You Cannot Blackmail Our Members Into Silence, Osun Masterminds Tell Adeleke, Aides

The Osun Masterminds (TOM), a civil society group has accused Senator Ademola Adeleke and his aides for persistently blackmailing the group and her members.....CONTINUE READING

The group also asked Governor Ademola Adeleke to reveal how he intends to source for the N100 billion infrastructure fund amidst humongous debt he claimed to have inherited.

This was disclosed on Friday by the Executive Director of the group, Prof. Wasiu Oyedokun-Alli while addressing newsmen in a press conference.

While expressing her doubts over the N10 billion supplementary budget, the TOM asked the Osun State Government to furnish the public details of 2023 budget performance to justify the need for the supplementary budget.

The group who commended the state government over the enrolment of pensioners into the Osun Health Insurance Scheme also tasked them to ensure its sustainability and widen the scope.

While condemning the appointment of Hashim Abioye as the Chairman of Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC), the group stated that Abioye is formerly a special adviser on legal matters to the governor which he got on the virtue of being a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The group also strongly rejected the reduction in the funding of the Osun State University and wondered how the management of the institution would survive financially at a time when the Federal Government had increased allowances payable to staff of Tertiary institutions.

The statement reads in full;

I thank you all for attending this State of the State address within a very short notice. While the State of the State address has become a monthly activity of The Osun Masterminds, this month of November comes with a truckload of peculiarities and a lot of implications to the correct democratic evolution of our dear State.

It is pertinent that I remind all seated, that The Osun Masterminds is a coalition of like-minded Civil society organizations committed to positive democratic governance and correct application of the rule of law in the management of the affairs of our dear State and country.

Our organization is not and will not become an appendage of any political organization or government, but we will restlessly engage government at all levels, in developmental discourse and constitutional exchanges that can help our society grow.

This November 2023 address is certainly one of the most important that we have delivered since inception, given the nature of current happenings in our dear State. History beckons on us to not keep quiet at this critical time in our State’s history. We will take the salient issues one after another.

The persistent blackmail of TOM and her members

Immediately after our October 2023 State of the State Address, just like we have experienced several other times, TOM and her Members came under severe attacks from agents of the Osun State Government.

From the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, to the State Publicity Secretary of the same Party, to some not-so-relevant characters who were contracted to write watery opinions about Members of TOM, we received attacks from all sides.

It was interesting to note however, that after raising several issues of critical importance to the growth and development of the State, being bonafide citizens of Osun State and critical stakeholders in this society, what the government of the day resorted to was blackmail, after refusing to offer clear clarifications to the issues that we raised. This is sad.

We want to state unequivocally however, that the resolve of Members of The Osun Masterminds is stronger than the juvenile approach that the handlers of Gov. Adeleke’s public communications resolved to use. A million lies and unintelligent opinions cannot deter TOM from demanding answers to issues that affect our common destiny. Osun State does not belong to a single group of individuals, whether they be in government or not.

We also state, without prejudice, that it is irresponsible of the media handlers of the Governor, to perpetually descend into the gutter every single time the government is engaged. True lovers of a government do not shield it from public scrutiny, rather, they engage and provide clarifications where necessary, to keep the public truly informed. We advise that they resign their jobs if they are unwilling to adequately communicate with members of the public, instead of rolling in the gutter every time members of the public demand accountability from the government they work for.

Let us also state that Mr. Governor, His Excellency Sen. Ademola Adeleke, is not bigger than public scrutiny. He does not, by virtue of his office, become unquestionable. No public servant is unquestionable. Citizens, organized or not, have the rights to demand accountability from anyone who sits on their resources and therefore, every aide of this government must approach every issue of public engagement with decorum, civility and humility.

The 100 billion Infrastructure Plan

Again, we ask Mr. Governor, where is the money to fund the 100 billion Infrastructure plan coming from? If you have repeatedly told the State’s people that you met humongous debt, where are you going to source a hundred billion Naira from? What is the plan, Mr. Governor?

We are aware that the Governor presented a 2024 budget estimate of Two hundred and seventy-three billion, Nine hundred and Eight million, Nine hundred and Ninety-seven thousand, Four hundred and ten Naira (N273,908,997,410.00) before the House of Assembly, with a capital expenditure component of One hundred and eight billion, two hundred and fifty-four million, twenty thousand, seven hundred and ten Naira (108,254,020,710). Seeing that this figure is higher than the one hundred billion infrastructure plan, we are compelled to ask if that is the plan in question.

If it is the plan that has been captured in the 2024 budget estimate, we then ask, what is the funding plan for that expense? In fact, we are compelled to ask, how does the Governor plan to fund a 2024 budget that is more than 100% higher than the 2023 budget figure, when there has not been significant improvements to our income?

While we continue to await answers through quality engagements, we hope that the Governor will not resort to funding approaches that may land Osun in the same kind of financial mess that we are returning from.

