Governors’ Salary Debts
As a former governor of Abia State (1999-2007), I make this dispassionate observation with all sense of responsibility and in fairness to this crop of Nigerians and for the good of our nation.
For me, it is unfathomable that most of the governors in the last dispensation left huge debts in their states so much that their successors met empty treasuries and cannot pay basic salaries, let alone carry out other functions associated with their mandate. This is a very unfortunate development, which needs to be urgently addressed in our march towards the enthronement of good governance in our country,
We need to establish why these monies were borrowed and what were they used for? Were they channeled towards income-generating ventures or just white elephants for aggrandisement or sheer architecture for looting? I raise these posers because throughout my tenure as governor, I never took a loan internally or externally. The records are there for audit purposes and other inquiries. Therefore, I do not understand this passion for accessing all manner of facilities that have now become an albatross and impediments to the effective administration of states.
The special committee empanelled by President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the Excess Crude Account to find out how it could be shared to mitigate states’ salary indebtedness is not the best option. This encourages administrative laziness and gives room for endless corruption at that level of government.
The solution, I believe, is that former governors who incurred these debts should be made to account for them, while the serving governors should deploy their unaccounted security vote in managing some of the challenges thrown up by their predecessors and fresh bottlenecks. During my tenure as governor, the monthly allocation to Abia State from the Federal Government was less than N1b. It was in 2005 that the allocation hit N1b and security vote was between N60 and N120 million—all these have quadrupled since I left office in 2007.
With this fund, I was able execute people oriented projects without owing workers’ salaries. Therefore, this cap-in-hand resort to Abuja should be discontinued, as it is not in the interest of the country. Otherwise, we mortgage the life of future Nigerians,
It is obvious that a “Nigerian Spring” looms if we continue the way we are currently. Everyone in government at any stratum should know that public administration is not a profit-making enterprise. It is essentially service to the people—not crass acquisition of ill-gotten wealth to the detriment of the larger society. Such sleazy developments tantamount to toying with our children’s tomorrow.
President Buhari should evolve a way of halting this form of corruption. Pampering governors to settle their predecessors’ debts is an ill wind that will not blow anyone any good. And the time to act fast is now as delay could institutionalize other sharp practices.
Interestingly, the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, has admitted that probing only him will amount to witch-hunt except if President Buhari has to probe all his predecessors and himself. In the words of Jonathan: “I believe that anybody calling for probe must ensure that these probes are extended beyond the Jonathan administration, otherwise to me, it will be witch-hunting. If you are very sincere, then is not just the Jonathan administration that should be probed.” By implication, it means that those before Jonathan were corrupt, yet he did not do anything and now he wants Buhari to carry the burden. Mr. President, I trust your capacity to deal with this issue squarely.
I make these critical observations in the expectation that President Buhari will swiftly take them up in his typical characteristic aversion to all forms of corruption. Immediate-past governors must be made to render forensic accounts of their stewardship as a way of discouraging graft in the unfolding dispensation with very high expectations of your inimitable leadership from the people.
• Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu was Governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007.
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