By Sola Fasure
Ajibola Amzat’s piece in the Guardian on Sunday of March 13, 2016 titled ‘State Of The Living Springs Gasps For Breath’ is a ‘hatchet job’ if we take the definition of the term given by Cambridge Dictionaries Online as ‘a cruel written or spoken attack on someone or something’ or dictionary.com definition as ‘a maliciously destructive critique or act’.
Amzat left no one in doubt of his intention from the beginning when he opened the piece with a categorical allegation that Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun lied in his presentation to the State House of Assembly on the state’s finances on June 2, 2015. ‘The claim by the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, about the total revenue allocation to his state between November 2010 when he was first sworn-in and December 2014 may not be accurate after all, The Guardian has learnt’ he wrote. He also concluded on that same note.
He went ahead to compile the state’s revenues, obtained from dubious sources and came up with a damning conclusion that the governor concealed and did not account for N263.33 billion. These are made up of N3.8 billion revenue allocation funds, N1.32 billion from Internally Generated Revenue, N194.03 billion Revenue Allocation to the local governments, N61.44 billion Excess Crude Account Allocation and N2.75billion funds from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The insinuation and innuendo from this are that the governor misappropriated the amount. He then supported this claim with varying wild and totally false allegations of inflated projects costs, outright profligacy and unviable and abandoned white elephant projects.
At a time when Osun, 28 other states and the Federal Government are going through financial challenges, the publication is meant to embarrass the governor by isolating and portraying him as reckless, thereby incite the good people of the state into insurrection and destabilise the government.
The three-page special report in essence is a special falsehood concocted by defeated opposition candidates in the last governorship election in the state, signed by Amzat and passed as investigative journalism. This is not a trivial statement. His sources mainly, Elder Segun Akinwusi, the immediate past Head of Service in Osun, was a defeated candidate who did not win his ward. Amzat’s data is a replica of the paper Akinwusi presented at a failed summit himself and other disgruntled elements attended last year. Another source he quoted, Justice Folahanmi Oloyede, a serving judge in the state’s judiciary, has never hidden her determination to pull down the governor. Amzat’s article is a rehash of her failed petition to the State House of Assembly, asking for the impeachment of the governor. Another of his sources, a two-man NGO called Civil Societies Coalition for Emancipation of Osun State, had sent a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), making the same allegations against the governor, using the same figures and data that Amzat published.
All the allegations and petitions were produced into pamphlets and compact discs and freely distributed in Osun and are therefore nothing new. When they came to our attention, we took time to explain and clear the air on every issue, and so the allegations and allegers have been thoroughly discredited. The article, ostensibly a special investigative report, is continuation of opposition warfare by other means, only that Amzat offered them the platform of The Guardian and his hand to draw the chestnut out of the fire. To claim therefore that it is investigative report sponsored by the Ford Foundation and International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) is to pass orange as apple – an outright fraudulent assertion. While it is possible that they financially supported the reporter when he approached them, they nevertheless have been consciously or unconsciously duped.
Governor Aregbesola on his own volition in the spirit of transparency and accountability laid bare the state of the state’s finances on June 2, 2015, at the State House of Assembly, while inaugurating the 6th Assembly. This was due to the prevailing circumstances arising from the financial challenges in the state at the time. He was there to inaugurate the Assembly, not to account for the state’s finances.
On a second note, even though the information given to the Assembly was materially correct in all aspects (we have checked and rechecked again and have confirmed its accuracy), it is not an audited report of the state’s account, which can only be given by the state’s Ministry of Finance and Office of the Accountant General of the State. Only an audit report can be quoted for reference and subjected to thorough analysis. The governor only attempted a summary of the state’s finances, in light of the financial challenge of the time. Even when auditors detect discrepancies, while going through an account, they first seek to clarify by issuing audit queries. This is done without any assumption until attempts have been made to close the gaps detected. This is because a noticed discrepancy may be due to unintended error. So, no inference of fraud or concealment is possible and could have been made as Amzat did so recklessly, magisterially and with relish.
I will point out below how all his facts, argument and allegations are wrong and came from a malicious intent.
- ‘If this claim were true, the IGR for the state in 2013 and 2014 alone should be hovering around N38.4 billion or thereabout. Added to 12.3 billion collected between 2011 and 2012, and N600 million generated in November and December 2010, the total IGR for the state should be around N51.3 billion, and not N27.5 billion disclosed by the governor’.
