1st July, 2011
With N49.2billion debt, a figure given by the immediate past governor of Ogun state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, his successor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, can be said to have inherited the biggest debt when compared to the ones left by Peoples Democratic Party governments in other South western states.
Daniel did not only leave behind a huge debt profile but also concessioned the Gateway stateâ€™s number one tourist attraction, the famous Olumo Rock, and other state resources for between 25 and 60 years without following the laid-down procedure nor going through the State Executive Council or House of Assembly.
â€œI begin to wonder why somebody will sign away all our patrimony. To make matters worse, all of them were made without the laid-down procedure. It did not go through the State Executive Council, not even the Assembly,â€ said Amosun while addressing the stateâ€™s traditional rulers at the Obaâ€™s Complex located at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, recently.
Amosun who had expressed doubt about the debt figure presented by his predecessor, had contracted an auditing firm to confirm the true position.
As the auditing firm works towards unraveling the truth about the debt profile, there are fears that the state’s indebtedness might double or triple the figure given by the immediate past administration, a development that might worsen the governorâ€™s headache.
A review of Amosunâ€™s 30 days in office has shown that the huge debt may pose an obstacle to his pledge to initiate programmes that would touch the lives of the people.
This ugly development, Political Platform reliably gathered, has become a monster confronting his administration and has also become one of the greatest challenges before him.
During his inauguration on May 29, at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, the governor, among other policies statements, did not only declare education free in both primary and secondary school levels in the state, he also promised free healthcare for the children and the elderly.
He also, during his electioneering, promised the state civil servants the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage. However, the governor while making those promises did not envisage the enormous debt he would meet to grapple with.
Today, tension is building in the Gateway State as workers are agitated over the governor’s likely non-fulfillment of his electoral promise as regards the minimum wage.
The congress after its recent meeting gave a seven-day ultimatum to the state governor, over the payment of N18,000 minimum wage.
Lamenting the financial position of the state, the governor said the legacies of the founding fathers of the state have been handed out by the last administration, while the state governmentâ€™s properties have also been leased out for 60 years.
He said that due to the debt inherited by his administration, his government might not be able to pay the N18,000 minimum wage, adding that the financial position of the state is so bad that the government will need to borrow about N4 billion to pay its salaries.
â€œThey said they left N50 billion but at the appropriate time, we will tell you what we met on ground. I will even be happy if what we met on ground is N50 billion. Ogun is the most indebted state in Nigeria. Lagos borrowed N250 billion and Rivers took N150 billion. Lagos generates N30 billion per month. Rivers generates between N12 and N15 billion. What we generate is N900 million to N1 billion and you have a loan of N50 billion,â€ he said
Amosun also lamented that over N23billion was lost by the state through the mismanagement in land allocations by the Gbenga Daniel administration.
On the concessioned state’s assets, Amosun said the most painful were the Gateway Hotels and Ogun House on Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to the governor, the Gateway Hotels was valued at N1. 41billion in 2009 but was handed over to a private firm to manage for 25 years at a meagre N300million.
Amosun also disclosed that about N2billion was being deducted at source from the stateâ€™s monthly revenue through an irrevocable standing payment order entered into by the previous administration, adding that with the situation on ground, the state government would have no alternative than to borrow to pay workers salaries.
Meanwhile, political analysts believe that the debt might be a bobby trap left for Amosunâ€™s administration by its predecessor, who must be praying for his failure and that of his party ahead of the next governorship poll.