‘No probe in Ebonyi but we are recovering stolen money’
Ebonyi economy and wage management
Ebonyi State culturally is a very peaceful state and we have a peculiar way of approaching things. We are managing well. We realized that we have some ghost workers and that we have some leakages. We are doing empirical evaluations of what our salary structure should look like and we will not have problems of payment.
One of the little things we have with our workers is that they want us to pay like the Federal Government, so they took the FG salary structure and reduced it a little and said look, you have to pay us this and I said no. The reasons we can’t pay that is this: number one, FG controls 52.67 per cent of the total resources and I control a little bit over 26 per cent of it. And when you come to that, Ebonyi is always last. For example, when funds were shared, Akwa-Ibom got N252 billion and Ebonyi got N44 billion, that was the totality of excess crude account running for one year.
So, if you want me to pay what the FG is paying or what Akwa-Ibom or Rivers State is paying, I should earn what they are earning. If there is any state that needs money more than others, it is Ebonyi because Ebonyi is highly undeveloped. Ebonyi has a lot of natural mineral resources and agricultural farmland and we need encouragement to deploy these advantages to the benefit of the entire country and the state. So, we are very mindful and I continue to say, for Nigeria to develop, the ratio of recurrent to capital budget must be at least, 60 to 40- capital expenditure 60 and recurrent expenditure 40. That is the only way this country can develop.
But right now, it is almost capital zero and recurrent 100 percent. How can Nigeria develop? And how would you now take the whole money that comes from the Federation Account, the total earning in a state, and you expect to sleep well. There will be no armed robbery, there will be no kidnappers, you have water, bridges and so on and so forth? It is not realistic. But sometimes, people expect governors to make magic. And I think there will be no magic, all we need to do now is to sit down and engage our talents. God gave us talents, gave us land and gave us mineral resources. Let’s engage them. That is the only way we can get out of this problem.
States’ reliance on Federal Allocations
When a child is born, you have to take care of the child till he becomes 18 years as obtained in overseas. Because Nigeria is different we use to hear ‘young shall grow’ but people came and lived their own generation, if not by struggle by most of us, they will live our own generation and even extend to live the generation of our children. But some of us said no, we have to struggle.
So, before you say that states should not depend on Federation Account, you have to develop the mineral resources, you have to develop the natural resources that God has given to each of our states. That is very important. There is no way we can develop Ebonyi State without assistance from the Federation Account; it will be difficult. And you see, investors are very fraudulent; when most of them come, they put a beam on the Federation Account. How many beams will you put if you want to develop like five sectors? I want to develop rice production in a very large quantity, I have five rice mills; and then, I want to develop maize production, I have a land that supports that; I want to develop electricity- biomass support electricity; how many beams will you put on the Federation Account? How much do I get? We need support from the Federal Government, we need support from foreign investors and even from our banks.
Relationship with former Governor Elechi
It is like that of father and son; but you know father and son disagree and of course, it is very natural. I must continue what my father did that was right. All his projects, I must continue them. There are also issues but one thing that is significant is that in leadership, a lot of things are done. People do a lot of things without the leader being aware and those people that are cheating on the head of the leader are the people that will gossip and tell you all kind of things so that you will continue to be in cage and then you wouldn’t open your eyes to know what is happening. There are a couple of overvalued projects which I am sure the former governor was not aware of that were overvalued for more than 300 per cent and I am not going to allow it. But the good thing is that once a project is started, I am going to complete it. That’s the good side of it. But the bad side of it is that any project that was overvalued, I am going to revalue it and bring it to the right price. And if that is going to constitute misunderstanding between us, and he fails to understand that the young must grow, then so be it.
So, we have nothing to quarrel about. He was my boss, he is still my boss and he will always be my boss and also my father. So I have nothing to quarrel with him. I will give him peace.
Probing Elechi’s government
I don’t know what is called probing. Don’t forget I was party chairman and I was Deputy Governor. The truth remains that, unless when the younger ones like us come to power, Deputy Governors never had mouth. But it is not the same with my own Deputy Governor; he is my friend, he is my brother, so I give him a lot of responsibility, I share ideas with him. So, I would have said, probing the government is like probing myself. But the truth is that Deputy Governors, depending on what your boss wants is more like, not spare tyre this time around because some tyres never got spoilt. But the truth remains that if our righting the wrongs means probing, then it means that even in the house, in your family, you probe also.
So, to start writing petitions to Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), I won’t do that and I will not support doing that. But if anybody embezzles the money of the state and the person refuses to bring it in a form of dialogue, sitting as brothers and sisters… there is no reason to bother, there is no reason to take anybody to court that is if the person returns the money; we need money, so much money in Ebonyi State. So, if one or two persons are having it, we will call the person and say, brother come, let us talk and let us negotiate. Of course you hear the story of land for peace in Israel and Palestine and we here also the EFCC, ICPC‘s plea bargain.
This is the kind of a thing I love so much in Ebonyi State and I am going to deploy the issue of plea bargain so that if you have stolen, we will come together and I say please, I want the money and we find a way to write it off so that it will not be remembered. That is what we are doing; there won’t be any probe.
Breakthroughs in anti-graft moves
It is not a hidden thing. You are away that they published it. The House of Assembly probed the Caretaker Chairmen and found that they stole N1.8 billion. That’s what they said to me and have given me the paper and said “look, you have to dismiss them from the office and you have to recover the money”. I am bound by the law to recover the money. Dismissing them is within my power; I may decide to dismiss them. It is an advice. But the one that is not advice is there is corruption and I swore to uphold the tenets of the constitution and I am bound by the constitution to recover the money.
We are just doing verification of our schools; how many pupils do we have, how many teachers do we have? And just in few schools, they discovered that there are teachers being paid over the years who are not teachers. So, in the unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), they have promised us that we will be sure to recover N150 to N200 million monthly that people collect as a result of ghost workers and dishonesty. We are right now doing that with the unions.
I am quite lucky I am a Civil Engineer and I have been in construction for over 30 years before I became Deputy Governor and I have knowledge of some of these things. I have deployed my knowledge to the road construction sector to know that you are cheating or you are not cheating. When you go to first principle in an evaluation, what we call ‘Take-off’ in Bill of Quantity is made in the cost of building a house. Take for example the ceiling, you now put the length and the width and then get the area and how much it cost. When we get the first principle to evaluate these things, you know engineering does not rattle, everybody will know the truth and that is what we are doing. We have recovered serious money.