Ekiti State Deputy Governor Bisi Egbeyemi, who was sworn in alongside his boss, Governor Kayode Fayemi, on October 16, last year, believes the administration is on track. In this interview with reporters in his office, Egbeyemi speaks on the government’s bid to deliver democracy dividends to the people through some key policies and other topical issues. RASAQ IBRAHIM was there.
How are you going to tackle revenue generation, human capacity and infrastructure?
Well, as far as revenue generation is concerned, we want to be different from the past. We want to make sure that every penny coming into the coffers of this government comes in through the Treasury Single Account (TSA). That is the latest innovation. They will pay directly to that account; every MDA and every arm of government generating money for us. Nobody takes cash anymore; they pay through the bank to the dedicated account. So, if we find anybody using his or her own booklet, the person is gone. So, we want everybody to be very careful, to make sure that whatever money he or she receives on behalf of the government are paid to the bank directly.
A number of Executive Orders have been signed since you assumed office in the past three months. How effective have they been?
There are lots of Executive Orders that have been signed; you have to be specific. There are orders on education, that teachers should not collect fee, teachers should not charge fee. I think I am personally involved in making sure that that order is obeyed. All the people in charge, especially officers of the Ministry of Education, even the teachers, the Tutor General, Mrs. (Oluwatoyin) Arogundade and the two others special principals are working hard to maintain that order, because some principals are in cahoots with their PTA. I have caught one or two, but we don’t want to dismiss them. But henceforth anybody caught flouting the order of the government will leave the service. The moment we say education is free, it has to be free; they should not find any means of collecting money. I called a few of them to my office here. I told them, even some members of PTA followed them and I told them that I know their tricks. If we want to fence our schools, it is the government that will fence them, and not you collecting money from parents and spending the money and giving part of it to the principal who assists you in levying the charges and collecting the money. I had the experience when I was Commissioner for Education, whereby some principals and some PTA will be in agreement. They collect money, they will say, they want to use it for school something. The idea is good, but … there a lot of hanky-panky in it. They are the ones who will award the contract; only five people that are members of the PTA and all other parents that contributed are not likely to be there. They are not even there, whatever they say the spent on a particular item is what they would report. If they say they spent N500,000 in renovating a school, and whereas they might have spent N300,000 where is the remaining N200,000? We don’t want that, anymore. Even, some of the members of the PTA are jobless people.
They are members of the PTA in one school this year. In another two years, they will jump to another school. They will say they have children in every school. That aspect, we have collapsed that. Then as far as collection of fees or whatever revenue, the latest one is the collection of Ekiti State Transport Management Agency (EKSTMA). We have appointed a director, who is working round the clock. He came with a report to me of recent that in eight days, they have collected what the previous government collected in six months, because he was paying directly into the state account. He brought the list and the receipt with which the people they caught paid to banks directly and brought the receipt to them. Previously they were collecting cash from people. We don’t know whether the money got to bank or not.
How are you resolving land and kingship disputes, which fall under your portfolio?
The most serious aspect is the chieftaincy; we have lots of petitions by Obas against the recent Oyewole Panel. Some said they were not upgraded like their mates who were on the same grade. In fact, some said those who were behind were promoted above them, leaving them behind. Some of them said somebody who was in C, while he was in B has been promoted to A and that he remains in B. They said it was done politically. Who are we to query that? Because we have not heard the other side, but we have read the White Paper, so we can’t blame Justice Oyewole. These people were before him and he formed his opinion on what was brought before him.
We are all human beings. But we are going to do something very soon. I am not going to say it until my boss, the Governor, acts on our recommendations. We were asked to look into all the grievances and recommend accordingly. We can’t just recommend that an Oba should be promoted. No! It will appear as if we want to favour a few. Well, they put those departments under me as a result of my experience. I was Chairman of Local Government Reform. I was a local government chairman before and I am a traditional title holder. They know that I know a little bit about chieftaincy and I have the experience to cope with the aspect of the ones given to me. We have met so many,
I don’t want to mention Obas now. We have met so many chiefs that want to become Obas and we have also met so many Obas that want promotion, but I told them we are looking into it. There is a procedure. You must follow the normal procedure, so that we would not be blamed in future. On local government, we have people that were there before, but are on suspension. I mean elected chairmen. Some people were crying that we should dissolve the councils, but we rejected the idea. Since they are on suspension, we will look into their accounts. If they are there, they can disrupt and interfere with our investigation.
Recently, six schools were approved to be established, five in Ado and one in Ikere. Do you have plans to establish more, so that other parts of Ekiti would feel the impact?
It was during the election that I discovered that Ado has expanded rapidly. We are bringing schools closer to the people. We are only starting with Ado Ekiti, because of the population. The population in Ado is growing rapidly and we need to do something about it. Then, we are looking into other areas, like Ikere. We would tackle other areas later. We have just started. We are going to be here, by the grace of God, for four years; at least three years nine months from now. Before our tenure ends, we would have touched other local governments.
