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Last Wednesday, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State claimed that his immediate past predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko left behind a whooping debt of N220 billion. In his reaction, Mimiko denied the claim. OJO OYEWAMIDE writes.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and his immediate predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko, were friends and ideological soul mates in their days at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The profundity and cordiality of their relationship was publicly underscored by the banters that two of them exchanged during the handover ceremony preceding the inauguration of Akeredolu on February 24, 2017.
Akeredolu had jokingly remarked that Mimiko was one of his political followers at Ife in those days. But Mimiko, who did not gloss over the joke, urged the people inside the Cocoa Conference Hall in the Alagbaka Governor’s Office where the handover ceremony was taking place, to disregard the claim of his friend.
Mimiko, therefore, called on Segun Adesegun, former Ogun State deputy governor and school mate of the duo, to tell the gathering who was telling lies between him and Akeredolu. Beaming with smiles, Adesegun waved aside the request of Mimiko.
Such was the deepness of their friendship that people of the state, especially members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), suspected a secret pact between Mimiko and Akeredolu before the November 26 2017 gubernatorial poll in the state. Not a few have ascribed the failure of the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, to clinch victory in the election to the pact. The belief is that Mimiko lowered his guard to ensure that his friend won the race.
After the election, the actions and pronouncements of Akeredolu were to later reinforce the suspicion. While responding to the strident calls for the probe of the Mimiko-led administration shortly after the poll, Akeredolu declared that the mandate given to him was to govern but not to probe the immediate past government.
“I don’t believe in probes. What I believe in is that I’ve been given a mandate to govern the state and when I come into office I will face the task. The past is the past and I am one person who believes that government is a continuum,” he said.
Also in December last year, Akeredolu, to the chagrin of the people of the state and members of his party, described Mimiko’s record of service as enviable which would be difficult to surpass. Commending Mimiko for devoting his time to the service of the people of the state, Akeredolu said his friend’s wealth of experience and advice would be needed for sustainable development.
He said to Mimiko, “We all owe you debts of gratitude for your service to this state and to Nigeria. Whether we like it or not, you have a track record that I’m not too sure many people can surpass because of the fact that you devoted the early part of your life to the service of this state. It is not something that is common and I hope I’ll have the opportunity of repeating it.”
Not comfortable with what they described as an unwholesome relationship with Mimiko, APC members once accused Akeredolu of employing and retaining loyalists of the former governor. Francis Akonbiemu, Executive Secretary of Primary Health Care Development Board, was said to have been appointed into the position against the preferred candidate of the party. It was claimed that Akonbiemu was the choice of Mimiko, a development that irked APC members in the state.
The party members also expressed worry over the retention of Toyin Akinkuotu as Head of Service and some Permanent Secretaries believed to be staunch supporters of Mimiko. It was learnt that all the suggestions made to Akeredolu about Mimiko and his administration were always rejected.
Very early in the life of the government, it was reportedly proposed to Akeredolu to give a state of ‘the state’ address in which he would be expected to speak about the finances of the state. He was said to have been prevaricating about it.
Given Akeredolu’s attitude to the last government, it was, therefore, surprising to the people of the state last Wednesday when the governor finally decided to wash the dirty linen of his friend’s administration in the public.
Painting a gloomy picture of the finances of the state, Akeredolu claimed that the immediate past administration of Mimiko left behind a whooping debt of N220 billion. Akeredolu made the disclosure during the inauguration of 18 commissioners and 10 special advisers, more than six months after he became the executive governor of the state.
The governor said his administration inherited an internal debt of N53,719billion and an external debt of N17,485 billion. He further disclosed that unpaid salaries and allowances left by his predecessor from August to December, 2016 was N17, 279 billion, adding that the unpaid salaries and allowances from January to February 2017 was N6, 911billion.
“Ondo State Pension Liabilities: N4,800,965,850.00, Ondo State Gratuity: N15,043,537, 042.74, Unpaid Local Government Salaries and Allowances August to December 2016, N9,320,568,782.41. Unpaid Local Government Salaries and Allowances (Jan. to Feb., 2017): N5,192,437,503.30, Local Government Pension Liabilities: N25,237,348,457.26, Local Government Gratuities Liability: N20,965,598,590.61, Contractors’ Liabilities: N39,740,423,934.76, Outstanding payment requests in the Office of the Accountant-General without cash backing: N5,451,352,494.25,” he said.
Akeredolu, who debunked the claim of the last administration that it left a sum of N20 billion, said his government only met a sum of N9,956billion in the coffers of the state, lamenting that things would be difficult for the new government with a debt of over N220 billion.
While reacting to Akeredolu’s claims, Mimiko declared that his government did not leave behind a debt of N220 billion, insisting that he left N20billion in the coffers of the state as against N9,956billion claimed by the Governor. Kayode Akinmade, former Commissioner of Information, who spoke on behalf of the former governor, urged the people of the state to discountenance the claim of Akeredolu.
He said, “We urge the government and interested citizens of our state to avail themselves of the true state of our indebtedness from the Debt Management Office and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The reports are clear and unambiguous about the fact that Ondo State remained the least borrowed of the Six South Western States and of the nine Oil Producing States as at our administrations exit in February, 2017.”
Akinmade insisted that the former administration left N20 billion in the coffers of the state and that Governor Akeredolu was not saying the truth about the finances of the Sunshine state. He explained that the amount included N7.37.Billion in the Current Account; N7.53Billion as Fixed Deposit; N1.2Billion in the MDG Account; $346,000 and 443,000Euro in the Domiciliary Account, including the N825million Sure-P fund at the Local Government Account.
Most of the mount, according to Akinmade, came late during the tenure of Mimiko and it was to be used to offset a chunk of owed salaries before the then Accountant General made a curious disappearance. The former commissioner stated that the Mimiko government did not incur any foreign debt in all its eight years.
“Also, the External debt stock as at February 2017 was US49,958,268.49, which (if translated at 1 US $ = N305) is N15.23billion. All of these external debt stocks were inherited from previous administrations. Again, we did not contract any external loan for all of our eight years! Well aware of the fact that government is a continuum, we continued to service the debts, some of which spanned over twenty years.
“Internal debt profile, we aver, stood at N53.159 billion comprising mainly of salary bailout loan of N13.76billion, Excess Crude Account loan N9.79 billion, Canada restructuring FGN Bond N4.13billion, CBN budget support N7.5billion and Ondo State 7-Year bond of N17.6billion. Of all the above listed indebtedness, only the Ondo State 7-Year Bond was directly incurred by our government to build major infrastructure across the State,” Akinmade explained.
For now, it is difficult to determine who is speaking the truth between the two friends. But observers say the address on the finances of the state is belated, wondering what Akeredolu had been doing in the past six months. The people of the Sunshine state are watching the drama with disappointment as the plot develops.