May 29: Transition Crisis Lingers In Benue, Taraba, Abia, Others

*** Ortom, Ikpeazu, Ganduje, governors-elect row over last-minute spending allegations

*** Taraba govt: Why Ishaku, deputy want new cars

By Our Reporters

The conflicts between some of the outgoing state governors and their successors over the May 29 change of baton are not abating, 16 days to the D-day.

The states that are most hit by the crises of confidence are Abia, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Taraba where the incumbents and the governors-elect have been exchanging words over what each camp regards as improper conduct of the other group.

The feuds generally revolve around suspicion by the governors-elect that the incumbents are engaging in unwholesome practices aimed at sabotaging their successors.

With the exception of Taraba State where the outgoing governor, Darius Ishaku, and the governor-elect, Kefas Agbu, belong to the same party –Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the other incumbents and the belong to rival parties.

A report last week that the State Executive Council had approved N2 billion for the purchase of choice vehicles for Ishaku, his deputy and their spouses three weeks to his exit from office has sparked outrage in the state with residents deploring what they perceive as an insensitive move.

According to the report, Ishaku and his wife will get over N1.3 billion worth of exotic cars while Deputy Governor Haruna Manu and his wife will receive cars worth N750 million.

Information Commissioner Lois Emmanuel confirmed to National Watch that there was indeed an approval for the purchase of new vehicles, but he said the sum involved was not up to N2 billion.

“It is not N2 billion. The purchase should have been done when he came on board for the second tenure in 2019. The car he was using since 2015 was supposed to be changed but it was not because funds were not available,” she said.

She added: “I could remember the car broke down several times. It was supposed to be changed long ago. That is the gospel truth.

“Now that he is going, it is his entitlement to have a car. At least as a governor, he needs a bullet proof car for his protection.”

The spokesman for the main opposition party in the state, APC, Aaron Artimas, branded the government’s decision as “simply reckless and insensitive.”

“Some people, including myself, retired over 10 years ago. I have not been paid my gratuity and you can imagine there are people who do not have cars. Two billion naira would pay many pensioners their gratuity. Some have not even been enrolled after five years of retirement.

“So you can see the degree of recklessness and insensitivity. It shows the level of greed. Anytime they ask him about salary, he would say he has paid up to date.

“The state executive council is just like an errand boy. The ministries are not funded. The state government has not been giving commissioners running costs to run their ministries. The state public service has been run down.”

Also speaking on the issue, the state coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society, Joseph Gimba, said: “Why should this be the right time for the governor to do that?

“It is coming at a wrong time. If it is not captured in the state budget, then it should not be allowed to go.

“He should allow the incoming government to consider that. This is taking into consideration that local government staff have not been paid, teachers have not been paid.”

National Watch also gathered that the relationship between Ishaku and Agbu is not entirely cordial; a fallout of the cold shoulder the outgoing governor gave Agbu in the run-up to the PDP governorship primaries.

The governor had preferred a top civil servant for the PDP governorship ticket until a superior power play orchestrated by former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, ensured that Agbu won.

Since his emergence as governor-elect, there has been a visible disconnect between the two as Kefas is hardly seen at state functions.

Their mutual mistrust boiled over two months ago after the governor-elect promised to clear, within 100 days of his assumption of office, the backlog of salaries owed workers by the state government.

An angry Ishaku fired back immediately, saying his administration was not owing anyone as to warrant the promise from the governor-elect.

It was also gathered that the state government has not provided the governor-elect with vehicles to move around since he won the election in March.

Otti alleges massive looting of government property in Abia

Alex Otti, who was elected Abia State governor on the platform of Labour Party (LP), has alleged massive looting of government property, including the Government House in Umuahia and the Aba Government House Lodge.

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Otti’s Media Adviser and Labour Party’s State Publicity Secretary, Njoku Jerry Ajike, named the Aba General Hospital, School of Health Technology Aba, Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB), Umuahia, and School of Nursing, Amachara, Umuahia as some of the public assets that have been so looted.

He said: “In the case of School of Nursing Amachara, Umuahia, multiple reports alleged that some of the important medical equipment in the COVID-19 Centre have since been illegally taken away by unnamed agents of the State Government.

“We consider these acts both insensitive and callous to the welfare of the Abia people and the socio-economic development of our state. These are public assets, our commonwealth, and required to be protected, not plundered as spoils of war.

“Ethical orientation in public service requires every public servant to understand that the institution of government outlives every occupant of that office. In other words, government is a continuum.

“Therefore, no action should be taken by anyone, let alone officer of the state, to sabotage the existence of government as an institution at any point in time.”

He asked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to arrest the situation and ensure that every property belonging to the Abia State Government, which may have been illegally taken away, is returned.

The allegation was dismissed by Ikpeazu’s Chief Press Secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka.

His words: “You cannot accuse anyone of looting government property when you have no single idea of what is even inside the Government House.

