The Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu opened a can of worms last week, when he accused his friend and predecessor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, of bequeathing a massive debt profile for the state. Expectedly, the immediate past governor is not taking the accusation lightly. TOPE FAYEHUN writes.
Six months after he assumed office as the 6th executive governor of Ondo state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu ,SAN last week steered the political hornet’s nest in the state. He accused his predecessor , Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, of leaving behind a whopping sum of N220 billion debt for the state.
Prior to this shocking revelation, the people of the state had been expecting the governor to give state of the state address, particularly the financial status of the state.
But , Akeredolu decided to overlook that and move on with the activities of government ,thereby making people wonder why it will take him long before he could come out to address the people of the state on the issue.
Even, some members of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), accused him of having some alliance with Mimiko,who has been his friend from the university days at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife OAU.
Their relationship,which has remained cordial, was quite evident during the handing over ceremony held at the Cocoa Conference Hall of the Governor’s office, where they threw banters at each to the admiration of their supporters.
Some even suspected that Akeredolu and Mimiko must have struck a deal before last year’s governorship election in the state that made him to retain the current Head of Service, Mr. Toyin Akinkuotu.
When the former governor declared that he left the whooping some of N20 billion in the coffers of the government at the expiration of his tenure, Akeredolu and his team never denied or said anything in that regard. This silence to some,was translated to mean acceptability.
As such it was a surprise to many last week Wednesday , Akeredolu decided to spill the beans on how his friend and school mate managed the state’s finances, during the swearing in of Commissioners and 10 Special Advisers held at the International Events Centre (The DOME), Akure, the state capital.
Clearly, it would seem that the governor wanted to set the record straight now that his own cabinet was coming on board.
Akeredolu declared that his friend, the former governor, left behind a whopping sum of N220 billion debt, thereby making it difficult for his administration to immediately execute and implement programmes and projects.
Akeredolu, in his address, shortly after the new cabinet members were sworn-in, said Mimiko left Internal debt of over N53 ,719billion, while External Debt was N17,485 billion .
The governor who further disclosed that unpaid salaries and allowances left by his predecessor from August to December,2016 was N17,279 billion, noted that the unpaid salaries and allowances from January to February 2017 was N6,911billion.
According to the governor, “Ondo State Pension Liabilities: N4,800,965,850.00, Ondo State Gratuity: N15,043,537, 042.74, Unpaid Local Government Salaries and Allowances Aug to Dec: 2016 N9,320,568,782.41.
“Unpaid Local Government Salaries and Allowances (Jan. to Feb., 2017): N5,192,437,503.30, Local Government Pension Liabilities: N25,237,348,457.26, Local Government Gratuities Liability: N20,965,598,590.61,Contractors’ Liabilities: N39,740,423,934.76, Outstanding payment requests in the Office of the Accountant-General without cash backing: N5,451,352,494.25.”
Akeredolu also chooses the venue to debunked the claims of the last administration that they left sum N20 billion ,saying they only left a sum of N9,956billion.
According to him, with a total inherited debt of over N220 billion, it should not be difficult for anyone to know that the government’s capacity for seeming elastic adjustment to cater for the people has been stretched to its limit.
His words : “There is no gain asserting the obvious; our Administration is not in any position for frivolities. All of us must gird our loins for the great task ahead. The picture is not good. Therefore, all acts with the potential of pushing us deeper into economic crisis must be jettisoned. We earnestly promise to provide the needed leadership.”
The governor noted that, despite challenges encountered by the administration since assumption of office, he had approached governance with resilient determination.
” To put out this quagmire, we have already commenced the process of re-engineering our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) efforts which will soon begin to yield the desired results.
“The Administration has, however, been able to embark on projects which impact positively on the lives and general well-being of our people. We are beginning to register our presence in the consciousness of the people through our activities in virtually all sectors”,the governor stated.
The revelation pulled the former governor out of hibernation. In a swift reaction, Mimiko denied leaving a burden of N220bn for the new government, saying his government did not contract any external loan for all of his eight years in office.
Mimiko,in statement issued by the former Commissioner for Information in the state ,Hon. Kayode Akinmade, insisted on leaving behind N20 billion at the treasury of the state.
While expressing concern over the figures in the speech of his successor , Mimiko said it was necessary for him to put the records straight with no malice or ill-feelings.
He noted that of all the listed indebtedness, only the state’s seven year bond was directly incurred by his government to build major infrastructure across the State.
According to him, “For the avoidance of any doubt, our administration left about N20Billion in the coffers of the State at its exit on February 2017.
“This include: N7.37.Billion in the Current Account; N7.53Billion as Fixed Deposit; N1.2Billion in the MDG Account; $346,000 and 443,000Euro in the Domiciliary Account, including the N825million Sure-P fund at the Local Government Account!
“The above amount, most of which came late into our tenure was to be used to offset a chunk of owed salaries before the then Accountant General made a curious disappearance.On figures listed as External Debt, it is necessary to state the following.
“Our administration did not incur any foreign debt in all its 8 years! Also, the External debt stock as at February 2017 was US49,958,268.49, which (if translated at 1 US $ = N305) is N15.23billion.
“All of these external debt stock was inherited from previous administrations. Again, we did not contract any external loan for all of our 8 years! Well aware of the fact that government is a continuum, we continued to service the debts, some of which spanned over twenty years.
Mimiko ,in his reply said, “Internal debt profile, we aver, stood at N53.159 billion comprising mainly of salary bail out loan of N13.76billion, Excess Crude Account loan N9.79 billion, CBN restructuring FGN Bond N4.13billion, CBN budget support N7.5billion and Ondo State 7-Year bond of N17.6billion.Of all the above listed indebtedness, only the Ondo State 7-Year Bond was directly incurred by our government to build major infrastructure across the State.”
His words, “Yes, we experienced the sad reality of salaries arrears like almost all the States of the federation. That is why unpaid salaries for the period August 2016 to Jan 2017 was N32.40billion, with N20.93 billion owed State Government Workers and N11.469billion owed Local government workers, including political appointees.
“Even at that, it must also be clear that we left office on the 24th February, 2017 while Federal Allocation for February 2017 salaries was received by the incumbent Government on the 28th of February, 2017. We could not have paid February salaries when we did not receive February allocation before exit.
“On yet another point raised in the speech, we are interested in knowing what N39.740 billion, said to be contractors liability means, if outstanding requests at the Accountant Generals office is N5.45billion. We assume this may represent contracts awarded by previous governments which were yet to be completely executed since no clear information was offered in the speech on this figure.
“What we know is that if this were so, such figures can not be considered as debts until such contracts are executed at specified milestones, stages before which payments are not due. There can only be debts upon performance. What can be considered a debt, in all good conscience, are the outstanding requests at the Accountant Generals Office.”
The former governor, however urged the government and interested citizens of our state to avail themselves of the true state of our indebtedness from the Debt Management Office and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
Mimiko said, the reports are clear and unambiguous about the fact that Ondo State remained the least borrowed of the Six South Western States and of the 9 Oil Producing States as at our administrations exit in February, 2017, saying this would say a lot about his administration debt management record.
Clearly, the friendship between Akeredolu and Mimiko is on the line over this recent exchange. But, while the governor is trying to explain why he has not met expectations, especially with workers being owed salaries, his predecessor is apparently trying to protect what is left of his legacy considering that his administration owed workers salaries before he left office.
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