At least seven of the new governors sworn in on May 29 may be spoiling for a showdown with their predecessors over alleged debts in excess of N872 billion.
Governors Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa State), Bala Muhammad (Bauchi), Inuwa Yahya (Gombe), Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq (Kwara), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) have been lamenting the poor financial conditions they inherited from their predecessors and there are indications they may not allow the matter end there.
Each day or week hardly passes without fresh discovery of alleged financial impropriety being made by the new helmsmen.
Debts which the new governors claim to have inherited are: Adamawa N115billion; Bauchi N137b; Gombe N119b; Kwara N98b; Oyo N150b; and Zamfara N251b.
Governor Ihedioha of Imo State has not put a figure yet to the debt he inherited but his party, PDP, said the state’s liabilities could be as much as N300b.
But the governor has repeatedly accused the immediate past governor, Rochas Okorocha of running the state aground.
Governor Makinde of Oyo State who claimed that his predecessor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, left a debt profile of N150 billion has also said no less than N60billion of the state funds is in wrong hands.
He wants to set up an anti-graft agency in the state to deal with theft of public funds because, as he said, the reckless stealing of the commonwealth by a few cannot be allowed to continue.
Makinde’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, told The Nation that the new government is still looking at the books.
According to him, the N150billion debt already discovered were incurred by the last administration in the name of bonds meant for specific projects but which were not effectively delivered.
He added that the government is still looking at the books and may invite past government officials to come and explain how some of the funds were spent.
He lamented that the N4.5billion coming from the Federal Allocation Account and the N2billion sourced internally monthly are hardly enough to pay workers’ wage bill of N5.5billion and execute projects.
Adisa said the state is technically bankrupt, saying: “the governor has more than enough evidence that some incongruous things were undertaken in the immediate past administration. “And those untoward activities, if the people get to know about them, the people will be far more than angry and when the people are angry it is like what you read in the books of Shakespeare where the plebeians can go either way.
“But Governor Seyi Makinde doesn’t want the anger of the people to be unleashed on anybody, that is why he said he will not probe, but when someone enters an office with an open mind and he is going about his business trying to study the ground and some people will just go about in the town saying he should face governance that he doesn’t know what he is doing and all that, but the records are showing that you mismanaged the state thoroughly. So, we will be left with no other option than to open the books and let the people decide.”
Neither former Governor Abiola Ajimobi nor his media aide, Mr Bolaji Tunji could be reached for reactions.
Governor Bala Mohammed says he’s currently preoccupied with putting things in order before deciding what to do about the alleged mishandling of the state’s finances by the last administration.
He recently accused former governor Abubakar Muhammed of blowing N2.4billion on burials.
The ex-governor denied the allegation, saying he spent only N1.2billion on burials.
Bala Mohammed speaking through his chief media aide, Dr Ladan Salihu said the huge debt profile of the state constitutes a threat to the development of the state.
He said that N137billion debt was the accumulation of the N96 billion left by the Isah Yuguda government and the N41billion by the immediate past administration.
His words:”It would be unexpected to say the huge debt profile will not affect development as it has laid ambush on various development mechanisms.
“With such huge debt profile, you would have expected to see some projects already on ground.
“We are not preoccupied with filing petitions at this point in time. We are more concerned about setting agenda, letting the people know about the policy direction of our government as we have barely spent a month in office. We are occupied with putting things in order.
“I can assure you when we aggregate the misdemeanour, all the highest financial crimes that will warrant us to make a case, we shall make a case. We will definitely cross the bridge when we get there. But for now we are preoccupied with laying the foundation for us to succeed.”
But reacting to the allegations, the media aide to the ex-governor, Ali. M. Ali said his principal only took non-commercial loans to develop infrastructure in the state.
He said the Abubakar administration did not go out of its way to secure fresh loans adding that that they were loans given by the Federal Government to all the states.
He said: “”The FG thought of bailing out states struggling to pay salaries. That was why there was a bailout loan of N8.7bn. There was also a budget support facility of N8bn.