Removal of the State’s Chief Judge

The news of the House of Assembly’s resolution to remove the Chief Judge and ask the Governor to swear in a replacement, in acting capacity, left us dazed. This is because we believed that the 8th Assembly, populated by true youths, should be looking to set positive standards for legislation, to convince everyone that indeed, youths have the capacity to lead.

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Unfortunately however, the Osun State House of Assembly is quickly turning itself into not just a rubber-stamp Assembly, but a willing tool in the hands of the Executive, used to legitimize any and every illegality that the Executive wants to perpetrate.

We recall, that acting on a petition submitted to it by a group in the State, and without any thorough engagement of the accused persons and the accusers, the Assembly ordered the removal of the former General Manager of Osun Emergency Medical Services and Ambulance System (OSEMSAS) to pave way for another appointee, who is reported to be the choice of some persons in the Executive.

While it may be within the powers of the Assembly, and the Executive, to hire and fire appointees of government, the Assembly has however become emboldened to try its powers of ‘hire and fire’ on every and any sector of Osun State, even on a distinctly independent arm of government, the Judiciary.

To properly educate the House of Assembly, we should make some reference to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 271(1) of the Nigerian constitution states that “The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Judge of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State”.

The above provision of the constitution makes it very clear that the appointment of a Chief Judge for a State must be upon the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, only subject to confirmation by the House of Assembly.

Obviously, the House of Assembly has no such powers to unilaterally, without the recommendations of the National Judicial Council, appoint a Chief Judge for the State. The constitution is very clear and we cannot stand the law on its head because we need to service certain political expediences.

We are very much aware of the provisions of Section 292(1)(ii) of the Nigerian constitution which states that “Chief Judge of a State, Grand Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal or President of a Customary Court of Appeal of a State, by the Governor acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State, Praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct”.

However, the House of Assembly cannot decide that the Chief Judge of a State is guilty of misconduct, just by receiving petitions against her. This is a constitutional democracy and you cannot suspend the Head of another arm of government for allegations that have not been substantiated. That is like jailing an accused person before hearing.

Pray tell, if we write a petition to the House of Assembly today, against the person of the Executive Governor of the State, will the Assembly impeach him first before a proper hearing on the petition? Even the criminal code is clear on the presumption of innocence of an accused person. Why is the Assembly in a hurry to fire the Head of the State’s judiciary?

Aside from the Nigerian Constitution, there are also established points of law that make the action of the House of Assembly an aberration.

For example, in the case of Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta (2019), the Supreme Court held that the powers to discipline or fire a serving judicial officer is the exclusive preserve of the National Judicial Council (NJC). What this means is that the Assembly is not empowered by law to act on impulse, or instructions, to sack the Chief Judge without recourse to the National Judicial Council.

Even if some persons are putting the Assembly under undue pressure to suspend the Chief Judge, the Assembly should have acted with some caution, ensuring that it sticks with the law and constitution that it swore to protect and preserve.

We are also aware of an ex-parte order of the National Industrial Court restraining the Osun State Government from removing the Chief Judge. This order alone is enough to stop anyone who is forcing this already unconstitutional agenda through.

It is scary to think that the current Osun State House of Assembly is acting with youthful exuberance. This will be antithetical to the huge responsibilities on their shoulders, to stabilize democratic governance in our dear State. The Assembly is expected to carry itself with more poise than this open display of sycophancy, impatience and stark ignorance of our laws and the limits of their powers as an Assembly.

We call on all men and women of goodwill, who have the love of the State at heart, to quickly call the Governor and the House of Assembly to order, to forestall a breakdown of constitutionality in our dear State. We are headed for that dark abyss and we should all rise against this trend right away.

The removal of the Chief Judge must be reversed if we are to remain a State governed by laws and not the fiats of just a few privileged individuals. Osun State should never become a lawless State where we take decisions just to satisfy the whims and caprices of some persons without any regard for the provisions of our laws and our constitution.

We also must warn that this illegality being perpetrated, has the tendency to escalate into unrest, threatening the peace of our dear State. Where the Chief Judge insists on her rights to only be tried by the National Judicial Council and the State Government insists on removing her from office, the ensuing altercations may quickly snowball into a full-blown crisis. We therefore warn all parties, especially the government, to exercise caution while on this ill-advised adventure.

It is worthy of mention that we have caught wind of certain clandestine plans to physically assault the Chief Judge if she shows up in her office after her removal. Whoever is behind the plan is advised to shelf it. The Chief Judge, as a citizen, has the right to exercise her constitutionally guaranteed rights as a citizen and as a stakeholder in the Judiciary.

We also want to advise Justice Olayinka David Afolabi to not allow himself to be used as a tool to denigrate the Judicial institution in our dear State. As history remembers whoever facilitates such denigration, history will also remember the willing accomplices and beneficiaries of the illegality, who allow themselves to get used to bringing the esteemed institution to disrepute.

