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Economic Austerity: Bishops tap the conscience of Osun State Govt, demand pain relief interventions for the poor

As part of the effort to identify and solidarize with the people of Osun, especially the downtrodden masses in this ongoing economic hardship, the Leaders of the five mainline churches have charged the Osun State Government to find quick pain relief interventions for the people of Osun. Below is the excerpt from the press conference statement jointly signed.

Be Attentive to the Sufferings of the Poor

We call on the government not to wait for aggression from the people before empathy would move them to do whatever is necessary to alleviate the difficulty citizens go through to survive. The growing validation of financial crimes especially internet fraud is not disconnected from the economic woes that have besieged many families. Many small businesses especially vendors of food items and other household utilities are folding up because many households are unable to pay debts the owe such businesses. The standard of life of our citizens has dropped abruptly by over 50% in the last one year because of the surge in inflation. For the majority who live in multidimensional poverty, it means not being able to afford up two decent meals in a day. Many children now skip school for lack of transportation fees or the inability of parents to provide fees. Numerous families hardly go for weekly religious exercises because of the inability to afford transportation. It is not strange any longer to see how many houses are left in darkness at night even when there is power supply. The reason is simple, many are no longer able to pay their bill for light not to talk of powering generators. The unaffordability of clean cooking fuel is driving many of our people to the crude means of cooking energy such as excessive use of charcoal and firewood which continue to encourage deforestation and desertification. The government must let the masses know that they are both aware and are disturbed by their situation and are as well working hard and honestly to relieve the pains and misery.

We hereby appreciate the commitment of Governor Ademola Adeleke to the palliative arrangement of the federal government for the relief of civil servants. Even though the federal government that made the arrangement of an additional thirty-five-thousand-naira to monthly wages of civil servants as palliative has only paid it once, the state government of Osun State has paid up to January. We also applaud the state government’s inclusion of retirees in this palliative arrangement, including the continuous repayment of the arrears of half salary owed to workers by the previous administrations. Government must however bear in mind that civil servants make up only 1% of the population of the state while their dependents are 2%. Catering fairly for 3% of the population of over 4 million is far below average performance. The remaining 97% of the population of the state must as well be met with effective relief support programme in order to preserve the dignity and welfare of all in the face of the present misery. Government must among other things work hard to reduce the cost of living by providing palliatives on domestic energy and transportation in Osun State. Subsidizing critical food items is more beneficial to all than sharing some indecent quantities of grains to unknown faces as relief.

We are aware that the Osun State 2024 Appropriation law tagged “Budget of Reconstruction and Recovery, 2024” signed into law by the governor on the 29th of December 2023 witnessed 98% increment when compared to 2023 budget. This might be taken as confirmation by the government implicitly that there is an increment in the revenue of the state from the monthly FAAC and that the same has been factored into 2024 budget of the state. We implore our governor to implement the planned budget primarily for the betterment of the citizenry. Osun citizens are watching with eagle’s vigilance.

Subsidy: Money of the Poor and Vulnerable

There has been since June 2023 a massive increment in the monthly Federal Allocation to all states. We must, however, not fail to note that this increment is not the result of any improvement or boom in the economy. It is majorly the money of subsidy which in previous funding arrangements the federal government directly availed the people to relief the cost of transportation, goods, and services. The subsidy on fuel constituted the major direct benefit that the common man especially the extremely poor get directly as relief from the common treasury. It is understandable that to protect this share of the poor from continually being preyed upon by marauding beasts among us, it has been reallocated to states to enable them to design other means by which such relief would reach the citizens of their various states either in service delivery, critical infrastructural developments or programmes that would bring the most needed relief to the people in a sustainable manner. As God’s messengers, we wish to tap the conscience of our political leaders by reminding them and all their collaborators that the transformation of the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (commonly called petrol) and on diesel into Federal Allocation to State and Local Governments simply implies entrusting of the property of the vulnerable and the poor to powerful trustees who are deemed to be more accessible to the poor. State government should keep in mind the strong spiritual implication of this trusteeship.

The government in many states of the federation have been reluctant to disclose the new federal Allocations as well as other relief packages deployed to the state to relieve the masses of the ongoing economic woes. It is shameful to note that even material reliefs earmarked by the federal government for the poor are dissolving into thin air or are being rebranded with no credible information on their whereabouts and the intent for such in many states of the federation. It is totally inappropriate for the government to fail to disclose to the public about such allocation and the mode by which it shall reach the people. This tragic mystery which has shrouded the deployment of the reallocated subsidy and relief packages to various states in the country raises doubt as to whether the government is intent on acting with clear conscience before God in handling of the belongings of the poor in their custody. We therefore remind the leaders and all stakeholders that it is a grave offense before God Almighty to ever deploy such funds for any other purpose than the good of the masses. Diversion of such funds is tantamount to stealing from the poor and it is repulsive to God.

Click below for the details of the press conference statement.