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Where Is The Multi-Million Naira Scandal By Ibrahim Abdullateef

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Ibraheem Abdullateef

Since Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq assumed office last year, he never left the populace in doubt of his passion for Agricultural Mechanization. It defines the many steps his administration has since taken, including the distribution of NPK fertilizer in partnership with OCP Africa to 3000 farmers in Edu Local Government to boost rice production, and the well-anchored tractorization initiative in a bid to survive food insecurity which could arise from the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

The Tractorization Subsidy Scheme is an initiative to make tractors available to the farmers at a lesser cost available in the market. While as of the time of the flag- off, the market cost of hiring a tractor was between 15- N16,000, the farmers were given the tractors for a sum of N10,000 per hectare of land— a healthy N6,000 reduction. The farmers have since been accessing and lauding the scheme, with many saying it would scale farming, boost food security, and address the poverty rate in the state.

That was the story until a report surfaced in the media, with a screaming headline alleging the scheme was enmeshed in a multi-million naira contract scam. The author Fresh Insight, needless to say, was the same with a misleading headline that Kwara spent 17.3m daily between April 1st- June 29, 2020, in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. With prejudice to antecedents, which is sacrosanct in journalism, this very one is not also premised on a detailed investigation. If it were, he’d have known and established the reasons there was a disparity in the payments to the two tractor- leasing companies, MECA and Traxi.

As it has since been espoused by the Technical Assistant to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Agriculture on a radio programme between him and the reporter earlier today, the attempts to slap the contract with a concocted financial scandal won’t ever fly. It is not because it is perfect but because there is nothing of such in the whole thing. Don’t take it from me. Let’s review the reports. According to the available documents, TRAXI was paid N44, 325,000 inclusive of 16.5% for 26 tractors, while the other company MECA received N48, 600,000 for just 24 tractors. The obvious payment of more money for fewer tractors caught their fancy and they’d go ahead to file a damaging story without establishing the reasons.

Since the public deserves a second story, it is incumbent upon someone like myself to review the claims. The reason money paid to MECA was more than that of TRAXI even when they were supplying lesser farm inputs borders on the terms of the contract. The contract with the former was broader, it included four different things; leasing of 24 tractors, logistics for transportation to Kwara, operators allowance( N5,000 per day), and refundable caution fee. On the other hand, the deal with TRAXI contained only two scopes; leasing of 26 tractors and logistics for transportation. How could they have been the same? A true investigation should have been to unravel that before hitting the published button.

One other big claim with no substance was that Governor AbdulRazaq signed a waiver for MECA– the same company they alleged received bigger money for fewer tractors for no reason. While skimming the 2- series report, there was no document to back it and there shall never be one. The governor as a true patriot never took such action. The fact of the matter is that both companies paid 16.5 % on the contract and the onus is on Fresh Insight to prove otherwise. We should also get something clear; farm inputs and equipment are not ideally vat-able but the government couldn’t forgo such a huge amount. It is then inexplicable some reporters painted such a bad narrative of him.

Like I said earlier, the contract process was not the most perfect. There may be one or two infractions according to the procurement law. However, these are even subject to interpretation in the court of laws. The Technical Assistant pontificated that fears expressed over the non- compliance with the law is covered by section 60 of the same law. The section speaks to an emergency which includes war, insurrection, catastrophe, etc. To argue the correctness, one must be armed with the knowledge that the government initially budgeted to procure 100 tractors for farmers until the pandemic struck.

The outbreak of COVID-19 made nonsense of the plan and had to revisit the decision by going for a cheaper alternative, leasing the tractors. This led to the Tractorization Subsidy Scheme– a response to the global fears of food shortage– to submerge the effects of the pandemic on food security. If one would argue over the points on procurement, he should be conversant with the change in plans ( acquisition — leasing) and the underlying reasons. The definition of an emergency according to the procurement and the dictionary may help. However, since we practice democracy, the court of law may not also be a bad option. The government may be sued for it.

It may only be necessary that one who calls for equity should come with clean hands. Fresh Insight has consistently failed to substantiate its claims against the government at two different times now. The latest in the series of blunders is grievous and unpatriotic. For not being able to establish contract inflation and waiver of taxes for contractors is highly disappointing and vitiates the prism of investigative reportage. To start with, no report worth its salt doesn’t carry pictures and videos to hold its claims. In the absence of evidence and articulation of claims, investigative journalism becomes a mere exercise of blackmail.

