AMOSUN CAN RUIN OGUN - KAWONISE, EX-COMMISSIONER
Sina Kawonise was former Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Ogun State. He made a name for himself as a die-hard defender and champion of the Gbenga Daniel administration. He has sustained this, as he lately became an ardent critic of Daniel's successor, Ibikunle Amosun who he slams for reversing some policies with a view to discrediting it.
The vocal former commissioner, early in the week raised an alarm about an alleged witch-hunt by Ogun State government for being unsparing in his trenchant criticisms. In this interview with Saturday Sun just before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives were sent to comb his former office for 'phony' evidence of graft, Kawonise provides reasons for the various measures taken by the Daniel administration, even as he carpets Governor Amosun for his 'killer policies', which he warns would ruin the gateway state if not checked.
In particular, he alleges an exodus of industries from the state due to the 'daft' and allegedly unfriendly policies of the present regime, which he notes has come with attendant revenue and job losses for the government and people of the state.
Please, assess the Ibikunle Amosun government?
Well, the government we have in place came into office with a lot of promise. The promises were made to people during the campaigns. Senator Ibikunle Amosun came into office on the platform of reconstructing Ogun State as if Ogun State was destroyed in any way. So, he came there, made so many promises including creating 10,000 jobs within 100 days. He promised to increase the IGR of the state from the N1billion within six months. But, it is sad that none of those promises had even come anywhere near fulfillment. For the first 100 days he said he was going to provide 10,000 jobs. As I speak with you now, not up to 5,000 of those jobs have been created. Rather, what we have in Ogun State currently is the equivalent of de-industrialization, by which so many companies are leaving Ogun State. You know, they are leaving because of the unfriendly business attitude and disposition of the current government. As I speak with you, 13 Chinese companies have left Ogun State and we did a study of the potentials of the companies and we saw that, with the exit of those companies not less than 35,000 jobs have been lost. So, because if everybody is now talking of reducing recurrent expenditure and increasing capital votes of all governments, both federal and State governments, if you promise employment it does not mean that you want to put people in the civil service. That is exactly what he has done. Ogun State is going backward, not forward, because Amosun so far hasn't added any appreciable value. The only one that he did is the distribution of exercise books to the tune of N1.8billion to primary and secondary school pupils in public schools in Ogun State. Of course, while we were still in office, we did that on a routine basis without making any noise about it. Even local governments under us gave out such materials and quite a lot of money was expended on that. So, 10 months down the line, Amosun is yet to show any capacity for good governance or even development of Ogun state.
You will agree that he made appreciable impact in terms of revenue generation?
Actually, he hasn't added anything, because he is sending those companies away from Ogun State, directly or indirectly. You heard about what he did to Bi-Courtney? In fact, the federal government two weeks ago wrote a letter to the government of Ogun State telling the state to stop interfering and disturbing operations of the company that has concession to reconstruct Lagos-Ibadan expressway. So, that's a good example of what we are talking about. He went to Bi-Courtney to disturb their operations. In fact, one night he went there ad carted away all their equipment to Abeokuta. As I speak with you, the equipment is still in Abeokuta. Yes, he has increased the IGR a little. I am told that the state now has about N1.6billion monthly. But that did not come out of any effort in terms of enterprise. He imposed taxes on civil servants, on public servants by increasing their taxes by up to 300 per cent. So, those are soft targets and that is what we call the easy soft target. Out there, he hasn't been able to make anything from the existing companies because they are actually leaving Ogun State. I am told now that the workers are planning to go on strike to protest that tax regime. Somebody that was paying N15, 000 per month from his salary or her salary now pay N45, 000. In fact with the minimum wage that he offered when he came because of the strike and national strike, some civil servants are actually getting lesser than what they were getting before even the minimum wage. It is as if you are giving with the right hand and withdrawing with the left hand. That is exactly what has happened in the state.
Some policies and actions that were taken by your government are also being reversed due to irregularities, such as in land allocations for instance and the concession of Gateway Hotels. What have you to say to that?
Well, in 2008 when we came into office, land was not an issue in Ogun State. In fact, if you give anybody land he will probably ask that you should give him the money to build it up because Ogun State particularly, Abeokuta was basically a civil service enclave. Land was not an issue and was worth very little. It was when Otunba Daniel became governor and embarked on this deliberate industrialization process of Ogun State, bringing those investors to Ogun State that land became an issue. Because of his own business background, he was able to attract so many people in the corporate world to invest in the State.
