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KOGI STATE: STATE OF AFFAIRS AND MATTERS ARISING

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KOGI STATE: STATE OF AFFAIRS AND MATTERS ARISING

BEING A PRESS RELEASE TO THE MUSLIM UMMAH AND THE ENTIRE CITIZENS OF KOGI STATE BY HIS EXCELLENCY, ALHAJI YAHAYA BELLO, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE TO MARK THE 2015 EID-EL-FITR CELEBRATIONS.

INTRODUCTION

Eid Mubarak to my fellow muslims in Kogi State, around Nigeria and all over the world. I pray today for our State and our Nation that the sacrifices of the Ramadan and the joy of the Eid-El-Fitr will bring benefits to every one of us. As we observe our prayers today, let us ask the Almighty God to help Nigeria so that as fasting in Ramadan is followed by Celebrations  during the Eid, so may the current sacrifices required to rebuild Nigeria by the Administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, be followed by a prosperous and functional country that we will be proud of and be happy to celebrate.

From the very beginning of my Administration, I chose to govern by only democratic precepts and I promised in my Inaugural Speech to be open and transparent with you. In fulfillment of these promises, on Monday the 4th of July, 2016 to be precise, we held an interactive session with Kogi People at Government House, Lokoja. Attendees came from the 21 LGAs, including representatives of numerous Community-Based Organisations, Traditional Institutions and Trade Associations.

The Government activities were outlined and the reason behind some of the decisions taken so far. The recent events in Kogi State were x-rayed from everyone’s perspectives, attendees asked questions on any issue bothering them and answers were provided openly and satisfactorily. It was a very fruitful session which addressed burning issues in the minds of attendees and the cross-section of people they represent. 

Since I believe that anyone committed to the prosperity and progress of Kogi State will find that meeting interesting, I crave your indulgence to address some of the issues raised for the generality of all Kogites.

CIVIL SERVICE AND PENSION REFORMS

In my inaugural speech, I made a solemn promise to priotise Civil Service and Pension Reforms. We all know that the system had become very rotten and criminally bloated. Our monthly wage bill was more than the monthly Federal allocations at a time Crude Oil dependent economies like ours were suffering a global crash in prices.

We responded by setting up a Screening Committee to tackle the menace of ghost workers, clean up the Civil Service and free valuable funds for the business of governance. Labour had a front row seat in that Committee and we have treated them with great respect throughout. When they reported problems with the style of the former Chairman of the Screening Committee and after we promptly looked into their complaints, the Chairman was removed and replaced with another candidate almost unilaterally chosen by Labour.

The screening exercise is gradually winding down and I give you my words that it was worth every effort and resources we put into it. There was no way our Civil Service would not have collapsed under the weight of the fraudulent manipulations and overburdened by the past Administration. It was only a matter of time before a total non-payment of salaries and emoluments or the tiny part-payments, which had become the norm in successive past administration. The grave consequences of which would have been eruption of massive uprising by suffering Civil Servants and a crippled  State.

It is a disappointment that the Labour leaders went ahead to call a strike even though they were in the forefront of the screening exercise and saw firsthand the corruption that was found nearly everywhere. The supposed strike was ill-fated because our workers turned up for work as usual, while those not physically in their offices were found at the screening centre or the Banks, putting their houses in order. We want to believe that happened because they understood that we are working hard for their benefits.

Many Questions come to mind:

1. Should the Administration not have conducted the screening exercise at all and let it be business as usual?

2. Should we have overlooked the daylight robbery uncovered and pretended that we did not find all those conduits for siphoning the resources of our State through ghost workers?

3. Or maybe, having discovered these acts of unpardonable criminality we should have taken our cut, looked the other way, and allowed the rape and dispossession of our people to continue unchecked?

Well, anybody who knows Yahaya Bello will also know that I cannot stop without getting to the bottom of the matter. I swore to always act in the best interests of Kogi State and by the help of God, that is what I will continue to do. I was threatened, I was the subject of highly toxic calumnies but I choose to remain intrepid and focused. I am undeterred and I cannot run from my duties, no matter the obstacles.

