Hold Local Government Elections in Osun State Now!
Hold Local Government Elections in Osun State Now!
- No to All Austerity Policies on the working and poor people
- For a Working People led Probe Into the Finances of the Aregbesola Government
By Alfred Adegoke, Osun Chairperson, SPN
For the past five years, the Rauf Aregbesola government has been appointing people into the local government councils without elections. This is undemocratic and fraudulent. Moreover, funds and revenues of local governments are being diverted for pecuniary interests of the state government without the people being able to decide how funds allocated to the local councils are to be spent. This has made the local councils and the services they provide to be at decrepit conditions. Most local and intra-township roads are in terrible state, while most primary healthcare facilities are hardly working, and those working are doing so on skeletal basis. As against the past situation where local councils provided some educational supports like giving out educational materials such as textbooks, note books, chalk, etc., to schools, most of the schools in the state lack these basic supports.
Yet, in the past 5 years, over 200 billion naira had accrued to local councils in the state from the federation account without any account being given by the Aregbesola government that had monopolized the fund, in connivance with stooges appointed as caretakers. Nigerian constitution guarantees democratically run local councils with regular elections. Caretakers are only allowed to exist for merely 6 months at a time. However, the Aregbesola government, having mismanaged the funds that had accrued to state and local governments in the state, is maintaining an autocratic control over the local councils in order to ensure that all the misdeeds of the government as regards mismanagement of local council fund are covered up. Moreover, the government wants pliable elements that will serve as rubberstamp to government’s fraudulent misuse of local government funds.
This castration of local governments is illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic as they infringe on the right of people to have democratic and accountable government. At one point, the government diverted local government funds to finance inflated road contracts worth over N10 billion, using the undemocratically appointed Caretaker Committees. More than this, many counterpart funds from federal agencies and other organizations such as Universal Basic Education Council (UBEC), meant for local councils are either being misused or abandoned by the Aregbesola government. Practically, Aregbesola government has abolished democratically elected local councils in the state. This we view as condemnable and reprehensible.
NO TO AUSTERITY POLICIES
To add insult to injury, in spite of the huge fund accessible to the government in the past five years running into hundreds of billions of naira, the social infrastructure in the state are still in decrepit conditions while the working people in the state are groaning under poor welfare conditions. Health and education sectors are in their terrible conditions despite all the piecemeal but wasteful interventions of the government; while the Rauf Aregbesola government is currently implementing an illegal half-salary policy that is unknown to law.
Most of the health institutions are in terrible conditions, lacking basic facilities to run effective medical services. This is as a result of chronic underfunding of health sector, which started under previous governments of Bisi Akande/AD and Oyinlola/PDP but is now being intensified under the Rauf Aregbesola/APC government. Not satisfied, the government has launched attacks on doctors in the state by refusing them salaries since September, 2015. Already, doctors and medical workers in the state are one of the least paid in the country, yet the Aregbesola is refusing to pay them, but instead threatens to sack them for demanding payment of their arrears of salaries. It is therefore not accidental that there is huge shortfall in health personnel in the state, as many medical officers have left the service of the state due to poor welfare.
Furthermore, most of the roads in the state are also in terrible conditions while government wasted over N100 billion on inflated road contracts, most of which have little bearing on the living conditions of the people. For instance, all major roads connecting Osogbo with other towns such as Osogbo-Gbongan, Osogbo-Ife, Osogbo-Ilobu, Osogbo-Ilesa, Osogbo-Iwo, Osogbo-Ikirun, etc. are in terrible state or abandoned; yet the government is committing a whooping N11 billion to building an Airport, even when more than 95 percent of all economic activities of the people in the state are done through road and/or rail transport. As much as airport is one of the infrastructures modern society needs, we feel that prioritizing airport construction while immediate and critical infrastructure and social services are in terrible state, is not only a sign of misplaced priority but also a case of mismanagement of resources aimed at diverting public fund for private end.
In a similar vein, the Osun State government will not be paying the WASSCE examination fees of final year secondary school students on a flimsy excuse that the students did not do well in mock examinations conducted by the government. Meanwhile, this is one of the electoral promises of Ogbeni Aregbesola, which he is now recounting. Moreover, the WASSCE examinations are evidence that the students completed the secondary education. Either they fail or pass,they are entitled to have a certificate indicating their performance.
As if that is not enough, school children are being chased out of schools unless they provide their parents’ tax clearance. This is condemnable as government is mortgaging the future of the young ones in the name of tax collection. If government wants to collect tax, it should devise other means instead of using social services like education and healthcare as bargaining chips.
As much as we do not have problems with people paying tax, we maintain that tax system should be progressive and target the rich few who have cornered the resources of the state. Unfortunately, the Aregbesola government’s tax policy is retrogressive. Those who have gained most from this government such as government contractors and politicians, many of whom have acquired several properties within time of associating with the government, should be the first target of tax collection not the working and poor people, who have gained little or nothing from the government. Interestingly, none of the big-time contractors or politicians, who have amassed wealth from state purse, has his/her kids in public schools where government is enforcing this tax policy.
CONSEQUENTLY, WE CALL FOR:
1. Immediate end to all austerity policies against the poor. We call for immediate payment of full salaries to all categories of workers. No to further attack on doctors. We call for immediate payment of WASSCE examination fees of all final year secondary school students, and immediate release of students arrested for protesting government’s stoppage of the examination fee payment. Government should stop using education as a strategy to collect tax.
2. We call for immediate conduct of elections into local councils through a democratic electoral system that guarantees equal rights for all political parties.
3. We also call on anti-graft agencies including EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Police Special Fraud Units, etc. to carry out extensive investigation into massive rackets that have been going on in the state in the past five years.