Alabi: Ondo people should be priority of new government

Chief Rotimi Akeredolu

Banji Alabi, a tax administrator and national president Ondo State Eminent Persons Group, is a member of the Transition Committee recently inaugurated by the Governor-elect, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to midwife a new administration for the state. He spoke with The Guardian.

Putting The People First
Going by the present state of Ondo State where, workers are owed salary arrears, with a huge debt profile, there is no doubt that the incoming administration of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu would have its hands full of challenges requiring immediate attention and fixing.

In my mind however, these challenges, because they are human in nature, are collectively surmountable, especially in view of the fact of the massive support that has brought the Governor-elect into office. In my view, Akeredolu should take advantage of this overwhelming support he got from people and use it as the mechanism to turn around the fortunes of the state.

The derivative from the massive he got in the election is that both Akeredolu and the people of the state are on the same page that the fortunes of the state and the wellbeing of the people have nose-dived and there is an urgent need to fix them.

As Akeredolu settles down to work and gets effective solutions to the enormous problems the state is facing, one thing that must be uppermost and constant in every measure and policy he is deploying, and that is the wellbeing of people of the state. It must be the defining factor. None of the measures to be deployed should further pauperise the masses who have already tightened their belts beyond the affordable level. He is aware there are problems on ground, which of course challenged him to throw his hat into the ring. He has onerous duty to provide the needed magic wand to rescue the state, reposition it and give a new lease of life to the people.

We cannot be talking of getting the state back on track by taking any action that could further impoverish the masses who over the years have suffered much denials due to so many factors. If the people are to be called upon to make sacrifice, they must be part of the process of arriving at that necessity. It must have timeframe and must be remarkably beneficial to all in the end.

We Need Aggressive Investment Drive
I’m of the honest view that in Akeredolu, the people of the state have found a man who is a friend. His task in this direction may be less arduous as the Transition Committee is already establishing and building contacts that would attract friends of the state and hungry investors to invest in the state, especially in the agro-allied sector where the state has comparative advantage over its sister states in the region.

Akeredolu is sincerely passionate about a genuine industrialisation of the state, in partnership with the private sector, especially a genuine revival of those viable industries, which should be revamped, in addition to encouraging the establishment of new ones. Among the abandoned industries in the state, some are hot cakes in the market in Nigeria and in the West Africa hub, such as the famous Oluwa Glass Factory in Igbokoda, Ifon Ceramics, Okitipupa Oil Palm Company, Ileoluji Cocoa Factory.

Akeredolu must do everything possible to get the multi-million Dollar Olokola Project back on track, same for the proposed Deep Sea Port at Igbokoda. He should use the instrument of the All Progressives Congress government in Abuja to attract genuine investors to buy into these projects. Same should be done for the much talked about bitumen project. If he succeeds in achieving all these, Akeredolu would have made Ondo the most industrialised state in the country and the first destination for international investors, just as he would have written his name in gold.
Agriculture Also Priority

For the incoming government to attain the obvious challenge of diversifying the state economy, promote agro-allied industrialisation, promote youth employment and empowerment and keep farmers on the farms, it must accord a very high priority to commercial agriculture. It must make conscious efforts in ensuring that youths and young graduates develop interest in oil palm farming in the Southern Senatorial Zone, cocoa farming in both the Central and Northern senatorial zones, as well as rice farming which could thrive well in all the three zones.

In giving priority to agriculture, the administration must take a second look at the Okitipupa Cassava Factory established by the late former Governor Olusegun Agagu and had reached over 80 percent completion. The incoming administration and cocoa farmers in the state should be challenged to go into
cocoa farming by the current international prices of the commodity, which keep soaring.

Property Tax To The Rescue
The allocation from the Federation Account is locked up by the outgoing administration for the servicing of the various loans and running of government, there are no more funds for the development of infrastructure that will midwife transformation of the state.

The question now, is how do we generate IGR from the property sector of the economy – Land, Housing & Environment, so as to help government to fulfill campaign promises. 

In the United States, according to the latest statistics from the Census Bureau, taxes paid by homeowners and other real estate owners remain the largest single source of revenue for state governments. At 40.2%, property taxes represent the highest percentage of revenue accruable to most state governments in the US.

In my opinion, this is an area that will boost our IGR in Ondo State, but the question is how do we introduce property tax in Ondo? I will suggest that, we start with the major towns. Owners of most of these luxurious properties that litter most of the major cities and towns in the state are wealthy Nigerians who reside either in Lagos, Abuja, Europe or the US. These taxes could be used to maintain some of the roads leading to these cities or some of the township roads. If these taxes are efficiently collected and judiciously utilised for this purpose or other related purposes, owners of these properties would surely be happy. We can also introduce accelerated processing of property documents. Processing of certificate of occupancy within seven days could be achieved for a fee. 

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