(Interview) APC-led government will not retrench workers, we’ll only restructure – Ajimobi


Abiola Ajimobi is Oyo State Governor. In this interview with journalists at the National Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC), where he talked about the economic challenges facing Nigeria, he said the world at large is going through technical recession. JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON was there for New Nigerian.  Excerpt…
What would you say about the state of the nation in regards to the state of the economy?

I think first and foremost I have two questions; the first one has to do with state of the nation as regards the economic situations.
I think all over the world there has been what you call technical recession, simply means when you have two consecutive quarters of diminishing employment, of diminishing economic activities, then you are considered to have technical recession, and Nigeria is not an exception to this.  Particularly, we have a rebounding economic situation where our oil, which is the main product that we sell, has deteriorated in terms of price from over $105 per barrel to between $30 and $45 per barrel, this cost cutting affects our income.
And that has tilted down to the state and ever since, many state governments including my state, Oyo, experienced about 60 to 65 per cent drop in our Federal allocation. From about N5bn we started receiving between N2bn and N2.5bn per month and of course, it’s adversely affected our ability to meet our obligations including payment of salaries and wages, contractual obligations, paying contractors and so on.
And in Oyo State we have an average of about N5.2bn monthly wage bill and if our total income from Federal Government allocation is now N2.1bn there is no way we could meet our monthly wage bill. So we interacted with the workforce, with the labour union and we explained to them.
Our own government is a transparent government in which everything is open to all and sundry. They are public figures and we agreed that okay we will be paying you as at when we get money and we devoted the entire income, Federal allocation between N2.1bn, N2.2bn to payment of salary. But of course it could not meet up with the requirement, hence we started having shortfalls. We all approached the Federal Government and the President was kind enough to approve that they should give all of us bail-out funds.
Oyo State got a total of about N17bn that is N9bn for the state another 8.something billion for the local government and when we got that money, we already owed about three to four months and we utilized everything 100 per cent to pay workers.
It is criminal if you do not use the money for the purpose for which it was allocated for. So we in Oyo State utilize the entire money to pay workers. Of course as we were paying, if you have fully paid now, subsequent month you will start be owing again because it is not enough and you know this government, the Federal Government, Oyo State government, APC government all over it is our determination that we will not retrench workers cause part of our jobs is to create employment, to create wealth is to look after the welfare of our people and you will recollect that I think it was two days ago the Federal Government reaffirmed that position that we will not retrench workers.
But we must restructure, we must restructure for productivity. Restructuring is not synonymous with retrenchment. So what we are saying is, there are workers who are idle, there are those in many of the ministries including Oyo State whereby in my office when you bring any correspondence; somebody would receive the letter, another person would open it, another person would record it, another person would read it, another person would pass it. For God’s sake! Job of one person we have like seven people doing it.
We have vehicles, where we have four vehicles and we have thirteen drivers to four vehicles so these are areas where we need to shape off the excesses and redirect them to other areas.
For instance, you are talking about IGR we want to begin to take all those staff, let them train them and retrain them to be useful in other areas. So that is what all governments are trying to do now we must of necessity restructure for productivity. So that is what we are doing when it comes to that. Of course in the recent Oyo State crisis just like in other states where Labour would say pay us all our money. In other climes, we should, we should adjust your income ehn? And adjust your labour force, if you can’t pay everybody you should reduce them or you should reduce salaries. But because we are a government that believes in generating and creating employment we have refused to do the most appropriate thing to do, so we now decided that instead of retrenching, we restructure for productivity.
So that is what is happening as regards the workforce and salaries and money given to us as bail-out. And when you say bail-out, I wouldn’t call it bail-out, you can say bail-out for that period, but not for the next period if they bail you out for the next six months what about the next six months of the year. So I think it was a temporary relieve that helped many of us and opened our eyes to go home to re-strategize and do some, if you like, financial re-engineering in order to make us meet our obligations. So I hope I have answered your question.
Can you let us in to the visit of the APC-Governors’ forum visit to Mr. President where it was reported you went to interface in the National Assembly Executive crisis?

 I think the second question has to do with the National Assembly and APC Governors. I think it was erroneous of anyone to believe that we went to the President to intervene, no! We went to the President to look at how he can help in the current situation in the country. We believe that we are running a democracy, we believe we offered ourselves to support the federal government in all its activities.
After all, even though the Federal government is there, but we have what you call federalism, which means there must be regular synergy and interactions. More so that we are the same government. I think we’ve gone no way if you like, I even listed the things to be three areas; that was why we went there, the first one was to commend the President for his efforts in security, his achievements in security particularly in the North-East and in Nigeria generally. Even in South-South and other areas. We pledged our support for him, commending him in those areas. We also commended him in the area of corruption, we offered our support.
And you see we believe that corruption is more than just taking money. I think is attitudinal, if you do what you are not supposed to do is corruption and sometimes you can even enlarge it to mean basically indiscipline, inability to control yourself to discipline yourself against selfish tendencies of wanting to take what doesn’t belong to you or even for not doing your job is corruption, for taking salaries monthly and not coming to work or coming to work and being idle is corruption.
So what we are saying is we are looking at corruption in very a global concept as against just taking money. And if you look at it generally, you will see that virtually Nigeria is very corrupt, virtually everybody one way or the other is corrupt attitudinally, financially, or socially.
So this we believe should be looked into or he should be encouraged so that was the second reason why we went there. I think the third reason was to say look, Mr. President we are here for you and we are willing to support you in any way you want us to participate in governance at the Federal level and the state level. We felt that we should bridge the gap of communication, which we have had. I think it was along that one of us now said Mr. President do you mind if we intervene in what is going on and the President said all is well and good, he is available for any intervention that would be productive, but that would be in line with what he stands for, which is discipline, decency, integrity, progress and development of Nigeria and that was it.


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