Omowaiye Oluremi, writes about how the special plenary organised by the State of Osun Assembly to reveal the transparent manner by which the state disbursed the concessionary loan, popularly called bailout fund, facilitated through the Apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“How best can one show this to the whole world, that the State Government of Osun used the bailout for the salaries and allowances of workers of this state? We have the figures, we have the data, and we have everything. It is not as if we are just covering the executives unnecessarily, but based on the figure before us, there is nobody that will come to the state of Osun that will not go through the figure before you can know anything. What else do they need to link this, to ascertain the transparency nature of the bailout and the way it is being spent in the State of Osun? We need to thank the teams that are working together with Ogbeni…” Najeem Folasayo Salamm, Speaker of the State of Osun commented as the House adjourned the plenary session which was organised to settle how the bail-out given to Osun was used.
For many months, there were insinuations, blackmails and rumours that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola diverted the fund for another purpose. The opposition wasn’t silent but Ogbeni, as usual, remained unperturbed until the Assembly decided to call the concerned stakeholders to come explain what they know about it.
It was early in the morning and concerned stakeholders – civil servants, serving and former top government functionaries, members of the civil societies etc were seated as early as possible. They were eager to ‘openly’ know how the bailout was used. The gallery was so silent that the sound of a pin drop could be heard. ‘Mr Speaker…”, the arrival of the speaker was heralded.
After the normal opening rituals, the chairman of the House Committee of Appropriation, Kamil Oyedele opened the floor by reading a letter to remind the house and observers about what they had done concerning the noise about the diversion of bailout fund by Ogbeni. He narrated how the House had been monitoring and keeping records of all the activities of how government spent the bailout fund and other loans, succubus and other bonds, that were being approved by the House of Assembly.
He continued: “So, I want to clear the air on this, and for our people to know that the calibre of people that are in this Assembly are not people that are just joking. We are not just playing here, we know our works and we know our duties and we have been up and doing in discharging our service for the benefit of mankind and for the development of the State of Osun. When we see this, that a letter has been sent to the executives, not even to us, we considered it as a slap on us. Why? Because the House of Assembly is empowered under a federation that has a federating unit…I think we have the right to say; this is our House, if anybody wants to come to the State of Osun, he has to come through the House of Assembly and ask us what our efforts have been so far on these things.”
“When you bypass the authority that is so established by the law to look after these things, the authority, of that kind of organisation or agency will now rise to say NO, you are going beyond your jurisdiction. We are not at loggerheads with the Senate; we are not saying they don’t have the right to do their oversight as well, but we want to say if they want to come to the state, they have to come through the House of Assembly, State of Osun and ask for our efforts so far on this bailout. And of course, we want to tell the whole world and the people of the State of Osun that, here we have the Accountant General and his team, we have labour leaders and we have other stakeholders here. We want to know what really happened openly. Before now, we have been doing it underneath, at our plenary committee level, parliamentary level, but today, we want to open up and see the fair play of the government of the State of Osun or otherwise. The House of Assembly will not unnecessarily support the activities of the executives without doing the needful. And of course, we have been doing that, and we are sure of what we are doing.”
“The fact that we have majority of members that come from the same party here does not follow. That does not stand in for the integrity of the members of the House as well. We have our own integrity and names to protect, of which we cannot play with. And that is why we are here this afternoon. The Accountant General (AG) will relay to the whole world how the bailout was being spent, from the request for this bailout and how you spent the bailout. And if at all you lied, members are here, they will put questions to you, and the labour leaders are here too. They will attest to whether you are lying or you are saying the truth about the salary. The bailout is meant for the salary; we want to know if the Government of the State of Osun used the bailout for the salary alone. So, I will now seek the indulgence of my colleagues, the people and invited guests here, to call on the Accountant General of the state, to tell us the position. And don’t forget, the position of the bailout does not concern the state alone, it cuts across the local government as well, he submitted.”
The AG, Mr Alaba Kolawole, switched on his microphone and began to talk. He did not mince words as he went straight to the business of the day. Recounting how the Accountant General of the Federation called an emergency meeting, on the 6th of July 2015, directing that the arrears of salaries, pensions and allowances not paid to June 2015 be forwarded to CBN.
