The administration of Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi will clock two years on October 15. In this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Yinka Oyebode, speaks on the Governor’s two years, as well as the government’s plans moving out of COVID-19. Excerpts:
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected a lot of things and has halted several programmes, one of which is the recruitment of new workers into the state’s civil service, what is the plan of the Government to resume this exercise?
The Covid-19 pandemic like you rightly said has led to some setbacks. For us in Ekiti, this is a temporary setback. All the laudable plans and processes already put in place would be revisited. This includes among others the conclusion of the various recruitment exercises. Recall that the recruitment is to fill available vacancies on one hand and to also create opportunities for our teeming youths with the right qualifications to be gainfully employed.
There are grumblings among the workers about the nonpayment of outstanding salaries owed by the previous government and also upgrading the pay of those workers who were promoted recently, what is the state Government doing around this?
Government is doing its best to ensure this situation is redressed within the resources available to it. The first and most effective step Governor Fayemi has taken is to ensure that the government no longer owes the workers. So, right from October 2018 salaries and pensions are paid as at when due, while the government is providing opportunities for workers to improve themselves. At the same time, the government is looking for ways to defray some of these outstanding debts owned by the past government.
Recently, when the Governor and some his aides were reported to have tested positive to COVID-19, it caused some panic and also gave a very strong signal about the veracity of this virus in the State. How is the government working to prevent more cases?
The fact that the Governor and a few state officials tested positive shows that they are human. It also shows that COVID-19 is real. We thank God both the Governor and the affected officials received the right treatment within the state, ably managed by our medical personnel. Many of the people got the message that the pandemic is no respecter of person, status or class. The openness of the Governor also encouraged the citizens to take the matter more seriously. More people voluntarily went for tests at the state molecular laboratory just as the government increased community testing. The presence of the laboratory has helped a lot as many individuals now go for testing to be sure of their status. Infected citizens are also treated free at the isolation centers. So, there has been no spread.
The Governor once described the pandemic as a wakeup call for investment and job creation, how is the state government planning to make a positive exploit of the pandemic to create jobs and bring in more investment to the state?
Depending on the way one looks at it, the pandemic also came with some lessons. One of which the Governor is tackling headlong-that is making huge investment in health care delivery, upgrading health infrastructure and equipping the hospitals as well as enlightening the people on healthy living such that they take their health very important and make healthy living a lifestyle. The Governor also rolled out several empowerment programmes for the youth during this time including financial and logistics support for young entrepreneurs. The cloth face masks produced by the government for instance were given to local tailors. Government also invested in locally fabricated water/soap dispensing facilities and assisted some with loans and grants to upscale their businesses.
While some States in the country jacked up their annual budget to meet up with the expenses incurred from managing Coronavirus, Ekiti State recently slashed its budget, why?
What Ekiti did was to ensure a budget that is realistic and realizable in terms of actualization. The pandemic ravaged so many homes and businesses and negatively affected opportunities. So, tax which is the main source of revenue was badly affected. You can’t ask for tax from a businessman that has shut down business for months. So, the government has to scale down its spending for the year. The Government strategically re-ordered its priorities, dropped some spending and increased the vote for health care delivery and social investments to accommodate the new realities. It is called effective budgeting.
Ekiti State is one of the states earning very low from the Federal Government allocation, which must have reduced because of the crash in crude oil price, what is this administration doing to boost the State’s IGR and make sure Ekiti is financially independent?
The various investments in regenerative projects are aimed at shoring up the revenue base. The civic centre, the Oja Oba market and all our collaborations with private investors in agriculture and manufacturing are designed to bring in revenue and increase our revenue base. New businesses are also daily being attracted to the state. This will boost employment and IGR as well. The Fayemi administration is providing the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. The road infrastructure will also enhance commercial activities.
The administration does not joke with the ease of doing business which is fast promoting commerce and industrialization in the state. The government is also providing access to funding and relevant training for its teeming youths so that they can embrace entrepreneurship. Government is also focusing on tourism and agriculture to drive IGR and these are already showing in the impressive figures being recorded in IGR.
What has this administration done so far in the agricultural, hospitality and tourism sectors?
Government has done a lot in agriculture and tourism. New initiatives are coming up daily in the tourism sector including the repackaging of tourism centres such as the Fajuyi pack and the warm springs at Ikogosi. Last year the spring hosted the first ever international marathon race.