“I am very sure that you have not entered the Government House in the last eight years. So how can you sit down in your house and determine what is missing and what is not?”

Continuing, he said: “It is perfectly normal for individual appointees to bring their own generators. I will explain.

“The Abia Government House is a huge complex with different segments. There are power generators for the entire place but most of the offices occupied by civil servants naturally close by 4pm, which is when work closes for the day.

“By that time, the generator is put off for those areas. You can’t put the generator on to power offices that are closed for the day.

“The nature of my own job is that there could be a need to produce a document by 12 midnight. So what happens, especially when the generator in my own side of the complex had been put off for the day? Will I tell the Governor that I can’t produce a document for him?

“Again, there are times that due to scarcity of diesel, it becomes impossible to run the big generators all the time, but work has to go on somehow.

“This is just improvisation and thinking smart. This is still Nigeria.

“In the Government House, there are residences where workers live. Most of these workers brought their own furniture and other house items, and when they are leaving, they take them.”

He said Otti’s people were making noise for now and should wait until they assume power.

“If you like, shout from here to Jericho, it doesn’t change the handover date from May 29th. It is from that day that you people can say anything logical.

“There is a government in place now and will remain in place till midnight of 28th May. Before that day, you people are just making noise.

“I wonder how you people claim that something is missing when you don’t even know what is available and what is not. Na waa o.

“You haven’t seen any documents itemising what is inside, but you are already shouting about missing items. People who shout too much even before their work starts usually end up doing nothing but shout and shout.”

Information Commissioner Eze Chikamnayo called the looting allegation as childish gossips.

He said: “The unprecedented and malicious desire of the desperados in the incoming administration to cripple the incumbent government and halt official activities is nauseating.

“Thus, it will no longer be necessary to respond to those who seem to know nothing about the workings of government and lack respect for constituted authority!

“The Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, is still firmly in charge, and as a dutiful custodian of the trust and mandate of the people, he will address any credible information backed with actionable evidence in the interest of our people.

“As for those who have been hired to harangue and harass the outgoing government, we will refuse to be distracted until our work is done in line with our sacred mandate.”

The camp of Otti first incurred the wrath of the state government soon after the declaration of the governorship election result when an LP team led engineers from one of the top construction companies in the country on an assessment of Port Harcourt Road.

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Contract for the road work had already been awarded by the outgoing governor.

Reacting to the development, Ikpeazu’s chief spokesman, Ememanka, wondered why “Otti keeps displaying acts of desperation and I honestly don’t know why.

“A governor-elect isn’t a governor yet until he is formally sworn in. So, in what capacity did he pull that stunt?” he said on Facebook.

He added: “Was that show necessary? The answer is No. Governing a state is serious business. There are laws, rules and procedures that must be followed.

“Otti was elected under a set of laws. He has a duty to show respect for laws. Upon take over, a new governor receives briefings from relevant officers in the state.

“Even before full takeover, the Transition Committees set up by both sides will be having preliminary interfaces and exchanging ideas and comparing notes on key areas.

“What did Alex Otti seek to achieve by what he did yesterday? This was something he could have done on May 29th.

“After the swearing in, he could have moved straight from Umuahia stadium to PH Road with officials of Julius Berger. That would have made lots of sense.

“PH Road is an ongoing project duly awarded to Hartland Nigeria Ltd. This has legal implications.

“In a state where there is a sitting governor? When Otti was named Managing Director designate of the defunct Diamond Bank some years ago, Emeka Onwuka was still in office as MD and a date was set for Otti to take over.

“He waited till that day and allowed Onwuka to tidy up and leave. Why didn’t he embark on inspection of branches of Diamond Bank weeks before Emeka Onwuka left office?

“The signs are worrisome. I remember what my late dad used to tell me years ago…DON’T BE THAT ANTELOPE THAT DANCES ITSELF LAME BEFORE THE REAL DANCE BEGINS.

“Like I once said here… an incoming governor is a potential former governor, and history has a funny way of repeating itself.”

The camp of the governor-elect also accused the outgoing administration of recruiting people into the civil service through the back door.

It claimed that senior government agents were involved in the illegal recruitment.

Again, Ememanka said the governor was not aware of any form of job racketeering in the state.

Benue transition committees at loggerheads over handover notes

The transition committees set up by Benue State outgoing governor Samuel Ortom and the governor-elect, Hyacinth Alia, are having serious disagreements on the handover notes from the government.

Alia’s camp had demanded “comprehensive handover notes covering the period of the outgoing administration i.e. 2015-2023 for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), including the debt profile and the state of finances of the state” from the government which rejected the demand.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Tony Ijoho, declared that “there is no parallel government in Benue State.”

However, Ortom has confirmed that the handover notes would be presented to Alia on May 28.

