the budget to the January to December cycle by quickly passing the Appropriation Bill into law before the end of December.
He said: “It is called a Budget of Recovery and Sustainability; it is an estimate that will bring about all inclusion. The financial estimates will no doubt put our dear state on the path of recovery and it will sustain all the efforts so far, so it is truly of recovery and sustainability.
“We hope that the lawmakers will further help the course of the state by quickly passing the Bill into law. It is better to return the budget to the January to December period so that we can go back to our normal fiscal year system”, he said.
One of the students and youth leaders, Moshood Olaola, who led some of his mates to the venue of the budget presentation, also thanked the governor and all those that made his efforts come to fruition saying that the people of Ogun State are grateful to God for giving them a governor like Abiodun at this time.
“This is a critical period in our state, and we are so blessed that we have such a governor at this period. During the heat of the pandemic, we witnessed many helps and succour that came from the state government. We are here to show our support for the 2021 budget, it is a budget that will put the state on the path of recovery after the unfortunate occurrence of COVID-19.
“We are also here to show solidarity with the administration of Governor Dapo Abiodun. We want to identify with him because this budget is for the people. Some of us would have been out of school because our parents were affected by COVID-19 lockdown, but the governor came to our aid by helping our parents get back on their feet. Today, if not for the strike embarked upon by the ASUU, we would have been back on our various campuses”, he explained.
It was not only the students that were grateful to God. The governor also thanked God for his mercies, reveling in the appreciation of the Creator while appreciating all the monarchs and other stakeholders for standing by his regime. He equally appreciated the people of the state for their support, especially health workers who were in the frontline.
Governor Abiodun, who had made it clear during the presentation, that his administration put up a deliberate, focused, and methodical approach to the management of the pandemic, noted that it was evident that the efforts produced admirable outcomes that have been widely commended.
He said: “We were able to achieve a careful balance between living and livelihood. We thank God for His benevolence that has assisted us to contain the virus in our state. I thank most sincerely, our religious leaders, Community Development Associations, Market leaders, business communities, and indeed all citizens and residents of Ogun State.
“Your prayers, supports in various forms, cooperation and understanding, particularly during the most trying period of the pandemic are well appreciated. My appreciation also goes to our health team, other frontliners, including our security agencies for your heroic roles in fighting a common enemy to humanity.
“Without your dedication, professionalism and commitment to save lives, even at great risks to your own lives, the story would have been different in Ogun State. Nonetheless, as an Administration with commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry, we are not lowering our guards”, he had noted.
On his achievements so far, though the governor said that the budget was not an account of his stewardship, he nevertheless highlighted some the things he had done for the betterment of the people of Ogun State in less than two years of his administration.
Abiodun recalled: “Despite the challenges faced, I am happy to report that much progress has been made on several fronts and our administration has delivered on key policies, programmes and projects in priority areas of the Building Our Future Together Agenda.
“The Agenda continues to gain steady momentum and traction, as we meet all our obligations and substantially deliver on the promises of each of the I.S.E.Y.A development pillars of the Agenda, that is I for Infrastructure; S for Social Welfare and Wellbeing; E for Education; Y for Youth Development and Job Creation; and A for Agriculture and Food Security.
“On Infrastructure, no less than one hundred roads spread across the length and breadth of our dear State have been constructed, maintained and rehabilitated. Many more are at different stages of completion, whilst another batch of rural and township roads across the three senatorial districts was approved by the State Executive Council.
“Under our Social Welfare and Wellbeing pillar, we have successfully delivered the first phase of our housing projects. The second phase that will deliver over 500 affordable housing units in different parts of the State has commenced. Our target in the next two years is to add 2,500 units to the housing stock in the state.
“We have strengthened our healthcare delivery system through rehabilitation of some of our Primary Healthcare Centres in the 20 local government areas and recruitment of additional healthcare personnel; doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, nurses, medical scientists, etc., for the first time in many years.
“The interventions are not limited only to physical infrastructure, we also procured medical equipment for our health facilities. Recently, I approved the State Health Insurance Scheme which will ensure that all residents of the state have access to efficient and affordable healthcare services.
“A total of N500 million is available as take-off fund for this scheme, of which N100 million has been paid by the state government. This automatically enables us to access the balance of N400 million required from the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.
“As you all know, Ogun State is the Education capital of the nation. Our administration has continued to deepen this legacy with multifaceted initiatives that strengthen leadership, enhance the infrastructure, motivate the personnel, and generally improve the teaching and learning environment for teachers and students.
“Some of these include the appointment of Principals-General and Headteachers-General, capacity building, and adoption of technology for innovation and learning. Currently, over 500 schools are at various stages of rehabilitation. Even during COVID-19, our administration deployed technology to Ogun Digiclass, another first of such initiatives by Ogun State in the country, to ensure that teaching and learning was not disrupted.