“There was an agricultural loan of N8bn along with an infrastructure development loan of N10bn. So, if you calculate all these loans, you’ll get N34.7bn.
“I’m surprised with the impression that over N45bn debt was left in addition to the loans we inherited. You need to be clear about some of the loans. There is a foreign component to it, which I am not in a position to disclose now. If you look at the time these loans were given, the exchange rate was lower than it is now. So, if you convert that to the naira equivalent, you’ll see that the debt profile will be very huge. Beyond this, the (Abubakar) government did not take any commercial loan; that’s what people don’t understand.”
He also said the former governor left behind N11.6 billion in the state coffers and debt of N41billion and not N137b as alleged.
I inherited N98b local, foreign debts, says AbdulRazaq
Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq inherited local debts totalling N59, 585,637,336.62k and foreign debts of about N48.6 million, according to his Chief Press Secretary Rafiu Ajakaye.
Governor AbdulRazaq had earlier revealed that Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) blacklisted the state because the former administration allegedly mismanaged the N1.5 billion grant meant for the upgrading of schools in the state in 2013.
This according to the government necessitated the ban placed on the state by UBEC in accessing grant from the commission.
AbdulRazaq said: “the last administration cannot be forgiven for the criminal neglect of the schools because the consequences are there for all to see.”
He added that ex-Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed’s response to the outrage that trailed the diversion of N1.5 UBEC funds has raised more questions on the sordid neglect of public schools under him.
He said that Ahmed’s statement that claims that funds were not diverted or mismanaged holds no water in the face of revelations from UBEC and the decrepit state of the schools.
The government said the mismanagement is apparent in Kwara ranking 37th — or the lowest — on the list of UBEC Matching Grant Disbursement Performance as at April 30, 2019.
The government said Ahmed’s claim that his government used the N1.5 billion to pay workers’ salary was untenable and fishy for an administration that received N22 billion Paris Club refund and additional N3.4b billion bailout funds that were meant to help states pay workers when federal allocation dropped.
But former governor Ahmed denied the claims that his administration mismanaged UBEC counterpart funds.
His spokesman, Dr Muyideen Akorede said that the federal agency essentially cancelled a N2 billion grant to the state when the government borrowed from UBEB its 50 percent cent counterpart fund of N1.5 billion for the payment of salaries at the height of the 2015 economic recession which prevented most states in Nigeria from meeting salary obligations to workers.
Matawalle, Yari in hot dispute over Zamfara debt profile
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and the immediate past governor, Alhaji AbdulAziz Yari are locked in a dispute over the true position of the finances of the state with the incumbent claiming he inherited a debt profile of N215b.
Incidentally, the debt profile was compiled by a committee headed by Yari’s estranged former deputy, Ibrahim Wakkala.
Wakkala said that liabilities from economic, environment, general and social services stand at the sum of N151.1billion approximately.
He also claimed that from the Ministry of Finance, outstanding loans, contract retentions, bailouts and loans from banks reflected a sum of N65.3 billion approximately.
Furthermore, he said liabilities from the Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs stood at a sum of N33.3billion approximately. The committee chairman revealed also that a sum of N1.4billion was discovered as liability from unremitted National Housing Fund, and pension contributions deducted from salaries between 2016-2019.
Liabilities from education sector and pension and gratuity matters reflected N2.8billion and N1.6billion respectively.
Yari swiftly denied the allegations.
He said through his media aide Malam Ibrahim Dosara that he left no debt or liability for Matawalle.
Dosara said: “I want to make it categorically clear that the immediate past governor, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar left no debt in the state when he handed over the leadership of the state to the government of Alhaji Bello Matawalle.
“The press briefing by the immediate past deputy-governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala, saying that Yari administration left a debt of over N251 billion, was misleading, misrepresenting and a calculated attempt to smear the good image of the former governor.