He encouraged them to build in Ogun. They participate p in the PPP arrangement of the government -the public private partnership of the government. Hardly would you find anywhere, any land in Ogun State that cost up to N1 million as at 2003. We met three housing estates that were residential housing estates. By the time we were leaving, they had become 40. We added 37 housing estates. So, it was because of the deliberate policy of the government that we ran, that land became an issue. And by the time we got into office in 2003, we met a manual process of land allocation in the State and by the time we were leaving we have started the computerization process. But that was a process that has just begun at that time. So, wherever you find this kind of manual process of land administration, you are going to find cases of double allocations. That is routine, it happens everywhere. Because it is not computerized, somebody has been given that land and another person applies three, four or five years after that time. The people doing allocation didn't know or wouldn't know that particular portion of land had been allocated and we had cases like that. In fact, it was a problem that we resolved routinely without any media attention while we were in office.
But for somebody who has come with politics of bitterness, politics of vindictiveness, politics of reversal and all of that. anything you know will suffice to discredit somebody who had been there before. It is no longer secret that in fact everybody knows now in Nigeria that governor Amosun has been practicing what we call the politics of bitterness and like I said in some of the interviews that I granted in the past, he has proven himself to be a bad loser and a bad winner. When he lost to Otunba Daniel in 2007, that was how he went with bitterness making insinuations, all manner of lies against the government. He has killed this! He has this killer squad! He had killed Dipo Dina! They were taking oath, drinking blood- all manners of things that everybody now knows were just simulated lies to discredit Daniel. They were calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it. So he was a bad loser. When God now permitted him to win, you know if you win, you win with magnanimity. If you lose, you lose gallantly. He has exhibited neither of these virtues. When he lost, he was a bad loser and when he won, you know he was a bad winner. That exactly is what is going on in the state now.
Concerning the issue of concession, we did what we had to do according to what we perceived to be in the best interest of the state. If he now thinks that he has something better than that, he is free to do that. But, I will give an example in that regard. We met three Gateway Hotels in Ogun State. One in Abeokuta, one in Ota and the last one in Ijebu-Ode. The three hotels were built by the late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo with a bank loan of about 18.5 million Dollars that he took from the World Bank. Now, our current value translated to a little less than N10 billion with which he built those hotels in the early 80s. Now, from the time that those hotels were built and the time that they were concession, starting from 2006, a period of about 26 years those three hotels gave the government a dividend of N24 million in 26 years. It was less than N1 million per year. All of this is public knowledge.
So, the three hotels gave a dividend of about N24 million in 26 years to the government. Meanwhile, the government was paying salaries of people. It was allocating money and it was a drain on the resources of government. We now said okay, if we say let us even pump money into this thing; the government did not have the money. We didn't have that money because of the cash crunch. So we now said, okay, let us concession this thing, not sell it as Amosun made the world to believe. We didn't sell the hotels…. All the stakeholders in Ogun State were called upon to decide on this thing and they decided that let us concession this thing. Now, for the concession, there is something they call the Signature Bonus. If you want to take over an asset from the management for the Gateway hotel in Abeokuta alone the government got N300 million signature bonus for that. In fact, the three hotels gave a total sum of N527million to the government! That was a government that made only N24 million in 26 years, just signature bonus alone gave N527 million to the government on that. Again, we made an agreement that, look, run the place for 25 years because the number of years that we grant as concession will depend on the total investment and the duration that we think they will be able to recover their investment. An average concession lasts between 15 years and 50 years in some instances. So, those hotels were concession for 25 years. We made an agreement that once the hotels start to operate, they will be paying into the coffers of Ogun State 7.5 per cent of turn over.
Which is not the profit. Turn over is the total amount of money coming into the business. So, because, we reasoned that if we said give us a percentage of profit, they may work in terms of overhead ,which we know how this companies operate. But, we said look, whatever you make give us 7.5 per cent of the turnover in the first 10 years. After 10 years, for the remaining 15 years, we now increase the percentage of the government to 10 per cent of turnover. Now, for the first 10 years, the three hotels, we calculate that it will yield about N6.5 billion into the coffers of the government and after that the next 15 years, we will make not less than N10 billion. So, after that, the hotel will still to revert back to the government. You can't have a better business deal. In fact, that is the model everywhere in the world. Lagos-Ibadan expressway was concession because the Federal Government could not just find the money to be able to do it and it said okay, gentlemen go and do it. The MM2, all of us remembered how it was, before the fire outbreak that razed it and it was concession to Bi-Courtney. Everybody is happy now.