In agriculture, the state’s partnership with the private sector has boosted agricultural investment in the state. Governor Fayemi is using agric business to drive industrialization of the state. First by fixing over 1,000 rural farm roads to enhance farm to market movement. This is being done in partnership with the World Bank. The Cargo airport is designed to aid industrialization as well. This is in addition to helping to move goods and services and also service the agric processing hub.
The governor recently reshuffled his cabinet, why?
Like any effective organization, there is always a time to review and evaluate progress and plans and move towards repositioning. This usually comes with re –assignment of tasks, re-designation of offices among others. So, the Governor decided to bring on board a few hands, change some people’s designation, add more tasks to some and provide more opportunities for younger elements to showcase their talents too. Everything was done to enhance greater service delivery and actualize the developmental agenda of the administration.
Governor Fayemi will be two years on October 15, what would you say are the achievements of his administration so far?
The achievements of the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration in the last two years are quite massive and all encompassing. Recall that the administration is driven along the five pillars: Governance, Agriculture and rural development, Social investments, knowledge economy, infrastructure and industrial development. Government’s huge investments in each of these pillars have produced amazing results, and we are still counting.
In the area of education, the administration restored free, qualitative and compulsory education to primary and secondary schools and abolished the obnoxious education tax levied by the previous administration. Aside from this, there has been a comprehensive renovation of all primary and secondary schools in the state. This is to make the learning environment conducive for the students. Government also established more schools to accommodate the growing population of school children in the state, especially in the state capital.
The administration also provides running grants to schools, to ensure that basic things needed in the school are attended to promptly. Added to this is the introduction of agriculture grants to secondary schools in the state. This is to encourage agriculture learning and practice and encourage our students to develop interest in agric business. The administration is also paying incentives to teachers in the form of rural teaching allowances and core subjects allowances. It also upgraded facilities at the technical colleges to enhance vocational training and provide alternatives to students who might opt for vocational studies. This does not disturb payment of scholarships and bursaries to students as well as nursery support for law school students. We have also established 36 literacy classes across the state in addition to payment for JAMB and WAEC fees on behalf of students. It also provides instructional materials for students. The governor also provides fund for the teachers.
In terms of health care delivery, the administration has made huge investments in the sector and the results are quite evident. First, is the comprehensive renovation and equipment of general hospitals across the local government areas, ongoing comprehensive renovation and overhauling of primary health care facilities in the state, facilities upgrade at the tertiary health institution and the state university teaching hospitals. Recall also that the Governor Fayemi’s administration also facilitated the graduation of the first set of medical doctors trained at EKS College of medicine after ten years, by upgrading facilities at the institution and securing accreditation for many of their courses.
The administration has also introduced health insurance for the vulnerable in the state in addition to provision of free medical care for pregnant women, elderly citizens and physically challenged people as well as children under the age of five. The state is also one of the very first to set up its own molecular laboratory to test for COVID-19 when the Coronavirus pandemic started early this year. This speaks of the foresight and commitment of the Fayemi administration to the welfare of the people.
The administration’s investments in the lives of her teeming youth population and women are quite massive. In empowering the youth, the government is providing opportunities and platforms for them to exhibit their talents and abilities. Support is provided for them to get trained in diverse areas of human endearvours including Microsoft certification, training in advance agriculture management and in the cultivation and management of some crops. It also provides platforms for them to exhibit their sporting and other creative talents. The provision of entrepreneurial training.
Owing to Governor Fayemi’s commitment to agricultural business as a way of facilitating food security and industrialization, the administration has been able to facilitate many agro-allied companies to set up farms and processing firms in the state. The multi million naira Ikun dairy farm was resuscitated and in partnership with Promasidor, the place is up and running now with a target to produce 10,000 litres of milk daily. The Dangote Group, Coscharis and JMK groups are setting up rice farms and processing mills in the state, even as the government continues to provide and clear thousands of acres of farm land for would-be investors.
The administration is also living by examples by completing so many abandoned projects initiated by the previous administration. This include the Civic centre, which was initiated by the Fayemi’s first administration but abandoned by previous government, the ultra modern Oja Oba market, which was initiated by the previous administration now being completed and secretarial building abandoned for over 12 years, as well as the new Ado-Iyin road that had been awarded over 40 years ago.
One major achievement you can’t ignore is the relative peace in the state. Through a combination of policies and practical demonstration of leadership the Governor has been able to motivate security agencies in the state to ensure safety of lives, properties and investments. The administration has also been able to restore the core values for which Ekitis are known in its citizens. These include honesty, hard work and commitment to excellence.
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