Osun’s position on dwindling states’ revenue
SIR: The observations by Tunji Omofoye in the Sunday edition of The Guardian of March 22, overlook, perhaps because of the constraint of space, certain critical issues relating to the fiscal climate in the State of Osun.
Like every other head of a federating unit in Nigeria, Governor Rauf Aregbesola is operating with one arm tied behind his back. This is because of the debilitating effect of our anti-federalist fiscal operating system, which cannot be over stated. This is why the issue of restoring fiscal federalism is so crucial not just in this election but for the sake of restoring balance in our economy.
The collapse of the country’s main source of revenue alone highlights the fiscal imbalance. However, pre-dating the downturn, Aregbesola had been pro-active and admirably so.
In spite of the constraints, he was the first to offer to pay the national minimum wage of N18,001. This is worth stressing, for the very concept and applicability of a national minimum wage in a federal system is contentious.
Although he inherited a bloated civil service with over 40,000 personnel, Aregbesola has resolutely refused to ‘right-size.’
On the contrary, salaries were consistently paid before the end of the month. He, as a committed progressive, and without prodding, paid 13th month salary consecutively since 2010. A salary bill of N3.6 billion a month is not an easy proposition at the best of times, let alone when allocation from the Federation Account dropped from N4.6 billion to a little over N1 billion, a shortfall of more than 75 per cent. From day one, Aregbesola has pushed up Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from N300 million a month to N1billion. This has required ingenuity in a tight fiscal climate in which massive investment in the physical and social infrastructure has also had to be made in order to re-balance the economy and to enhance the future outlook of the state.
As a committed social democrat, what Aregbesola refuses to contemplate is lay off workers. Thus, all categories of workers have expressed solidarity with the governor. They do not have a doctorate in political economy but they are astute enough as to know the cause and effect.
As we speak, a committee made up of government officials and labour leaders in the state are working their socks off to come up with means of shoring up revenue in the state, in a way that will not hurt the poor. The talk of discord between the government and labour unions is therefore laughable. There is no such discord. Every party understands the situation and is willing to work hard and come up with solution.
The emphasis has been on cost rationalisation by slimming down on the machinery of government through the elimination of duplication, waste, inefficiencies and corruption.
As is to be expected, truth is the first casualty. What is being owed is three months salaries and not five months. And sorting it out is what disturbs Aregbesola’s sleep. Across the board, a new edifying alternative perspective has been implemented in the State of Osun which has repositioned the state and made life more tolerable for all.
This is why future historians will divide the analysis of the state into two segments: pre and post Aregbesola and the difference is clear. A temporary hiccup clearly beyond the control of a state government, which is the result of dysfunctional system, cannot be used as a battering ram against Aregbesola.
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