I make no attempt to exonerate the government of clear default on procurement law as only the court is most capable, but where is the multi-million naira scandal? Kwarans should ask Fresh Insight for documents having the governor’s signature granting waivers to the companies.

End.

Opinions

A Governor and his love for probity

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By Rafiu Ajakaye
 
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is an emerging phenomenon in the Nigerian political space, thanks to his style, his drive to make things easy for the poor within resources available to him, and the pace at which he is demystifying governance. He lives in his own house. He drives his own car. He carries his own files. He goes about town on official duties without the air that comes with governance in the country. And he recently made himself a subject of school quiz when he officially wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the anti-graft body, to probe his own administration on claims that N300m of Local government funds was being diverted monthly. Who does that?
 
He went a step higher a few months ago when he became the country’s first chief executive to introduce social audits of public projects. While several Kwarans considered the step as the next phase of his efforts to sanitise governance in the state, particularly given his record of involving neutral parties in monitoring government programmes, a few others said he was only trying to kill the Freedom of Information Bill. They warned the civic group (ENETSUD) tapped to partner with the government that the social audit was a kiss of death for proponents of the FOI. But the Governor said he meant every word about the social audit and that it was not intended to kill the FOI. For him, the social audit is meant to strengthen transparency, ensure good governance, and strengthen public confidence in government for better service delivery. It is meant to break the ice. But his critics would have none of that. They said it was all talk! 
 
Today, social auditing has become a reality with at least six projects now being examined by the civic group to know whether works done by contractors are commensurate with public funds released for the projects. In the first phase, the College of Education Road (Ilorin); Government High School renovation Adeta Ilorin; Patigi Secondary School Patigi; Diamond Underpass Geri-Alimi; Ilesha Baruba-Gwanara Road; and Cargo Terminal Airport Road are to be audited.
 
The exercise is the first of its kind in Nigeria. What the Governor has done is to volunteer all relevant technical documents to the civic group to conduct independent critique of the projects to determine whether there is value for public funds sunk into them. It is fair to note that the social audit partly followed an outcry in some quarters about the quality of jobs done on some projects. 
 
This is beyond doubt a rare show of transparency, accountability, and oft-absent political will to make things work for the people. In doing this, the Governor is not expecting everything to be perfect. He instead intended the social audit to build confidence and open a new page in public accountability on the part of everybody involved in project conception, management, and execution. As he mentioned in the interface with ENETSUD and elsewhere, outcome of the social audit could lead to government directing contractors to return to site to correct observations made. And it may well lead to some contractors getting a pat on the back for job well done. Or a red card for erring ones. Similarly, it is a sign to government’s project monitors to always do the right thing as their own judgment may not always guarantee a pass mark for any contractors. Ultimately, no one would get away with poor job in Kwara. Not anymore. 
 
Some persons have suggested that any revelations of poor jobs would rub off badly on the Governor. That shows they do not know him. He seeks the best for his people. His focus is to gently and steadily move everyone to do their own bit as he is doing his. He appreciates the institutional gap that had long existed in project conception and execution and he wants to leave a legacy of being that leader who insisted that the public must get value for their money. Accepting to do social audit is an evidence that he is not one who gives contract and asks for some unlawful returns. All he desires is the best for the state. 
 
And there is no let up in this regard. For the first time in Kwara, the Governor has officially activated the Public Procurement Agency with the recent appointment of Mallam Raheem AbdulBaki as its pioneer General Manager. You know what? That law had long existed in Kwara but no one had the balls to implement it for reasons readers may guess. It is not every time a state is blessed with leaders who walk their talk. Kwara is currently having one in the Governor who tells anyone who cares to listen that he has nothing to hide. And every step he takes speaks just to that. 
 

Ajakaye is CPS to the Governor
 

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EDO 2020: Between SIMPLE Agenda and Moving Forward By Babatunde Qodri

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By Babatunde qodri

With some days to the September 19 Edo governorship election, there has been noise in the downtown of Benin city. The atmospheric condition is not friendly as everywhere is throbbing with campaigns, posters and many more. Markets are busy. Roads even in Edo state assembly have become National Theatre! Desperate moves are in motion, too.

Of the 35 registered political parties as confirmed by the INEC in the state, the dominant ones are APC and PDP. As a matter of fact, the deafening electoral noise in the state reflects the struggles between these two players.