Let me try to set the records straight:

Like most other States in Nigeria, the monthly FAAC Allocations constitute the major bulk of our income. The money is almost entirely made up of the Federal Government’s Crude Oil earnings. The result is that now the global price of crude has slumped, there is also the inevitable slump in the monies that accrue to the States. Everyone is feeling the pinch, including Kogi State where the monthly salaries of about 25,000 Civil Servants amount to nearly twice the current monthly allocations – technically leaving nothing for the rest of our 3.5m residents.

A comparative analysis of the January to June allocations to Kogi State in 2015 with what we have received over the same period in 2016 paints the bleak picture more. In 2015 it came to a total of about N22.06bn while in 2016 it is just over N13.1bn. Our Local Government Areas got about 10.8bn in 2016 as against N15.1bn received by Captain Idris Wada for the same period in 2015. Anyone can see the harsh reality. The situation will suggests that we would be justified if we do only half of what those before us did, no matter how bad, but our mindset at all times is to not only do our best, but to make sure that our best answers the challenges of the times.

Do not think the temptation was not there to hide under the dirty skirts of the past PDP Administration in the state to start paying minor percentages of salaries or none at all. I certainly had the precedent left by my predecessor and the excuse of dwindling allocations and could have had a field day at the expense of the workers. I just did not have the hard-heartedness required to do it. I sympathized with the plight of our workers. While campaigning, we promised them as much welfare as our resources would allow if I ever made it to the Government House, how could I have turned around to worsen their sufferings as the Governor? God forbid.

Shortly after my swearing-in I started paying full salaries, even multiple times in a given month while we worked to get the bailout funds. Happily, our efforts paid off and we were able to accessed 40% of our Bailout funds, a little above one month ago. Between Zenith and Access Banks we have been able to commenced draw down on N20bn out of the N50bn approved for us by the President through the Central Bank of Nigeria. As at today, there is no genuie civil servant in Kogi State who will say he or she has not received salary payments. Some have received 3 months payment or more.

We started payments with the the Judiciary and the Tertiary Institutions. They received 4 months salaries leaving only one month outstanding. All the Local Government Areas have paid staff 3 months salaries and are currently in possession of funds to pay another 2 months once the formalities are done. All MDAs have also been paid as at today. That means we have paid every category of workers who have scaled screening.

Zenith Bank and Access Bank funded the bailout for Kogi State. Of course we could have rejected Zenith Bank and Access Bank and looked to other Banks for the money, but that means we may still be looking for money now. To be honest, we too do not completely like the conditions one hundred percent, especially the requirements for account openings. However, the integrity of the entire Screening Exercise depends a lot on it to round off the exercise. We cannot compromise that.

Like we have reiterated many times before, the bailout funds are not a grant of money from the Federal Government to be spent without obligations. It is a loan which must be repaid to the financing banks  on stipulated terms. What we do with it has implications for our posterity. This means the funds must be judiciously applied to the purpose.
The vast majority of our genuine workers have their money in their hands, and I promise those that are yet to complete screening that they will be. No genuine worker will lose his or her job under me. However, there are people who will never see our monies again. These are persons who have posed as our staff, some for many years, and collected our monies fraudulently. They know that any attempt to show up now may spell the last time they enjoy liberty for a while.

Many of these people have voluntarily disappeared but the security agents are on their trails. It is this category of people and their sponsors who have been scandalizing the Administration and trying to throw a spanner in the works. We are however undaunted and will continue to work till they are apprehended, reveal their accomplices and vomit what they have stolen and swallowed.

It has come to our notice that some Banks operating in Kogi State lent active support to the failed attempt at strike action last week. Some of them actually ordered their workers to stay home in misguided attempts at solidarity. They also went so far as to illegally reprogrammed ATMs in their premises to reject cards issued by certain Banks, thereby throwing the populace into unnecessary suffering.

Other category of businesses in the private sector opened as usual, and remained unmolested by Labour. These recalcitrant Banks are therefore without excuse. Their said actions amount to deliberate breaches of the banking regulations which ended up undermining the authority of the Kogi State Government. We shall definitely have a hard talk with them soon but in the meanwhile, I hereby direct any financial house still engaging in such ill-advised misconduct to retrace steps immediately and desist from a repeat in the future.

