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Adegbite: We have made Ogun number one investors’ choice for ease of business

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Adegbite

Ogun State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Olamilekan Adegbite, and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Dayo Adeneye offered insights into the state government’s giant strides in infrastructural development and road construction, as well as its Internal Revenue Generation capacity, and making the state investors’ choice destination. BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA reports

We Run A Transparent Government

Ogun state recently achieved a feat of being recording the second highest in terms of IGR among states in Nigeria. Yet the state has rising debt profile?
I do not know whether we have a high debt profile. I don’t know whether Ogun state has a huge debt profile. I can only comment on the IGR, where the state was ranked second. It was published and I saw it but for the debt, I don’t know where you got those facts from that we have a high debt profile.

What is the breakdown of application of the loans by this government?
The Commissioner for Finance is in better position to speak on that.

The procurement process in Ogun State seems to be fueling allegations of corruption. Why is the procurement process in the state not transparent?
I think you are starting on a wrong premise. You have already made a judgment by saying that our procurement process is not transparent. You are not asking me how has our procurement processes been. You don’t have to start like that. You have come to find out facts not to insinuate things. You said our procurement processes are not transparent. You are already concluding. Where is that judgment coming from?

I am basing my interrogation on information out there
Anyway, let me answer you straight away. Our procurement process is very straightforward as far as this ministry is concerned. If you see the recent one we published the projects we have done. It was a transparent process. In November 2011, most of the projects we have done, even the ones we are doing now were advertised in four major dailies.  Then, most of the roads, we are doing now were advertised and people bidded for them. We opened the tender and in the Tender Board, everybody was there. As far as this ministry is concerned, all the jobs we are doing go through a transparent process. Before the Federal Government will ascertain that they owe you so much on any project, they will look at the procurement process. They came from the office of Due Process; they came from the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Works to ascertain what we have done. They saw all the documents. Everything was documented for them. Even the National Assembly came. About three bodies have verified all these processes.

On schools that were reported we awarded for N1.6 billion, we actually awarded each school for N750 million. If you look at the documents that were signed, it was a transparent process.

What is the actual position of the N65b project for dualisation of the Kobape road to the Sagamu Interchange, which started after the MKO Abiola Stadium?
The road actually starts from Abeokuta and goes towards the Interchange in Sagamu; Kobape is at about kilometre 18 on the road.

What is scope of work on the road?
It is ongoing. It just started, it is just about 15 per cent or so, but work is in progress. It is about N60 billion project.

How much has the state spent on Federal roads and how much did you pay to contractors?
Well, because it is a continuous process, the last time these people came here to ascertain the project, it was N103billion. People would just bandy figures. The work on all the roads for instance, Sango-Ijoko road, the total cost of it is about N70billion, when completed with all the extras that are supposed to be put there. And so far, the government has spent something around N18 –N20 billion. So, they are calculating that the road projects in Ogun State is about N200billion, it does not mean that we have spent that money. Remember these projects are ongoing. They have not been completed, but the money that has been spent, the work ascertained done, as at the time they came was N103billion. The National Assembly came; the Ministry of Works certified it. I think when we finish, you also can take photographs, we will take you around even if it is just Abeokuta here, you will see the roads, that have been done, you will see the streetlights and everything. If you have the time, they will take you to other parts of Ogun State. Most of these roads, even, we are agitating that the Federal Government needs to cede some roads to Ogun state because most of these roads are all federal roads, but the roads are terrible. The major road within this Abeokuta, that is, the road that leads to Ibadan is a federal road, the major link road within Abeokuta. The same thing with Brewery to OGTV, that is the road, when you are coming from Lagos, from where Top brewery all the way to OGTV, it is a federal road. If you look at it, there are two flyovers on that road. I think you should be taken around.

What is the state of the Ogun State Model schools project?
As a today, 8-10 have been completed.

