It is heartbreaking that Nigeria, which is a land naturally flowing with milk and honey has been turned into a land flowing with blood and tears, despair, anguish and torture courtesy of governance insanity, naivety and mercantilism; chronically inflicted on it by its 17, 500-member criminal governing council. The Team Buhari that just come on board with anti corruption parroting voice as its governance agenda remains the highest assemblage of doyens of corruption in the history of Nigeria dominated by the country’s five leading cartels; and as such, it has earned a new indelible name-All Progressives in Corruption (APC). By this new name, anybody that joins the team becomes a progressive in corruption. In totality, Nigerian governance is a government of corruption for the corrupt people and by the corrupt people”-Emeka Umeagbalasi and Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Board Chair & Head, Democracy & Good Governance of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law.
It is a truism that economic prosperity is the engine house of national identity and belongingness as opposed to poverty and despair, which engineer ethno-religious identity and belongingness and primordialism. By dividing Nigerians along ethno-religious lines, the country’s ruling class has kept succeeding in pelting their faces with sachets of corruption and massive looting of their commonwealth; but as the saying goes-you cannot cheat or deceive a people all the time; Nigeria’s social oddities have reached a crescendo of tolerance. The Nigerian thieving civilian ruling class has also gotten to a stage where they must purge themselves or be radically purged. On the part of Intersociety, rebuilding the battered and mutilated Nigeria is too important a social advocacy project; which is why we resolved irrevocably to open the eyes of 170 million Nigerians within and beyond to see the inside of the country’s governance and its accompanying rot. In this concluding part, more facts on how public office holders in the country milk the country’s collective purse dry using codification and scientification; are incontrovertibly provided. It is also important to remind that putting Team Buhari on its toes is one of our cardinal aims to make Nigeria and Nigerians great and happy.
More Facts On Ex Governors’ Criminal Life Pensions: According to the Public Office Holders (Payment of Pension) Law of Lagos State 2007, approved by former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2007, there is a provision for a multi-million naira severance payment for the out-gone governor and his deputy. Specifically, out-gone Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, will enjoy the following benefits for life: two houses in places of his choice in Lagos and Abuja (Property & Estate Management experts have noted that a house in Lagos will cost N500 million and Abuja N700 million) (source: Daily Trust). The Lagos State’s out-gone Deputy Governor is also entitled to a house in any place of his choice in Lagos (possibly Ikoyi or Victoria Island or Lekki). The out-gone governor of Lagos State and his deputy likewise their counterparts in other States, by the provisions of the Consolidated Top Public Office Holders Salaries & Allowances Act of 2008 (formerly Salaries & Allowances for Top Public Office Holders Act of 2002), are entitled to 300% of their annual basic salaries as severance gratuities or N6.7 million and N6.3 million respectively.
Other stipulated entitlements for the out-gone Lagos State Governor are six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300% of annual salary to be paid every two years, a sum of N2.5 million as pension translating to N30 million pension annually. He will also enjoy security detail (i.e. eight mobile policemen, three SSS operatives, etc), free medicals including members of his immediate families, 10% house maintenance, 30% car maintenance, 10% entertainment, 20% utility, several domestic staff, among others.
In Akwa Ibom State, according to its Life Pension for the out-gone governor and his deputy, a sum of N200 million annual pay for ex Governor Goodswill Akpabio is provided. Others are a new official car and a utility vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N2.5 million for the deputy governor, free medical services for governor and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million for the governor per annum and N50 million for the deputy governor. Two five-bedroom mansions in Abuja and Akwa Ibom State, furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years in addition to severance gratuity of N6.7 million and N6.3 million for the ex governor and his deputy respectively(sources: Daily Trust).
Other Scandalous Spending: The Federation of Nigeria also lost in seven days a staggering sum of N16billion in the hands of its 20 out-gone Governors and their Deputies in the form of “May 2015 security votes”; on average of N800 million each. To get 20 new Governors and their Deputies on gubernatorial board; Nigeria lost at least N3 billion or N150 million each with their new official vehicles taken the lion’s share or N110 million for eight jeeps (five for governor and three for his deputy) at N14million each (Prado Jeep). To get 20 new Governors and their Deputies inaugurated on 29th May 2015, Nigeria lost at least N2 billion or N100 million each and to get the new President and his Vice inaugurated same day, Nigeria lost at least N300 million including catering for dozens of invited foreign dignitaries.