May I also remind these Banks that they have profited for long from doing businesses in Kogi State, including carrying salary and other state accounts and the least they can do is give back in these difficult times. That will certainly be more proactive and profitable than sulking and instigating revolt. Our doors are open and we are willing to hold conversations on how to move forward together.

We also believe that Labour can be of help  by leveraging members’ mass market appeal to pressure some of these Banks to do their bit for Kogi State. They ought to be initiating competitive products of their own which the Administration can access on the right terms to improve the lot of our workers and the generality of our people.

MATTERS ARISING

UNPRINCIPLED OPPOSITION

Our State is under attack from wicked people. Some of them are hiding in plain sight among us while others steal in from outside to wreak their havoc. Some act personally, others by proxy. Their chief weapon has been lies and deliberate falsehoods. They use the media and they go from community to community, and person to person. In all cases, their aim is to create misunderstanding around the actions of Government in order to engender mischief and disaffection among the governed.

For as As you can all attest, ours is a divine mandate safeguarded by the Hands of the Almighty. We know God and good are with us at all times and we have developed an iron will to contend with all who try to foist on us anything less than the Will of the Almighty.

I address you today to make assurances that with us you are on the winning team  to arm you with the weapons of truth. When you leave here your questions will be answered, your worries assuaged and your capability to answer the questions of your constituents strengthened. After this speech, several key functionaries of the Administration will brief you on aspects of our governance that impinged on their portfolios and you can ask questions, any question.

ASUU STRIKE

The ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Kogi State University Branch is very unfortunate to say the least. The Tertiary Institutions were the first line charge in the disbursement of the bailout. They have received 4 out of the 5 months of salaries outstanding. We cannot accommodate more now. Other sections of the service need to be considered too. Happily, we have only accessed 40% of the bailout funds approved for Kogi State. We will continue to proportionately revisit ASUU members’ entitlements as we access more.

Right now I urge ASUU to return to the classroom. Our children need to be taught. Money can be paid but lost lives and opportunities cannot and our students are in danger of both each day they remain out of the classroom. These times call for sacrifice and I am confident that ASUU, composed of our finest brains and most educated personnel, will show leadership in this regard.

ASUU has also approached us to grant her members tax waivers and rebates. We have had to regretfully decline. Taxes are the way forward globally, and more particularly so in the present socioeconomic challenges in Nigeria. It is the the heart of our reinvented Internally Generated Revenue Policy. Anyone who loves the progress of Kogi State will not ask for tax rebates or exemptions of any kind now. Our position has not gone down well with ASUU and others and they have made it clear. Their displeasure is noted, but the answer is still NO.

2015 APPOINTMENTS

The past Administration does not cease to amaze us with her fecklessness in governance. How a government that could not pay her existing workers could find wisdom in further bloating the workforce in the twilight of her tenure is a major puzzle. All appointments made in 2015 remain suspended till further notice. We will dispassionately review them in the light of the current realities and decide way forward with compassion.

NEW DIRECTION AGENDA

The Kogi State New Direction Agenda of my Administration is firmly on course. The New Direction Blueprint is finally out and has been unveiled to key stakeholders. It will be made public very soon. The Blueprint is a roadmap for Accelerated Development of Kogi State during my tenure. We are working with the Blueprint Team to organize Training, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Masterclasses for the Administration’s functionaries, MDAs and LGAs. Kogi People will begin to see more and more development in the days ahead as we synergies and focus our efforts.

CONCLUSION

I have gone to this length to update us in this manner on the activities of government so that all people of goodwill will have the insights they need to interpret events. By putting this information at your disposal, I trust you are better positioned to make informed decisions concerning programmes and efforts of government and to communicate same clearly to your circles so we can combat the pernicious lies peddled by our detractors together.

I felicitate with the Muslim Ummah again on the Eid-El-Fitr and pray for God’s blessings on Kogi State and each citizen. I task all and sundry to live in harmony and maintain the peace in the fear of God.

