I'VE NO ISSUES WITH OSOBA - AMOSUN
BY DAUD OLATUNJI
RECENTLY Ogun state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun spoke with some newsmen in Abeokuta, the Ogun State Capital on sundry issues and what he has done within the last six months he assumed office as the Executive governor of Gateway State. He talked about his plans to combat armed robbery and other criminal acts in the state just as he denied knowledge of factions in the state House of Assembly. Excerpts:
One of your main campaign promises was the reduction of school fees in higher institutions. What is delaying your fulfilment of the promise?
You may need to cross-check your facts. Before we came in, the previous government increased school fees by 100 per cent but when they heard our promise of 60 per cent reduction, they quickly announced a reduction of 50 per cent which they did not start to implement because some students had paid.
This government came in and effected that 50 per cent reduction plus an additional 10 per cent reduction. That makes it 60 per cent in all. Once the finances of the state improve, we would further adjust the fees downward. Don't forget that unlike before, all the institutions are now receiving their subventions.
But then your pledge of free medical treatment for children, pregnant women and aged people is yet to take full effect.
We discovered a lot of things when we came in. For instance, it is all over the papers that some workers were owed allowances up to 11 months. Workers were not receiving full salaries, funds deducted from employees' salaries were not remitted, leave bonuses and gratuities were not paid.
Shortly after we came, the new minimum wage took effect. We had to spend a lot on rehabilitation of hospitals because the level of decay was beyond what we had imagined. This has led to reappraisal, not of the policy but implementation strategy. The Ministry of Health is on top of the situation and will unveil soon our comprehensive implementation strategy.
What is the cost of the ongoing beautification programme in the state?
The exercise is still ongoing as you rightly observed. We still have a lot to accomplish in this area. As to the breakdown of the cost, the Ministry of Environment may be able to give details because, as I said, it's still an ongoing exercise. We are committed to living in a clean environment. This is good also for our health, for as the saying goes, 'health is wealth'.
There are speculations that the tax rate has been increased by 300 per cent causing bad blood with workers. If true, why was this done?
This administration has not increased tax by one per cent. What happened was that the former administration was not paying workers full salaries and as a result of that was applying tax indiscriminately such that even workers on the same grade level in the same cadre were paying different taxes. This fact is in the public domain, so we are not saying anything new. But payment of tax is governed by law. Any government that believes in the rule of law must conform to law in all things.
The Personal Income Tax Act, 2004 is a federal law and it guides the administration of tax in Nigeria. Every state government must comply with that law. This is what my administration has done - to comply with the law on income tax. We have challenged any worker whose tax is above the prescription of the PITA to come forward and we will refund them even with interest! The fact is, with the current administration and in spite of compliance with the tax law, the salaries of workers are far above what they used to be. This ordinarily is a plus for our government.
I am not unaware of the politics behind the agitation of leaders of the workers. I have reports of their clandestine meetings to make things difficult for us through industrial crisis. Some have even written in the papers that I am not in control of the government otherwise how can union leaders continue to threaten strike when my government is not owing workers a dime?
I even asked the tax bureau to give the maximum benefits allowed by law to all workers, meaning that all workers in Ogun, for instance, are believed to have four children before computation of their taxes. So what more can I do? Imagine the percentage I am paying as 13th month, 30 per cent of basic salary! Yet this is a state that is heavily indebted with virtually all its assets sold by the last administration. But when we get to the bridge we will determine how to cross it.
There is this rumour that the state legislative arm has been divided into two - Amosun and Osoba factions, how true is this?
I am not aware of any division or the factions you are talking about. Our party has always been united. The House from what I have seen so far is committed to the good of this state. But of course, we are in a political environment and people can say different things to catch attention. Chief Osoba is and remains a worthy leader of our great party, ACN.