However, the incumbent governor Obaseki is doing all his best to be re-elected as the governor of the state while his counterpart Osagie Ize–Iyamu remains his greatest rival with his embattled godfather Adam Oshiomole. Each of the political actors are into several political tactics on who to control the government House for the next four years. Interesting.

Amid these moves for power, politicians are decamping to different political parties, enemies become friends, trust is betrayed and those who are holding the levers of power are not ready to take it easy. Obaseki who was once a godson to Oshiomole is now seen to have betrayed his godfather. He’s been alleged of misappropriation of fund, misgovernace and sheer failure to swear in 14 elected lawmakers in the state. His sin not limited to this, he appears to betray and bite the fingers that feed him. The 14 lawmakers that Obaseki refuses to inaugurate are now the ones fighting him.

Few weeks back, the State Assembly was shut down by the opposition party where the supporters of both APCand PDP are fighting over speakership seat. The roof of the secretariat was scattered and everywhere seemed controlled by tensions. For many, the coming election may likely to come with troubles in the state the state. INEC warns!

In the face of the fierce atmosphere that grips the state currently, both candidates Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki are campaigning throughout the state as to either Edo will choose simple agenda or consider moving forward. The APC candidate pastor Ize – Iyamu in his statement said, “When Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1978 formed the Unity Party of Nigeria. Even though I was quite young, I was fascinated by the manifesto of his party. The four cardinal programs of the UPN include free education, free health services, integrated rural development and employment for all”. This has become the mantra of the APC candidate.

Obaseki, in what looks like a reaction to the above, relies his cardinal agenda on moving Edo forward. He aims to capitalise his work on his previous achievement. In the main, the Edo BEST(Basic Education Sector Transformation), expansion of infrastructure in terms of road, Obaseki’s administration has taken the state from where it was and the governor promises to consolidate on them in his second term. “Edo is not Lagos” is his mantra.

And this reminds me of Gov. Ambode, the one-time Governor, who was disqualified for failure to respect the law of the game and was thrown out in a bid to seek re-election. In the case of Obaseki instead of him to respect elders, rather chose to leave his party for another decamp to seek elections, not only that he renovated the State Assembly to save himself from impeachment. Obaseki’s refusal to bow is only known to him and he can face the battle and win it. The dice is cast and September 19 is near to know who owns the state!

I urge the Edo electorate to come out massively in order to vote their preferred choice of as the future of the state remains depends solely on them. They shouldn’t be induced by money or anything that can compromise their wish for the state.

Based on this, I wish to remind the Edo electorate of Joachim Macebong’s admonition in a piece entitled, “The Importance of One Vote” on April 1, 2011. He said: “The most often heard excuse for not voting in an election is ‘my one little vote won’t make a difference.’ Yet, history is full of instances proving the enormous power of one single vote. In many cases, the course of nations has been changed because one individual ballot was cast or not cast”.

End.

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Hon. Adenike Harriet Afolabi-Oshatimehin; An exemplary woman of virtue By Saleeman Muslim

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By Muslim Saleeman

The occasion of your birthday is indeed remarkable to reflect on your wonderful personality and retrospect on your specialities. As you display through your actions, I shall briefly justify your essentiality through Pen.

It has been a wonderful and impressive journey of grace and gratitude so far. You’ve really made us proud and happy with your excellent performance as the Honorable Commissioner of our great State. The leadership traits in you is inherent as you’ve truly differentiated between progress and stagnation.

Words are not enough to appreciate God for your life which is a beacon of hope for the hopeless and an inspiration to numerous. Your patriotism, selflessness and bridge-building capacity have manifested in unprecedented administrative and socio-political excellence, undisputable social investment on the development of our dear state.

The exploits of your predominant tenacity with resilience in every facet of humanity are testimonies to your exceptional leadership and uncommon vision for coming generations. Even if all seems to be a familiar appraisal, I will still emphatically say you’re always on adventures of commitment to ensuring ability where there’s disability and stability where there’s instability.

There have been so many practical experiences with you which make me a witness to justify the above accolades that you deserve. The platform you’ve been given to serve even acknowledges the intelligence and wisdom you’re blessed with to pilot the affairs of the Ministry. A versatile bold woman you are!

As a model to me, you are a great epitome of integrity and discipline; these among others I so much cherish as you’re so worthy of emulation in all ramifications. May Allah continue to be your strength.

Hearty felicitation on your new glorious age Ma. May you continue to be enriched with the necessary qualities that shall best make you greater than who you are as I wish you many graceful and prosperous returns with more accomplished fulfilments. Amin!

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