These give a grand total of N105.8 billion or $528 million as total public sums squandered in seven days on 6,806 public office holders at the Federal and State levels. This excludes over 1,200 Special Assistants who have come on board to work for the Presidency, Federal lawmakers, State Governors and their Deputies as well as Ministers, State lawmakers and leaderships of Federal and State legislatures. By the Consolidated Top Public Office Holders Salaries & Allowances Act of 2008, 75% of the annual basic salaries of their employers or bosses are earmarked for their remunerations.
Our Grouse Against Scandalous Spending Of Public Funds On Few Nigerians: We hold nothing against payment of certain severance entitlements to selected public office holders on completion of their statutory assignments or provision of certain comforts of office to newly elected or appointed ones; but we hold a lot against the criminalization of the process. A situation where the chunk resources of the Federation traditionally created to cater for the entire population; are now steadily deployed to service 17,500 citizens who constitute less than 0.2% of the population, is out-rightly condemned and frowned at, at all times. Apart from abominable situation in many States where civil servants and pensioners are owed several months of remunerations, public projects like roads have long been abandoned before the 2015 polls.
Our irrevocable position is that all public office holders and public service allowances in the country must be reviewed downwards and cut by half; likewise the bloated overheads spending particularly the so called monthly security votes. Until this ugly trend is radically reversed, Nigeria will spend next four years in futility. Like we have severally observed, the country’s social sickness stems from the fact that funds needed to turn the country and its people around through provision and maintenance of key and world class public infrastructures as well as provision and delivery of social services like health, good food and water, education, unemployment and sick benefits, etc, are dried up and channeled into criminal allowances and criminal overheads; resulting in the loss of over 70% revenues for capital projects. For Nigeria to make meaningful impact on economic growth and development, the trend must be radically reversed.
Government’s Reactions To Our Anti Criminal Borrowing & Spending Campaigns: The out-gone Presidency’s recent reaction clearly showed its belated realization of the fact that debts and other reckless borrowings are not good for Nigeria and Nigerians; and that the serial borrowing policy under reference is a major minus in the achievement (if any) of the out-gone federal administration. Its official revelation that out of the country’s total official debts of $63.5 billion, it accounted for $35.5 billion under six years with the remaining $28 billion belonging to the 36 States and previous Federal administrations ( States- $11 billion and previous administrations- $17 billion (N1.8 trillion local & $3.5 billion external); is a dark or gloomy record of unprecedented proportion. Shocking too, is the out-gone Presidency’s revelation that a judgment debt of $1 billion (N200 billion) incurred by previous federal administrations was recently discovered.
This has lent credence to our recent call for the establishment of the Public Debts Management Commission for the purpose of congregation and aggregation of all public debts in Nigeria including judgment and public service remuneration debts as well as debts arising from executed or completed and commissioned public projects. It remains our position that serial borrowing is no longer fashionable for a country like Nigeria with abundant human and material resources. The archaic policy is now replaced and sidelined by robust private sector involvement as well as public-private-partnership or counterpart funding.
At the State level, out-gone Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s recent appeal to Lagosians and Nigerians to forget about his huge debts of N418 billion ($2.09 billion) and concentrate on his achievements in office; is very laughable. Mr. Fashola also played on the collective intelligence of Lagosians and Nigerians by that singular public utterance. The out-gone Governor must be reminded at all times that he cannot bit a child and ask him/her not to cry. By Mr. Fashola’s account, out of official public debts of the State totaling N518 billion ($2.9 billion), only N100 billion or $5 million is saved in the State’s debts service account. This leaves the State with a remainder of N418 billion excluding local debts possibly accumulated in 2014 and part of 2015 fiscal seasons; which the Debts Management Office is yet to capture and report publicly. The huge debts profile of Lagos State literary means that the future of the State has been mortgaged and stampeded. And no amount of public defense and World Bank analytical jargons can remove the stark fact that the State is debt sunk and futuristically gloomy.
