June 20, 2024

Tinubu’s Call on Nigerians to Hold Governors Responsible for Underdevelopment in States Timely!

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President Bola Tinubu, Gov Godwin Obaseki

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By Editorial Board

The recent call by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Nigerians to hold their respective governors for the underdevelopment of their states, is a call in the right direction.

President Tinubu also urged state governors to prioritise the needs of their local communities.

Tinubu who made the call when he received the leadership of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said the call was necessary to ensure accountability and effectiveness in the administration of local governments.

He pleaded that the traditional rulers must hold governors accountable. “We are running a constitutional democracy. I will appeal to you to summon the governors. I am doing my very best to enhance the revenue base of the country. They (governors) must equally be sympathetic, and they must urgently consider the needs of the local people.”

It is the considered opinion of Midwest Herald that President Tinubu’s call is timely, in view of the underdevelopment in some states and local government areas.

The case of Edo State is a handy example of underdevelopment of urban and rural communities.

Since Mr Godwin Obaseki assumed office as governor of Edo State, the various local government councils have suffered from neglect and as a result, the livelihoods of rural dwellers have been made hopeless.

It is on record that the governor adopted indirect rule to administer the 18 local government councils for greater part of his tenure and the past chairmen have openly accused his administration of siphoning resources meant for their councils.

While other states have disclosed the trucks of food items they received from the Federal Government, Obaseki has refused to inform Edo people of what he got. These food items were intended to alleviate the effects of the current economic downturn caused by the removal of fuel subsidy.

The Federal Government also approved N5 billion for each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to enable them to procure food items for distribution to the poor in their respective states as well as trailer-loads palliative rice and other grains.

So far, Governor Obaseki has refused to disclose the whereabouts of the over 3,500 bags of 50kg rice reportedly sent by President Bola Tinubu to the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria for the last Christmas and New Year festivities.

He has also be silent on the 17,000 bags of 50kg rice and 8,000 bags of maize donated to Edo State by the Federal Government.

Despite calls by well meaning citizens like the Chairman of the Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) in Edo State, Samson Isibor, to Governor Godwin Obaseki to make available to the citizen Federal Government Palliatives of food to people in the state who he noted were going through severe hunger, the governor refused to release the grains.

Only recently, Edo State branded rebagged 10kg rice resurfaced in selected churches as government food support programme. Sadly, some persons have complained that the rice have already gone bad.

On September 11, 2023, the state government flagged off its ‘Free Bus Ride’ on selected routes and two months on, Obaseki announced that he had spent N5 billion sent by the Federal Government to buy diesel. Some state governors reportedly bought CNG buses with the palliative grant.

Curiously, Godwin Obaseki, turned around and lashed out at the administration of President Bola Tinubu, and expressed shock and fear that the President lacks the ability and plan to effectively respond to the fuel subsidy removal which he said had “further impoverished Nigerians, inflicting hardship and suffering on the people.”

The protest by commuter ‘John’ who lashed out inside one of the ECTS buses was reported by Edo State owned Nigerian Observer.

According to the newspaper, John said: “Out of the N5 billion FG gave Edo State, Obaseki could only give me N200 per day?, he angrily said in annoyance, while other passengers responded that the governor and his team will pocket most of the money.

“The conversation continued as more passengers agreed with him that the bulk of the FG palliatives will be pocketed by the governor and his team,” the Nigerian Observer reported.

During his Independence Day speech on October 1, 2023, Obaseki announced that the state government has placed orders for new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses to bolster ECTS fleet for the state’s free transport scheme. Nine months after, the ‘free bus’ ride scheme has ended, not a single bus has arrived.

Three years ago, the government announced that, it has secured N5 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for farmers through its agripreneur programme as part of efforts by the Obaseki administration to ensure food security in the state.

The administration earmarked farm settlements in the three senatorial districts, Sobe, Okada, Ilushi, Agenebode and others. Regretfully, the farm in Sobe lasted one season with claims of diversion of proceeds, Okada in Ovia North East did not witness the planting of a single grain.

And so, the beautiful laid out plan has been bedeviled by accusation of corruption and alleged mismanagement of the loan by Sterling Bank. The credit that was was secured at a single-digit interest rate of nine per cent and designed by the Federal Government to encourage farmers in Nigeria.

Sadly, the good intention of the Federal Government was frustrated by the present corrupt regime in Edo State. The only outstanding achievement is the importation of ‘white farmers’ to grow single crop of palm trees, which has led to the displacement of multi crop indigenous farmers.

For instance, Saro farms got 10,000 hectares of farmland in Orhionmwon local government area to cultivate palm trees after displacing the local farmers who were forced by the ministry of agriculture to accept paltry compensation for their crops.

Worried by the large scale corruption, farmers under the auspices of Edo State Concerned Farmers Association, protested in Abuja over alleged misuse of the sum of ₦75 Billion Naira Agricultural Loans by the Governor Obaseki administration of Edo State.

According to reports, the group of Edo farmers which was led by comrade Afeiye Muhammed claimed that the loans were procured from the Central Bank of Nigeria and loans from the World Bank.

In a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, they revealed that none of their members got the monies in spite of the fact they applied for it since 2017.

The petition was also addressed to the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chairmen of EFCC, ICPC and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

According to the farmers, “In 2017 we participated in the Agripreneur programme in Sobe, Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State, where we planted and harvested Maize. However, since the harvest three years ago, till date, we are yet to receive proceeds from the sale of our Maize by Edo State Government and SARO Agro Sciences Limited.

“In 2019 we also participated in the Agripreneur programme in Agenegbode, Etsako East Local Government Area, where we planted and harvested rice. Since the harvest in October 2019, Edo State Government and Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) took our rice for processing and sale in Abakaliki. However, we have waited in vain for 9 months, and till date, the proceeds from the sale of our rice have not been paid back to us.

“Additionally, the ₦69 Billion Naira CBN Loan invested into Edo State Oil Palm Programme, have been hijacked, Local farmers in the State were removed from the programme.

“We want Nigerians to know that funds for Fadama 111 Project Additional Financing, were never disbursed to farmers in Edo State.

“Over the years, contracts for the implementation of World Bank-funded projects in Edo State have been overinflated and awarded to briefcase companies In some cases, these contracts are never executed or poorly executed after complete payments have been collected by these briefcase companies.”

They called on the CBN and World Bank as well as other financial institutions to stop further disbursement of Loans to Edo State Government, and instead carry out a thorough investigation into how previous loans between 2016 and 2020 were spent, and those responsible for embezzling these Loans should be prosecuted and made to refund the stolen funds.

“We plead with the Governor of CBN and the Country Director of World Bank, not to cover up these fraudulent activities in Edo State, but to immediately commence a thorough forensic investigation in partnership with the EFCC, ICPC and Civil Society Groups in Edo State, and those found to have misappropriated these funds should be prosecute,” the farmers cried.

In the light of Governor Obaseki’s failure to ensure food security in Edo State, despite the humongous resources he has received from the Federal Government, Midwest Herald is urging Edo State people to demand for accountability, especially the palliatives and agricultural loans extended to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has demonstrated enough transparency and it is left to Edo people to heed the call!

Read Also: Gov Obaseki’s Scorecard: How Agriculture Policy Impacted on Environment and Livelihoods of Small Farmers

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