Sunday, 5 July 2015

Post-Election Bickering Rages In #Rivers #Benue #Bauchi

More than a month after new governors assumed office, the disputes between some of them and their predecessors have yet to abate, Fisayo Falodi writes

Mr. Nyesom Wike, Mr. Samuel Ortom and Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar were on May 29, 2015 sworn in as the governors of Rivers, Benue and Bauchi states respectively and people expected that the controversies preceding their elections would be finally laid to rest. Residents had hoped that the emergence of the governors would put an end to the apprehension and fear that permeated the three states before the April 11 governorship poll.

This is because the three governors had been locked in battle with their predecessors over several issues before the election. The governors, who were always ready to castigate their predecessors for alleged corrupt practices and impunity, had pledged to address such perceived shortcomings. They had also pledged their commitment to the fulfilment of their campaign promises to the electorate.

Wike particularly said at the venue of his swearing in that he would lay to rest the maladministration that characterised the government of his predecessor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who he had described on many other occasions as corrupt. He had also vowed to recover the public funds allegedly stolen by Amaechi’s officials, adding that the state had entered into a new phase of development under his (Wike) administration.

Wike had said, “I am not going to be intimidated. The only way we can work together is to check the ills of the past. The right thing must be done. Those who have stolen the resources of the state must be made to account for them.

“All the top officials of Amaechi administration who have refused to cooperate in the interest of Rivers State during the transition period will soon cooperate whether they like it or not.”

But when the people of Rivers State were expecting Wike to put into place actions that would culminate in the resolution of the crisis that surrounded the ceding of Soku oil wells to Bayelsa State which he promised during his pre-election campaigns, the governor, in what observers said looked like attempts to spite Amaechi, ordered the sack of the 334 lecturers and workers at the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori-Ogoni.

The sacked workers were employed last September by Amaechi, but Wike justified the sacking and said that the lecturers’ employment did not follow due process and was fraught with irregularities.

As if the sacking of the lecturers was not enough, he also disbanded the Rivers State Road Traffic Management Authority set up in 2007 by Amaechi. He claimed that the TIMA-RIV personnel constituted nuisance to the public and were extorting money from innocent people, leading to accidents and loss of lives.

Wike’s move to make Amaechi’s officials “account for the stolen resources” reached the climax when the governor also ordered the retrieval of public vehicles allegedly carried away by them and set up a panel to probe the former governor for perceived financial recklessness.

A social commentator, Mr. Dare Adeiya, welcome Wike’s decision to retrieve the public property from the ex-officials, especially if they were supposed to have surrendered them earlier, but suspected that the sacking of the polytechnic lecturers was political.

Adeiya said though Wike has the rights to invite any suspected public official either former or serving to clear the air over certain issues, he hoped that the governor was not out to spite his predecessor and further heighten the already tensed situation in the state.

He said the alacrity with which Wike reversed some of the policies implemented by his predecessor suggested that the governor had yet to let go the dispute that had existed between them before the last election.

Adeiya particularly believes that the outright sacking of 334 lecturers by the incumbent governor might heighten the yet-to-be abated tensed political situation in the state. He therefore asked the governor to review the process through which the lecturers were employed instead of their outright sacking.

He said, “Wike was elected to govern and not to sustain the much-talked about conflict between himself and his predecessor, but that does not mean the governor should ignore perceived irregularities noticed under Amaechi’s administration. So, if Wike must probe Amaechi, he should make transparency his watchword.

“Wike should also be careful so that his actions will not further heighten tension in Rivers State because those sacked are indigenes of the state, not Amaechi’s biological children.”

Similarly, the controversies that existed between Ortom and Abubakar and their predecessors before the election have yet to abate.

Both governors, who had pointed out the flaws they noticed in their predecessors’ administrations, also reversed some of the policies they inherited.

Like Wike, Ortom ordered the cancellation of the last-minute recruitment of workers and the reversal of the appointment of six first class traditional rulers by his predecessor, Chief Gabriel Suswam. He based his action on what he described as the perilous financial condition of the state and reminded the sacked workers that he had warned them against taking the appointments.

