Mr Ademola Banu was Kwara State Commissioner for Finance between 2011 and 2019. In this conversation with THISDAY, the former banker turned politician analyses Kwara State and national matters. Excerpts:
Why does the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still want to recapture power in Kwara State having been rejected by the people in the last elections in 2019?
The defeat was a result of false propaganda against the previous administrations despite their spectacular performance. The administrations of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and his successor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, delivered resounding dividends of democracy to our people. The Saraki administration provided a network of urban and rural roads, the first flyover in the North Central, Kwara State University, (KWASU); Aviation College, Banquet Hall, Kwara Commercial Micro Finance Bank, the modernized Government House and many other infrastructures. The civil servants received their salaries as and when due. There was the security of lives and property which also enhanced the attraction of investors such as the (Zimbabwe farmers) Shonga farm; Kwara Mall, Dangote Industry, Olam and many others.
His successor, Ahmed’s administration also constructed many roads, vocational centres, underpass at Geri-Alimi and many others. He also enhanced the internally generated revenue (IGR) by increasing those taxable. There was also enhanced security of lives and property.
The 2023 candidate of PDP, Alhaji Shuaibu Yaman, who is an experienced politician and technocrat has encapsulated his programmes and vision for the good people of Kwara State. He has been able to articulate how he intends to raise the Internal Generated Revenue to an appreciable level using agriculture as a springboard to prosperity in the state. Furthermore, he has the willingness, experience and knowledge to carry on the legacies of Bukola Saraki and Abdulfatah Ahmed.
But the current state Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is said to be delivering superlative governance to Kwarans?
The State government has not been able to fulfil any of its campaign promises three and half years after being in office. The issue of minimum wage was only addressed recently when they realized that another election is close by. At a time, the State government took the civil servants to court for demanding for minimum wage. This government is an undertaker whose only achievement in the state is the destruction of the legacies of its predecessors. The Governor sacked more than 4,000 legitimately employed and qualified teachers, paralysed Kwara Hotel, and Kwara Express; destroyed Harmony Diagnostic Centre and immobilized the civil service by giving their responsibilities to consultants. The major road leading to Ilorin, to the northern part of the State, Kulende to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) road, was awarded and almost completed by the last administration, only to lay second coat and Asphalt was left undone. Also, the government terminated the contract for the maintenance of the underpass that was commissioned close to the end of the last administration. Consequently, the filter installed in the underground sub-drainpipe was blocked, thereby allowing water to get to the subbase of the road, causing damage to the surface of the underpass. These underscored their lack of interest in the infrastructural development of the state.
It may even interest you to note that the last administration left over N8.5 billion at the time of exit which included N5.2 billion Tax refund and May 2019 allocation. Furthermore, it is disappointing that in spite of almost half a trillion-naira revenue that has accrued to this State Government since the beginning of the administration, including a huge debt of over N60 billion, they have not been able to commission any landmark project. Unfortunately, this Government has not been able to add any value to the impressive Internal Generated Revenue met on the ground. This government lacks transparency and accountability as they have refused to give accounts for the revenue and expenditure since they assumed office contrary to what was obtainable during the previous administrations.
Many Kwarans opined that after spending billions of Naira on the water project, the Saraki government did not achieve any result. In addition, all the waterworks were not working too until Abdulrazaq became governor?
The government of Dr Bukola Saraki paid N2.2 billion for the rehabilitation and upgrading of Asa Dam water treatment plant referred to as Primary Rehabilitation in 2009. Furthermore, the administration of Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed completed the reticulation of pipelines across Ilorin metropolis referred to as Secondary Reticulation at the cost of N6.5 billion in 2019.
In the Hand-Over note submitted by the former General Manager, Water Corporation, to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water dated 23rd July 2019, it was confirmed that all the 94-water works were working at their various capacities. It was recommended in the report that the proposed tertiary reticulation of the Ilorin metropolis, to complement Primary rehabilitation and Secondary reticulation, is a ‘must-do’ as this will bring water service to the doorsteps of residents in their various houses in the Ilorin metropolis. It was also recommended that Asa Dam water works needed turnaround maintenance after 10 years of rehabilitation. The tertiary distribution and maintenance of Asa Dam were not given the required attention. The water treatment plant has deteriorated and now working at about 40% capacity which accounts for the worsening water situation in the Ilorin metropolis. This also puts a lie to the governor’s assertion that all the 94-water works were not working.
There was an allegation of financial misconduct against you, which included money laundering of N411 million. What is the state of that allegation today?
The matter was withdrawn from court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as they did not have any evidence to prove the allegations against me. Meanwhile, I will like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation to the new leadership of the EFCC for their professionalism.
Governro Abdulrazaq has accused the Bukola Saraki and Abdulfatah Ahmed’s administrations of not paying pensions and gratuities to retired civil servants….
(Cuts in) This is another misrepresentation by this government to cover up its failure. Sometime in 2005, the state’s government invited the leaders of the pensioners for a meeting to resolve the issue of the outstanding liability since the beginning of the creation of the state which amounted to about N3 billion. It was agreed that the state should pay 50% of the outstanding amount. The state then took a loan from the bank and paid the 50% as agreed. Meanwhile, the government then was not blaming the previous administration for the outstanding pension liability. Afterwards, the state was paying pension regularly while 150 million was paid for gratuity monthly. It was reduced to N100 million and then N50 million when the finances of the state became abysmal low.
How did you enter politics?
I attended the University of Ilorin where I obtained a Bachelor of Agric Engineering in 1988 and Master of Business Administration (MBA), from the same university. I became a chartered accountant in 1996. I am also an auditor. I left United Bank for Africa in 2005 where I won several awards, to take up an appointment as Special Assistant on Economic Planning. I had heard that politics is a dirty game, and this had regularly worked on my mind. I had avoided getting involved but I had a new orientation when I was introduced to Dr. Saraki in 2005. He told me about his laudable plan for the development of Kwara State. I was moved by his passion and love for our people. Subsequently, I was elevated to Special Adviser in 2007 and Commissioner for Finance in 2011.
Governor Abdulrazaq commissioned a forensic audit into the financial transactions of the state from 2011 to 2019 when former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed was the governor. You were then the Finance Commissioner, and the audit report indicted or accused Ahmed’s administration of stealing N11.9 billion. What is your take on this?
The so-called auditor’s report is laughable because it is a bunch of imaginary accusations and trash. I am a fellow of chartered accountant, so I know when an auditor followed the principles and procedure of auditing. The report was silent on the nature of the transactions, audit tray, who approved the transactions, through which banks if any, which accounts the funds were transferred to, etc. So, the report is technically faulty.
What is your view on the rising unemployment in Nigeria?
The high unemployment rate is a time bomb. The government should do something that will bring confidence to the economy. The first thing is security. We also need to encourage our local manufacturers. Multiple taxes should be addressed. They should encourage entrepreneurship. We should also focus on and design a flexible funding model for mechanized agriculture as was done in Kwara State during Dr Bukola Saraki’s administration. A subsidiary of Shonga farm holding, Valentine Chicken Ltd with an investment of over $100 million has a daily production of 22,000 chickens per day, 110,000 per week and more than 1,500 staff which has transformed and developed the host and neighbouring communities. This was the same project that this clueless government termed a scam.