- Charge President to reorganise EFCC, ICPC
Following findings that no fewer than 22 former state governors incurred about N1.58trillion debt for their successor-governors by last May 29, notable groups in the country have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to carry out a comprehensive probe of the transactions which threw up the debt burden vis-à-vis the state of infrastructural and related developments in the states most of them respectively administered for eight years.
Nigerian Pilot had reported last Monday that the following former state governors left their respective states burdened by huge debts and related liabilities like workers’ salary arrears running into several months: Babatunde Raji Fashola, Lagos, N418.2bn; Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, Kano, N294.5bn; Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, Rivers, N138.3bn; Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom, N125.7bn; Sule Lamido, Jigawa, N117bn; Jonah Jang, Plateau, N104bn and Ramalan Yero, Kaduna, N71bn.
There are also Babangida Aliyu, Niger, N57bn; Liyel Imoke, Cross River, N38.3bn; Gabriel Suswam, Benue, N31.6bn among others.
Last Wednesday also, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, directed his predecessor, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and some top functionaries of the past administration to return to the government coffers the money they allegedly misappropriated.
In a statement authored by his Chief Press Secretary, Dr. Ibraheem Dooba, the governor stated that Aliyu and his former aides are to refund N2.9 billion to the treasury. The amount, he added, represented loans they took on the eve of the expiration of the administration.
He said: “They took this loan on the eve of their departure. And as was customary with that administration, they did nothing with the money. You can’t collect a loan on behalf of the people and share it among yourselves. That’s literally what they did. They simply raised a list and allocated money to those on the list.
“The office of the SSG for example, was given N600 million. What he would do with the money, the records did not say. Well, we want our money back. The money belongs to the people; the governor took an oath to protect the people and by the grace of God, that is what he’s going to do.”
The governor added that he didn’t come to office to witch-hunt or focus on probing previous administrations, “but we can’t, in good conscience, accept this brazen theft of the people’s wealth.”
Calls for probe
Though Aliyu’s spokesman, Israel Ebije, said the allegation was false, there have been a groundswell of calls for the probe of the immediate past governors by groups. Individually, the groups hold that given the avowed stand of the Buhari administration on anti-corruption, the President must work his talk by reining in the former state governors to account for the huge debts which have crumbled the economies of the states to the extent that many workers at that tier of government are still being owed arrears of salaries running into several months.
Frontline democracy and human rights crusaders, Northern Emancipation Network, NEN’s Coordinator, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman listed Kaduna, Niger, Akwa Ibom and Rivers as frontline states which out-gone governors are believed to have wasted their funds with no commensurate development. On Kaduna State, Suleiman lamented that the ousted Governor Ramalan Yero, in addition to under-developing the state, left it heavily indebted.
“Our findings show that foreign loans alone as at end of 2004 stood at $234. 42 million at the exchange rate of N196/USD while domestic debts as at the end of April 2015 was N22.54 billion, excluding shortfall in pension liabilities and salary arrears.
“More disturbing is that with about 28,963 members of staff on its payroll, the state’s Internally Generated Revenue has been far below 40 per cent which could not even be accounted for.
“The effect of this is that the state has been incurring budget deficits and had to resort to borrowing to fund as low as 14 per cent capital budget in 2014.
“This, in addition to suspected embezzlement to sustain the flamboyant lifestyle of the governor and his officials resulted unfulfilled promises, decayed infrastructure, stagnation and impoverishment of the masses of the people,” Suleiman said.
He said that it is only proper for the new state government to verify the amounts borrowed and the projects being executed with the loan.
“Another financial disaster state is Niger which is left indebted to the tune of more than N74 billion by Muazu Babangida Aliyu. The state is in complete squalor while even the billions allocated to it in Federal grant could not be accounted for,” Suleiman said.
Since the inception of the Babangida Aliyu administration, Niger state has been recording less than 30 percent budget implementation and tax revenue has declined consistently leaving citizens in abject poverty.
Fake projects and abandoned ones litter the state capital while local government councils were starved of funds despite the huge allocations to the state/local government joint account by the Federal Government.
NEN said it has directed its chapters in the states concerned to prepare for protests to compel the respective governments to embark on far reaching probes with a view to prosecuting the culprits and recovering embezzled funds.
“For some few individuals to betray public trust and abuse privileges by wantonly feasting state resources to service personal interests is unacceptable,” Suleiman warned.
They deserve double punishment
Also positing in tandem with NEN, mouthpiece of the South-South also known as Ijaw Media Forum, IMF, believes that there is no better time for Buhari to act than now.
IMF underpinned its position on the need for the administration to as a matter of urgency reorganize the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC if the prosecution of the anti-corruption war must yield positive results.
The group’s coordinator, Comrade Aso Beks argued that “only the reconstitution of these bodies with operatives that are on the same page with President Buhari will do this job. Otherwise some other measures must be taken to recover the stolen monies from the ex-governors.”
He said the former governors deserve double punishment. If not because of current realities, dragging them on the streets naked and flogging them to compel them to repay the debts would have been netter.
“But I am scared that Buhari may not be able to fight this problem with the current EFCC and ICPC in place.
“He should probe them under a new EFCC because the current one cannot do much. But you must note too that the average Nigerian believes nothing progressive comes out of probes here. We don’t see it as a remedy. We need quick action. The debtor-former governors should enter into agreement with the administration to pay up the debts within a short time like one month,” he said.
Not done, Comrade Beks added that should they fail to repay the debts, “somebody like Amaechi should be taken to Mile 1 Market in Port Harcourt to tell the people of the state what he did with the mindboggling debt. Kwankwaso should be given same treatment inside Kano Central Market while Fashola should do his at Mile 12 Market in Lagos. The same should apply to others.”
The IMF leader also canvassed for the Asian model of dealing with similar situations, adding “if you do not do that, their successors will double the debt profile in the states by 2019 and nothing will happen,” he concluded.