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OGUN 2020 BUDGET: THE ROAD TO PEOPLE’S ORIENTED BUDGET

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BY: Elijah Udofia

 “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only objectives of good government”. By Thomas Jefferson

Perhaps, Prince Dapo Abiodun must have had this wise counsel from the foremost American when he told the whole world during his inauguration on May 29, this year as the Governor of Ogun State, that he was going to run an all-inclusive and participatory government that would be focus, just, accountable, equitable, fair, responsible and accessible. He also promised that his government would focus on providing an enabling environment through Public Private Partnership (PPP), so that the people could realize their collective and individual aspirations and live a good and happy life.

            To demonstrate that his policy of inclusiveness was not a fluke and that he was going to do Justice to all manner of people, Abiodun even as the Governor-Elect, included those who contested against him in his Transition Work Group to chart the course for his government, and this policy of inclusiveness did not stop there; he carried it to the various Committees set up to find answers to some of the crisis he met on ground that needed urgent attention. Taking a look at these Committees, one would see that they were made up of people from all sections of the State, without particular preference to one. This has been the Hallmark of the administration since inception, to harness the potentials of the indigenes wherever they are regardless of political, religious or ethnic affiliations.

            The policy of participatory and inclusiveness, was taken a bit further recently when the State Government in the process of preparing the 2020 Budget and the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) of the State and realizing that it does not have all the knowledge and may not know what are the urgent needs of the people, decided to convene town hall meeting in each of the three Senatorial Districts, to harness the contributions and inputs of citizens across all the critical sectors of the economy.

The Ogun East Senatorial District meeting was held in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun West in Ilaro, while that Ogun Central took place in the State capital, Abeokuta. One common thing at the venues of these meetings was the large turnout of people, including, market men and women, artisans, students unions, trade associations, non-governmental organizations, politicians and of course traditional rulers and community rulers, amongst others, who came to contribute towards having the people’s Budget. At the Ijebu-Ode meeting, Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, represented by the Dagburewe of Idowa, Oba Yinusa Adekoya, set the ball rolling when he called for the rehabilitation of Ijebu-Ode-Epe, Ijebu-Ode-Alagboun-Ketu- Epe and Ijebu-Ode-Idowa- Ibefun-Itokin roads, while Chief Bisi Rodipe called for the declaration of State of emergency on roads, most of which he said were in deplorable conditions.

A former Commissioner in the State, Chief Falilu Sabitu, asked for reinforcement of security in Ogun Waterside Local Government Area, to arrest the spate of kidnapping and other crimes, saying efforts should be geared towards reviving the Olokola Deep sea port, rehabilitation of schools and create employment of more qualified teachers in the area, while Mr. Samuel Durojaye, harped on the need to resuscitate old farm settlements and establishment of new ones in Ijebu-North, as well as electrification of rural communities in the Council Area, to make life meaningful for the people, and Mr. Keshinro Olaitan, a disabled, stressed the importance of establishing a Ministry to oversee the affairs of the disabled to make life bearable for them. Representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the League of Imams and Alfas and Foundation of Muslim Women (FONWAN, prayed for reintroduction of adult education and the need to inculcate morals in school children, to address moral decadence in the society.

Responding, the State Governor Abiodun appreciated the people for their robust contributions and suggestions, saying that the meeting was in line with his administration’s policy of inclusiveness and to achieve a strategic allocation of resources to projects that would have impact on the people. “It is important to carry the people along when making decisions that affects them. This meeting is a symbolic representation of our commitment to inclusiveness, people-centred and participatory governance”, he said.

The Governor said as a responsible, responsive and focused government, his administration decided to take the meeting to the doorsteps of the people to reduce the stress of having to travel to Abeokuta, noting that this would afford women and youths who form the higher population the opportunity to have their inputs in the Budget.

For the people of Ogun West Senatorial District, the provision of good road network, resuscitation of moribund State’s facilities and human capital development in the coming year, would go a long way to further improve business and commercial activities in their District. The stakeholders which included the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle and eminent community leaders like Chief of Olu Agemo, Chief (Mrs.) Iyabo Apampa, Senator Akin Babalola Kamar Odunsi, the Gubernatorial candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC), in the last governorship election, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI), among others, also solicited the establishment of a University and deployment of more Teachers to Schools in their district.

