GOVERNMENT OF LIES
Government is a Trust. Those who are priviledged to serve in government are, therefore, expected to be trustworthy and credible: their words must be truthful and factual. Doing otherwise, erodes the legitimacy of a government and damages the repution of those who occupy public offices. Lying by government officials is a critical factor in the well
known disconnect between the Nigerian state and the society it superintends over.
While the phenomenon of telling lies by high government officials is not new in Nigeria, the Senator Ibikunle Amosun’s government in Ogun State has taken it to an unprecedented high level. In its one year of existence, the Amosun government has elevated lying to the level of “fundamental policy and directive principles of state action”. It is terrible!
ALL OGD’S APPOINTEES ARE THIEVES?
To the specifics. In a Press Conference a few days ago, the Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, in a manner that depicted her as having learnt rapidly from her Principal, made wild and unsubstantiated allegations that members of the immediate past administration in Ogun State were all rogues who habitually stole
government funds. She alleged that the “Daniel Administration operated no fewer than 300 bank accounts, which it used to siphon funds”. And what is the “evidence” cited for the grave allegation? According to Madam Commissioner, “the state government discovered N1bn fraud during a recent review of banking transactions and charges carried out
by her ministry”. Fact of the case, however, is that this is an exercise which started during the last administration, in which forensic auditing was stimulated on bank remittances, charges, and interests, and refunds made to government coffers. Civil srevants in the Office of the Accountant-General were trained and equipped to do this routinely. This routine was carried out without reading meanings of fraud and underhand dealings. The comment on the 300 bank accounts allegedly used to siphon funds reveals a shallow understanding of the dynamics of funds mobilization and treasury management in the public sector, given the wide-apart locations and different terrains that revenue generation operations entail as well as the operations of the activities of the various ministries, departments and agencies. The idea of using one major bank was mooted during our administration but was jettisoned because of the exigencies of operations cited above and the need to patronize as many banks as practicable in order to attract more banking business to the different parts of the state with the multiplier effects of that. What is more, the
experience of failed banks in the recent history of the country instructed us that putting all our eggs in one basket wasn’t prudent and wise. Given the hostility of the Amosun government to its predecessor, one would expect that the Commissioner should come up with the list of the Daniel administration officials who perpetrated the alleged fraud. It is absolutely irresponsible and uncough for Mrs Adeosun to make such unsubstantiated allegation. Holding the reins of government confers no liberty on anyone to slander innocent persons, especially those who served the state before her. To put a stop to this irresponsibility, those of us who served in the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration have instructed our lawyers to sue to court for criminal libel those irresponsible bunch of liers and their publicists.
THE DEBT: WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
But Mrs Adeosun wasn’t the first in the Amosun government to make such criminal allegation. Her principal, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, once similarly alleged that members of the Otunba Daniel administration collectively stole a whooping N87billion, which, in an earlier context, he mentioned as the total debt our administration left behind. At one point, N87 billion was debt; at another N87 billion was stolen! Oh, why would someone occupying the high office of a governor be so discreditable and cavalier with facts? Now, the same figure of N87 billion was once again parroted by Mrs Adeosun as amount of debt so far discovered. But her principal, the Governor, stated publicly when he went to the Olabisi Onabanjo University on inspection after the massive robbery operation on the University’s Permanent Campus, that N103 billion had already been discovered as inherited debt. What figure should the public believe?
LIABILITY MINUS ASSETS = DEBT
The truth, however, remains that we left a total liability of N49.2 billion with the following breakdown: N13.9 billion cash liabilty; N12.4 for national water scheme; and N22.9 billion as contingent liability. Cash liability is the total amount owed banks. The Amosun government should by now have finished paying off much of, if not all, the cash liability given the refunds that it has so far obtained from the OGROMA, SUBEB, Olokola, Housing fund, Agric fund, etc refunds and grants. The liability for the national water scheme is a world bank grant guaranteed by the
Federal Government, in varying amounts, for all the 36 states of the federation. It is a long term loan. The third component is contingent liability which is the aggregate of pension arrears, workers deductions, yet-to-be-paid leave allowances, subventions to tertiary institutions, among others, which the last administration could not pay
because of the global economic meltdown. We inherited this debt component in 2003, and we paid it off without raising any issue in the public. And we state it here again that the N49.2 billion liability was not a figure we reported
arbitrarily like Amosun’s financial witchdoctors. It is contained in the Report of the study conducted by the Office of the Accountant-General of Ogun State. The Accountant-General and his staff that did the Report were not political appointees; rather, they are civil servants who are still the very ones serving the Amosun government. And the Audit firm, Ernst and Young, commissioned by Governor Amosun to do forensic auditing of the state’s accounts, actually reported a lower debt stock than that reported by the Office of the Accountant-General. More fundamentally, Ernst and Young actually revised upward the bequethed Assets from the N27.5 billion in the Accountant-General Report to N31.1 billion with the following breakdown:
*Liquid Assets from N3.5 billion to N3.7 billion
*Investment from N4.9 billion to N6.7 billion
*Treasury Clearance Fund from N18.8 billion to N20.66 billion
*Advances remained the same amount at N89.2 million.
Add these financial Assets to the huge intangible assets (especially in the area of human capital) and the undeniable visible physical infrastructure ( the sprawlingsecretariat complex, the OPIC Plaza, the Event Centre in Isheri, the multi-billionNaira power project, the three FIFA-standard stadia, among others) that we erected all over the state in our eight years of governance, it would be realised that the “huge debt” claim is a most dubious and mischievious one. With a quantified asset base in multiples of the reported liability, the hues and cries of debt is no more than
politicking at the basest level. It is quite unfortunate that a government headed by someone who beats his chest
all over the place that he is a Chartered Accountant would declare publicly that it’ll take it till the end of this year (19 months after being in office) to establish the correct figure of its inherited debt. If that does not give the government away as dishonest, it certainly shows it as lacking in capacity. And it is more tragic that Mrs Adeosun who is supposedly also an Accountant and a Banker would come to the public to display so poignantly her professional incompetence and dishonesty.
LYING ABOUT NEW LOANS
This embarrassing lack of competence and honesty was further displayed by Mrs Adeosun when she claimed that their government was not taking loan from Brazil but merely allowing contractors from the country (Brazil) to execute projects for the government on contractor-finance basis. Even a 100-level Accounting student in the university knows that the difference between a loan and contractor-finance is like that between six and half-a-dozen. How has the quality of governance so drastically fallen in Ogun State!
HUGE REVENUE, LITTLE PERFORMANCE
By its own claim, the Amosun government has increased the state’s IGR by 143 percent from the level we left behind. We would have applauded the government for that feat if that increase had come from its policies and actions in boosting the productive base of the state’s economy rather than from putting yoke of heavy taxion on helpless workers, artisans and petty traders. We are also aware that a good part of the reported increase in IGR comes from heavy industrial concerns that our administration attracted to the state and who started operations after we left government. It is fraudulent and ungodly for someone to appropriate the glory of another person’s work without even an acknowledgement. Inspite of the increase in the State’s IGR, the huge monthly federal allocation from Abuja, receipts from the Excess Crude Account, income from the withdrawn fuel subsidy, and the refunds and receipts mentioned earlier, the Amosun government has virtually nothing to show as achievement to the people beyond the routine of security expenditure and few textbooks given to school children. Senator Amosun and his
government should therefore look for more sensible and credible explanation to give to the people of Ogun State beyond the unintelligent lies they daily feed them with.