There is no end in sight to the crisis in Osun State as Governor Rauf Aregbesola takes on Justice Folanmi Oloyede over her petition to the state House of Assembly demanding the impeachment of the governor. There are concerns in the state now over the safety of the petitioner.OLUSESAN LAOYE reports
The crisis in Osun State is far from being over as the All Progressives Congress, APC, governor Rauf Aregbesola is still battling to stave off the impeachment move against him. A member of the state judiciary Justice Folanmi Oloyede had stirred the hornet’s nest when she petitioned the Osun State House of Assembly demanding the impeachment of Aregbesola over the non-payment of 9 months workers salaries arrears by the state government.
Justice Oloyede had written the Osun State House of Assembly that the state governor, Ogbeni Aregbesola and his Deputy Mrs. Titi Laoye-Tomori be impeached for reckless spending of the state money and lack of accountability which resulted in the non-payment of workers in the state. The Judge had also declared that the two leaders did not have the interest of the people at heart because they are insensitive to their plights, adding that they have failed to respect and obey the oath of office sworn to. As a result, she pointed out that both the governor and his Deputy are not fit to rule the state.
The Justice Oloyede’s letter to the state House of Assembly has now triggered a fresh crisis in the state which if care was not taken could lead to another wild protest in the state. Latest developments indicated that the petitioner failed to appear before the committee set up by the House to investigate the petition and the reply of the governor on various allegations of financial recklessness leveled against him.
Before now, there had been series of protests by civil rights organizations, professional bodies and labour unions against the government of Aregbesola, over the issue of Justice Oloyede and the salary matters which was the worst crisis the APC government ever had since its five years in office. The justice Oloyede’s saga is the latest in the state and no one is sure yet what will be the outcome of the panel set up to investigate her controversial petition which is still generating so much heat.
When the House committee on the issue convened on Tuesday the proceedings ended abruptly because the judge who was summoned to appear in person to defend her petition failed to turn up. Instead she sent her lawyer, Mr. Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN). Convening the reasons why Justice Oloyede failed to attend in person, her counsel argued before the committee that the copy of the governor’s reply to her petition ought to been sent to the petitioner.
This statement led to hot exchange of words between the parties involved and as a result the committee members got angry and subsequently packed their written materials one after the other and left the venue of the sitting. The Chairman of the seven man panel and deputy speaker, Mr. Adegboye Akintunde argued that the committee was not in any way expected to send the governor’s petition to the petitioner because it was addressed to the House and even at that, she is still in service. It was argued that it would be out of place and disrespect to the governor if that was done because the House is the only constituted authority to issue a query to the governor to defend or respond to any allegations bothering on alleged misconduct while in office.
Before the panel sat on Tuesday, the speaker had said that it would sit behind closed doors but the initial proceedings were made open. During the hot exchange of words between the members of the panel and the team of lawyers representing Justice Oloyede, the leading counsel Mr. Ogunlesi said that what they expected was that a copy of the governor’s reply would be sent to their client to show that the panel would be transparent enough and that it was ready to do a thorough job.
Also members of the panel while defending their actions pointed out that ordinarily they should not have allowed the petition to sail through because it did not follow the due process and the procedure of the House. According to them, such a petition with that kind of heavy allegations against the state’schief executive should have been tabled under a proper motion which ought to have been tabled before the House by a member who would move it as a motion.
It was further argued that they just allowed the petition to be discussed and action taken on it because of the controversy which it had generated and since they don’t intend to do anything that would heat up the state’s polity, they allowed it. They further argued that it amounted to an affront for the judge not to have the gut to come forward to defend the petition and the reply of the governor because it was a rear opportunity given to her to do so.
The issue of the salary of Osun workers has been a major one for the governor of the state and he has been battling to solve the problem. What gave him a temporary relief was the bailout fund given to the states by the federal government. But despite this the workers insist that they would collect at a go six months out of the nine months said to be owed them by the government. It resulted into series of protests which crippled the government of Aregbesola. It also turned political as the opposition is now using it against him as non-performer and calling him names. They described him as a person who did not prepare enough to govern a state such as Osun which has very high level of people who are sophisticated in all ramifications.
This was even the reason why there were agitations even within the state Assembly over the composition of the panel looking into Olyede’s petition. Those in the opposition fumed against it and condemned the way it was done and its membership whom they believed would do everything to cover up the governor. They challenged the speaker for nominating only members of the APC who are loyal to the governor.
Aregbesola,had during the heat of the crisis over wage bill declared that the current financial challenges facing his government was as a result of the wage bill which was caused by the implementation of the minimum wage for all junior workers since 2012.
The governor also argued that the state had expended N120.4billion on emoluments since 2010 despite receiving a total of N108.3billion as statutory allocation within the same period.
He further pointed out that in addition to the expenditure on salaries, the inclusion of other emoluments would bring the total recurrent expenditure to N206 billion, while statutory allocation and other accruals from Abuja also brought the statutory allocation to N176.5billion leaving with a shortfall of N30billion.
“Even when we add our internally generated revenue, we were still only able to muster N204 billion and still short by N2 billion. It simply means that all our earning from all sources between 2010 and 2014 could not carry our recurrent expenditure,”
According to him, the problem began in 2012 when the state’s expenditure increased as a result of the hike in minimum wage of the junior workers only, and it raised the total emoluments from N1.4billion to N2.7 billion.
“The summary of five years reveals that in the two months of 2010, we received a net allocation of N4.2 billion and paid total emoluments of N3.6 billion. This left us with a net gain of N573 million from our statutory allocation.
he said in 2014, “our statutory allocation fell further to N19.3 billion and by which time we were already defaulting on some of our obligations on emoluments, which had also dropped to N22.4 billion, but still left us with a deficit of N3 billion.
Governor Aregbesola pointed out that his government was operating within the limited resources available to it, adding that his government never engaged in any financial profligacy as alleged by the opposition which has been trying to discredit his government.
Last week he promised that he would reverse the down turn in the development of the state, caused by the financial crisis.
Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salaam, while reacting to the issues confronting the state said the workers should not allow themselves to be used by the opposition.He added that both the executive and the legislature in the state will work together to build the state.
The leader of a civil right group in Osun State, Comrade Alimi Sulaiman of the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice told Hallmark that the House should not give any excuse in not attending to the issues raised by justice Oloyede. He said that his group at the inception of the matter had doubted the credibility of the state Assembly to do justice to the matter, saying that majority of members especially those in the APC have compromised and would not want to do anything against the interest of Aregbesola.
Also the PDP has said that it will not rest until justice is done to Oloyede’s petition, adding that the House of Assembly has nothing to cover, they should proceed with the matter. The director of publicity and strategy of the party, Prince Diran Odeyemi said that the PDP has been monitoring the situation and would ensure that the proper thing is done by the Assembly.