Thank you.

God bless you.

God bless Kogi State.

God bless Nigeria.

HIS EXCELLENCY
GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO
4TH EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR ,
KOGI STATE
4TH JULY, 2016.

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Opinion

SARS and SWAT as a metaphor for a failed government: Thumbs up for our visionary Nigerian Youths!

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SARS and SWAT as a metaphor for a failed government: Thumbs up for our visionary Nigerian Youths!

By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN.

For decades, I had strindently beckoned on the Nigerian youths to join some of us patriots in the dangerous Nigerian trenches, to win the heart and soul of Nigeria, and take  their destinies in their own hands. Many of the rulers of today have tenaciously glued themselves to government (like aradite), either directly or indirectly. They stay put in Aso Villa through their proxies, minions, acolytes, agents, servants, friends, school mates, kinsmen and kins women, or even kindred family members. Some of these sit – tight rulers were only in their 20s and early 30s when they were already military Generals, Governors, GOCs, Brigade Commanders, Ministers, Commissioners, etc. They have never had any professional or occupational address. Only political addressses. General Yakubu Gowon, for example, was only 32 years old when he prosecuted the 3 year bloody Nigerian fraticidal civil war as a military General and Head of State . And wait for it: he was a mere  bachelor. He only married his wife, Mrs Victoria Gowon, when he was already Head of State. Late Dr Matthew Mbu was minister of Labour at a mere 24; and High Commissioner to the UK at 25!. Today is an age where the youths are still struggling through tears, sweat, pains, pangs, blood and sorrow, to go through 100 or 200 level; or merely gain ordinary admission into our tertiary institutions.
SARS or SWAT, by whatever name called, are the same 6 and half a dozen; the same moinmoin, akara and beans; the same Hamlet and the Prince of Denmark. For the entire lifespan of this clueless and highly propagandist government, I have been screaming on roof tops about its bad governance style and its irredeemably corrupt posture. I dripped oceans of ink, writing tons of articles, press releases and giving countless lectures. I made dozens of television and radio appearances on possible solutions or panacea to our national malaise . I was ignored, barely tolerated. Some rabidly politically partisan persons were even unleashed on me as raving attack dogs. Their social media cliques, those Prof Wole Siyinka derisiveky described as “crawling but unseen Internet millipedes” (some of them grand mothers and grand fathers), insulted any and every Nigerian that dared criticise their deity, nay, their infallible god, President Buhari. Kakaaki were used to herald his exit from and entry into Nigeria. Aircraft maintained by Nigerian tax payers’ money were packed for months at Heathrow Airport, while their pilots and crew luxuriated idly in 5 star hotels. They all patiently awaited the full recovery from health challenges of their idol and totem of messianic redemption. The government, through its attack dog, the EFCC (where is Magu today? ; the ephemerality of power!!! ), then decided  to intimidate, browbeat and overaw me. I refused to bend to their arbitrariness, whimsicality and capriciousness . I valiantly criticised, critiqued and interrogated the impunity of this government. I challenged raw power and dared the viciousness of the government and its awesome security aparatchic. I knew I was on the right path. Thank God He has kept me safe under His bedspread canopy, from their rampaging goons. Some government apologists and spokespersons came roaring, but defensive. They said the Buhari government was the best thing to have ever happened to Nigeria. They wondered why we couldn’t see what they were seeing. To them, there is no hunger, desease, squalor, depression or melancholy in the land. These were merely simulated by haters of Buhari and his government. These views were merely peddled by corrupt politicians and ‘defenders’ of corruption. Indeed, ‘corruption was fighting back’. They said ‘Sai Baba’ was the messiah Nigerians have been patiently waiting for. I reminded Nigerians of Buhari’s first disastrous outing between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985. It was indeed the locust years. It was 20 months of regrets, gnashing of teeth and mass poverty. It was an era when Nigerians were openly flogged on their bare buttocks in the name of War Against Indiscipline ( WAI). It was a  shameful era when Decrees 2 and 4 reigned supreme; an era of detentions without trial; when truth was punished once it embarrassed the imperious government of the day. