Kingsley OlorunfemI Fanwo, a Journalist by training and the Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State defends his boss over series of allegations and insinuations ranging from demolition to non-payments of workers salary as he recently hosts SECURITY MONITOR’s Wale Abideen and Shola Akinyele in his office in Lokoja.
SOME PEOPLE ARE SAYING THE GOVERNOR CAME ON BOARD AND EMBARKED ON DEMOLITION RATHER THAN BUILDING NEW PROJECT. HOW WOULD JUSTIFY THIS?
We have heard a lot of things about the demolition of roundabout across Lokoja and we are of the view that those that are criticizing the government for the demolition of Lokoja Township arhaic structures don’t get the perspective right. Lokoja is critical to the economic, tourism and commerce of Nigeria and, such town should be a very beautiful city. Lokoja before the advent of this administration was very dirty and that discourages tourism and investors. Some of these roundabouts we are talking about are old and out fashioned. The government is actually planning to put in place good roads, attractive round-about and good structures among others projects not only in Lokoja but across the state and make it attractive to tourists and that informed the reason why these roundabouts have to be demolished
SINCE YOU STARTED THE DEMOLITION, IT HAS NOT BEEN RECONSTRUCTED. GIVING THE IMPORTANCE OF SUCH ROUNDABOUT, DON’T YOU THINK IT CAN LEAD TO VEHICLE ACCIDENT?
Well, we have heard a lot about the issue and the governor we have now in Kogi State does not believe in superstition. He has determined to re-engineer the state and gives it the rightful place among other states of the federation. So, he has nothing to do with the fetish insinuation. You cannot just be reconstructing the roundabout when your roads are bad; all the roads we met on ground are bad and you want to start reconstruction. You have to face away the entire roundabout before you start other things. So, the reconstruction will start very soon after the ongoing reform. The reform is important because only the reform can save the state of some funds as today; Kogi State is taken about between 2.2 to 2.4 Billion every month. Our internally generated revenue is between 4 and 5 Hundred Million Naira every month. This is still less than 3 Billion and we pay 3 Billion as salary. So, to pay full salary, we still have to borrow and the civil servants in the state are less than 15 per cent of our population. So, if you used all the revenue you have to service just 15 per cent of the population. How are you going to handle the remaining 85 per cent. This is the reason why the reform is very important and already the reform is yielding the desire fruit. We are told that when the screening exercise is concluded, we will be able to save millions of naira every month.That is why the governor is determined to use the reform to save funds, and gather a lot of resource to be able to develop the state.
CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US BRIEFLY SOME OF THE PLANS OF THR GOVERNOR FOR THE STATE
Yes, the governor is determined to ensure that the state develops in terms of industry, to generate jobs for the youths and to raise the bar in the educational development for the state. We are determined to improve tourism sector of the state and make it the epic center of the tourism excellent in the country
THE IDEA OF NOT PAYING STAFF AND CIVIL SERVANT, WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN IF PEOPLE GO TO BED WITHOUT FOOD?
The governor is quite aware of that but you see when you paid ghost the money that is meant for the living then, there will be curses.Let the ghost be taken their money in heaven while, the living take their salary here. So, I think the governor has been magnanimously enough to direct that the October’s salary should be paid to everybody including the ghost but the governor has said that the month of October will be the last the ghost will be taken. That is why he is appealing to people to be calmed and ensuring that the exercise is for the workers and reason why they have not taken the full salary is because we have so many ghost names on the pay rolls. So, when you take away these ghost names, it would be possible for them to take their full salary and enjoy their entitlement, so, they should be patient.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ALLEGING THAT SINCE GOV. BELLO CAME ON BOARD STANGE THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING TO THE STATE, DEATH OF PROMINENT KOGITE AND EVEN THAT OF HIS OWN NEW BORN BABAY. DO YOU THINK MORE OF THIS WILL COME OR BETTER DAYS AHEAD?
You see, some of these things are spurious, malicious, and uncharitable and they are things that do not hold water. People will continue to give birth and people will continue to die. This is decisipn pf the God Almighty. Price Audu died before Governor Yahaya Bello was inaugurated. So, are we going to say that Wada too was fetish and that he killed Audu? It is natural people would continue to raise unfunded allegation and we just have to disregard some of these unfounded and illogical allegations.
YOU JUST MENTIONED THAT THE ALLOCATION IS LOW OR THE INTERNAL REVENUE IS LOW, IS THEIR ANY PLAN BY THE STATE GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE INTERNALLY GENERATED REVENUE OF THE STATE?
The governor has a solid back ground, having worked as a commissioner that distributed the welfare of the nation and as an accountant. He understands the integration of generating revenue and he is working on that. He is bringing in the best hands to the state to ensure that Kogi State Government witnesses an accelerated development. We have no business complaining in this state. We have mineral resources in the state. They should give us commercial advantage to water everything even the agricultural land Kogi is fertile. So, the government has ensure that the internal generated revenue improve also as well. We are working round the clock to develop and create more wealth. We cannot continue to pay the kind of salary that we paid but for instance, if we develop agriculture, so, many people will leave local government and join the farming lands. If you are working in the local government and they are paying 18 thousand naira and you discover that the man who has a farm settlement is riding a jeep, then, you will know that you have to relinquish the poor paid work to join the lucrative farming and honestly speaking the government is trying his best to make sure that we reduce our overhead.
IT WAS LEARNT THAT THERE IS CRACK OR DIVISION AMONG THE WIVES OF THE GOVERNONOR. DO YOU THINK SUCH UNSETTLED HOME WILL NOT IMPAIR GOVERNANCE IN THE STATE?
We are dealing with the governor Yahaya Bello as the official governor of kogi state; we are not dealing with the Yahaya Bello husband, wives and the family. But we are dealing with Yahaya Bello the governor of kogi state. I think whatever that happen with his family should be a private affair.
DO YOU THINK FAMILY CRISIS WILL NOT AFFECT HIS ABILITY TO GOVERN THE STATE?
So far, the governor has shown a lot of happiness to us meaning that he has a happy family.