The optimism that the new governors, who took oath of office on May 29, will immediately hit the ground running is turning a dream as tales of huge debts, backlog of unpaid salaries and empty treasuries left by their predecessors rock the polity.
There is no disputing the fact that the pleasure of governing any of Nigeria’s 36 states is exquisite given the vast number of individuals, who are always eager to be concerned with governance at that level.
This belief was justified by the array of personalities, who contested the governorship polls in the last general elections, which saw the defeat of some incumbents and emergence of 12 new persons as states chief executives in the 29 states, where the exercise held.
The “new kids on the block” are Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Umaru Fintiri (Adamawa), Babagana Umaru (Borno), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq (Kwara), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe) and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara).
Those who were re-elected after serving their first tenure are Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Abubakar Bello (Niger).
Others are Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba).
While the dust over the elections has settled and the pomp that characterised the swearing in of the new helmsmen in the states is over, the reality of power is gradually dawning on the first-time governors.
Rather than the smooth start many had expected in the states, where there was change of guard, it has so far been claims and counter-claims of debts; backlog of unpaid salaries; empty treasuries and even looting of government property, among others between the new governors and their predecessors.
Among states are Imo, Bauchi, Oyo, Ogun, Adamawa, Gombe and Zamfara. Interestingly, the former governors of some of these states have celebrated leaving behind buoyant accounts for their successors, who happen to be their political foes.
Bauchi: Mohammed, Abubakar in war of words over billions spent on burials
What is playing out in Bauchi State between Governor Bala Mohammed and his predecessor, Mohammed Abubakar, was envisaged by many given the bitter battle fought by the duo in the governorship election.
Mohammed, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, who contested the poll on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), did not only cut short Abubakar’s second term bid, but shortly after the election, lamented that the state he is inheriting from Abubakar was in shambles.
The new governor gave a clear picture of Bauchi State that Abubakar left for him, when he alleged last week that his predecessor spent N2.3 billion on materials for burying dead bodies in the state. Besides this, he said his administration has discovered issues of corruption and daylight robbery of the commonwealth of Bauchi people.
The governor, who spoke through his spokesperson, Dr. Ladan Salihu, said the sum was spent between January and May, 2019. He explained that over N900 million was spent on buying white clothes used for wrapping dead bodies, while over N1.4 billion was expended on woods for lacing graves after burial.
His words: “These monies, which ought to have been appropriated by the Assembly before expenditure, all of a sudden emanated from our treasury books. How could you imagine that a state government, within five months, that is between January and May, 2019, spent well over N2.3 billion on funeral materials, the clothes that are used in clothing dead bodies and the woods that you lace the graveyards with?
“The immediate past government spent N2.3 billion on burials, but did not spend a quarter of that amount in our own hospitals and clinics. They have the temerity to want to put up a show of shame.”
Asked if the state government has any prove to substantiate the claim, Salihu said there is no doubt on the matter as there are documental evidences to prove it.
He said: “All these are captured in the report of the Transition Committee and these were gathered from documents and vouchers and payments made from our treasury books. There is the Freedom of Information Law, go there and find out for yourself from those documents.
“We are talking about the principle behind it. You have bought these materials for funerals in graveyards, what have you done to the Christian cemetery? We are saying that it is completely wrong; it is not the duty of government to buy burial materials for anybody. It is the responsibility of the family, the community and people of goodwill.
“It has never existed in our history books that government bought those materials in the first place. So, you know that these things were bought for a reason, you would not see the materials, because they have disappeared into or out of the boxes.”
The governor’s aide vowed that the state government will use every instrument of the law, including petitioning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission (ICPC) and other anti-corruption agencies on the matter until every kobo “stolen” is returned.
“Government will take stern measures; we will recover every kobo that has been looted or stolen by the immediate past administration and in fact, the administration before it, where it is established that there was a clear case of misappropriation or outright stealing of public funds. It is an obligation; you don’t allow criminality to run roughshod on the rest of us because these are public funds.
