Ex-govs’ collapsing booby traps

Correspondents / 52 minutes ago

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Following the motley of reactions which have greeted the reversal of actions taken by exgovernors in the twilight of their administration, BIYI ADEGOROYE, examines the legality or otherwise of such decisions

Like a pack of cards at the casino, all last-minute activities of many former governors who failed to secure re-election or install their successors in the March 2 governorship election, have not only crashed, but its aftermath have continued to resonate varied reactions across the country. Based on the results of the last gubernatorial elections, the states where new governors were sworn on May 29 include three South western states of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo; Kwara and Nasarawa in North Central; Adamawa, Bornu, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe in the North-East; Zamfara in North-West, and Imo in the South-East.

In states like Oyo, Ogun and Imo, the flurry of appointments, employments and contracts awards by then governors shortly after the elections were a source of concern to their successors, who saw loans amassed, their debt profile and failure to co-operate with transition committees very absurd. All these actions are perceived as apparent booby traps. In Ogun State, 75 traditional rulers, who were appointed and promoted from February, 2019 till May 28, 2019 some hours to the exit of former governor Ibikunle Amosun have since had their elevation reversed by the state government.

Also affected were all appointments in respect of Permanent Secretaries and employment of 1000 people into the state workforce which were carried out by Amosun on the eve of his departure. Governor Dapo Abiodun, via a bill to the state House of Assembly also nullified all statutory board appointments. The Assembly presided over by Speaker Suraju Ishola Adekunbi in its resolution also directed the new administration to dissolve all Local Government Councils and Local Council Development Areas’ political functionaries to allow for investigation into allegations of gross misconduct and misappropriation of public funds leveled against them. The bill titled H. B 047/OG/2019 – “Nullification of Irregularities (Amendment) Law, 2019” during plenary followed the suspension of the Assembly’s Standing Orders 45-48 to allow for the consecutive Second and Third Readings of the bill, in an accelerated action which underscored the displeasure of the new governor over actions.

The bill was not without a precedence, as it turned out to be an amendment to the one earlier passed by the Assembly at the inception of Senator Ibikunle’s government to reverse all irregularities including employment of over 2, 000 workers purportedly done by then Governor Gbenga Daniel few months to the expiration of his tenure in 2011.

The situation is not any better from Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who announced the reversal of appointment of 11 Permanent Secretaries and ordered the sack of the 33 local governments in the state. Makinde announced the decision to reverse the appointment at a meeting he had with all Permanent Secretaries in the state. The Permanent Secretaries who were inaugurated by then governor Abiola Ajimobi, on Wednesday, May   15 included Oladeinde F.N, Jimoh A.A, Abioye Christiana and Eyitayo Adejoke. Others were Ajagbe J.O, Adedigba A.A, Adebowale Balogun, Olaleye Iyabo Olayinka, Olanrewaju T.A, Fatoki Yinka and Audu Akeem.

But Makinde said that he has reversed the appointment with immediate effect, on the grounds that the promotion was part of efforts in fulfilling of his promise to review all new contracts and appointments made by Ajimobi in the last three weeks of his administration.

The governor had said that all transactions either contractually or in terms of appointments and promotions that were done especially between Monday March 11 and May 28 would be given closer scrutiny particularly because of the obvious mischief that has  been introduced into the whole governance within this period.

“So, it’s true that during the campaign period, the governor promised that the people of the state would not have him in the Governor’s Office to embark on distractive traditional probe but the brazen attitude that bothers on attempt to block the success of the current administration has made the governor to decide the latest course of action which is to reverse many of the policies and actions of the Ajimobi administration at the eve of his exit because they were borne out of malice.

“So, just like he made good the promise to cancel the N3,000 paid by parents on their public secondary school children and open the Governor’s Office flyover for every citizen of Oyo State,  in the same manner he is dealing with the issue of the appointment of the permanent secretaries and civil servants. The action did not, however, go down well with the APC in the state, which advised the governor to allow his actions to be guided by constitutional provisions and the rule of law, because the actions were taken during Ajimobi’s tenure as governor of the state. APC’s Oyo State Publicity Secretary, Dr Azeez Olatunde, said: “The decision of the governor as a reflection of the new government’s ignorance of constitutional matters. The governor should know and be advised that all the decisions made by Senator Ajimobi were within his constitutional rights to do as the sitting governor.

His mandate only ended on May 28 and actions taken while he held the mandate were within his right as governor and within the letters of the constitution.

“For someone who professes to be the people’s governor, his action does not reflect this. By that decision, he has taken away the happiness and celebration by the newly promoted PS. His action could also be likened to the decision to dissolve the legally elected local government administration. How would he feel if someone takes his mandate from him through executive fiat as he has done? For a man who professes godliness, his actions are antithetical to what he professes. “The APC is of the opinion that he wants to play politics with that action, that is why he took the decision, forgetting that these newly promoted PS are deserving of the promotion. It is ill-advised, it is ungodly and negates his professed love for the masses.

