New govs threaten fire in ‘nervous’ states
Although 29 state governors took their oaths of office yesterday, five states stood out on account of the frictions and bad blood spilled by their predecessors, the outgone governors. Consequently, as a new democratic dispensation enters its first day, Nigerians are eager to know how the new governors in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Imo, would fare in their first one hundred days in office against the road blocks raised by their predecessors.
In Gombe State, where Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya took over from Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, who defeated him in 2015, the political switchover from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would definitely throw up interesting scenarios. The friction between the two major political parties went beyond the recent election, which saw APC trouncing PDP in both the presidential and governorship ballot, as the winners alleged that the outgoing administration was piling up domestic and foreign debts for the incoming administration.
However, reacting to the report credited to the transition committee set up by Yahaya, Dankwambo denied the imputations that Gombe State was burdened with a debt profile of N110 billion as at December 2018.
In his valedictory speech at the state executive council, the outgoing governor declared: “As at today the 28th day of May, we are not owing any commercial bank in the state. No single bank. 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.”
Though Dankwambo, who was once the Accountant General of the Federation, urged members of his cabinet to avail “the incoming administration in which ever way their services are needed,” Governor Yahaya would attempt to replicate similar measures taken against former Governor Danjuma Goje by probing government transactions in the past eight years.
Meanwhile, shortly after taking his oath of office, the new governor suspended all appointments, contracts and allocation of plots made by Dankwambo’s administration from March 10, 2019 to date.
While delivering his inaugural speech at Pantami Township Stadium, Yahaya alleged that the preceding administration led by Dankwambo undertook massive employment into the state and local government services, awarded contracts and illegal disposal of government properties in the state.
He said: “We know of the irresponsible carving out, allocations and sale of plots of land to cronies. Be rest assured that we shall take steps to address all illegalities committed by the past administration and perpetrators and illegal beneficiaries will be held to account.
“The new administration will review all the tertiary institutions established by Dankwambo in his eight years in office after assessing their viability in view of the huge debt of over N110 billion left behind by the past administration.”
A similar scenario is playing out in neighbouring Bauchi State, where the outgoing governor, Mohammed Abubakar of APC made frantic efforts to abort the inauguration of Senator Bala Mohammed of PDP by resurrecting an old case with the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (INEC) over his tenure as Minister of Federal Capital Territory.
The new administration has flayed the attempt by the outgoing APC administration of Governor Abubakar to upturn an existing law intended to enable the recovery of looted funds and government property from government officials.
Speaking after being administered with the oath office as the 16th governor of Bauchi State at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium by Acting Chief Justice Rabi Talatu Umar, Governor Abubakar blamed the past administration for worsening the social condition of Bauchi people even as he pledged to defend their interest.
Announcing the termination of appointments, contracts and promotions made by the outgone governor in the twilight of his administration, the new governor said: “This directive also applies to all approvals given on land allocations, sales of government vehicles and houses as well as spurious contracts awarded in the dying minutes of the last administration.
“The absence of a well articulated economic blueprint, coupled with the absence of the political will to take decisions that will attract investment, left the economy prostrate and job opportunities absent. Very soon, our government will unveil an employment programme that at once facilitates capacity building while providing some safety net for the jobless youth.”
Bala also reiterated his position on recovery of all funds looted through ‘over-invoicing, phony contracts or padded wage bills’, saying: “The government will introduce the Treasury Single Account (TSA). It would be mainstreamed to increase cash availability by consolidating at a single avenue, funds hitherto kept by the various MDAs in multiple commercial bank accounts.
“I have no doubt that most of the people, including relevant international and advocacy groups will be anxious to know we intend to get the 1.3 million out of school children back into the school system. I must say that I am 100 per cent committed to achieving that.”
The situation in Imo State was couched in the usual cat and mice relationship between the outgoing APC administration, led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and the PDP governor, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who defeated Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu of Action Alliance (AA) at the governorship election.
Okorocha did not only appoint permanent secretaries, but also set up committees to ensure the completion of projects initiated by his administration. The former governor was also accused of looting government property weeks to the end of his tenure.
However, in his remarks after the official handover ceremonies, Ihedioha said his administration would ensure that all those who held positions of authority in the state render account of their stewardship. Ihedioha berated the outgone administration, stressing that Okorocha “ran the state on everything short of good conscience, policies and governance,” adding that the immediate actions of his government would be to take appropriate steps and measures to restore faith and confidence of Imo people in government.
His words: “It has been a tale of woes for the people of Imo State these past eight years. The APC administration degraded and destroyed most of our institutions and values.
“Indeed, all aspects of governance were debased and desecrated. The legislature, the Judiciary and the civil service all suffered grievous assault. Imo State House of Assembly was made redundant, court orders were routinely disregarded and oftentimes government appeared to act in breach of our constitution and laws. Pensioners are owed for over 77 months, accruing N57 billion in pension liability alone.
“Eight years of maladministration, policy inconsistencies and disregard for the rule of law destroyed. Literally, the foundations laid by our founding fathers, we bastardised with the dis-articulation of a thriving economy, lowered the educational standards, chased away investors, confiscated people’s lands, expropriated our commonwealth and threw to the dogs our collective esteem.
“Eight years of bad governance led to a mind-boggling decay of critical public infrastructure, a crippling debt burden without any meaningful infrastructural or institutional developments to show for such a humongous debt. The health sector fared even worse”
Ihedioha further said, “The absolute lack of transparency and due process in land administration and the distortion of the carefully laid out Owerri Master Plan resulted in many citizens losing their lands, houses, and business premises, which they acquired legally, while public open spaces and green belts were converted to unapproved uses.
“In the light of recent revelations by interest groups, various institutions and agencies of state, many have asked what becomes of those who recklessly plundered our commonwealth. My answer is simple: They will be held accountable.
“While this administration will be forward-looking and not embark on any witch-hunting, those who have held positions of authority must prepare to render account of their stewardship to the people because our resolve to hold their feet to the fire of probity and accountability is iron-clad.”
But there was a mild drama at the inauguration of Adamawa State Governor, Alhaji Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, as the former deputy governor, Mr. Martins Babale started weeping while handing over the mantle of leadership to the new governor, just as four police officers also collapsed during the ceremony.
Fintiri who lamented over the battered economy due to the poor vision and selfish leadership of the immediate past government, promised to use all constitutional means to revamp the state.
Fintiri said that his administration would not operate along political, ethnic and religious lines, but that it would be a government for the entire people of Adamawa ,noting that party is only a platform to get power, but that it is not a tool to marginalize people.
He called on the people of Adamawa within and outside the state to join hands with him to revive the state, which is in a comatose condition.
The deputy governor who handed over in tears urged the new administration to cooperate with the Federal Government to attract federal attention in the state. He said his government performed well in areas of infrastructure development, human welfare and other sectors like youth empowerment schemes.