Why I delayed the implementation of new minimum wage - Dapo Abiodun - THE BUSINESS PACKAGE


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Why I delayed the implementation of new minimum wage - Dapo Abiodun

It was a twin celebration for Governor of Ogun State, Chief Dapo Abiodun, yesterday, as he marked his 60th birthday and 365 days in office. In this interview with some journalists, he speaks majorly about his achievements, especially in such sectors like education, security, health, works among others. YEMI ADEBISI brings excerpt.

You have always attributed your emer­gence as governor to God. But notwith­standing, many people believe certain political bigwigs, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, among others, helped your as­cension to power. Do you still have cordial relationship with these personalities?

Very cordial. They have been the pillars behind our emergence and have been supportive all the way.

You have since set up some committees on assumption of office as the governor of Ogun State to look into some policies and actions of your predecessor. But one year in the saddle, people are still expecting White Papers on the findings of these committees, what is possibly delaying these reports?

When we came in, we found out that many of the issues we met on ground require further explanations because the hand-over notes we got were rather hazy and we needed to hit the ground running. Yet we have so many uncompleted projects from previous administration so we need to take stock and be sure we prevent future occurrences of such. For in­stance, about a week after I came into office, I paid a visit to the State-owned tertiary healthcare facility at Sagamu – the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital based on information received at an earlier meeting with the hospital’s manage­ment. I was shocked at the level of rot in the hospital. That Teaching Hospi­tal used to be one of the best medical facilities in the country but, it had become a shadow of itself. Most of the medical equipment were obsolete and others dysfunctional. The mortu­ary and the entire vicinity was filled with bad odour, due to lack of main­tenance and non-availability of need­ed equipment to make it functional. I had to set up a nine-man committee headed by the Chief Medical Direc­tor of Reddington Hospital, Dr. Yemi Onabowale. The committee’s specific terms of reference include: To assess the current operations of the hospital in line with expectations as a teach­ing/tertiary institution; determine the state of facilities of the various units and departments and make recommendations to the state on the steps necessary to ensure sustainable operations in the institution.

Read Also: One Year In Office: What Governor Dapo Abiodun Failed To Do - OPINION

The committee was also to deter­mine quick wins and palliative ac­tions to stem further degeneration of the institution and facilities and review all third party arrangements in the institution, including the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) and other services provisioning arrangement and determine their level of compliance at the time of their engagement and with the ef­ficacy. We had an administrative panel on the Moshood Abiola Poly­technic and the Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technol­ogy. Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) which the ex-governor purportedly converted to Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUTECH) without the wherewithal to nurture the new institution. It is instructive to note that while the institution was being converted, on paper from MAPOLY to MAUTECH, the staff of Tai Solar­in College of Education were being owed 24 months’ salaries. When you consider the fact that MAPOLY had produced many leading lights in this country and was probably the most flourishing institution, being able to substantially generate and pay its staff’s salaries as and when due, the disruption caused should give any right-thinking administrator some concern. It was most galling misad­venture. 

These institutions were not functioning. Another Committee set up was on the Review of Appoint­ments and Promotions in the State Civil Service and Enterprises, to give us an informed assessment of employments and promotions be­tween February 1 and May 29, 2019. Yet, another one was set up to review the appointments, installations and promotions of 75 traditional rulers in the State in the twilight of the previous administration. Of course, we set up one to investigate the pro­priety of the last minutes contracts and projects. None of these was set up to witch-hunt. They were set up to provide the right type of leader­ship to enable the state to perform optimally. All the people brought in have the requisite training, exposure, experience and integrity to drive the sectors where we called them to serve. To review the appointment of 75 coro­net Obas, we had a paramount ruler, the Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olug­benle and other traditional rulers and others drawn from that institution. To head the projects, we brought in the President of the Nigerian Soci­ety of Engineers, Engr Adekunle Mokunolu as Chairman. You’ll see that in ensuring that we provide fo­cused and qualitative governance, we didn’t politicise these important assignments. Luckily, the state is re­nowned for its professionalism, com­mitment and dedication and I’m hap­py to report that all these committees delivered. They were thorough and we have started implementing their reports. They were set up to bolster participatory democracy, to promote or highlight the features of a solution, product, or service. OOUTH is grad­ually returning to its pride of place. You can see what they have been do­ing in the fight against COVID-19.