“We must take steps, there’s no factor of fear or favour or ill-will, it is just the way the business of government must be conducted. We will take every measure; we will use every institution and go after everyone who has stolen Bauchi State’s money.
“We will pursue this case in the relevant institutions of recovery whether it is EFCC, ICPC, the constitution of a special recovery mechanism within the state, I can assure you, we will pursue these issues vigorously, rigorously and without let.” he said.
But ex-Governor Abubakar, in his response, who described the claim that his administration spent N2.3 billion on materials for burying dead bodies in the state, however, admitted that N1.2 billion was spent within the four years he served as governor.
Abubakar, who spoke through a statement issued by his former media aide, Ali M. Ali, said financing burial of the dead was an inherited practice, which his administration upheld.
The statement read in part: “It has become imperative to throw more light on the needless controversy concerning the N1.2 billion spent on burying the dead in Bauchi State by the former government of MA Abubakar.
“The outrageously fantastic claim of spending N2.3 billion between January and May 2019 by the government of the day is precisely what it is – phantom. It is absolute balderdash. No truth whatsoever.
“The N1.2 billion the former government spent covered a four year period across the 20 local government areas of the state. It was not for a single local government area and certainly not for a five month period!
“For the record and for the umpteenth time, financing the burial of the dead was an inherited practice, which the government of MA Abubakar upheld.”
Ali said it was inconceivable that a government that did everything in line with the law would be brazen in its financial dealings, advising the present government in the state to shun propaganda and face governance.
According to him, “the government of Abubakar built a reputation of thrift. So, the government of the day in Bauchi should squarely face the task ahead and not divert attention with such illusory and delusional allegations.”
Ogun: Abiodun, Amosun in claims, counter-claims over empty treasury, purchase of arms
The new governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, did not mince words recently, when he declared that he inherited a state treasury with “almost nothing” upon assumption of office on May 29.
Though Abiodun was silent on the amount he met in the state treasury left by his former political ally, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, he said he had to borrow money from his friends, who are managing directors in some commercial banks in order to pay the May salaries of workers in the state, which he put at over N7 billion.
The governor, who said he could not describe “in the open the Ogun State that we inherited,” however, vowed not to make issues out of his predecessor’s actions or inactions. But, recent developments in the state seem to have forced the governor to renege on his vow.
Amosun, who was recently under fire over controversies alleged illegal arms purchase linked to his administration, apparently, compelled his successor to open the can of worms last week.
The former governor had in his response to a report by night by online newspaper, Premium Times, on the arms deal, not only insisted that the purchase, handling and storage of the arms and ammunition by his administration followed due process, but also identified Abiodun, as the main supplier of some of the arms.
The newspaper had claimed that Amosun imported without appropriate permits, 1,000 AK47 assault rifles, four million rounds of ammunition and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) during his tenure.
But, the former governor, in a statement by his media aide, Rotimi Durojaiye, said extant approvals, regulations and protocols were observed and complied with in the procurement of the arms and ammunition.
Amosun stated that the arms and ammunition were handed over to the state Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, on May 28 at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, before he left office in the full glare of the public and the media to ensure accountability as well as to guarantee transparency and their judicious use.
Naming Abiodun as the main supplier of some of the equipment, especially the Armoured Personnel Carriers, Amosun explained that the need to improve poor security situation at the time he took over government informed the decision to purchase the ammunition, adding that the importation of the weapons was authorised by the presidency then under President Goodluck Jonathan.
But, Abiodun, in a swift reaction, said his predecessor’s comments were part of the grand plot to smear his name.
The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, said he never defaulted in supplying the materials in accordance to the terms of the contract.
While admitting that the issue remains a security matter, Abiodun pointed out that the police should sort out the shortfalls in the ammunition handed over to Amosun.