Are those completed in use?
They are not all in use. I must say for the schools, we are evolving a strategy for us to admit the students at Akinale Model School, that is the one functioning now as a pilot scheme, where students are now. What brought about this model school is that the immediate past administration in the state, because of lack of funds just arbitrarily handed over schools back to their owners. When we came in 2011, we found out that enrolment in secondary schools have dropped at 70percent. What caused it? In Ogun State, most of the public schools are formerly mission schools. So when the government at that time handed those schools back to the missions, they introduced exorbitant fees and most of the parents could not afford them. So they dropped out of schools. When the Governor saw it, he said look, this is a time bomb because all these kids that were supposed to go to school were roaming the streets. The government just handed over those schools without providing alternatives. We have also visited some of the schools and found that they wanted to weed off students who were dependent on government. They were not taking government students anymore, they were taking fee-paying students. There was a marked difference in the way they were treated. There was a particular school, the Governor visited, I was there, and the students were saying ‘what have we done? In the morning they will wake us up and we will go to the river to fetch water, the fee-paying students have tap water, with hot water for bath. When they go to dinning, they eat in different places’. They said those people were eating chicken and they will not give them food. There is no better way to kill a human being than to tell him in that manner that he is a second-class citizen, you will kill that child. People can excel even if they are coming from the village and they don’t know anything. The best student from the village can struggle and make it in life, but when from their childhood, you tell them they are a second class, that is segregation in the same school. It is pure apartheid. The Governor said no. Fortunately for us, the past administration did not hand over the schools properly, because it was a military decree that took over those schools in the 70s, which became part of the law when there was transition to civilian rule. For you to give those schools back, you needed to repeal that decree, which requires going to the House of Assembly. They did not do that. So, the Governor said no way, the schools should go back to government because it was not properly handed over. A lot of proprietors went to court and lost because they said there was no law. Nobody can just say I give you back your schools. There was a law that took over those schools and before you can give back those schools, you must go back to the House of Assembly. If it was military, you can do another decree and they will give you back.

Ibikunle Amosun, Governor of Ogun State.

Anyway, the government took back the schools and the missions were coming to see the Governor. They were agitating for their schools, the Governor said, give me sometime, let me build schools that are of standard because in this Ogun State, most of the public schools were built by the missionaries. By giving back to the missions, of course you are short-changing the students. Like I told you, the enrolment failed by 70 percent. That was what brought about the Model Schools projects to replace those established schools that have become public schools. Government spent its own money on them but the missions now want to take them back. The Governor said no, let us do our own schools, when we do our own schools, the we can now consider repealing that decree and giving back the schools and transmitting the kids there. But I must tell you, it is a very big dream that the Governor had, to give the kids in public schools the same kind of facilities, even better than what you have in all the schools that were discriminating against public kids. That was what brought about these model schools.

But now, there are some challenges because the value the Governor wants to give to the schools and the treatment he wants to give the kids is coming at a very high cost. That is why we said we have an experimental one at Akinale. Now, what happened is that we found out that even the students cannot pay for those standard schools, which is why most of them have not opened. We are using this one as experiment. As it were now, it takes roughly about N3million in a year for the kind of facilities and the kinds of standard we give each child to run that school per child. We know that these public schools, the parents cannot pay for it. What do we do? The people at Akinale are not paying anything now, by the coming session, students will pay N1.2million that is N400, 000 per term. That means we have to find N1.8million from somewhere to augment because per child, you need about N3million. It is a boarding school. That is what we are working at. That is why all other schools are not opened yet. Basically, that is what has happened. The Governor wants the best for the people; that is what we are doing. We are not saying we are perfect. We are looking for solutions. We are looking to get individuals and bodies that are interested in sponsoring students, so that we pull a fund so that when the parent of a child pays N1.2million from that fund, we can augment. Then a child can have a first class education. That is what we are trying to do.

You seem to be doing a lot on Federal Roads, What are you doing about state roads. Many are complaining their roads are in deplorable state?
When we came here, we first sat down and said we have to first build the roads that maximally benefit everybody. When you are doing roads, there is hierarchy. The one that benefits most, that is the spine, the major roads are the ones you do first. We don’t claim that government ends with this administration. Government is a continuum. If past administrations have been doing this, we would have found something else to do. But we have started it. When you do the major spines, somebody else will not have to re-do the roads. That is why we called the roads, Ogun Standard. When these roads are fixed, with regular maintenance, they are designed for about 30 years upward. So, what it means is that whosoever that is coming after us does not have to spend money on them. What he has to do is just minimal maintenance, while he can do other things. So, it is a cascading down effect. You start from the major spines, which benefit everybody.

