Oyo State governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, on Saturday, announced the short-term plans of the administration to mitigate the effects of the fuel subsidy removal on residents of the state, saying that his administration will continue to put the interest of the people first.
The governor, who gave this indication in a state-wide broadcast, maintained that food security, transportation and the sectors are among the immediate areas being targeted by the government to alleviate the economic difficulties facing residents of the state.
This was as the governor directed civil servants to resume to their duty posts on Monday, as his government will pay the two months deductions owed the workers with their August salary, while it will also explore further options on dialogue.
He noted that the government remained open to parleying with labour to ensure that the rights of the workers of Oyo State are protected.
He encouraged the union leaders to return to the negotiating table to discuss any increases in salary or possible harmonisation of pension payments.
Governor Makinde had, earlier in June 2023, announced measures to cushion the hardship faced by the people following the removal of fuel subsidy, including increasing the number of Omituntun Buses on various routes in Ibadan, the state capital and reduction of fares for all residents, including senior citizens and students, who were to pay half prices.
The governor, on Saturday, however, stated that in line with his promise to do more, the administration has arrived at decisions, which will benefit most of the people in the state, while it continues to explore other measures.
He said: “I am addressing you today to share our short-term plans, which will play a huge role in alleviating the effects of the removal of fuel subsidies and the resultant economic difficulties being faced by our people. You will recall that on June 9, 2023, following the removal of fuel subsidy, we announced measures to be taken to cushion the effect of the removal.
“We gave directives that the number of Omituntun Buses on various routes in Ibadan should be increased and that commuters must pay a reduced fare on these buses. Additionally, our senior citizens and students should board the buses at half price. We have received feedback that this immediate action has benefited our people.
“We promised that more will be done. Our plan has always been to roll out sustainable actions in keeping with our promise of sustainable development under Omituntun 2.0. Having been in government for the first four years, we know it is easier to make promises than to keep them.
“After wide consultations, we have arrived at decisions that we believe will be of the most benefit to the good people of Oyo State. In reaching these decisions, we considered the importance of using these economic packages to stimulate our economy and bring about sustainable development.”
The governor, who maintained that the short-term plans tagged the Sustainable Actions for Economic Recovery (SAfER) will target the poorest of the poor and the vulnerable and ensure a softer landing for them, said the action plans would also ease the burden of transportation for all residents and the civil servants and address the challenges of food security.
He stated that under the SAfEr package, agropreneurs trained under the Youth Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness Project (YEAP), who have established agribusinesses will receive enterprise support of five hundred-million-naira (N500,000,000), while small businesses will benefit from low-interest-rate loans with the provision of five hundred-million-naira (N500,000,000) facility.
He added that the state government is already updating its social register to capture 200,000 of the poorest of the poor, who will be provided with food relief packages and that 100,000 health insurance packages will be rolled out for the vulnerable in the society.
According to the governor, the services of the Omituntun Mass Transit Buses will be extended to cover inter-city routes across all the five zones of the state and that more Buses will be provided for the transportation of civil servants in the state.
“Let me now share details of our SAfER package. Following the pattern of our actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are updating our social register to include two hundred thousand (200,000) of the poorest of the poor. These will be provided with immediate food relief packages. As usual, we will ensure transparency in the registration process so that only those who qualify will get this immediate relief.
“We will be providing health insurance for 100,000 of our most vulnerable citizens. We will be paying their one-year health insurance premium under the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency (OYSHIA) scheme so that they have access to quality healthcare without paying out of pocket.
“The Omituntun Busservice will be extended to cover inter-city routes from Ibadan to all other zones of Oyo State. Details of their routes will be released in the coming weeks. So, we will have buses going from Ibadan to Ibarapa, Ibadan to Ogbomoso, Ibadan to Oke-Ogun and Ibadan to Oyo. The fares will be kept at low rates, while our senior citizens and students will board the buses at half price.
“Our farmers have not been left out. To ensure food security, we will be distributing additional inputs to 10,000 farmers. This is in addition to the input support being provided under the World Bank assisted OYS-CARES programme. Further details will be released through the relevant agencies in the coming weeks.
“Our youth agropreneurs who were trained under the Youth Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness Project (YEAP) and have established businesses will also have an opportunity to contribute to food security and sustainable development as they will receive enterprise support of five hundred million naira (N500,000,000) under the SAfER package. They will get further directives on how they will benefit from the relevant agencies.
“We have also resolved to assist small businesses to stay afloat through low-interest-rate loans with the provision of a five hundred-million-naira (N500,000,000) facility. Our traders, artisans and other small business operators can apply for these loans through designated micro-finance banks. Details of how they may enroll for and access these loans will be announced by the relevant agencies.
“Tertiary institution students in Oyo State will board the Omituntun Buses at half price upon showing their school identity card. We will also be meeting with the student leaders of tertiary institutions in Oyo State to agree on further measures which will be added to the SAfER package for students,” he added.
Addressing the protest and blockage of entry points into the Secretariat, the governor stated that his government has been one of the states that are favourably committed to workers’ welfare since he assumed office in 2019, saying: “We have paid all civil servants’ salaries and pensions on or before the 25th of every month without fail. And since January 2020, we have paid the minimum wage and consequential adjustments to all cadres of civil servants every month without fail.
“Presently, the civil servants’ wage bill stands at N7.2 billion monthly. We have continued to pay this despite having a state revenue of just below N10 billion monthly. It is, therefore, clear to understand why any increase in salaries or pensions may not be possible at this time.
He, however, announced that apart from the payment of the cooperatives deduction to be affected and paid with August salaries, the government will increase the number of buses made available for civil servants to commute to and from work from 9 to 12, so that more routes are covered to lessen the transportation burden of workers.
He further stated that the government will pay the health insurance premium for all pensioners under the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency (OYSHIA) scheme and that any pensioner who already made payment will be refunded.
He equally stated that the government will resume the monthly payment of gratuities to pensioners to continue to clear the backlog of gratuity payments inherited by our administration.