His words: “I read of Armoured Personnel Carriers – vehicles, not arms or ammunition. Did he default in supplying according to the terms of the contract? What’s the motivation for bringing the governor’s name into the arms scandal? I consider it distracting or part of the grand plot to smear Governor Dapo Abiodun.
“He (Amosun) claimed that he handed over arms to the police, not Governor Abiodun. The police commissioner should give the details and sort the shortfalls out with him. It’s a security matter. The agencies on arms purchase should wade in and connect the dots.”
The governor did not stop at that as he accused Amosun of inflating the monthly wage bill of the state during his tenure by N2.5 billion.
Abiodun, who noted that Amosun’s deceit, has been exposed since he took over from him, made the allegation in reaction to a statement by the Ogun State chapter of Allied People’s Movement (APM) on the payment of May salaries to workers in the state.
The APM, through which Amosun unsuccessfully tried to install his successor, had faulted Abiodun’s administration claim of inheriting an empty treasury and borrowing the sum of N7 billion to pay workers’ salaries.
But, the governor, who insisted that people of the state know their friends, asked the party not to attempt to cry wolf, where there is none. “Ogun State people are wiser than the years of locust, when salaries were delayed, denied and deducted. Ogun workers know their friends,” he stated.
Abiodun wondered why the APM refused to comment on the inflated wage bill of Amosun, who had consistently claimed that his administration expended N9 billion on wages monthly and challenged the former governor to reveal, where he kept the over N2.5 billion inflated monthly for the 96 months that he governed the state.
Imo: An endless war of words between Ihedioha and Okorocha
While the battle of wits between Governor Emeka Ihedioha and his predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, ensued immediately the latter failed in his bid to have his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor, it got to a height, when the latter in his inauguration speech on May 29, described the eight years of his predecessor’s administration as a huge setback for the state.
Ihedioha, who berated Okorocha for his disregard for the rule of law, said rebuilding the state would be a very difficult task considering infrastructural decay his successor left behind.
The new governor probably drew the battle line, when he vowed to review all land allocations and Certificates of Occupancy, which the Okorocha administration approved hurriedly for his cronies and return them to their original owners. “Our citizens lost their lands to Okorocha’s government and I hold it as an obligation to the people of Imo to recover their lands,” he said. On the debt burden Okorocha left, Ihedioha said Imo State government under the former governor owed N57 billion pension arrears of over 77 months. He added that the state is financially insolvent and that it would be difficult to meet all the challenges facing the state in a short period.
“We don’t have the magic wand to solve all the problems, but with the support of all I will try to deliver good governance and run an all-inclusive administration,” he said. The governor also said he would review the free education programme introduced by the past government and ensure that qualitative and more realistic system of education was achieved. But, Okorocha, who fired back immediately, said Ihedioha has no programme for Imo people, but only preparing the grounds towards squandering the N42.5 billion he left in the state’s treasury.
The former governor, made the allegation in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Sam Onwuemeodo, which read in part: “On Tuesday, June 4, Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State said his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha operated from a bush bar in government house, which he said was an eyesore and that is the reason he has decided to operate from outside at the moment. “He had earlier described the entire government house as a decayed place.
From all indications, Yari Mohammed Chief Ihedioha has no programme for Imo people. He appears stranded since May 29, when he took over. That is why he has never made any policy statement or any comment associated with governance. “He has been threatening fire and brimstone and trying to incite Imo people against Okorocha, but has met brick wall. He has come with the known Peoples Democratic Party style of giving flimsy excuses as prelude to wasteful expenditures.
“The government house Chief Ihedioha is labouring in vain to run down is the same one of note including front row media practitioners in the country had visited at one time or the other and made their complimentary remarks. It is the same government house most Imo people have also been to. “We want to say again that the government house Okorocha handed over to Governor Ihedioha was brand new with ultra-modern structures, unlike the ghetto the PDP administrations had operated from for 12 years.”