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor are still alive to narrate their horrific experiences of their seering gulag days. This was the better – forgotten days of mass scramble for unavailable essential commodities ( “essenso”). Commodities, such as bread, milk, sugar, tea, flour, eggs, rice, beans, palm oil, meat, vegetable oil, pepper, tomatoes, tarodo, tatashe, fuel, kerosene and even garri, simply disappeared from Nigerian homes. The present fawning and bootlicking Buharists and Buharideens would hear none of these historical facts. They argued that the maximum dictator had changed completely from his autocratic and totalitarian nature and had suddenly undergone some form of Saul – to – Paul trasfiguration, to become a born again democrat. To them, Buhari would even teach Abraham Lincoln the true meaning of democracy (not Lincoln’s1863 Gettysburg Declaration). These obsequious sycophants and flatterers readily showed us Buhari’s newly well starched agbadas and babaringas, expensive eye glasses and designer wristwatches and skin shoes, as signs that he had undergone permanent metamorphosis. I told them it was never possible for a leopard to change its spots, just as it was impossible to jump into the river without getting wet. So, the youths were getting agitated and tired. They had been out of school for many months. The Covid-19 lock – down had compounded their problems. Young girls took to prostitution, standing by the kerbs of major hotels on cold lonely nights, looking for paying’ customers’, to eke out a living with their suffering parents. Many of the youths, frustrated, travelled across deserts and seas seeking greener pastures and  perishing in the process. Some took to internet scams, becoming ‘yahoo boys’. Eye-serving anti-graft agencies went after them with the ferocity of a hurricane Katrina. They were happy to display these boys as a diadem of their ‘achievements’ on their so called ‘war against corruption.’ Meanwhile, they were merely pursuing butterflies while their house was on fire. They conveniently turned their eyes away from the real pen robbers, the historical revisionists, the re-looters of recovered loots. They readily forgave any Nigerian politician who decamped from the opposition to their party. Like Naaman  the leper who dipped himself in River Jordan 7 times and became cleansed of his leprosy , such thieves of our common patrimony became deodorised of their lecherous and thieving sins. The despondent youths watched with amazement from the sidelines, how their future was being stolen bare-facedly, by instalments, by shameless fathers, grand fathers and great grand fathers, whose children were idling away in ivy schools abroad. They knew the day was nigh for them to bare their fangs. They had become tired of broken promises, smothered hopes and    serial deceptions. They suddenly remembered Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words:” when governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The federal government is our servant, not our master “. They became convinced about another Abraham Lincoln ‘s famous quote : “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time “.
The youths feel cheated by a government driven by executive lawlessness, legislative thievery and rascality and judicial injustice, where justice is rationed to the highest bidder, especially money – wielding and influence – peddling political bucaneers. They became more convinced that SARS killings, extra judicial murders, accidental discharges, illegal toll – collecting road blocks, extortions and police brutality and bestiality, would never stop except they acted. They knew it was time to take charge as a mass movement that required no leadership that would easily compromise and sell to government nichodemously at night.They couldn’t understand why the NLC would suddenly capitulate after raising hopes of mass action by angry Nigerians against a compassless non – performing government. The youths knew they were already on the ground, and that he who is already on the ground fears no further falling. They knew they would go below ground zero, far far below India, as the poverty capital of the world, except they acted. They were convinced Nigeria does not deserve to be the number 148 out of 180 most corrupt countries in the world, and number 3 in West Africa. They could no longer tolerate the ceaseless banditry ravaging the country ;  the increased boko haram insurgency, heightened kidnappings, murders, armed robberies and suicides. They became tired of joblessbess, stigmatisation as” lazy youths”, when all they desire is fair and equal opportunities to actualize their dreams in a directionless and unsympathetic contraption called Nigeria They knew enough was enough, because their “mumu don do”. So, the Nigerian youths have been on the streets and in the trenches for nearly 2 whole weeks now, and still counting, using “#ENDSARS” as a metaphor and allegory of a failed, wobbling, groggy, fumbling and crumbling government and nation. I commend the Nigerian youths for standing up to their rights, with eternal vigilance as the only price they have to pay for their liberty (Learned Hand). Never again will any government take the civil populace, the people, for granted. The people are the real owners of power. Those in government are their servants. The dog wags the tail. The tail does not wag the dog. Kudos to the Nigerian youths, as they continue their genuine struggle of liberation and emancipation from despotism, fascism, autocracy and absolutism. God bless the Nigerian youths. God bless Nigeria.

