The sordid tale of Kwara Express under Saraki and Ahmed

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By Abdullah Abdulganiy

One of the die-hard loyalists of the Saraki dynasty and indeed spokesperson of the previous administration in Kwara State, Mr Olatunji Moronfoye, made a post on his Facebook page November 9 obviously to taunt the present administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. In that shameless outing, Moronfoye unwittingly shot himself in the leg.

He posted: “Please, is Kwara Express Transport back up and running? I am asking for a friend…” It is good he was asking for a friend. It goes to show that he doesn’t parade the moral right to ask such a question for himself. His paymasters supervised for decades the decapitation of that collective patrimony. They turned it to a shadow of its old self. We couldn’t find Moronfoye who now poses as a “Defender of the Masses” to lend his voice against the ruinous management of Kwara Express then. But he’s now a “Research Assistant” asking question for a friend.

Does Moronfoye think everyone suffers from short memory or selective amnesia? If he has forgotten the rot that held sway at Kwara Express on the watch of his paymasters, the report of the Business Review and Investigation Committee on Kwara Express is out. That would perhaps jolt his memory back to life.

As a background: BRIC was inaugurated on Friday, September 11, 2020 by the current GMD/CEO of Harmony Holdings Limited, Mallam Abdullahi Abdulmajeed as part of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq-led administration’s effort to reposition and revamp all state-owned business entities left to rot by the past administration.

There’s virtually no public facility they left in good condition. We had many lacking in good structures, and several others neck-deep in debts. For instance, they left Kwara Express with about 28 buses that are non-functional. A decrepit and unkempt structure and a barely equipped workshop. In the list was also a damning backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions, accumulated debts. The present government is doing a great job of clearing these rots. Setting up a committee is just the first step in the complete overhaul of the moribund Kwara Express.

The investigation committee had Comrade AbdulRazaq Hamzat as its chairman, Mrs Olaide Adebanjo Adejobi as secretary alongside 12 other eminently qualified professionals who are top players in both private and public sectors drawn from various local government areas of the state.

Some of the committee members are Kwarans playing prominent roles in the management of successful private sector model run transport companies owned partly or fully by some state governments in the country such as the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) of Lagos State.

That’s just to show that the committee really understands the job assigned to it. You’d imagine you could hear them mouthing a Yoruba cliche, “You are bringing what I know how to eat best to me”. After several weeks of fact-finding and sittings, the committee came out with mind-boggling revelations.

Their findings: The past government which Moronfoye served paraded a cabal simply identified as “Government House” that unduly interfered in the operations and management of Kwara Express. This cabal is also the backer of an illegal union in the transport company (illegal because unionism doesn’t exist in a private establishment) which fuelled staff indiscipline and insubordination.

The management and staffers of Kwara Express engaged in impunity, committed atrocities, gamed the system and did all sorts at the expense of the company because they relied heavily on and were given cover by these political interests. They threatened some dedicated staff members of HHL which is the mother organisation with these lines: “We are going to report you at the Government House”; “Government House gave us the permission to do it” among others.

The sordid tale of Kwara Express could be traced back to the reign of Dr Bukola Saraki who supervised several impunities and infractions committed by the management of Kwara Express with reckless indifference. The corollary was that he left a living dead Kwara Express by the time he was leaving in 2011.

“The Business Review and Investigation Committee (BRIC) discovered that when Harmony Holdings Limited (HHL) took over the management of Kwara Express as one of its subsidiaries, HHL basically took over a dead company, as the company was on the verge of collapse. At the time of its take-over, the then management of Kwara Express was owing its workers several months of unpaid salaries, loan obligations could not be paid and assets purchased with the loan were about to be confiscated by the bank, amongst several other challenges,” the report read in part.

Then came Alhaji AbdulFatah Ahmed, Morofonye’s boss; whom analysts would call Saraki’s godson. It was the same wine in a new bottle. So, the “Government House” mentality remained. Hence, there was no sense of discipline among staff members. Many of them stole from the company, destroyed its properties and went away with it. They were the big fish. The “Government House” boys.

Then, Ahmed created Harmony Holdings Limited, leading to the repeal of the Act that established Kwara Express. A new Act was enacted which transferred the ownership of Kwara Express to Harmony Holdings for proper management. It was to be known as Harmony Transport Services Limited (HTSL). But what changed? Nothing. The transport company remained a liability. In fact, those Ahmed appointed to head HHL perpetrated so many unwholesome practices, contract fraud and infractions.

As a matter of fact, the same past leadership of Harmony Holdings assisted Kwara Express with subventions, loans, bail-out nearing N600 million, yet it couldn’t help the situation. That was how deep it had crept into the cesspit on the watch of Bukola Saraki, and Moronfoye’s boss couldn’t get it back on its feet. Yet he’s asking if Kwara Express is back up and running.

This is the same company his boss left with a backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions and gratuities. Literally dead! There are also huge debts owed to various agents and partners. External contractors were also owed millions of naira. “O ye gbobo eni ko dawo aro, ko ye atole”; “Ajala tan naa? Awon naanu”. I hope Moronfoye would now meet his friend and tell him the home truth. How his bosses crumbled Kwara Express and ate it to the bone. If it were where leadership is grounded in morality, Morofonye and his co-travellers would always keep shut when Project Kwara is under discussion. They frittered away all opportunities to make Kwara great and protect her heritage. Where did they lead Amusement Park to?

All their lives, it was borrowing, borrowing. How come Governor AbdulRazaq has been running the same system efficiently without borrowing a kobo? What does this tell Moronfoye, who’s now a “Research Assistant” trying to rub salt on the injury of Kwarans? Well, it’s now a new dawn at Harmony Holdings Limited, mother organisation of Harmony Transport Services Limited (formerly Kwara Express). The present GMD in line with the mandate of Governor AbdulRazaq to make Kwara work for Kwarans is taking concerted efforts to rebirth and rebuild Kwara Express. Setting up a committee appears to be the first step in that direction. Our Kwara Express is coming back stronger and bigger! The “Ajala tan naa(s)” should hide their faces.

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