In response to the people’s request, Governor Abiodun whose speech was interrupted by songs, from women groups, brass bands and cheer from students’ bodies, said “We are taking advantage of our geographical location as the largest economy in Africa and a window into the West Africa corridor. It is self-evident truth that without the Ogun West Senatorial District, we cannot be Gateway State. I therefore consider this District a priority, not only because you are the engine room of the State, but the people are our priceless jewels”, he said.

Governor Abiodun maintained that the District remain the key to the development of the State, adding that despite the fact that it is the industrial hub, with increase in number of industrial establishment and level of commercial activities, the people have continue to remain in the forefront of the socio-economic development of the State. He said hosting the meeting will strengthen the partnership of government with the people, as a way of having good representative of the Budget.

“We have come to learn how to ensure strategic allocation of our Commonwealth to cover projects and programmes that would have most meaningful impact on the people, We will take copious note of all your comments, recommendations, proposals and these will be taken as an important factor in the preparation process of the State Budget, the governor admitted

 The final leg of the meeting which took place at the Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, saw the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Oludotun Aremu Gbadebo, advising indigenes to take advantage of Anchor Borrowers’ programme, initiated by the present administration, adding that it would help in tackling the high rate of unemployment in the State. Engr. Kunle Adesina from Abeokuta South commended the present administration on the commencement of palliative measure on bad roads, urging it to improve the State’s macro economy by patronizing local traders and marketers in sourcing materials for government projects.

On his part, Dr. Femi Majekodunmi from Abeokuta South, hailed the Governor on various empowerment programmes organized for traders across the State, appealing to government to give priority to provision of potable water in the capital, as well as construction of good road networks. For Ganiu Amusat, the rehabilitation of Itori General Hospital would bring a lot of relief to the people, saying, ‘’the hospital is structurally defective and needs urgent attention. While rounding off the contributions, comments and advises, the Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Ogun State, Comrade Emmanuel Bankole said government should constitute a Committee to interface with Labour on the implementation of the 30,000 new minimum wages.

The Consultant to the Governor on Budget and Planning, Mr. Ola Olu Olabimtan, who spoke in each of the meeting, said the town jaw jaw was the first interaction the Governor would be having with the people, as a commitment to providing good governance and it would avail the people an opportunity to have a sincere heart to heart talk with the Governor on the way forward.

Governor Abiodun who was amazed with the large turnout at the venues of the meetings, that, as a responsible and focused administration, his government understood the feelings of being excluded in the decision making process, hence government decided to take the town hall meeting directly to the people to give them a sense of belonging.

“We will all recall that, over the years, people usually gather for the Town Hall Meeting at the June 12 Cultural Center, Kuto, Abeokuta, with the people mobilized from all the three Senatorial Districts, thereby making the journey uneasy for some stakeholders and impossible for others, and as a responsible, responsive and focused government, we understand the stress and how it feels not to be part of the decision making process, so, in ameliorating these challenges, we have decided to take it to the people by organizing this town hall meeting in all the three Senatorial Districts of our dear State”, he said.

Abiodun assured that the meeting was not just a talk shop, but an avenue to hear what the people needed, adding that government would take copious note of all issues, comments, recommendations, proposals and even critiques which he said would reflect the 2020 Budget estimates, he also noted that even though the current 2019 Budget prepared by the immediate past administration was not designed with the agenda of the present administration, his government has made best use of the budget to deliver on its campaign promises across the State.

The Governor said judging from the people’s request at the meetings; good road network was the consensus, adding that government was currently experimenting on a new technology to construct rural roads in the State. He said when Abraham Lincoln defined the concept “democracy” as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, he may not have known that one day, in a state called Ogun in Nigeria, the narrative would change and the Budget which is generally known as, “an estimation of revenue and expenditure over a specified future period of time”, would become Budget of the people, by the people and for the people.

With the large turn out and their contributions, suggestions, advises and even criticisms, Ogun State people have keyed into the advice of the former President of  the United States of America who said, “let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not the Presidents, Senators and Congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country”.

Udofia is of Ministry of Information and Strategy, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria

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SANWO-OLU BIDS JUSTICE BULKACHUWA FAREWELL, AS APPEAL COURT PRESIDENT RETIRES

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…Lagos’ll Always Keep Faith In The Rule Of Law, Says Governor

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said his administration will not deviate from the tenet of constitutional democracy, promising that actions of the State Government under his watch will be kept within the ambit of the law.