The PS are first and foremost citizens of the State whom he professed to love.” According to the party, the actions taken by the governor, apart from being unconstitutional, also reflect impatience and overzealousness. “Governor Makinde seems to be forgetting that he has a four-year mandate, he should therefore reflect deeply on his actions before they are carried out. What he has done clearly shows the impunity that was the hallmark of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the progressives brought sanity into governance. Oyo State and Nigeria should not go back to that era – the years of locust. ”

Trouble in Imo

In Imo State, the former governor Rochas Okorocha failed to hand over power to his successor, despite the fact that he received full handover notes in 2011. Unconfirmed media report said he left the sum of N42 billion whereas there no records of such. The governor explained through his media aide that: “N8.1 billion of the money was meant for the payment of salaries and capital projects, while N5.2 billion was for pension arrears,N7.6 billion was meant for the renovation of schools, while N21.6 billion was mapped out for rural roads; totaling N42.5 billion.” However, the state chapter of PDP described the claim as “blatant lies.”

PDP, stating that “Okorocha is leaving behind a debt of N100 billion and uncompleted projects worth N200 billion. Pensioners are owed 90 months of arrears.” But that is by the issue, as he reported set booby trap for Governor Emeka Ihedioha. Okorocha also made some appointments and elevated some institutions, an action considered in to be in bad taste. The Imo State government has placed advertorials in both national dailies and state tabloids inviting qualified persons to apply for the positions of the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and Rector for the Imo State University of Agriculture, Umuagwo and the state Polytechnic respectively. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state Ihedioha’s administration will reverse all the “illegal acts and appointments” of the Okorocha led government.

The party also described as illegal, the recent purported establishment and upgrading of some institutions by the former governor, as his actions did not follow the due process of the law. A statement signed by the Publicity Secretary, Hon. Damian Opara reads: “The recent pronouncements by the outgoing governor Okorocha concerning the purported establishments and upgrading of certain institutions in Imo State, namely: College of Education, Ihitte-Uboma, Imo State Polytechnic, Ehime Mbano, Imo State University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Ngor Okpala/ Aboh Mbaise, Imo State University, Faculty of Engineering Onuimo, Imo State Polytechnic, Orlu Campus (TESAC), Imo State College of Education Ohaji/Egbema and the purported appointments of heads of these non-existing institutions at the twilight of his administration and wish to ask Imo people to disregard such pronouncements that have no basis in law and have been done without due processes.

“The PDP further notes that just less than two months to the end of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration, he has employed more workers than he had ever done during the eight years he wasted as the governor of Imo State. “Worst still, he employs and backdates letters of employment given to individuals who hitherto have no service to render to the state ministries, agencies and parastatals. In one instance, one agency alone, the Managing Director purportedly employed 300 persons in the guise of doing surveillance duties and backdated their employment letters!”

Huge debt

Also of great concern is the issue of debt overhang on the new governors. Reports have it that the governors of 12 states inherited approximately N2 trillion in foreign and domestic debts incurred by their predecessors. This came in an addition to the latest burden of N30, 000 new minimum recently signed into law, which they will have to implement. Figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), say that a total foreign debts of the 12 states stood at N658 billion ($2.1 billion) as at December 2018, while their combined domestic debt was N1.354 trillion.

The states’ debt showed that governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Sanwo-Olu inherited N967.4 billion in foreign and domestic debt, comprising $1.4 billion foreign debt, (N436.4 billion based on current official CBN exchange rate of N306 to $1). This places a heavier burden on Sanwo-Olu than his predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who inherited a total of N418.2 billion debt when he assumed office in 2015. For Abiodun, he took over a total liability of N130.2 billion, with the state’s foreign debt at $103.2 million (N31.3 billion) as at December and domestic debt stood at N98.7 billion.

Former Governor Amosun, who spent the constitutionally-allowed eight years, had inherited a total of N97 billion debt when he assumed office in 2011. In Oyo State, Governor Makinde inherited N123.6 billion debt whose external obligation stood at $104.9 million (N32.1 billion) in December while its local debt was N91.5 billion. Former governor, Ajimobi had in 2011 claimed that he inherited N4.8 billion debt from his predecessor. Hon Ihedioha of Imo State on assuming office inherited with N116.9 billion debt, liabilities comprising $59.5 million (N18.2 billion) foreign debt and N98.7 billion domestic debt, as against Okorocha’s N100 billion debt when took over in 2011. In Kwara State, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq settled down to a N73.9 billion debt owed by his predecessors.

Kwara had a foreign liability of $48.5 million (N14.8 billion) as at five months ago, while its domestic debt stood at N59.1 billion. Former Governor Abdufatah Ahmed allegedly inherited N42.4 billion in local and foreign debt in 2011. North-Western Zamfara, Governor Mukhtar Idris inherited N70.1 billion while his counterpart in Yobe, Governor Mai Mala has N36.1 billion debt incurred by his predecessor. Yobe’s foreign debt was $27.4 million (N8.4 billion) while its domestic debt was N27.7 billion. In Adamawa, Ahmed Fintiri, inherited N119.5 billion in foreign and local debt, while Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, inherited N133.2 billion debt. For Borno’s new governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, its N74.9 billion debt while Gombe State’s Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya inherited a total debt of N74.7 billion.

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