The immediate past governor said that his administration had paid all the contractors handling road and other infrastructural projects in full, yet, several uncompleted roads and projects litter the state. What is your take on this?

The Kunle Mokunolu committee is peopled by professionals – struc­tural engineers, architect, quantity surveyors, civil engineers, and law­yers etc to give us a balanced idea in ascertaining if or not there was budgetary provision for the projects in the Budget Estimates for the year. They were also to identify all out­standing significant construction/ projects in the State, ascertain the process of award of contracts in line with the established procedures and necessary regulations; determine the level of execution and quality of output of the projects; assess the dis­bursement pattern in line with the es­tablished process and procedure and to recommend any viable pathways for the completion of project, or in al­ternative, determine other actions, including, but not limited to reversal or cancellation of the contract that best align with the intent of the State Government. I am sorry to say that most of these projects fall short of the demands of international best practices. But we are determined to ensure that projects met on ground are completed since taxpayers’ mon­ey is involved and the welfare of the people is our priority.

Yes, most of them were fully paid for before these projects were and most without certificates but now contractors are still asking for vari­ations. We had to intervene before the Judicial Complex could become functional. We have moved into the supposed 250-bed specialist hospital now and we shall ensure that no project is turned into the people’s nightmare, no matter the nature of its conceptualisation. You have seen that some hitherto White Elephant projects have been tweaked to become relevant today. For example, the Tech Hub on Kobape Road on the outskirts of Abeokuta was one of the supposed Model School that was moribund for eight years. Ditto for the one in Iken­ne. We have turned that into a 128-bed Isolation and Treatment Centre for COVID-19. 

No project will be allowed to waste. We will creatively put all of them into purpose-driven ventures. The process for the preparation of year 2020 budget started with a sen­sitisation programme on the vision and mission of government. It was followed with town hall meetings in the three senatorial districts. We dis­covered the centrality of roads and so, we started rehabilitating roads by bringing the Ogun State Public Works Agency.

Apart from venturing into rehabilitation of public primary schools across the 236 wards of the state, what other steps have you taken to revamp the state’s education sector?

I have no illusion as to the posi­tion of education and the enormous challenges in the sector. As an ‘Omo’ Teacher, I know education is the best legacy that can be given to the leaders of tomorrow. At my inauguration as Governor, I declared a state of emer­gency on the sector with a firm pledge of ensuring that the pride we used to have in education will be completely restored. So far, we have walked our talks by increasing budgetary allo­cation to 20% this year, and we will continue to do that on yearly basis till the United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) benchmark is achieved. We are implementing the Universal Basic Education Act, as well as en­suring free education for all children in Primary and Junior Secondary Schools. The welfare of teachers is being given utmost priority in order to ensure that best brains are attract­ed and retrained in the system. Our Government approved and imple­mented career elongation of degree holders in Public Primary Schools for teachers who had been stagnated on Grade level 14 for years. We promoted 10,000 teachers whose elevation had been delayed since 2016, employed 1, 500 Basic School Tecahers and the Teaching Service Commission has also advertised to recruit about a thousand others. We facilitated the release of 2014-2017 UBE Matching grant to the tune ofN10 billion, which translates into 952 Education Proj­ects. 

These Projects have two special features including Yellow roof and terrazzo floor in our public primary and secondary schools. We donated free teaching aids. We keep expand­ing the capacity of our teachers. We sponsored ANCOPSS representa­tives to leadership training in Dubai to enhance their performance and service delivery on the job. We also reinstated Oluwole Olusanjo Maje­kodunmi, the Deputy Director in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology who was sacked by the previous administration. Also the former Chairman of the Nige­ria Union of Teachers, NUT, Ogun State Chapter, Dare Ilekoya who was compulsorily retired was also re-in­stated. This special act was displayed to show the government’s resolve in addressing all sorts of injustice. Pro­curement and Installation of Educa­tion Management Information Sys­tem (EMIS) Equipment and gadgets to aid data collection, collation and analysis in the Headquarters and all the 20 LGEAs in line with the technology-driven education mantra of the present admin­istration, and to fast track processing and management of data and other educational information. We have hosted Ogun SUBEB Website www. ogunsubeb.com.