He said his Government’s faith in the judicial system remained unshakable, adding that Lagos had been a beneficiary of the rule of law.

Sanwo-Olu spoke on Wednesday while receiving the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, on a courtesy visit at the Lagos House in Marina.

Justice Bulkachuwa, who was accompanied by other Justices of the Appeal Court, is retiring from the service after reaching the mandatory retirement period.

The Governor said Lagos would always stand on the good side of the law, adding that his administration would particularly stand in principle against actions that may undermine the independence of the Court.

He said: “Government in Lagos State is committed to ensuring that we all live within the ambit of the law. We will continue to engage the judiciary as an independent arm of the government. All of us in the executive arm will continue to uphold the tenet of the constitution that we swore to in our ways and deeds. We will not run foul of the law or any pronouncement of the Court.”

Sanwo-Olu saluted the outgoing Justice Bulkachuwa for her courage in driving far-reaching reforms in the Court of Appeal, saying her legacies would strengthen administration of justice across the country. The Governor said her legacies would be a guiding light for members of the judiciary and officers in the other arms of government.

The Governor said: “We are happy that you are proceeding to retirement at this prime age. You are now 70 years old but you are looking like a 50-year-old. Glory be to Almighty Allah for the grace of youthful appearance and energy. You have had a wonderful career in the judiciary.

“The several successes you have recorded during your tenure as President of the Court of Appeal will continue to be the legacy we will uphold in remembrance of your service to the nation. You are the oldest serving President of the Court of Appeal and you brought many reforms and laudable initiatives to strengthen the judicial process.

“Whoever is succeeding you will have enough to draw from your legacies. We hope you keep your doors open not only to the judiciary but also all of us who are looking forward to learn from your leadership skills.”

Justice Bulkachuwa said she would dedicate her retirement life to promoting girl-child education across the country, noting that she would not have achieved her potential had her father not given her a chance to go to school.

She was hopeful that the reforms and discipline she had instituted in the judiciary would be strengthened by the serving members, pointing out that she had mentored a new breed of judicial officers to entrench “good legacies” she is leaving behind.

“I will still be with my sisters and brother in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Courts. I have mentored so many young judicial officers and upcoming lawyers to carry on the legacies. I will still be part of the judicial system despite my retirement,” Justice Bulkachuwa said.

Asked why she chose to visit Lagos Governor in her first valedictory visit to any elected official, Justice Bulkachuwa said it was in Lagos the first Court of Appeal was set up among the three divisions created in 1976.

Besides, she said Lagos is playing pivotal roles in the administration of justice system, pointing out that majority of lawyers in the judiciary are serving in the State. She added that most of Appeal Court’s cases were being instituted in Lagos.

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THERE’S NO MULTIPLE TAXATION IN LAGOS – SANWO-OLU

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Lagos State Government has reiterated that there is currently no multiple taxation in Lagos State revenue system.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu stated this during a courtesy visit to Lagos House, Ikeja by the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) Mr. Muhammad Nami.

Placing emphasis on startups, the Governor stated that his administration will always improve on the ease of doing business in the State rather than stifle the economy with loaded taxes.

Mr Sanwo-Olu promised to embrace and support the activities of start-ups who are scared of the tax burden associated with businesses.

He also urged Nigerians to pay their taxes regularly in order for the Government to attain a balanced development at all levels, which according to him, include social infrastructure, security among others.

The Governor promised that Lagos State Government would continue with the existing relationship and further collaborate with the Federal Inland revenue Service in sharing information to aid revenue collection and ensure deliverables were met.

Sanwo-Olu lauded the Federal Government for considering the starte up businesses in the exemption threshold on taxation.

His said: “we will make sure that there is ease of doing businesses, especially start-ups, that are always scared that they have multiple taxation. There is nothing like multiple taxation in Lagos.

“It is clear that they are exempted but that doesn’t stop them from doing proper filing and ensure transparent reporting at whichever level of their business.

“We will also use this opportunity to encourage our citizens that it is only when they play their own part as responsible citizens both at the corporate and individual level that the government can come up and discharge its responsibilities.

“Development is by tax and it is only when we collect reasonably amount of tax that we can introduce development both at infrastructure level and more importantly on security so we cannot but ensure that we collaborate and corporate with you,” he said.

Responding to the Chairman on the N8.5 trillion target set by the President, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the country has the capacity to generate such amount but warned that it must be done cautiously.

