THIS report seeks to reveal and challenge some of the practices by most state governments which still result in wastefulness at a period that demands reduction of cost of governance WHILE conventional wisdom suggests that the current economic crisis in Nigeria would naturally make state governors abandon the culture of wastefulness, findings showed that much is not being done in this regard.
The situation which contradicts claims of a committed resolve to plug leakages comes surprising given that the trend is happening when most states are in precarious financial positions. The trend also goes contrary to an earlier charge by the Presidency to state governments to prioritise their expenditure in order to perform the primary function of government as enshrined in section 2b of the 1999 constitution.
More to the growing concerns about the issue is the fact that most of the country’s 36 state governors, who still entertain financial recklessness are owing salaries and pensions in arrears. In most of these states where the First-Line Charge (payment of workers’ salaries), is not receiving the priority it deserves as the life of the civil servants has been characterized by misery. Financial recklessness For these and other reasons, many are alarmed that activities that beget financial recklessness, are still part of the workings of most state governments when frugality was supposed to be the word.
It was learnt that instead of financial moderation through cutting the cost of governance, most state governments still retain the following wasteful practices; too many aides, hiring of jets, first class flight tickets, use of exotic vehicles, long convoys, hosting of unnecessary events, sponsorship of pilgrimages, security votes, frequent travels, funding of First Ladies, donation to political parties, funding of unnecessary projects and unsustainable free education among others.
To a degree, these norms are not new in the corridors of power, but their uninterrupted existence at a period of alarming scarcity of cash, speaks volumes. An appraisal of the identified worrisome practices indicates that funds that were supposed to have been conserved and used for the provision of basic amenities are going into areas that matter less to the daily survival of the citizenry. Indeed, the habit leaves many wondering if affected state governments, realized the imperativeness of ending profitless activities at these times. Retinue of aides Checks revealed that only a few governors have so far kept their promise of reducing the number of appointees with whom, they run their offices. While some, especially in the South West geopolitical zone, have reduced the number of ministries and appointees, others, particularly in the North, South East and South South still maintain a huge retinue of aides. This practice practically means using so much money in maintaining the large retinue of aides, who hardly have defined duties. While some states across the country were found to have reduced the number of ministries inherited from the last dispensation, others increased the number.
For instance, a certain state in the South-South increased the number of ministries in addition to the nearly 2000 appointees. A governor in a state in the South East has more than 1,000 aides spread across Local Government Areas. They do nothing but they collect salaries and attend some meetings. They were probably engaged with elections in mind. Another state in the North East also comes close with nearly 300 aides.
The common designations are special advisers, special assistants, personal assistants and executive assistants. Others are chairmen and members of boards, commissions, departments and agencies. Though some state governments had defended this practice, noting that the need to expand the scope of governance informed the large retinue of aides, Saturday Vanguard learnt that the desire to sustain loyalty to party and state governors is mainly responsible. Findings from the Revenue and Fiscal Mobilisation Commission, RFMC, revealed that the salaries and allowances of the appointees ranged from N100, 000 to N500, 000. However, states with different categories of some of the aforementioned designations are at liberty to fix their payment structure. With these, it is better imagined what states with a large number of aides spend monthly in maintaining a humongous team.
The result of a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, corroborated these findings by Saturday Vanguard, as it observed that each state of Nigeria’s 36 states has an average of 100 political appointees including commissioners, making the total number of aides 3,600. Hosting unnecessary events Till date, some state governments still convene money-gulping events that add little or no value. Such events include sponsorship of rallies, thanksgiving services and public engagements for spouses of state governors’ aides and commissioners among others. For example, some state governments in the South West, South East, and South-South geopolitical zones were found to have hosted thanksgiving services at the end of last year. They also hosted Christmas carols, a thing that was done by the churches in the past. It is not uncommon to find thanksgiving services being held to celebrate victories on electoral disputes. Most times, the events are aired live on television stations while top celebrities and public figures are paid to attend.
