Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State, in this interview speaks about his achievements in one year in office, government’s commitment in the education sector, strengthening of the security sector, among other topical issues. JOY ANIGBOGU brings the excerpts:
Ekiti is a knowledge hub, under your watch how is this reflecting on the subvented institutions in the state in terms of welfare of workers, infrastructure, learning and others?
I am an alumnus of one of the subvented institutions and it behoves the government to provide adequately for them too. We came on board in the heart of the arrears that are not being paid, we had arrears of subventions that have not been paid and I think we have reduced it to just one month now. We have not also failed in releasing their subventions every month. We have constituted their governing councils, people that can actually bring a new lease of life to those institutions. But my position on this has been certain and constant, the money called subvention; it should not replace the ability of the institutions themselves to generate independent funding. There is no way the government will carry 100 per cent of the load of the universities. Government can only subvent and I have told the universities that they should look into the area of research to get more money to supplement whatever government is giving to them. There are state universities in the Southwest that don’t collect subventions from the government. Ekiti State University is the most subvented university in the Southwest. Ekiti State government subvents its universities more than any universities in the Southwest, you can go and find out. And I do ask them, what are they doing? How have they been running the place? But it seems that we are used to government subventions. So, it has made them relax. We will continue to subvent but the Universities when it comes to policy, they will claim autonomy but financially, they will come to the government.
And I have told them, we will continue to support them, there is no problem about that but they have to look inward. Between the three institutions in the state, we spend close to N1billion every month, that is N12 billion a year and that will go a long way to do a lot of things for our people. And there’s no month we have reneged on the payment of subventions to either the state Polytechnic Isan, School of Health Technology, Ijero, BOUESTI, Ikere or EKSU, Ado-Ekiti. They have to do more than what they are doing and that is my position and it has not changed but I must commend the governing councils of the three Institutions, since they came on board, they have done a lot to bring sanity back and to ensure that there is accountability and transparency in the financial management of the situation.
Ekiti people seem to be pleased with your style of governance, they believe that in your one year in office you have provided the dividends of democracy. Going forward, what should they expect in the next three years?
We campaigned on the mantra of continuity and shared prosperity. Continuity of the programmes and policies of my predecessor in office which we have articulately adhered to in respect to the completion of some of the projects that he couldn’t complete while he was here and also you will recall that before he left office, we launched the Ekiti State 30-year development plan from 2020 to 2050 and our manifestoes are offshoot of the development plan.
The last budget was termed “Budget of Strong Beginning” and we named it so, so that we can put in place a very strong foundation for the prosperity of our people and now that the foundation has been laid, we have presented before the House of Assembly the budget of 2024 and the budget is to put the building blocks gradually for the foundation that has been laid to dispense prosperity for our people. So, what Ekiti people should expect in the next three years is a faithful implementation of our six pillars in accordance with the Ekiti State development plan and the 2024 budget. So, Ekiti people should expect new capital projects, improvement in their living conditions, those in the formal sector should expect government support, the informal sector and the same for the private sector and they should look forward to the establishment of industries in the state. Also, we are going to put a lot of emphasis on a clean environment to ensure that we clean our environment; we will emphasise on art, culture and tourism and also, we will attack unemployment and insecurity in the state.
Security is key in achieving all your programmes and policies for the state. With focus on this local security outfit, Amotekun Corps, how do you intend to make this security outfit effective like its counterparts in Ondo and Oyo States?
Well, I share your concern with Amotekun, I too have the same concern but we need to do more with Amotekun. When I came on board, I tried to look at it because Amotekun was under me when I was the SSG. Since I became the governor, I commissioned a team to look at Amotekun and I discovered that we need to change the tactics with them. We need to employ more people. We need to train them, we need to provide resources for them, but you know, we also need to provide clear direction for them. And when I was convinced that a new leadership is needed, I brought in the current Commander who just left the North-east. He just retired from the Army, he has been leading Boko Haram fights in the northern states and I brought him on board. Since he came on board, he has changed the face of Amotekun in the state. Currently, he is going round the state to even ascertain the status of the Corps. He has not completed that, once that one is done, we are going to sit down with the local government but definitely, we need to recruit more people. We need to provide working tools for them but I agree with you that the comparison with their counterparts in the Southwest, there can be improvement and we will see to that but this government believes in the Amotekun philosophy and we also believe that if properly managed with the current leadership, our Amotekun will bite more. So, we are working in that line but I must commend the new Commandant; he has brought a lot of discipline and a lot of direction into the Corps and part of what we are doing is just to change the leadership. I am just waiting for him to come with his reports because Amotekun is a joint concern for both the state and the local government. We have done something when I came on board; we have increased their salary like the other states. We have done that but in terms of providing tools for them, making them effective, we need to look into that but we are going to do it this time around in conjunction with the traditional institutions at the local level. So, there are a lot of some structural issues with it but we will resolve that.