Ayoade Folashade Arike is the Secretary to the Government of Kogi State. The elegant woman was passionate about the development of her state when she hosts SECURITY MONITOR’s Editor, Wale Abideen and Photo Editor Shola Akinyele in her office in Lokoja where she bisects policies and programs of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration and draws a conclusion that Kogi State will be a cynosure of people’s eyes by the end of the APC led administration in the state.
CAN YOU PLEASE SHARE WITH US SOME OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO ADNIMISTRATION IN THE PAST HUNDRED DAYS?
The past hundreds have witnessed tremendous change in the state. We have been able to identify financial leakages and therefore embark on workers screening exercise. This exercise has recorded huge success by identifying ghost workers who have remained a conduit pipe through which the state lost huge financial fortune. Ghost workers belong to the grave yards and therefore not supposed to compete with the little treasure meant for the living. Imagine a situation where the federal allocation to the state is little above two billion and workers salary is also in that sum. That means every allocation the state has goes into paying salary. When this administration came on board three months ago, the governor, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello was disturbed by the fact that the entire population of the state is about four millions and yet the civil servants in the government pay list were about three millions. The inquisitiveness of the government to be prudent with the state resources led to the inauguration of the Workers Screening Committee led by retired General Paul Okutimo. The committee did a nice job. They were able to realize that many people who claimed to be workers in the state were collecting their salaries in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and even outside the country. If you work in Kogi state and your bank statement reads that you consistently withdraw outside the state, the question should be raised on why that happens. It then suggests that it’s either that person or those people are ghost workers or workers in diaspora. You cannot be working in Kogi state and all your money transactions are carried out outside the state. Also a lot of them could not even show up for personal identification, we also have cases of people using fake results, fake appointment letters, there are cases of one person collecting the salary of eighty people. I remember a case of one person collecting up to 1.5 million every month and he was asked why is he collecting the salary of about eighty people, his response was that he was collecting the money to take care of other people who are not employed. Imagine, in a state where infrastructure is a huge challenge, Kogi state was created almost 25 years ago and we cannot see anything to show for our long years of existence.
It will interest you to know that we have ghost schools. The name of such schools exists on papers and government pay salaries to the non-existing Teachers. We have identified all this financial loopholes and to us, that is a great achievement. Government is going to save over #1billion at the end of this screening exercise.
Aside that when we came into power Lokoja was like a dumping ground, rubbish and all sorts of wastes littered the capital city. We therefore made monthly exercise a priority. In fact, the Governor personally launched the every last Saturday of the month compulsory sanitation exercise because the Bible tells us that cleanliness is next to Godliness. The existence of potholes and bad roads worried the government who ordered a critical review of the roads in the state. I can confidentially tell you that this state will wear a new look in the next few months.
Kogi state is very special, we are not just a confluence state because of River Niger and River Benue, we are confluence state because Kogi state shares boundaries with over ten states including Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. We are in the center, so we need to develop the state to taste. What makes Lagos the Center of Excellence is that Lagosians work 24 hours as a result of street lights, good road network and security services in the state. By the time we erect street lights and other infrastructures in Kogi state, you’ll see that economic activities will boom in the state. Here is a city that bordered both the south and the north, therefore development of critical infrastructure in the state will compel travellers to have stopover in Lokoja and this will enhance the economy of the state and it will increase our revenue. There is plan for the construction of parks including trailers pack. All these are the areas of paramount to the Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s administration
The Board of Internal Revenue has been giving free hands to operate. They are now autonomous; we have given them a befitting office. The World Bank Assisted Project gave them vehicles and motorcycles and other tools to work. We intend to give them target based on our budget. Just like what is obtainable in Lagos state, if we have a budget of 300 billion in a year, then we divide that by twelve. So, every month we expect them to remit that to us, we would put them on the run. Here comes a government that is ready to work for the development of the state.
The state government will support them with everything they need to achieve this. Kogi state may be learning from other states today but by the time we are through with our developmental policies and project other states will be learning a lot from us.
THERE IS INSINUATION THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE SCREENED OUT DOING THE WORKERS SCREENING EXERCISE WERE NOT INFORMED OF THEIR OFFENCE?
We are going to make the reports known to the public. There is no civil servant that will be witch-hunt. Governor Yahaya Bello has said it from the onset that he is not here to witch-hunt anybody. He said he is not going to retrench anybody but it is the mandate of the Yahaya Bello led administration to ensure probity, equity,fairness and judicious spending of the resources so that the entire state will feel the impact of good governance for instance, if there is a teacher without a minimum teaching requirement of N.C.E (National Certificate in Education) how would he teach well. And it is generally believed that nobody can give what he or she does not have. We have some teachers that have just primary school certificate. In as much as the government is not retrenching anybody those without required certification would be screened out while those with genuine certificate will be allow to continue their work.
RECENTLY THERE ARE SOME WORKERS WHO CLAIMED THEY WERE STOPED FROM THEIR WORK AND WE SAW THEM STAGING A PROTEST TO THE STATE GOVERNMENT RECENTLY. WHAT IS THE PLIGHT OF THESE PEOPLE?
Those are people employed in 2015 by the previous government. We realized that they did not pass through due process. This administration is a government of fairness and equity. Every worker must passé through the civil service commission. That is the due process and the position of the law. And in a situation where they are not duly employed we have to stop them and set up a committee to look into that and normalize their appointments. It’s just a matter of time their issue will be looked at and certified people will be engaged.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER AS CHALLENGES FACING THE GOVERNMENT?
It actually the crises in the state House of Assembly. In as much as it is a separate arm of government the existence of divided legislature will not do well to the executive and by extension the state generally. The case is in court and we are eagerly waiting for the outcome of the judgment.
WILL THE CRISIS WITHIN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY AFFECT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE BUDGET?
We are implementing our budget. The state cannot be put into hold. The crisis in the state House of Assembly cannot cripple the entire state. We are moving on; as you came into this town can’t you see massive road construction going on. The government is running.
WHAT ARE THE PROSPECT RESIDENTS OF THE STATE SHOULD BE LOOKING FORWORD FOR?
I’m looking forward to hear or see residents of these state carrying placards after the four years of Governor Yahaya Bello, calling on him to continue beyond first term. I’m optimistic that the development that will come to this state will be so enormous that Kogi state will be a cynosure of people’s eyes. I have no doubt that the programs and policies of the current government are to be felt by the entire people and not a few as it was done in the past.