Ortom, who stated that Suswam left an empty treasury and huge debt for him, explained that he collected the controversial eight Sports Utility Vehicles the former governor donated to him, his deputy and their spouses because the vehicles were bought with public funds as well as to prevent them from being taken away by unknown persons.

He said, “We collected those vehicles because they were bought from government coffers and because of the kind of stories and rumours we hear concerning government property and vehicles, we did not want anything to happen to the cars and that was why we took possession of them.

“Moreover, we will look into the books; we will also find out how much was spent in purchasing those cars among others. So, whatever we do will certainly be in tandem with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Benue State.”

The dispute between the new Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, and his predecessor, Mallam Isa Yuguda, may be far from being over as the former alleged that he inherited empty treasury and a debt of N125bn from the latter.

Abubakar also added that he met the state ruined. This claim escalated the dispute between the two men.

The governor said, “Bauchi State went through destruction for 16 years. The massive destruction requires a lot of work. We inherited an empty treasury from the past administration.

“It will be a very difficult task for us, but I will want Bauchi people to be patient with us as we rebuild the state and fulfil our promises. We will do everything possible to bring Bauchi State out of the dungeon it is in now.”

But Yuguda denied the claim that he left such huge debt behind. He however asked Abubakar to face the challenges of governance and stop vilifying him.

The former governor also warned his successor against reversing the policies he initiated while in office.

He had said, “Any public servant that has worked under me and I handed anything to him and I signed and approved it, that approval is legal and Abubakar has no right to reverse it.

“Also, anything that I allocated to any individual, group or association remains legal so Abubakar does not have any right to reverse such.

“If Abubakar thinks he can reverse what I have done, he has made a mistake because I have the right as an executive governor elected by the people to take decision on their behalf, so any person that is aggrieved should go to court.

“The governor should be called to order because he has no right to reverse my own decisions and they don’t have the right to change anything or harass anybody within the state.”

But Abubakar ignored the warning as he ordered the recovery of the 22 Sports Utility Vehicles suspected to belong to the state government from Yuguda’s wives.

Chairman of the Transition Committee in the state, Senator Mohammed Mohammed, had said that the recovery of the vehicles was in accordance with the directive of the committee to recover all items confirmed to have been allocated and due to be returned.

He said, “We have so far recovered a total of 22 cars from the wives of former Governor Isa Yuguda. We recovered 11 cars from his first wife, seven from the second wife and four from the third wife. We have yet to recover the remaining cars from his fourth wife who is currently out of the country.

“We will ensure that whoever is in possession of government property will be forced to return them. We urge public servants and the general public, especially those involved in the disposal and allocation of the property in question, to cooperate with the committee for the effective discharge of its assignment.”

As usual, Yuguda denied that the vehicles were retrieved from his wives. The former governor, who spoke through his media team, said most of the said vehicles were grounded and retrieved from the mechanics and towed to the Government House and not from his wives.

The governor, however, climaxed his “rescue mission” with a vow to trace public funds and property allegedly looted under Yuguda’s administration to wherever they may be hidden.

An analyst and lawyer, Mr. Rasheed Bamisile, said decisions by Ortom and Abubakar to reverse their predecessors’ “unpopular” policies might wear semblance of commendable actions, but he expressed worry that the steps being taken by the governors might discredit their intention.

He said Abubakar and Wike ought to have given those who they felt were in possession of government vehicles through notification a minimum of one month to return, failure of which should attract legal process to get them retrieved.

“If the governors want to achieve a legal aim through illegal means, the whole process will become illegal,” he said.

Bamisile, however, said sacking the workers employed by the former governors less than one month after their successors assumed office was tantamount to witch-hunt.

He said, “Did the governors carry out dispassionate investigation to find out if the recruitment of the workers followed the civil service rule? This is an issue that the governors should consider before throwing the workers out of service.”

He therefore said that in as much as the attempt to retrieve public property suspected to have been taken away by ex-officials or their spouses was commendable, the process should be transparent and devoid of intimidation.


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