By Christopher Oji
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has reiterated the determination of his administration to ensure a violence free process in the oncoming November 11 gubernatorial election in the state.
The Governor, who was speaking at the closing ceremony of the third edition of Governor Yahaya Bello Annual Seminar for Journalists in Abuja, said people have been apprehensive about possible outbreak of the crisis, but assured the people not to worry as those planning to cause violence would be contained before the election day. According to him, those expecting violence would be disappointed because it would be violence free.
He said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not in any crisis as some people are insinuating. “Really, one of us is in the Court, but that does not mean that there is a crisis. Our party is at peace and formidable. Anyway, we know how to resolve our crisis. I won’t comment on a matter that is in the court. Let’s wait for the pronouncement of the court.
“But, as for violence, it won’t happen. Our party is prepared and the people have chosen Usman Ododo as their choice during the primary, which was keenly contested. All the contestants were qualified, but the best was chosen. We are prepared. We have transcended the era of tribalism. We are talking about who will deliver the dividends of democracy.
“Those preaching violence are those who don’t have anything on ground to show. For our party, we have many achievements to show the people. I believe that my achievements in the area of security; education, health, infrastructural development, capital development and others are enough to win the election for my successor. We are not really bothered because our work will speak for us. By the special grace of God, the next Governor that will take over after me is Ododo. We don’t have any fear of failure,” he stated.
He stressed that if the state was not performing well, the World Bank wouldn’t have given it the awards on transparency and budget management in its various assessments of Nigeria sub nationals.
He equally noted that efficient and transparent management of the state’s public finance to deliver dividends of democracy to the people had remained the hallmark of his administration since inception in 2016; a development that has paved the way for the awards and recognitions it earned from the Bretton Woods institution.
Earlier in his presentation, titled, ‘Reduction of Debt Burden, Transparency and Accountability in Governance: The Kogi Success Story,’ the state’s Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Asiru Idris, said the government’s transactions and financial activities for every preceding quarter was always available online for all the stakeholders to access, in line with the administration’s transparency agenda.
According to him, achieving over 82.7 percent debt reduction from N71.6 billion to N59.3 billion between 2016 and 2021 was among the factors that earned the state a grant of $4 million for transparency in the first instance, and another $5 million grant for quality budget preparation from the World Bank, making the state a pacesetter in public finance management in Nigeria.
He noted that to show that it was satisfied with his government’s efficient debt management strategies, the World Bank subsequently approved a N93.66 billion borrowing window for the state.
The Governor said the milestones were achieved through his people-centred strategies, focusing on town hall meetings to create a citizens budget out of every annual budget, preparation of quarterly budget performance, and one that is well managed.
“Since the inception of Bello’s administration, deliberate policies have been entrenched for good governance in the state, through transparency and accountability, and reduction in the debt burden of the state.
“The debt reduction strategies adopted by the administration include: establishment of Treasury Single Account (TSA) to reduce state’s reliance on commercial banks’ loans, creating proper budgetary procedures, offsetting the state’s most expensive loans, good debt management strategy, debt consolidation or debt buy back, reduction of expenditures, debt restructuring, reduction of the interest rates and extending the tenure, arrears clearance framework, prioritizing of arrears, upgrading the government’s financial management information systems, and improving revenue generation through the blockade of all revenue linkages to improve the state’s capacity to repay debt,” he stated.
He stated that his government improved the debt management and transparency, effective debt reduction strategies adopted by the administration, enabled the restructuring of the state bond facility in 2018, and spread the repayment process to ease the burden on the state’s monthly allocation.
“The state also established a debt arrears clearance framework (ACF) in 2020. Another success story was the Debt Buy Back exercise with Zenith Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc in 2021.
“Kogi State received the sum of $6 Million from the SFTAS on debt reporting, improved debt sustainability and arrears of clearance framework. The Debt Management Office was upgraded, and a pioneer Director General was appointed,” he noted.
He further said the state was doing a lot to grow the economy and improve its capacity to pay debts to encourage foreign direct investment, establish skills development/building of the Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara, increase investment in infrastructure like road, health and security system; and establish Kogi State Fiscal Responsibility Commission to promote a planned and balanced economic development.