With the assistance of a projector, he showed the letter written by the State Government of Osun to request the sum of N64b plus which was forwarded on 15th July, 2015 to CBN. And that is the copy of the letter written to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja.
Another projection that followed was titled “OSUN STATE GOVERNMENT STATEMENT OF OUTSTANDING SALARY, PENSION & GRATUITY.
Salary was put at N48,871,919,973.49, Pension- N6,963,049,173.52, Gratuity -N8,492,523,800.09 putting the total at N64,327,492,947.01.
He showed the breakdown of the N64 billion plus that was requested; the salary was N48,871,919,973.49, while the pension is N6,963,049,173.52, the gratuity is N8,492,523,800.09, summing up to the N64,327,492,947.01.
Saying that no amount was released for pension and gratuity, he explained: “Out of the N64,327,492,947.01 requested, a sum of N25,871,920,000.00 was released to us as concessionary loan from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Abuja. This is not a bailout as being mentioned in different media but a long term concessionary loan. It should be noted that no fund was released for pension and gratuity even though this was requested for in our letter to the CBN. The amount that was released to us was lodged into two different banks namely; First Bank -N15,871,920,000.00 and Wema Bank -10,000,000,000.00. The amount in First Bank was received precisely on September 2, 2015, while that of Wema Bank was received into our account on August 28th, 2015. From January to June 2015, disbursement made for the payment of salaries, pension and allowances were: First bank -N10, 306,322,869.07
Wema Bank – N6,728,328,261.59. Salaries, pensions, and allowances were paid in full throughout the period.
“In other words, till June 2015, we paid full salaries.
The remaining balance at First bank – N5,565,597,130.93, Wema Bank -N3,271,671,738.41,
were used to augment salaries, pension and allowances for the months of July, 2015 to August 2016. Salaries required to be paid continuously after June 2015. What I am say there is that after 2015, it was a decision that it will be good that people are being paid their salaries, no matter what it is. And that was why we used those balances to augment, that no matter the situation in any month, officers, workers, pensioners in Osun State will take something home. Both IGR and statutory revenue allocation were still not enough to meet the salary obligations. What I am saying there is that from that period, statutory allocation from the federation was reducing, even the IGR because of the economic meltdown was reducing, and we are trying as much as possible to use these balances to augment to ensure that salaries were made on a monthly basis. The balances from the concessionary loans were then used to augment the shortfall starting from July, 2015 to August, 2016. The reason for the augmentation was due to the reduction in federal statutory allocation and low IGR on monthly basis.”
“The governor inaugurated a committee on monthly review of government revenues and allocation of funds for payment of salaries and critical functions of government under the leadership of Comrade Hassan Sunmonu. The function of this committee was to look at our IGR, look at what we collect from federation account committee and look at any other funds that come to the state and decide the way to apportion it into critical expenditures, salaries and others. The committee agreed with the government for the payment of modulated salaries i.e. GL 01-07 full salary while GL 08 and above 50 percent from July, 2015 to August 2016. When we discovered that we cannot continue paying full salary to every worker in the state, there was an agreement between the state government and the labour. And we agreed that GL 1-7 should take their full salary home on monthly basis, and level 8 and above should take 50 per cent, and that is what we started doing. The same thing, the pensioners earning N20, 000 and below are paid full while those on N20, 000 and above were paid 50 per cent from July 2015 to August 2016. As I said earlier on, although this fund given to us from Abuja was not meant for the pensioners, it’s meant for the workers of the state. But the governor, in his own magnanimity decided to pay pensioners from this fund. So, by the time we started modulating salaries for the workers in the state of Osun, we did same for the pensioners. The total amount used to augment the payment from the balances of the concessionary loans from July 2015, to August 2016 are:First Bank -5,563,556,715.86, Wema Bank -N3,270,359,119.22, leaving the balances as at 30/11/2016 to First Bank – N2,040,415.07, Wema Bank -N1,312,619.19. The state government of Osun has demonstrated a high sense of responsibility to its committed staff by disbursing the concessionary loans creatively for the purpose for which it was meant while extending the benefit much longer for the greater good of its workforce. Mr Speaker sir, I thank the distinguished members of the house of assembly for your time, attention, and support,” he explained to the admiration of the audience and honourable lawmakers.