Akwa Ibom and Imo states stand out, as they are known for hosting events that are not in tune with their financial realities. And they are usually broadcast live on televisions. These gulp tens of millions of money. For instance, Akwa Ibom had in early 2016, held a special thanksgiving to celebrate Governor Emmanuel Udom’s victory at the Supreme Court. The elaborate nature of the forum which attracted thousands to Godwin Akpabio Stadium sent tongues wagging as to the amount spent on the event. In Imo state where such event is a common sight, the state government had in December last year, convened a carnival entitled: Imo Carnival.
The gathering which was televised live on television was considered unnecessary for a state that has not paid pensioners in the past 77 months. Also, the retention of the practice of celebrating the anniversary of the creation of some states is another avenue of misusing public funds. At a time like this, analysts contend that such events could still hold without pomp and waste of scarce resources. Frequent travels The aspect of frequent foreign and local trips out of state capitals is a source of apprehension.
Many are alarmed that such trips which are often done with large entourage require the collection of estacodes. Apart from a few aides, sources close to some state governors told Saturday Vanguard that unofficial associates of the chief executives are often part of the entourage. Sources at Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, said most officials still use first class tickets whenever they travel out of Nigeria.
The same applies to local trips. As of the time of writing this report, it was gathered that most airlines charge between N3million and N3.2 million for first class air tickets to popular destinations like London, Paris, Frankfurt and New York. The average cost for a first class ticket to Dubai is N1.8million. Another agitating aspect is that RMAFC did not specify any amount for local trips by state governors-a situation that leaves the amount drawn in the dark. Instructively, all these trips often come at a huge cost for most of these states that depend mainly on federal allocation for survival. For instance, a source in one of the leading states in Northwest geopolitical zone told Vanguard that the state governor hardly spends five days without traveling out of the state capital. The trips are either local or international.
The governor was said to have spent three weeks abroad in December last year, was said to always travel with a large entourage. Use/purchase of exotic vehicles Saturday Vanguard found it ironical that most state governments, who have been championing calls for the usage of Made in Nigeria products, didn’t find it worthy to use the Innoson brand of cars as their official cars. Essentially, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, IVM, has high breed vehicles among its products. After all a former President, Chief Obasanjo had during his time as Head of State, ensured that Peugeot was the official brand in the country. Rather, most states have continued with the habit of purchasing imported exotic vehicles for governors and other officials. Such practice is known to gulp many funds considering the unit cost of such vehicles and the cost of import duties.
The most common in this regard is the predilection for buying bulletproof vehicles. An online report entitled: How Nigerian Governors Waste Money on Bullet Proof Cars, observed that the average cost of a bulletproof car used by state governors is N75 million. It added thus: ‘’An armoured vehicle manufacturer in Germany, gave the cost of a bulletproof 2014 Lexus LX 570 at €192,000 (N89.3m), an armoured 2015 Toyota Prado is about €125,000 (N58.1), while the cost of an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser is about €149,000 (N69.2m), excluding shipping costs.” So irritating is the practice that a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu recently called on state governors and other political office holders to stop wasting public funds on bulletproof cars, and use the money to provide electricity for their people. Kaduna is among states found to have, purchased costly official vehicles for aides, which include commissioners. It also bought for members of the state House of Assembly. Others found to have bought for legislators include Niger, Kano, Imo, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kogi, Lagos, Sokoto, Kwara, Benue, Cross Rivers and Katsina states. Sponsorship of pilgrimages When President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, said the Federal Government was stopping the sponsorship of pilgrims to Israel and Saudi Arabia, it was expected that states would follow suit.
Though some announced the same measure as a way of cutting cost, checks showed that it is still business as usual. Actually, a state with a large Christian population in the Northeast geopolitical zone was found to have sponsored 150 people to Jerusalem last year, a development that was said to have resulted in crisis among conflicting interests in the state. Needless projects, programmes Further findings revealed that most state governors are yet to prioritise the kind of projects they initiate. It was discovered that projects are still being initiated with fewer regards to their importance at a time of cash crunch. In most instances, some projects were found to be initiated to score cheap political goals without putting into cognizance the pressure they may have on the finances of the state. For instance, Saturday Vanguard learnt that Imo State government is currently building chapels in all the 27 local government areas of the state. The rationale for committing funds into such project at a time like this is indeed worrisome to observers.