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Opinion

North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

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North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

By Yusuf Abubakar

It’s not all gloomy after all for the North. Away from the dark cloud of insecurity fostered by the insurgents and banditry activities, comes the rays of light across the horizon. First came the cheering news of the discovery of oil, gas and condensates in Gombe State and the stretch of Gongola basin by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and its sister agency, the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR), which threw the doubting thomases who believe nothing positive could come from the region off balance in 2019.

The landmark uncovering of the treasure specifically along Kolmani River region at the border community between Bauchi and Gombe States, ought to have ordinarily silence the anti-north elements, but some still questioned the effort, describing the breakthrough as political. However, the planned exploration of the oil and gas from the basin for commercial purpose would clear all misconceptions, even as it would no doubt put the affected state on the list of oil producing states with consequent fallout.

As the region basked in the euphoria of the oil discovery comes another silver lining from Zamfara through its rich gold deposits which has hitherto fuelled bandit activities in that state. The bandits, as it was widely reported, were taking advantage of the situation by acquiring gold at cheap rate and use same to acquire arms and ammunitions for their nefarious activities.

But as it were, Governor Bello Matawalle is turning the tide against these agents of darkness and their sponsors. The governor had approached the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and by extension the Federal Government for the possibility of boosting the mining sector in the state under the anchor-borrower scheme. The bank will invest the sum of N5 billion for the state to supply it with gold as a proceeds of the investment over time, while under the arrangement, the state government is to purchase the gold from the miners and supply it to the bank.

Already, the federal government has commenced the process of licensing the companies that have indicated interest in mining in the area. What this means for the state is that the gold will no longer be used to fuel the activities of the bandits with the governor stylishly cutting their hold on the supply chain. The second fundamental advantage Matawalle’s gesture throws up is that the state government would have more fund to embark on more projects as he works relentlessly to build a new Zamfara State.

But as usual, those who were profiteering from the seeming lucrative “banditry business” were uncomfortable with the turn of event and have resorted to campaign of calumny against the governor. The sworn anti-north elements are fuelling the misconception that the state government is taking over the minerals within its domain, even as it is public knowledge that mining is exclusive right of the federal government. Their charade has needlessly attracted resources control agitators who are already shouting themselves hoarse in response to the mischief.

But they are bound to fail because the governor’s action is within the ambit of the law as due process was followed in the purchase of gold from artisanal miners. “Individuals, corporate bodies, including states and local governments, are free to buy any mineral product, as long as you go through the normal process. We have what we call private mineral buying centres. We issue licensees so that anyone that is interested will come to us, and once you meet the criteria, we give you a license to purchase these minerals.

“And that is the angle that Zamfara State is exploiting. From their own funds, they are buying gold from their people.” This clarification by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite in the face of the uproar by the elements over the matter should suffice.

It is sad that senior lawyers who should be abreast of the stipulation of the constitution have joined the misconception foray by creating discontents across the land.

They claimed that the governor’s gesture may trigger other minerals endowed states to deny federal government access to same, while urging the FG to shut down the initiate entirely. This is totally absurd and tended to give credence to the already entrenched speculations that powerful forces who were aiding illegal mining of gold deposits in the state were using bandits as alibi to shield their nefarious activities.

It is public knowledge that some highly influential and prominent personalities, including top politicians, security agents are fully involved in gold mining business in the state, thereby denying governments revenue that would have accrued from the proceed for a very long time.

More disturbing is the fact that these activities have been going on illegally without the federal government’s backing through licenses from the federal government. The situation also denied the state government any commission as its source of generating revenue directly or indirectly. A mining survey report indicated that the federal government lost about N3.23 trillion equivalent to $9billion in revenue accruable from gold exports due to the activities of illegal miners across the country, including Zamfara in 2017.

