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Osun: Sustaining development in an era of recession (1)

By Ileowo Kikiowo

AT a period when most narratives point to ‘The Recession’ as an excuse for the crippling growth/performance across various governments, the story of the State of Osun presents a refreshing perspective as to how, against all odds, concise people-centered development is possible.
While it may be easy to heap the blame of this economic downturn on the present leadership in the country, but like all sunsets, Nigeria arrived at this sorry pass, thanks to the mismanagement of our national economy by the immediate past federal administration.
Lest we forget, that administration ran Nigeria to the ground. Our national treasury was plundered by cronies, friends and lackeys of government and the ruling party functionaries. Coupled with the massive pillaging of our foreign reserve, one needs no soothsayer to predict our present economic predicament as a nation.
While on the topic of mismanaged economies, it goes without saying that critical infrastructure in Osun before the inauguration of the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in November 27, 2010, was largely comatose. Economic activities had largely slowed down with considerable capital flight and migration of citizens in search of a better life.
Two options were available, (1) Continue in the traditional cosmetic governance: repaint a few state-owned buildings, patch a few roads here and there, pay salaries of civil-servants, using over 70 per cent of the state’s revenue (civil-servants represent less than one per cent of the 4.2 million Osun resident), or (2) Position Osun towards the path of sustainable economic development by making a case for concerted investments and using creative means to raise fund for critical physical and human infrastructure that will in turn, spur private investments and economic growth.
Without any gainsaying, building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals among other physical infrastructure, creates jobs, enriches the local economy and gives access to market for farmers (many of whom dwell in the rural areas).
If you ever wonder why more outsiders were crying than the ‘bereaved’ when the salary conundrum lasted, it was because majority of Osun people understood why the government aggressively pursued development of critical infrastructure across the state as it did. However, this came at a cost!
For such a small state in a country with high inflationary environment, high cement prices, currency exchange risks and non-existent steel industry (major components of construction), developing Osun into a 21st Century state became a major challenge, which administration tackled very well for posterity’s sake.
To wait till the time when the cost of building a school or constructing a  road has droubled would have been unforgivable, not now that a dollar exchanges for N450, compared to then at N150. What option really existed before Aregbegsola  in 2010 other than to raise funds from the capital market at seven per cent lower than commercial bank interest rate?
Osun opted for a mix of financing options to reduce risks and meet its primary statutory commitment. She followed a responsible borrowing regime by only committing 30 per cent of its revenues to debt servicing, leaving free cash-flow for critical and mandatory expenditure, such as salaries. With this, Osun began an aggressive infrastructure roll out in 2012 before the three-headed tragedy of: (1) Blanket salary increment negotiated by the Federal Government of behalf of states in 2012; (2) 40 per cent crash in statutory allocation due to alleged theft of 400,000 barrel of oil per day in 2013; and (3) 50 per cent crash in the global price of crude oil and subsequent impact on statutory allocation. But for these, the State of Osun would have been just fine.
Apart from the construction of mega schools,  three super highways are under construction. These super highways consist of five bridges with each bridge at 90 per cent completion. Despite this biting recession, construction is ongoing because Osun secured an innovative promissory note purchase facility.
Osun’s financial model worked perfectly by creating a pool of funds for infrastructure roll out that can only be utilized strictly for such purpose; due to market regulations of such funding by 2014. Using this financial mix, the  Aregebesola government rehabilitated and completed 230 state roads spanning 368km. His administration partnered local governments to deliver 226 council roads across the 30 local governments and the development areas with a combined length of 216km.
A cross-ection of the 300km council were roads built across all local governments in the State of Osun Osun, in partnership with the World Bank, RAMP 2 Programme, also delivered 250 km of rural roads to open up farms in rural areas. The state is on course to deliver the next set of 250 km. It is noteworthy that Osun is one of just six states selected to partake in this programme. In all, the government has so far delivered road infrastructure to the tune of more than 1000 km, opening up our rural enterprises and areas, connecting urban centres and positioning the state as a trade and production hub.
Other construction projects delivered include 20 Elementary Schools and 22 Middle Schools all completed and in use. Many more are still under construction.
Despite its limited resources, the State of Osun has continued to champion delivery of an integral human development agenda. Osun, in the last six years, has made unprecedented investments in security towards the greater welfare of the people.
Twenty five high capacity Armoured Personnel Carriers were deployed, being the largest contribution to the Nigerian Police by a state government at the time of deployment.
The state today enjoys  functional 24-hour emergency ambulance services with a fleet of 50 brand new vehicles across the 31 local government areas. This state-wide ambulance service is powered by 408 well-trained and kitted paramedics, who have attended to more than 8,000 cases since inception.
This quality of service in concept and implementation is unprecedented in the annals of the state. Osun has also invested concisely in the empowerment of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), given the trickle-up impact these make to socio-economic development.

Kikiowo writes from Osogbo

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