‘Constitutional amendments will be concluded by current assembly’
Ajibola Famurewa, representative of Ijesa South Federal Constituency of Osun State spoke to TUNJI OMOFOYE on issues concerning the National Assembly and the state government. Excerpts:
Osun and the wage burden ON the issue of salary, I want to believe that there was misinformation along the line. People were not well informed about the true position of state of finance and salary payment in the state.
People have been talking about bailout from the government at the centre. The whole story about the bailout has not been opened up to our people.
I think that was what actually caused confusion and misunderstanding and the state government has a very good intention. Government intention is to make sure that they pay workers but unfortunately the resources at its disposal is not enough to pay the entire workforce of Osun State.
So they decided in their own wisdom to pay the junior workers on grade levels 01 to 07, their full salaries and pay the senior officers in part.
Not that the government will not pay the balance but the authority did not have enough cash at its disposal by the time the January salary was paid.
They are still working on how to garner more funds to make sure that all the salary arrears are paid completely. Assistance from members of the National Assembly We are aware that this issue is not peculiar to Osun State alone as I can say categorically that we have about 25 states experiencing this ugly situation.
Though at National Assembly level, this issue came up and we picked the present leadership up, I mean President Muhammadu Buari on this issue but basically, I think what we need to do is to look inward because if you look at the situation of Nigerian economy today, unless if we have a different scenario starting from tomorrow, but as at today, the revenue coming into the federal purse may not be as buoyant as it used to be simply because we have relied so much on oil for a very long time.
Our leaders forgot to develop other resources that may as well bring revenue to the purse of the Federal Government to complement what we are having from oil and if you look at international market today; it is not favourable.
And it would be like this unless things get better tomorrow. So each state needs to look inward on how to manage their resources and how to develop the resources within its domain to boost IGR in a way to complement whatever they have from the federation account to pay the workers.
Still the state will want to do one or two developmental projects to enhance their infrastructural development. So we need to be very careful in managing it in a way that it will not even affect our workers and in a way it will not also affect the masses.
We want to develop industries within our terrains so that we can have more money to complement what we have from the federal purse. At the National Assembly, we are discussing with the executive arm of government on the way to handle the matter in a way that will not affect most of the states and parties involved.
But to me, I believe we still need to call a stakeholders meeting in this state where the government, labour leaders, artisans, community leaders, religious leaders, opinion leaders and political leaders, will be involved.
All of us will sit down and assess the state holistically. What do we have that we can develop? How much are we getting presently from the federal allocation? What do we need to pay pour workers on monthly basis? What is the short fall and how do we need to resolve this.
This has to be a joint decision and more so we need to encourage our people that are benefitting from government to pay their taxes. But we don’t want to introduce additional tax that will make life difficult for our people in Osun but the existing ones, let our people pay them.
We need to sit down together as a people and decide how do we move forward from the current experience… Osun’s public admission of helplessness If you look at the situation on ground and compare it to what obtained eight or ten months back, the state revenue coming from the centre has gone down drastically.
Before now we were collecting between N4.4billion and N4.6billion on monthly basis from federal allocation apart from our IGR. Our IGR varies between N900 million and N1.6 billion monthly.
Then if you add that to our monthly allocation from the federal allocation, it gives us N5.5 billion plus every month to pay salaries, do projects and run government in the state.
But along the line, the allocation from central purse dropped from about N4.4b to around N1 billion and recently to ridiculous N400m. If you juxtapose this with about N3.6 billion overhead that the state government needs to settle its bills, we need to collect allocation for three to four months to pay one month salary.
Definitely if I am in the shoe of Mr. Governor, I will confess that the issue is beyond me because there is no way for him to pay two months salaries.
He must have collected allocation of six or seven months to be able to meet the target. If you look at the financial market, the banking industry, there are rules and regulations; there is a limit to amount of money that a particular state can borrow from financial institutions, you can’t go beyond that limit.
And if you find yourself in such situation, definitely there is no other way to say that this issue is clearly beyond him, which I believe Mr. Governor had admitted openly.
Agitation for resource control I think there was a move in that direction by the National Assembly to realise the objective. But unfortunately we are unable to conclude the constitutional amendment in the 7th Assembly.
But the House Rules have been amended before the end of that Assembly to enable us continue from where we stopped so that we will not start all over again in the 8th Assembly.
So by the grace of God, we are going to continue from where we stopped on constitutional amendments. All the aspects that have been treated in the 7th Assembly would be completed in the 8th Assembly.
That particular aspect of the constitution is one of the aspects that we want to amend in a way that the states will have a stake in whatever resources they have within their domain.
Reduction in Osun staff strength As a party and government, I don’t think we are thinking in that direction for now. What we are looking at, I must say, is that we are looking at a way to develop all our resources to generate more revenue internally so that we can complement what we are having from Abuja to settle our workers and fulfill our electoral promises to the people.
Chairmanship of APC BOT BOT Chairman is a very sensitive seat that we need a disciplined and thorough party man to handle. And if you look at the leadership that we have now and the way and manner that different offices have been shared; personally I will prefer it comes down South particularly to the Southwest.