Another twist was added to battle of wits last week, when the Imo State Task Force on the recovery of government properties under the care of officials of immediate past administration alleged that between ex-governor Rocha’s Okorocha and his wife, Nneoma, over 67 vehicles are yet to be returned.
Chairman of the task force, Jasper Ndubuaku, who made the allegation while briefing newsmen in Owerri, said his team will no longer adopt a soft approach to recovering of government properties in the hands of the past government officials. According to him, the forceful approach had become necessary following the refusal of most of those involved to willingly submit the properties. His words: “As I speak, the former governor has about 60 vehicles including the outriders he was using, when he was in government intact; his wife has about seven vehicles; his driver has a land cruiser jeep.
“We would use the people to recover our property; most of them such as the mechanics have already indicated interest in working with us; by the time we move in with about 6,000 people, they wouldn’t have the choice than to submit them,” Ndubuaku also disclosed that seven vehicles were found in the premises of the former ADC to Okorocha, but added that one had been recovered so far. He further disclosed that the 27 vehicles bought for councils in the state during Okorocha’s tenure have been converted to school and missionary buses by those in whose care they formerly were.
“All the busses bought by the former governor for the 27 council chairmen in the state have been converted to school buses and missionary busses; even the 27 tipper lorries and payloaders have all disappeared; if you go to the ministry, even the smallest generators cannot be found,” he said. Responding to Ndubuaku’s claims, Okorocha, challenged the state government to publish the particulars and list of the vehicles and details of the N50 billion allegedly diverted by his family.
In a statement by Onwuemeodo, the former governor said: “The media had quoted the chairman of Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s Committee on Recovery of Government Properties, Mr. Jasper Ndubuaku as claiming that the former governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his wife, Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, left with 67 vehicles and N50 billion. He also made similar claims against appointees of the former governor and other related bodies that worked with the last administration.
“Against the backdrop of these repeated claims, we want to respond in this manner: We challenge Governor Emeka Ihedioha and his appointees to publish the list and particulars of these 67 vehicles and the details of the N50 billion the former governor and the wife made away with vis-à-vis other items. And we give them seven days to do the publication or bend their heads downward in shame. “We also challenge them to publish the properties the former appointees must have left with, either as a group or as individuals.
The burden to publish evidence of all these claims is now on Governor Ihedioha and his appointees. “We equally want to ask that they harmonize their claims because almost all the key appointees of the WhatsApp and Facebook government in the state have made their diverse claims on these issues, to the extent that nobody knows who among them should be believed. They should harmonize their claims before the publication.
“The governor himself had made his own claim talking about cars and N70 billion taken away. The Chief of Staff of the governor had equally claimed that the former governor left with 31 vehicles and about N40 billion. Now the chairman of the recovery of what they call government properties, Mr. Ndubuaku, has come up with the latest claim of 67 vehicles and N50 billion. The new Attorney- General, Barr. Ndukwe Nnawuchi has also added his voice by also making the claim of N20 billion against the former governor. “We want to let Nigerians know that the PDP people in the state are doing their campaign for possible re-run because they know that, in all considerations, Ihedioha never won the election.
All these smear campaigns against Okorocha and his wife are geared towards biasing the minds of Imo people against their beloved former governor in preparation for the possible re-run.” Zamfara: Yari, Matawalle disagree on debt profile In Zamfara State, where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) turned the table against the All Progressives Congress (APC) through the court, the immediate past governor, Abdulaziz Yari, has been accused by the Bello Matawalle administration of leaving a whopping sum of N251 billion as liability
. The chairman of the state’s Transition Committee, who is also a former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala, said the figure represents N202 billion increase from the N49 billion Yari inherited in 2011 from his predecessor, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi. Wakkala disclosed that liabilities from economic, environment, general and social services stand at the sum of N151.1 billion. He also disclosed that from the Ministry of Finance, outstanding loans, contract retentions, bailouts and loans from banks reflect a sum of N65.3 billion.