The IGR figure the governor gave, N27.5 billion, remains correct. The custodians of the state’s revenues remain the Office of the Accountant General and the state’s Ministry of Finance. No other body or organisation has access to the complete records or has operated on them. It is incomprehensible how any other person, group or agency could have spoken so authoritatively on a state’s IGR, other than the aforementioned.
- ‘Governor Aregbesola said the use of Information and Communications Technology in all government transactions has increased his state’s IGR to N1.6 billion monthly. Therefore, it is either the governor presented to the public an exaggerated figure of N1.6 billion as monthly internal revenue since 2013, or a substantial part of the revenue was left unaccounted for’
State’s Internally Generated Revenue stream is not fixed. It comes everyday in bits and pieces through taxes, levies, rates, fines and dues. There cannot be any guarantee of regularity and this is why it is called recurrent revenue. When Ogbeni Aregbesola became Governor, the IGR was N300 million monthly average and it was ICT that was used to increase the IGR to N600 million average when the government began e-payment and directed that no individual or agency should henceforth collect cash on behalf of the state but all revenues due to the government should be paid directly into government accounts at the banks.
The fact is that the N1.6 billion collection was a peak figure and not an average and it occurred at a particular month as a “one-off” IGR, during the period. ICT application was used to collect the back-duty taxes and charges on the telecom right of ways related to past period but collected at this particular month. At the particular time the governor spoke, IGR was N1.6 billion. This was due mainly to the fact that a lot of accumulated debts were being aggressively pursued and many debtors were paying. ICT, the governor explained, only pushed IGR from N300 million to N600 million, not N1.6 billion.
How could it have been reasonably conjectured that because the governor claimed the state’s IGR peaked at N1.6 billion in a particular month, it then automatically meant that the state was realising this amount consistently every month and then allege that he under-disclosed any difference in the figure he made available after?
- ‘In addition, according to Federal Ministry of Finance, Osun State received N61.4 billion from Excess Crude Account between 2011 and 2014, as well as grants worth of N2.7 billion from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) between 2011 and 2013 and an unverified amount from the sure-p scheme’
The Excess Crude Allocation (ECA) due to the state within this period was N17.14 billion and not N61.4 billion. This is already included in the total figure of N176.5 billion revenues that accrued to the state from the federation account. Funds from the ECA are not shared separately. They are included in the distributable pool to be shared with the regular allocation in a particular month. Therefore, the ECA of N61.33 billion alleged to be undeclared is dubious, false and totally unfounded. It is, again, another case of dabbling into accounting matter by a dilettante. Also, mentioning it as a separate revenue line is another mischievous attempt to expand the fussy mathematics to get to a conclusion that N263.33 billion is missing.
While Amzat claimed that UBEC funds received by Osun is N2.75 billion, our records for the same period indicate N3.38 billion. However, UBEC fund is even a different kettle of fish. It is a 50-50 joint contribution by the state and the Federal Government. To qualify for it, a state must have already made its own equal contribution available. This is why 22 states or thereabout cannot access their UBEC funds till date. It therefore cannot be included in the recurrent revenues of the state because it is a capital receipt from the Federal Government that is tied to direct implementation of the FGN UBEC projects. The Governor cannot be blamed for not including this capital receipts in the revenue since he has not included its corresponding expenditure, when he was explaining that the recurrent revenue from federation account does not cover the recurrent expenditures.
- ‘Further, the record of the Federal Ministry of Finance also revealed that the state government received a total of N194 billion on behalf of the 30 local government councils since governor Aregbesola assumed office in November 2010… But the governor also was silent on these earnings while giving an account of his stewardship to the representatives of the people of Osun State, and the latter let it slip’
State account is different from local governments’ accounts. It is therefore totally wrong for anybody to lump state government allocation with that of the local governments. Local government’s allocation is distinct and separate from state’s allocation, which means that both tiers of government run parallel accounts with different signatories. To be sure, it is on record that the total allocation to the Local Governments within the years in review (2010 – 2014) was N191billion; inclusive of N10.7 billion Excess Crude Allocation to local governments and not N194 billion as alleged by Amzat.
Would it have meant that because the governor did not mention the amount received for local governments, there were no separate budgets for local governments, no salaries were paid in the local governments; no projects were executed in four years and no capital or recurrent expenditure incurred in the local government in the period under consideration? So how N194billion belonging to local governments could have disappeared from the state as alleged by Amzat beats the imagination.
End of part 1.