Of course, the introduc­tion of virtual learning via the Ogundigiclass, a Digital Classroom for Primary and Secondary Schools learn­ers on OGBC, OGTV, DSTV 260 or GoTV 100 holding on Mondays to Fridays between 9:00am – 2:00pm has achieved tremendous success.

Having signed a timely memo­randum of understanding with the organised labour on the imple­mentation of new minimum wage, reports indicate that your admin­istration had yet to commence payment of the minimum wage. Why the delay?

Let me say that I am com­mitted to a “social contract” with the workers of Ogun State. We have always paid promptly since I came into office and never owed any worker. Our administration provides a ‘people-centred’ governance that identifies with their yearnings and, not the one that glorifies the welfare of cronies and family members. Our administration will continue to take the wel­fare of the civil servants as pri­ority to guarantee industrial harmony. We shall continue prompt payment of salaries, leave bonuses and other allow­ances. That is why the agree­ment of Wednesday, February 5, 2020, on the payment of the new minimum wage, with effect from January 1, 2020 re­mains. We have considered its affordability and sustainabili­ty, I can only appeal to the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Ni­geria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Con­gress (TUC), that they should trust us to pay. If in spite of the economic challenges on COVID-19, we are still paying regularly and not owing, we’ll not only pay the promised minimum wage, which in our case is higher than the nation­al minimum wage, we will pay the Consequential Adjustment of 27 per cent for Grade Levels 07 and 08 (20%), Grade Level 09 (19%), Grade Levels 10 to 14 (15%) and Grade Levels 15 to 17 (14%) as well. We shall not renege. We are adjusting the budget to accommodate these.

Your administration has made some huge investments in the area of security. At a time, you set up Security Trust Fund and procured patrol vans, motorbikes and communication gadgets for police and other security agencies which are quite commendable. Would you say these have had the desired impact on security situation of the state?

On assumption of office on May 29 this year, as the Chief Security Officer of the state, I decided to take some imme­diate steps, the first of which was to call a meeting of all our security chiefs and I was amazed to find out that a se­curity meeting of that nature had not been held three years before that day, which was May 30th. And at that meeting, a lot things unfolded. It was a meeting held to establish the needs of security agencies and also carry out a security assessment of the state. Sub­sequent to that, the security reports were submitted to me by all our security chiefs, and the report enumerated all that was required to keep our state secure, including how we can look after our investors and also those that have chosen our state to be their home. We realised the fact that our law enforcement agencies did not have a communication system or equipment in place in Ogun State, meaning that the com­missioner of police could not speak with his counterpart in the military or in the Depart­ment of State Service, DSS, or even worst still, he could not speak with his Area Com­manders or the DPO in any of the police stations across the state.

There was hardly any func­tional vehicle. There were no tracking devices. There was hardly enough finance to look after the welfare of the person­nel and obviously, there was hardly anything available to maintain those vehicles. So, we decided that we would do everything possible to give the needed support to the se­curity agencies. As you will no doubt agree, we cannot do it alone. And in line with our vision, which is to pro­vide focused and qualitative governance while creating an enabling environment for a Public Private Sector Part­nership, which we believe is fundamental to the econom­ic growth of the state and the individual prosperity of our people, we decided to look to­wards the private sector for the needed partnership.

Also, the five southwest states have agreed to set up a joint patrol team that will be called “AMOTEKUN.” Each of the states is required to do­nate at least 20 patrol vehicles, communication equipment and personnel to that joint pa­trol task force. It will consist of men from the police, army, vigilantes and hunters.

As we speak, we still need quite a lot more. We need com­munication equipment, we need monitoring and tracking devices to monitor and track criminals. The vehicles need to be maintained, the officers need to be look after and in this regard, we have appealed to the private sector for assis­tance so that we can ensure that we only have the funding, but that it is sustained.

Source: Daily Independent

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