Dayo Adeneye

Besides, these are economic hub roads; these are the roads that contribute meaningfully to our IGR. Ogun State does not just come to be second in Nigeria on IGR. When we came to office, Ogun State was about 29 out of 36. But now, we are number 2. One of the things we realised when we came is that infrastructure is important for the economy of the state. Nobody will come here when your roads are bad, you cannot even have access and what do you need to do? You do the major spines.

What is the government doing to help the inner roads, since the administration has barely two years left?
Even now, we have not finished the spines. Look these roads, as I am telling you are the economic nerve centres. Look at the roads we are doing from Sango to Ojodu. It is a state road, a total of about 40kilometres. Do you know how many people that live on road? Millions on that road. A lot of people work in Lagos, who erroneously pay their taxes in Lagos, they live along that road, but they are in Ogun State. They have been neglected over the years, now we have spent over N90billion on that road. If we are able to fix that major one, anybody coming from their houses, the road will take you straight to Berger, when you get through third Mainland bridge you are on your way to Lagos Island and you can go. Right now, people have to wake up at 2.30 am or 3.am before they can get to work. That is from Akute, Alagbole, Agbado and all those areas, Ishashi, but you now say, what happens to the 500 metres from his home to the main road? What that tells you is that because of the neglect of the past, we are starting a road revolution. We expect whoever succeeds us will take it over from where we stopped. That is not say we have not done any of these side roads. But our priority and focus is on the major spines. Among the roads we advertised, there are 171 rural roads; that is, three roads per CDA per local council. Now, these roads have been there, it was a transparent process. Now, we have core semi-urban roads, there are 25 of them. So it is not as if we are not attending to these roads at all. We have done so many of them. Go to Ota, all the roads within Ota Township over 10 kilometres, not major spines, within Ota Township, they have been fixed. Go to Aiyetoro, go to all these major cities within Ogun State. Go to Ijebu-Ode, all the roads are fixed. These are small street roads within Ijebu-Ode that have been also fixed. So, if you look at the number of streets and roads within Ogun State, they are probably in millions. We cannot fix all of them.

Knowing what government is doing depends on how you manage information.
I told you that it was a transparent process. We advertised for it and of course, some people won the contracts. CEEC is working for us; PW is working for us; HITECH, and so many others are working for us. Indigenous companies are also working for us as well. There are so many contractors working for us in Ogun State. Look at the present jobs advertised, deliberately, we are saying, they should be indigenous contractors in all these rural roads. While we are not saying big contractors should not apply, we are saying let our focus be on indigenous contractors in the 171 rural roads we want to do. These are facts you can crosscheck, most of the people that are making enquiries and collecting the tender forms are local contractors. It is open; it is a transparent process. Even you, you can tender if you have ability to do the roads. Of course, we can judge you. There is tender variation that we do; it is a transparent process.

What is the level of compliance with ease of doing business model in your state?
The ease of doing business does not dwell so much on the roads. We were the ones that established what is called the One Stop Centre. If you get the facts, you will find that of all the foreign direct investment that came to Nigeria, about 45 per cent came to Ogun State. We must be doing some things right. That is what ease of doing business entails. Ogun State has always been there. They did not come here. In fact, they were leaving. So, there must be something we are doing right, that is ease of doing business. Everybody is coming now. The Governor just opened another company. As at today over 100 companies have come into Ogun State in the last six years that we are here. We have provided security, which was missing in the state before. Nobody dared in this Ogun State; people were not working beyond 6.00pm. There were cults everywhere. Now there is nothing like that. Even factories were only doing one shift in those days, now they are doing three shifts. The other day, one of Chief Executives from Agbara was telling the Governor that thank God, they are now doing three shifts again. Those days in wild wild Ogun State, you dared not. It was only morning shift. To get your papers in government, you want to get Certificate of Occupancy (CofO), there is something we call One Stop Shop. The biggest brewery in the world, they just berthed in Ogun State. Beside Nestle, there is Olam, probably the biggest logistics company in Nigeria. Why are they coming to Ogun State all of a sudden? Even companies making tiles. Tiles are being exported from Ogun State now on daily basis in millions. They are flown out of Nigeria.



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