There have also been agitations for a new national minimum wage of N30,000 for workers. What is your take on that?
Whatever they want, if they say they want N60,000 per month, they deserve it. If they say want N25,000, they deserve it and if they say N30,000, they deserve it. But, the problem is, what is our income as a state? If they say we should pay the workers N40,000 per month, I will be in support, but how do we get the money? That is the problem; to be able to sustain it. If we start and start sending people away from government service, so as to be able to pay, it is a problem. We are planning and we hope that whatever comes out of it, will be to the pleasure of the workers and the government.
If the proposal goes through, is Ekiti State willing to pay?
What the Federal Government says we should pay, is what we are going to pay. But there should be a means of supporting us to enable us pay.
There was a trailer accident recently at Iworoko. It was caused partly because of the number shops around the streets. Is there any plan to relocate the market to a safer place?
One has to be very careful. Our people are too sensitive; they don’t want to hear the truth. In Ado, at Iworoko, at Ilawe, at Iyin, at Igede, if you go to their markets, during market days, hardly would they allow vehicles to pass. People have been crying that nobody should trade on the road, but this one it was unfortunate. The market is close to the road, not that the people were on the road. I really pity the people at Iworoko. The women were in the market, but the driver lost control. The brake, according to them, failed. I have been there. Thank God that the EKSU students were on holiday at that material time, otherwise it would have been more fatal than that. Well, to your second question, the problem we were having is that our people don’t want to go to markets built for them. During his first tenure, Dr. Kayode Fayemi built a big market along Ilawe Road, just like he did in all the local governments. The one at Ilawe Road now, nobody is there. There is another market along Agric Olope, which he built also, opposite Oba Adejugbe Hospital. It is also scantly occupied. Even at Iworoko, I was told that there is a market that is unoccupied by our people. The problem is that they like staying on the main road. Look at the Oja Oba in Ado here, before the new market was constructed, people would leave their stalls to come to the main road. Before the butcher store was removed, the butcher’s will leave their store and come to the main road, where they will be met by the people first before entering the market. Look at Oja Bisi now, there is enough space, if they move and remain inside, nothing would happen to them, because the market was constructed according to the law, but our people will leave their stalls to come to roadside.
Don’t you think that there is need to enforce the law for the people to stay inside?
The law is there, but if there is a law and you don’t enforce it, people will think there is no law. What we are going to do is to enforce the law. But we will educate them that it is not good to trade on the roadside before clamping down on them. It is not safe for the buyer and the seller. Those who died now, buyers must be there, sellers must be there among the dead. So, I really pity our people in Iworoko. Though the market was by the roadside, but it was as a result of the faulty nature of that trailer; I saw it. I was there. We have also advised local governments not to build stores by the roadside. All markets by the road sides must be taken care of. There are some markets traditionally that should be where they are. Traditionally, in Yoruba land, markets are usually located around the Oba’s palaces. The one at Iyin is not proper. The one at Igede too; you can hardly go through the market during market days. Same with Aramoko. In Aramoko, they have enough space not to come to the main road, but you will still see them on the main road.
What should Ekiti people expect from government this year?
Well, we have started getting the goodies from the government. We gave them free education; that is for the parents. We gave teachers money, car loans and housing loans. We have paid arrears of rural teachers allowance, Ekiti State is one of the first states that are paying rural allowance to teachers, then we are paying special allowance for taking special subjects like Physics, Mathematics, English and Science subjects. If you a teacher and you are teaching these subjects you get something special, so we are doing that. There is also going to be free medical service starting from Emure to Ise area. It will go round to other areas, and possibly end in Ado.
When is the School feeding programme going to start?
The school feeding is starting this month. The training for the food vendors will be on from next week, by the grace of God. I think they have done the interview. I think if it has not been completed, it should be completed this week. We want to train them, not anybody can prepare pupils’ food, the hygienic part of it, how they will prepare and what they will prepare, so that they will not injure the pupils. And that is free. We are going to feed all the pupils in all the primary schools; primary one to three to start with. It is an opportunity for parents to take more children to school and even the pupils will enjoy staying in school. When they get to school, they will be looking forward to taking their lunch at noon. In those days, in the ‘50s, we were taking lunch at subsidized rate. We were eating in the schools in those days, those of us who were not privileged to be taking dodo and rice at home, took it in school. Some not taking beans at home also had the opportunity of having it in school. But, here like the timetable we are having in Osun, they will be given good food; they will be given eggs and chicken too. Not all of them have the opportunity to always have such opportunities in their various homes. It is going to give them better health. It is normal that it will encourage more enrolment. In the North, where it was practised, everybody was bringing his or her children to school. It will encourage more enrollments, and it will help us economically. The women that will be cooking for the children will benefit from it economically, including the farmers, market women and others that will benefit from it, like those selling pepper, those selling oil, those planting maize, cassava, yams and everything. So, it is going to help the state.