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Breathing life to ‘dead’ vehicles

Breathing life to ‘dead’ vehicles

BY Kayode Adegbehingbe

Different governments have come and gone and have done nothing about the hundreds of dilapidated vehicles in government’s premises and they have become an eye sore, as what is left of them is allowed to rot away and degenerate even further before the advent of the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu Administration in Ondo State.

The culture of profligacy pervades our land, from the way contracts are awarded, to budget padding, it is tale of excesses by government officials who have been trusted with managing our shared resources.

In the time of surplus, when the money accruing from the petroleum was huge, states went on a spending spree with a lot of resources unaccounted for. Now, there is cash crunch and the states are feeling the bite, and many are coping more than the others. An example is Ondo State which through new thinking has chosen to repair cars for government use, rather than cough out a huge amount of money to buy new ones.

It has been the culture for successive administrations to spend a huge amount of money to buy official vehicles for the litany of aides coming into office. In the spirit of “it is our time”, they throw caution to the winds to meet their luxury needs.

Rather than go on another vehicle buying jamboree, the Ondo State government has decided to repair the hundreds of abandoned vehicles that have for long littered the premises of government offices.

Nigeria has a culture of abandoning things. One government comes in and would want to create luxury for itself, embarking on the purchase of brand new cars. The old cars are left abandoned or at best they would be sold off for pittance.

And recently, the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, lamented the high rate of abandoned NDDC projects in the State. That is a microcosms of the general attitude to projects in Nigeria. With zero patience for long term thinking, abandoned projects and abandoned vehicles becoming part of the landscape, with public funds apparently going down the drain.

The governor personally had to make do with repaired vehicles together with his deputy when he newly resumed office and that experience, according to him, made him think that surely something good can come out of vehicles that have been abandoned, and they can be put to good use while saving money.

The man in charge of repairing the abandoned government owned vehicles, which were bought with out common patrimony and meant to serve the people but have been allowed to be in a state of decay is Chairman Logical Ideas Limited, Mr Oluwole Okunnuga.

While speaking on the initiative, Okunnuga,said that the un-servicable vehicles from ministries, departments and agencies of government in the state after repairs would have two years warranty on the engines, and the exercise would save government billions of naira. He noted that this is a vital and wise move.

It would help the state wade through this time of dwindling resources. With many automobile specialists engaged, it would have an impact on the local economy. And the vehicles would be used by political appointees when done. So with one stone, a few proverbial birds have been killed.

According to available information, the vehicles that have been towed to the location where the repair is taking place, include hundreds of Hilux vehicles of between 2000 and 2014 models and over 300 mechanics, panel beaters and spray painter are slated to be engaged for the programme.

With the hashtag #AketiAtWork, a video was posted on twitter, where Okunnuga spoke on this move by the government.

Pointing to some vehicles already being repaired, he said: “Right here where we are standing is our work area. You have in this area all the vehicles that are being worked on. We have here about 60 vehicles.

“You can see them in various states as they are being repaired. The whole compound contains just a little lower than 400 vehicle. These are vehicles that we were able to get into this central processing area. Not all the vehicles we are to repair are here.

“We still have vehicles at government house. We have vehicles at the House of Assembly, some of the ministries have vehicles. But it is only in Akure that we are operating. We believe that statewide, we may be having three to four times what we are doing now. That is about maybe 1600 vehicles.”

He describes the efforts they are making to involve the total overhauling of the vehicles, so that they become as good as new. And this is at a fraction of what it would have cost for the purchase of new cars. That is what gives the whole project meaning in the first instance.

Okunnuga said: “What we are doing here is not just repairing vehicles. What we are doing is renewal of the vehicles. Many of these vehicles have been packed for so long- four, five, ten, twelve years.  So we expect that certain things, even if they work now, will shortly after it is being used fall out of use.

“So various things are going to be changed. For example, all engines are being changed, various things on suspension are being changed. Everything on breaks is being changed; fuel lines, nozzles and stuffs like that, all are being changed. Then we are going to do the body work for all the vehicles. Every vehicle would be repainted.”

A building has been constructed as a place to heat the paints so that it is durable and shines out with greater beauty.