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Appointment of Barr. Hashim Abioye as OSSIEC Chairman

Aside from laws, the government is expected to act in ways that are not only fair to all parties concerned, but that also set positive precedence for successive administrations. Government should not be seen setting templates for anarchy and illegality, by flagrantly ignoring morality in its decisions.

In the appointment of Barr. Hashim Abioye as the Chairman of the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSSIEC), the Osun State Government has acted without regard for morality and seems to have no intentions of impartiality in the conduct of Local Government elections when the time comes.

While Hashim Abioye is a seasoned Lawyer and should ordinarily have capacity to head that important Commission, his partisanship already leaves a dent on his capacity to conduct free, fair and credible Local Government elections. Until this appointment, he was Special Adviser (Legal) to the Governor of the State, an office he got appointed to by virtue of his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Pray tell, if it was another political party in power and it makes such obviously partisan appointments to an office that requires neutrality and fairness to all parties, would the PDP accept it? Would the PDP be willing to participate in an election to be conducted by an openly partisan member of another political party?

When we all condemned the Local Government election conducted by the Oyetola government in 2022, it was because we believed then, as we do now, that the conduct of an election is a critical activity that we must approach with clear intent to be fair to all participating parties.

More worrisome is the fact that the Osun State House of Assembly screened him and found no reason to raise objections. Again, the willingness of the House of Assembly to agree with every decision taken by the Executive will spell doom for our dear State. The Assembly should not be a House of yes-men who rush to do the bidding of an Executive making such critical mistakes.

As an organization, we condemn in entirety the appointment of Hashim Abioye as the Chairman of OSSIEC and warn that keeping him in office amounts to setting a bad template for the future. Such a bad precedent should not be something the Adeleke government wants to be remembered for.

Enrolment of Pensioners in OHIS

We want to commend Mr. Governor for giving priority to the welfare of pensioners in our State. The decision to enroll over 20,000 Pensioners in the Osun Health Insurance Scheme is a social security effort that we encourage the Governor to sustain and widen.

While making use of Osun Health Insurance Agency’s functional template to advance his public health plans however, the Governor must acknowledge the roles played by the Aregbesola administration in establishing the Agency, the efforts of the Oyetola administration at deepening the capacity of the Agency through consistent financing and the efforts made by the pioneer Executive Secretary of the Agency, Dr. Niyi Oginni, at ensuring the sustainability of the Agency.

We notice subtle ways by which agents of this government attempt to denigrate the person of the aforementioned individuals whenever the health insurance scheme is discussed. They must take note that the Adeleke government’s current efforts stand only on the shoulders of efforts made by the aforementioned individuals to stabilize the Agency and plan its future appropriately.

Again, we thank Mr. Governor for the good gesture extended to pensioners and we urge him to continue making socially relevant moves like this, for the benefit of the good people of our State.

Stifling funding to Osun State University

We are aware of a recent slash in the amount of government subvention to the Osun State University. Whatever predicated such a decision, we do not know, but we strongly reject any reduction in the funding to Osun State University.

The implications of a reduction in subvention is such that to continue to meet its recurrent and capital obligations, the institution will be forced to increase its revenue, particularly through an increase in School fees. Resorting to doing this will further exacerbate the pressure on parents who are already impoverished by the hardship in the country.

This reduction in subvention to the University is coming at a time when the Federal Government had increased allowances payable to staff of Tertiary institutions. We wonder why the Osun State Government chose to reduce subvention at this time, when it should be considering increasing the same.

We condemn this step and call on parents and guardians of students of the University to immediately engage the government, failing which they will ultimately bear the consequence of the decision.

At this period, the government should be thinking of introducing bursaries, scholarships and increased subvention to our Schools, not stifling the already-meager resources available to the Schools.

The Ten Billion Naira supplementary budget

We are bothered about the emerging details of the supplementary budget that the House of Assembly approved recently.

First, we ask that the government make public details of the supplementary budget, including the amount approved and the expenditure that the sum will cover. Where there are doubts about the sincerity of government actions, the government should reassure citizens of its intentions and show accountability.

Second, we also request that the Osun State Government furnishes the public with details of the 2023 budget performance, to justify the necessity of the supplementary budget. The people of the State deserve to know how their finances are being managed and what fiscal plans the government has to guarantee the long term financial sustainability of the State.

We do not want to conclude yet, as some persons have done, that the supplementary budget is for needless expenditure. We will rather wait for the government to make important clarifications that will inform our reactions on the matter.

Conclusion

Aware that several reactions will follow this State of the State address, we advise the State Government to engage public opinions and demands like ours, through the established means of government public relations and with respect for our rights as citizens of our dear State, able to make demands of a government that sits on our common resources.

We await sincere and patriotic engagement, after which we will decide our next lines of action.