Also speaking on the ongoing Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) 2020 meeting holding for the first time in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu said it was an opportunity to deliberate on the proceeds that State gets from the Federal Government was used judiciously.

He said: “I am sure they know clearly that you can live up to those bills and 8.5 trillion sounds a lot but they know you have the capacity.

The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, said the aim of the visit was to ensure effective performance of the service in meeting its target and in its request to share information, collaborate in building capacity as well as engage private sector on the Value Added Tax collection.

“We feel without this collaboration, we cannot generate this 8.5 trillion that we have been mandated by the President to generate,” he said.

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LAGOS-BADAGRY HIGHWAY MUST REMAIN 10-LANE CARRIAGEWAY, SANWO-OLU APPEALS TO FG

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The 10-lane right-of-way already set by the Lagos State Government in the ongoing construction of Lagos-Badagry Expressway needs to be preserved, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu urged the Federal Government.

Sanwo-Olu said the ongoing construction work on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway would shoot up population upon completion and open the corridor up for more physical development.

The Governor stressed that the maintenance of 10-lane on the stretch currently being constructed by the Federal Government was necessary to help the State efficiently manage traffic and enhance safety of residents on the axis.

Sanwo-Olu spoke on Wednesday, while meeting with members of the Senate Committee on Works that paid him a courtesy visit at the State House in Alausa. The Committee was led by its chairman, Sen. Adamu Aliero.

The Federal Government is currently handling the construction of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway from Agbara to Seme Border, while Lagos Government is complementing the effort from Orile to Iba town, creating five-lane on either sides of the 22-kilometre-long stretch.

The Governor said reducing the expressway to two-lane highway could not be sustainable for future development, adding that the preservation of the 10-lane already set on the highway would make it easy for Lagos to extend its Blue Line Rail project into Badagry town.

Sanwo-Olu said: “I am happy that the Federal Government has taken up the construction of Lagos-Badagry Expressway from Agbara to Seme Border. But the challenge is that we don’t want them to reduce the expressway to two lanes. We’ve said to them that they should keep the 10-lane right-of-way, instead of reducing it back to two-lane. Even if what they are going to build is two lanes on either sides, let them keep the space for expansion to 10 lanes. So that in future, either State or Federal government can build on it.

“We also have our rail infrastructure along that Badagry corridor and we are hoping that it will be completed before the end of next year. With the rail corridor and the 10-lane expressway, it means we can extend the rail project to Badagry. That’s why we must preserve the 10 lanes for future development.”

The Governor thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly for prioritising the rehabilitation of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the budgetary support being giving to the Ministry of Works and Housing handling the project.

Sanwo-Olu praised the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, for the progress recorded on the ongoing construction work on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, while also urging the Federal Government to hasten the rehabilitation work on other inter-state expressways, including Ikorodu-Sagamu Highway, Itokin Expressway and Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

He said Lagos had already started to leverage Public Private Partnership (PPP) in providing requisite infrastructure to support businesses and enhance economic growth. He said the State was ready to support other private-led initiatives that would bring succour to commuters and residents of the State.

Aliero said the purpose for the Committee members’ trip to Lagos was to inspect the ongoing road projects being handled by the Federal Government in the State, noting that the Senators would be visiting Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki, Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Badagry expressways to inspect the ongoing work on the roads.

The Committee chairman said Lagos deserved the attention being accorded to it by the Federal Government, describing the State as “strategic” for commerce and innovation in the country.

Although two of the road projects are being funded from Sovereign Wealth Fund and Budget, Aliero said there was need for Government at all level to partner with private sector for development projects. He said the National Assembly had start working on legislation that would make the Government to leverage PPP model in financing infrastructure.

He said: “We can no longer rely on budgetary allocations to continue funding projects. We have to find an alternative way of providing infrastructure, including roads, railway and power. Perhaps it is important now to go into PPP, giving the example laid down by Alhaji Aliko Dangote who is constructing and expanding Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki Expressway. If we had gone by budget, it might take another 10 years to complete the road.

“If we allow the private sector to construct and manage the infrastructure, it would go a long way in making provision of infrastructure easier. This is why the Senate is coming up with strong legislation to enable the private sector to go into partnership with Government to build infrastructure. Whatever money remain can be invested in social sector, such as education and healthcare delivery.”

Aliero praised the Lagos Government for complementing the effort of the Comptroller of Works in traffic management and rehabilitation of failed sections of federal roads.

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