By saving only N100 billion for debts servicing in eight years, it clearly shows that Lagos State grossly lacks the capacity to borrow and pay. The out-gone Governor even revealed further that the just sworn-in Governor will continue the criminal borrowing policy. This is absurd, callous and impeachable. We have always maintained that States like Lagos, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers have no single reason to go borrowing. Lagos State, for instance, is a N380 billion to N400 billion non loan economy; meaning it generates N240 billion to N270 billion annually from its IGRs and receives N132 billion from the Federation Account per annum (N11 billion monthly). This has also been confirmed publicly by the out-gone Government of the State.
Assuming, but not conceding that Lagos State’s monthly wage bill is N10 billion, it is still left with N250 billion to N280 billion to execute capital projects and provide other social services to the people of the State. The State has steadily come first in Nigeria over the years as the largest revenue earner and a major federally collectible revenue recipient. It remains our irrevocable position that whatever out-gone Governor Babatunde Fashola thinks he achieved in office has been swallowed or overshadowed by the huge public debts he left for the State including a staggering sum of N316 billion deficit incurred under his eight years administration. The four other States of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom ought not to borrow a dime publicly. This is because they are super oil revenue recipients with tens of billions of naira monthly accruals each. The five referenced States including Lagos are supposed to be Nigeria’s biggest bonds sellers or lenders, not serial borrowers.
Ex Governor Amaechi’s Lies Over Rivers State’s Public Debts: Out-gone Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s public disclosure that he left Rivers State as one of the least indebted States in Nigeria with “N17.7 billion debts ( N15.7 billion from ADB and N2billion from CBN)”, is officially and independently challenged or rebutted. Officially, according to the Debt Management Office records of May 2015, Rivers State owes a total of N138.4 billion comprising foreign debts of $44.7 million or N8.9 billion and local debts of N129.5 billion. This literary makes the State the third most indebted State in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano States, officially speaking. The two official loan categories disclosed by DMO possibly did not include the controversial “Water & Sanitation Loans of $280 million” or N56 billion secured by the State from the African Development Bank and the World Bank in 2012 and approved by the Federal Government in 2014. The 2014 and 2015 versions of the State’s domestic debts were also not captured. The DMO says their compilation and updates are in progress. The new Governor Wike administration is called upon to make public without malicious or witch-hunting intents the true state of public debts and finances of Rivers State under out-gone Governor Amaechi administration.
Ex Governor Rotimi Amaechi should have borrowed from the likes of ex Governor Ramala Yero of Kaduna State who presented his State’s debts profile not only as contained in the DMO records, but also with addition of other debts such as contractors and gratuity arrears totaling N73.9 billion as at 28th May 2015. The ex Governor also revealed that he inherited N28.6 billion debts in 2012; meaning that he cumulatively incurred N45.2 billion in three years. Ex Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State also gave detailed account of his N105.4 billion loans including contractors’ arrears of N91.6 billion.
Former Governor Amaechi of Rivers State also refused to render publicly the account of his stewardship. It is possible that his refusal was owing to the fact that he emerged through judicial coronation as the Governor of Rivers State and felt he did not get his mandate from the people of the State and did not owe them any obligation as per governance accountability.
The new Governor of Kano State’s recent revelation that the out-gone Rabiu Kwakwanso administration left the State in a debts mess of N300 billion is not only shocking, but also a vindication of our recent finding that DMO’s public details of States’ local debts are far from their actual debts stocks or what they actually owe. The new Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje confirmed recently that the out-gone Governor left a total debt of N300 billion. But the DMO’s details of local and foreign debts owed by Kano State as at 31st March 2015 said it owed N32.2 billion locally and $59.7 million or N11.9 billion, totaling N44.1 billion.
Governor el-Rufai’s Misleading Promise Of Cutting 50% Of His Basic Salaries: The recent public disclosure and promise by new Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State to cut 50% of his annual basic salary and that of his aides for the purpose of cutting governance costs; is deceitful and misleading. It is very important to state here and now that cutting the cost of governance does not lie on cutting the annual basic salary of a governor, which N2, 233 million or $11,100; but it lies hugely on cutting down a basketful of allowances accrued to the governor as provided in the relevant Federal and State laws. It further lies on cutting down the bloated overheads particularly the so called monthly security votes as well as the number of persons appointed into the State cabinet. It is therefore frowned at and condemned for the new Kaduna Governor to apply psychology of politics with intent to mislead and deceive the people of Kaduna State and Nigerians for the purpose of taking a false glory as Nigeria’s newest Mr. Probity.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program