Furthermore, he said liabilities from the Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs stands at a sum of N33.3billion; N1.4 billion was discovered as liability from unremitted National Housing Fund, and pension contributions deducted from salaries between 2016 and 2019, while liabilities from education sector and pension and gratuity matters reflect N2.8billion and N1.6 billion.
Wakkala, however, assured the public that the committee was not set up to witch hunt or blackmail anybody, but saddled with the responsibility of discovering where things went wrong with a view to sanitizing the governance process. But, Yari, in his response said he left no debt or liability to the new administration in the state.
The former governor, who spoke through his media aide, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, said: “l want to make it categorically clear that the immediate past governor, Hon. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, left no debt on the state when he handed over the leadership of the state to the government of Alhaji Bello Matawalle.”
Dosara added: “The press briefing by the immediate past deputy-governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala, saying that Yari administration left a debt of over N251 billion was misleading, misrepresentation and a calculated attempt to smear the good image of the former governor.
“We wonder why the committee failed to inform the world that Yari left them N7 billion as takeoff or that the former governor had constructed hundreds of kilometer roads cutting across all the 14 local government areas of the state as well as provision of other dividends of democracy.
“On the issue of award of contracts, the former deputy governor is also supposed to have informed the media that he was the chairman of the Finance and General Purpose Committee charged with the responsibility of contract awards. On the stoppage in the payment of gratuity from the approved sum of N2 billion, it was the deputy-governor that truncated it because the money was being drawn from the payment of fertilizer by farmers and currently many of our farmers have been denied the commodity because of Alhaji Wakkala’s action.”
He also explained the provision of semi-urban water scheme in which the Wakkala-led committee alleged that a borehole was constructed at the cost of N325 million.
According to him, “this is a system comprising so many components including 16 boreholes, solar panels, reticulation and a 500,000-gallon capacity overhead tank.” Dosara, who was supported at the briefing by the APC chairman in the state, Alhaji Lawali Liman, former commissioners, APC officials and supporters, urged the PDP-led government in the state not to witch-hunt the past administration, but work towards the progress of the state.
Adamawa: Another tale over debt profile between Fintiri and Bindow
In Adamawa State, it was the same claim and counter-claim prior to the May 29 inauguration as Ahmadu Fintiri, who stopped Jibrilla Bindow from returning for a second term, vowed to step on toes over the debt profile of the state. Fintiri, made the vow, while receiving the report of a transition committee, which he constituted to review the activities of the Bindow government and offer advice on the constitution of his government.
The committee stated among other things, that the Bindow government accumulated a total of N115 billion debt as at March 2019. Its chairman, Aliyu Isma’la Numan, explained that out of the sum, N97 billion is owed by the state, comprising outstanding external and domestic loans of N55.5 billion, outstanding contractor claims of N22.3 billion, arrears of pensions and gratuity and death benefit of N16.4 billion, and salary arrears and other staff claims of N2.7 billion, while the local government councils owe N18 billion. Decrying the disclosure, Fintiri said it was unfortunate that Bindow was taking overdraft to pay salaries of civil servants without judicial application of incomes of the state.
His words: “Posterity will not forgive us if we fail to ask the right questions about how a state that received a combined income of N332 billion is hopelessly neck deep in debt and has to take overdrafts to pay salary in the last four years. “In the days after the election, many well-meaning individuals had voiced their concerns about the shenanigans of the outgoing government and the need to call them to order.
“Let me restate the call on our people to join me in the task of correcting the ills of the past. In doing so, we shall not hesitate to step on toes where public interests have been compromised. “As a corrective government popularly elected by the people, we will not hesitate to step on toes in the interest and advancement of the public good.”
But, Bindow, who faulted the N115 billion debt profile claim, through his then Commissioner for finance, Mahmoud Yunusa, said the debt was inherited from past administrations in the state and not incurred by his administration. Yunusa said, the debt comprises of contractual commitment, staff claims and furniture allowances of advisers by past administration from 1999 to date.