“We wonder why the committee failed to inform the world that Yari left N7 billion in the state coffers or that the former governor had constructed hundreds of kilometre roads cutting across all the 14 Local Government Areas of the state as well as provision of other dividends of democracy.”
Inherited debt is having debilitating effect on governance -Adamawa
A committee tasked to monitor the immediate past administration in Adamawa State says the government left a debt profile of N115 billion.
The Adamawa Transition Committee Chairman Aliyu Ismaila Numan said the debts comprise external and domestic loans, arrears of pensions, gratuities and death benefits, and salary arrears and other staff claims. The local government councils owe N18 billion.
The state Director General of Media and Communications, Solomon Kumanga, told The Nation in Yola that he needed to make consultations to be able to give an update on the exact debt figure, but was definite that the debt burden is a hindrance to development.
“The debt overhang is having a debilitating effect on governance. Government has to look critically before it can implement any development project. What the government is battling with now is how to clear this debt and free itself to execute projects,” Kumanaga said.
He added, however, that the governor is working out ways to deliver governance despite the debt issue, saying, “The Governor of Adamawa State, Governor Fintiti, is determined not to allow the issue of inherited debt to stop him from working for Adamawa people. What he is doing now is speaking with the banks. He is saying he will not allow himself into a situation when he will be controlled by the banks.
“He is speaking with the banks to reschedule the payment of these debts, especially the N5 billion overdraft from the UBA for the payment of local government staff. What His Excellency did was to renegotiate with the bank for government to pay it more gradually, rather than having to remove a whooping sum from our allocation.”
The past Adamawa State administration however objects to being blamed for the state’s debt burden.
The Commissioner of Finance under Bindow, Mahmoud Yunusa, had been quick in refuting the figures reeled out by Fintiri’s transition committee and the history of the ‘real figure.’
Mahmoud Yunusa who addressed the state House of Assembly on the matter on May 28, three days after the committee presented its report and a day to the terminal date of the Bindow regime, said, “Our debt profile stands at N44 billion. The N115 billion debt alleged by the transition committee is made up of tangible and intangible loans. These are debts that were accumulated over a long period. Some of the past administrations took loans and could not pay back.”
Bindow had himself said his government took minimal loans and only when very necessary. Speaking at the ceremony to mark Workers Day on May 1, 2019, Bindow who had barely a month to the end of his term then, said he only took loans to augment federal allocations for payment of workers’ salaries.
“I don’t take loans to execute projects. We utilize what we have for development projects,” he had said.
And speaking for the ex-governor over the week, his Personal Assistant on Media and Publicity, Martins Dickson, said the debt issue is being overblown by the present government for political reason.
Martins Dickson who was Bindow’s Special Assistant on Press and Media Affairs when Bindow was governor, added that Bindow was prudent in utilizing whatever funds or loans that he got, with development projects as proofs.
“What I expect this government to do is concentrate on governance because politics is over,” he said.
Abiodun silent on Ogun debt
Mum is the response from the Dapo Abiodun’s Administration in Ogun State on the debt profile inherited from former governor Ibikunle Amosun.
But Abiodun said recently that he met an almost empty treasury.
He said he has too many things to do to steer the affairs of the State than allow himself to be bogged down by what someone did or did not do.
The Nation contacted the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Kunle Somorin, for reaction but said he needed to contact the appropriate quarters for a concrete response.
He was yet to get back to The Nation at press time.
Okorocha left N300bn debt for Ihedioha – PDP
The Imo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed that the immediate past Governor, Rochas Okorocha, may have left a debt profile of N300billion for his successor, Emeka Ihedioha.
Okorocha, according to the PDP, incurred over N100 billion debt and abandoned projects worth more than N200 billion across the state.
The party was reacting to the claim by Okorocha that he was leaving over N42 billion for the incoming administration of PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha.
The PDP dismissed Okorocha’s claim as unverifiable and baseless.
Ihedioha himself is yet to say how much he inherited by way of debt although he has repeatedly accused Okorocha of financial recklessness