Pointing at the red coloured building, he said: “Here we have our spraying booth, it is the finishing equipment. It is actually an oven and what it actually does is that it bakes the paints. It makes the paints to shine brighter and to last longer.”

These are vehicles that have been allowed to degenerate into a state of disrepair by successive administrations in the state, preferring to buy new vehicles than make repairs, making the money used to buy the previous ones to go down the drain.

Many have made comments on the video, with virtually all hailing the development, which can be described as one of a kind.

One said that the initiative is very good, while cautioning about the need to ensure that the value and the benefits from rehabilitated vehicles is commensurate to the cost involved.

Others commented saying: “Aketi is redefining governance. This is laudable and highly commendable.”

“This is commendable from your governor and I hope all other governors would adopt this laudable idea. As an Economist, I know a reasonable chunk of money has been saved for Ondo people.”

That is exactly the mind behind the initiative, going the way of salvaging what is available to ensure good value for money. And it was not going to be a shoddy work, rather something that will pass all the test of professionalism, breathing life to hitherto dead machines, to make them serve useful purposes, towards reviving the culture of maintenance of public properties.

About the initiative, others on twitter said: “Interesting direction. Does makes sense. Just ensure original spare parts are used.”

“Hmmn good one. I just keep wondering how all the users got all those vehicles to that state.”

“Good initiative.”

“Perfect maintenance culture, an attitude needed in NG govt.”

“This is worth emulating.”

“Kudos to the governor. Let’s begin a full reorientation of public officers on maintenance culture. Let’s begin to see and handle public properties as OUR PROPERTIES.”

“This is how a government should think…Not every time turn to aso rock for bailout funds.”

“This is good absolutely.”

“This is my dream; utilising what’s available and condemned, revamped and brought back to life. Without spending billions on new vehicles.”

“Very impressive”

“This is a welcome development.”

“Wow, I really love this.”

“This is where mechanical students of the state university can easily acquire practical knowledge.”

“Meanwhile some state governments are proposing to waste our common resources to acquire life pension and choice cars and people are wondering why the number of suicides in Nigeria is increasing. Imaging how many local mechanics will become rich and experienced with this.”

“Most impressive approach to governance. The wisdom in being frugal is an Ara’oke trait. @RotimiAkeredolu this really warms my heart. Thank you for this reinvention.”

“Wow this is commendable.”

“Kudos to you sir. This is one of the things that baffles me in public service. We use things inefficiently just to put them to waste or sell them at ridiculous rates to ourselves. It is a culture that we need to discourage.”

The responses, taken as a whole is overwhelmingly positive, and other states have been called upon to embrace the same initiative, for the many advantages embedded in it.

But someone asked: “What is the cost to repair versus purchasing a new one?” In a response another said: “Engine, tyres and body works for the pick-up trucks can’t cost N700,000. A good tokunbo goes for nothing less than N3.5m.”

From the above, on each vehicle repaired, close to N3m is being saved, and multiply that by the projected 1600 vehicles to be repaired, that is a lot of money. The cost saving benefit of this initiative is beyond question. At the end, N4billion may have been saved in the exercise.

It is through this and other cost saving initiatives that the state governor has been able to put the state on a surer financial footing than he met it.

This move may start a culture change in government activities, as saving cost becomes part of the regular practice. Having a maintenance culture as part of the principle of governance should be a priority. Maybe a law needs to be promulgated, a department organised to see to the matter of maintenance.

If this has been given a pride of place, we probably would not need to have so many primary and secondary school premises in such a poor state that a lot of money is now required to take care of them in the latest renovation effort, reflecting the long time neglect.

Timely intervention was probably very far from the mind of the minders of our government, but the Akeredolu administration in Ondo State has decided to beat a different path. It is better late than never for the hundreds of vehicles slated for renovation.

It is not enough to procure properties, but there should be a proper channel for ensuring that they serve the purpose for which they were procured, rather than be abandoned and allowed to rot away for God knows how long, in make shift junk yards somewhere on government properties.

But how did we come about having hundreds of cars that have been condemned to rot away on government premises? That is an issue that needs to be revisited and steps taken to prevent a recurrence, with the emplacement of greater level of accountability. This poor attitude to public or government properties is poor and it needs to change.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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