“Our debt profile was N44 billion. The N115 billion debt alleged by the transition committee is made up of tangible and intangible loans. These are debt that was accumulated over a long time. Some of the past administrations took loans and could not pay back. The Bindow administration did not take any foreign loan.”
Gombe: Yahaya, Dankwambo trade words over debt
Gombe State is not left out in the war of words between the new governors and their predecessors as Governor Muhammadu Yahaya, last week, accused ex- Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of financial recklessness during his eight-year tenure.
Yahaya spoke against the backdrop of the report of the transition committee he set up, which revealed that the former administration left a debt burden of N119 billion, But, Dankwambo, who attempted to fly the PDP’s presidential flag in the general elections, insisted in valedictory speech that “as at May28, we do not owe any commercial bank in the state. No single bank.”
On national and foreign borrowings and liabilities, Dankwambo said: “All the loans are loans that do not go to the consolidated revenue funds. We cannot be accountable for such loans because section 162 of the constitution says we are only accountable for loans in our consolidated revenue.
“These are for projects that was done by the federal government on our behalf, so we have very little to say about foreign loans. But, since our inception, we have not borrowed any money that comes to the consolidated revenue for the development of the state.”
Oyo: Makinde tackles Ajimobi’s booby traps
Like in most of the states, it has equally been claims and counterclaims between the Governor Seyi Makinde and his predecessor, Abiola Ajimobi, from the transition era till date. Makinde had before his inauguration, accused Ajimobi of trying to “spend everything, and create a mountain of debt” before leaving office given last minute decisions by the then APC-led government in Oyo State
. According to him then, it was unfortunate for a government that gave paucity of funds as reason it could not pay backlogs to go ahead and restore 100 per cent subvention to all tertiary Institutions one week to leaving office. He also faulted the spate of appointments and promotions carried out by the Ajimobi administration then, saying: “So many things are going on within government circle that do not edify the status of the Pace Setter state all in their bid to have the last laugh, but you cannot be anti-people and have the last laugh.”
So, it did not surprise many, when Makinde on assumption of office announced the reversal of appointment of 11 Permanent Secretaries in the state. He maintained that he reversed the promotion in fulfillment of his promise to review all new contracts and appointments made by Ajimobi in the last three weeks of his administration. Makinde did not stop at that.
He announced the dissolution of local government and local council development authorities in the state as well as all boards of parastatals and corporations.
But, Ajimobi, who viewed the governor’s actions as aimed to spite his administration, not only berated his successor, but asked him to face the serious business of governance instead of looking for mundane issues to discredit him. According to former governor, his successor must only correct perceived areas he might have done badly and build on the success of his eight years administration.
Ajimobi, who spoke at a luncheon held in his honour by the Ibadan Elders’ Forum, in commemoration of his “meritorious two-term service in Oyo State” noted that it was his prayers that Makinde succeeds in office. According to him, if Makinde succeeds, he would have taken the state higher than he met it.
“My admonition is that the new government succeeds. It is in our best interest that he succeeds. If he succeeds, he would have taken Oyo State higher than he met it. “I am advising him that he should not try to be perfect but he must build on our successes. He must build and not demolish. He must build and not destroy. We have raised the bar of governance in this state and can’t afford to see it go down again.
“We must not return to the days of brigandage and days of locust where chaos and disorder was the norm in Ibadan. Let him face the job and not look at mundane issues. There was a time I heard he said our government officials took cars away; which vehicle is he talking about among all the issues on ground in the state.
“He must know that all journey begins with one step and end with one step. He must start now to correct wherever we were wrong. I don’t profess to be perfect, but he must build on our successes. Where we have taken Oyo State now, he must not take it back. “We know that the dual carriage roads we built can’t be returned to a single lane and the bridges we have constructed cannot be pulled down. We have taken Oyo to greater heights and it must not go down. We did not achieve perfection but achieved successes.
FELIX NWANERI reports