Besides, Kulas Tersoo, Director of Communication for the Governor-elect accused Ortom of employing civil servants on the eve of his departure.

“He spent eight years in office, he did not deem it fit to employ people. He is even owing workers about one to two years salaries.

“Then suddenly when he lost election, he started employing people to set land mines for the incoming administration,” Terso told The Nation.

Ortom is also locked in a face-off with members of the State House of Assembly who have refused to debate his Executive Pension Bill which is designed to give the governor huge pensions and cars.

NNPP: Ganduje vandalizing Kano structures

Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has come under immense pressure from the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) which sponsored Governor-elect Abba Kabir Yusuf for the March election.

Chairman, Government Transition Committee of NNPP, Dr. Abdullahi Bichi, accused Ganduje of vandalizing the state structure and disposing off government assets to his relations.

One of the sold assets, according to him, is the Due Process Office.

“We are deeply worried by the manner at which the outgoing governor is mortgaging the common franchise of the good people of Kano State. It leaves much to be desired,” he said.

The government action, he said, was akin “to vandalism; they are uprooting every structure of governance.”

Yusuf’s mentor and former governor of the State, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, had also said that the incoming administration in the state would revisit the March 2020 dethronement of Muhammad Sanusi II as the Emir of Kano by Ganduje.

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Also planned for review is the creation of emirates from Kano as well as civil service reforms to correct alleged job racketeering and nepotism in staff recruitment.

In his reaction, the outgoing governor insisted that the newly created emirates have come to stay in the state. Ganduje said he would not allow anybody with a plan to destroy the additional emirates created by his administration to succeed.

Disagreement in Plateau over transition committee

Alleged disagreement between outgoing Governor Simon Lalong and Governor-elect Caleb Mutfwang is said to be slowing down the transition programme in Plateau State.

Lalong, in a circular issued by the Permanent Secretary, General Services, Peter Wuyep, said he had set up a transition committee that would usher in the new administration.

Mutfwang rejected the committee because it had no one from his camp as member.

Executive Director, Youth Initiative Against Violence and Human Rights Abuse (YIAVHA), Comrade Pwakim Jacob Choji, warned the state government against activities that may jeopardise the stability of the incoming administration.

He said: “It is true that the sitting governor can still make decisions and take actions until the new governor is sworn in on May 29, 2023, but the outgoing government should be guided by both the moral and legal burden of responsibility not to take actions that contravene the laws guiding the state and the principles of good conscience.

“There have been reported cases of sharp practices in the last days of the administration. For instance, it is alleged that the outgoing government has been deeply involved in a last-minute rush to recruit people into the public service in the last two months.

“This move is also followed by a backdated promotion for civil servants that should have been promoted many years ago.

“While we appreciate the ideal good intention behind the recruitment of a workforce and the promotion of hardworking staff, it’s crucial to have allowed the new government to decide on what categories of staff are needed for recruitment to support the implementation of its promise to Plateau people.”

Ebonyi Assembly accuses opposition of mischief ahead of handing over

The Majority Leader of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Victor Chukwu, has denied reports of an alleged request by Governor Dave Umahi for the approval of N33 billion by the legislature ahead of May 29.

“Basically, I want to say that the N33 billion loan rumour is both false and misleading,” Chukwu said.

“For the records, the Ebonyi State Government never approached the House of Assembly at any time for any loan. The State Government never requested any N33 billion loan whatsoever. That I know.

“As far as I am concerned, the Ebonyi State Government under Umahi’s watch has never written to the House for a N1 billion, N5 billion, N10billion or N20billion loan. It never happened. This is the handiwork of desperate opposition in the state.”

”The Governor of the State has not come to the House of Assembly requesting for any form of loan approval. What I hate is this extremism in opposition.

“I have found out that we live in a country where when citizens suffer indigestion, they blame it on the government or the people representing them. So, it’s always easy to sell any form of falsehood that is anti-government.

“Therefore, I don’t know where actually this rumour spreading is coming from that the House of Assembly has approved a loan of N33 billion and why it’s of utmost importance to the opposition. It’s false, it’s unfounded and it’s untrue and does not represent any semblance of fact in Ebonyi State.

“Of course, I am the one who does the business of the House and I am the bridge between the government and the Assembly. Outside the fact that it is not even possible for any sane man to contemplate such a thing, how can somebody be asking for such loan on behalf of a government that’s going to elapse by May?

“This is a government we all know that has little or no debt hanging on its neck as we speak — no debt from contractors, no debt from civil servants, no debt from anybody. What is the essence of such request as being alleged by the opposition?

“It is not only ludicrous to say that Ebonyi Government approached the House of Assembly for a N33 billion loan approval request in a letter. Not even N6 billion or any amount whatsoever as being reported was requested by Umahi and was approved for him.

“This rumour is false, misleading and mischievous, and it was orchestrated by the desperate opposition we have in Ebonyi State.

 

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