The administration is also reputed for building and destroying projects it initiated and built. One of such, Vanguard was told, was a pedestrian bridge which was built at Imo State University/Okigwe Road roundabout. In states like Osun, Bayelsa, Abia, Ogun, Anambra, Ekiti, and Nasarawa the state governments have commenced efforts to build new airports. This resolve to construct the airports instead of concentrating on projects that would have a direct impact on the people is no doubt a misplaced priority. The culture of embarking on needless empowerment programmes that further impoverishes the people they were meant to assist is still in place across the country. 720 goats worth of N104m In August 2016, Katsina State government in a move described as imprudent bought 720 goats worth of N104m and distributed for the women in the state under its Women Empowerment Scheme. Shortly before then, Jigawa State also empowered 220 women with 660 goats in the state. In addition, a source in an earlier cited state in the Northwest geopolitical zone told Saturday Vanguard that the state governor, who is at loggerheads with his predecessor, is currently spending money in promoting his second term ambition.
The second term awareness campaign, it was learnt, resulted in the erection of gigantic billboards across the state and sponsorship of radio jingles. In addition, the governor was alleged to have embarked on needless projects that have no direct link with the realities of the moment. One of such is the renovation of his deputy’s official residence. In May last year, Kogi State governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello approved over N148 million for the renovation of his office at the Government House at a time the state was struggling to pay salaries. Though Osun State currently has a lean government given the governor’s decision not to appoint commissioners, the state created additional 31 new local council development areas, LCDAs, three area councils and two administrative offices to complement the existing 30 Local Government Areas last year. It was obviously an unpopular decision given that the economy of the state cannot sustain the additional LCDAs. Speaking on the subject, Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, Comrade Debo Adeniran condemned the trend, blaming the 1999 constitution for giving state governors unrestricted access to public funds. Constitution is to blame He told Saturday Vanguard thus: ‘’It is not surprising that governors have stopped wasting public funds on unnecessary ventures.
The constitution is to blame for giving the governors unfettered access to public funds. The constitution gave them so much power to the extent that they can render the offices of state Accountant General and Attorney General ineffective. It is the same at the local government level where the chairmen have unlimited access to council funds. It is because the constitution allowed it to be so. But the National Assembly is also to be blamed for not amending the constitution in a way that public funds can be protected. If the practice must be stopped, Nigerians cannot rely on public structures to do it. The people must take up the gauntlet and question their leaders on how public funds are being used now.” Most elders benefitfrom the loot A retired Police Commissioner, Alhaji ABubakar Tsav in his reaction to the issue, also blamed the constitution for creating the leeway for the use of public funds as it pleases state helmsmen.
‘’The immunity clause in the constitution has made it possible for these governors to use money the way they like. Honestly, the constitution made them irresponsible with public funds. That is why they always appoint numerous aides, who have no business being in government. These aides have nothing to offer. And these governors are very intolerant of criticisms because, in other places, people will criticize the things they do during this period of recession. The reckless usage of state funds when they are supposed to prioritise is not good for this country and if it continues the journey out of recession may be long for the states,” he stated. Continuing, he wondered why governors would be spending money on bulletproof vehicles when they have so many security personnel attached them. ‘’What are the governors doing with bulletproof vehicles when they have security personnel? Even people like us, who have been in the service and have investigated high-profile cases, still move around freely.
What are the governors afraid of that will make them lavish money on bulletproof cars. The current recklessness is happening because most elders are not talking. They benefit from the loot,” he stated. State governors must prioritise their projects—SERAP Also speaking, the Executive Director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni said: ‘The current problem of governance in Nigeria is not lack of resources, but not getting our priorities right. The governors are not prioritising the things they do in their states. There should be no governor in the South West that should be talking about building a new airport when we have airports in Ilorin, Akure, Lagos and Ibadan.
Spending money on the construction of new airports now is a misplaced priority. It shows that the governors are not in touch with the socio-economic realities of their states. They must cut their coat according to their size by stopping the current wasteful things they do.‘’