This is the anomaly Matawalle met on ground and is working hard to correct through collaboration with the federal government, and expectedly, those who have been benefiting from the situation are fighting back. it is therefore the responsibility of all well-meaning Nigerians especially pressure groups in the north to rally round the governor in the ongoing effort to make the state uncomfortable for the bandits and their sponsors who are using our commonwealth to fight us.

Abubakar is of No1, Jama’a Street, U/Rimi, Kaduna, Kaduna state.

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Opinion

BudgIT: When Apologies Are Not Enough

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BudgIT: When Apologies Are Not Enough

By Adam Adedimeji

Tracka is a kind of feedback mechanism on governmental projects in Nigeria. It is meant to facilitate citizens’ access to respond to projects and programmes carried out by government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in their communities.
Tracka is one of the schemes used by BudgIT, a Civil-Society Organization, with a selftasked role to engage citizens on budgetary responsibilities from the government with a view to ensuring institutional improvement. Set up in 2014, it is said to be functional in twenty (20 ) States in Nigeria.
The activities of BudgIT, especially with reference to Tracka, showcase the beauty of democracy by enhancing open society and citizens’ participation in governmental projects. In other words, it is a manifestation of the common meaning of democracy, which entails a government with premium on the people in all manner of actions.
Provided it carries out its functions as outlined, which include monitoring government projects with a view to assessing their standards and completion as spelt out in budgetary allocations and, in turn, reaching out to relevant public offices and the concerned communities, BudgIT could be an eloquent testimony that the people in our respective communities are not puppets that have to accept whatever is dished out to them without questions or right of reply.
Recently, Tracka through its Twitter handle, @trackNG, brought its (un)doings to the public when the group alleged that Senator Adelere Oriolowo of Osun West Senatorial District got N40 million for a training programme for select persons in his constituency but ended up spending N2.5 million.
The tweet stated: “N40m was allocated in the 2020 FG ZIP (Federal Government Zonal Intervention Programme) for practical skill development and training of youths and women in fishing in selected areas in Osun West Senatorial District, Osun State. We confirmed (that) 50 participants selected across 10 LGAs (Local Government Areas) attended the training and received N50,000 (each) as start-up grant.”
Tracka’s rush-to-the-social-media comment was further amplified by The PUNCH rush-tothe-press report of September 24, 2020. Typical of how any job done in unnecessary hurry always ends up, both the social media post and the mainstream media report turn out to be a hatchet job that could misinform the undiscerning members of the public due to their deficiency in truth.
Since it is elementary knowledge that the legislature and the executives do not fuse functions especially in a presidential system of government as ours, it amounts to gross ignorance, to say the least, that Tracka appears not to know the glaring distinction between the constitutional roles of the two arms of government. While legislators enjoy the liberty of nominating or sponsoring projects through budgetary provisions, the responsibility for implementation of projects is strictly that of the executive arm.In fact, projects, whether emanating from the legislature or the executives, are domiciled in
the relevant Ministry or Agency of government responsible for the implementation of such.
In clearer terms, notwithstanding being the facilitator of the project through his legislative
input, there is no way Senator Oriolowo can be involved in the implementation of Zonal
Intervention Programme for practical skills development and training of youths and women
in fishing recently conducted in selected areas of the Senatorial District.
It follows therefore that enquiries regarding projects implementation ought to
be channelled to such relevant Ministry or Agency, except the mission of the enquirer
revolves around mischief or anything other than overall public interest.
Had Tracka not rushed to make defamatory insinuations that Senator Oriolowo had pocketed
N37.5 million, the group would have found out the actual number of persons targeted to
benefit from the programme and it would have realized that the beneficiaries are more than
fifty persons that took part at the first batch of the training programme.
Tracka would have further known the exact percentage of the budgeted amount that was
eventually released by the Ministry to the Agency in charge of its implementation.
Also, while it is true that N50,000 was disbursed to each of the fifty participants as starter-
pack after the training, it is far from the truth that only N50,000 was spent on each of the
participant.
Is it that Tracka’s network was not available or fluctuating, hence its inability to compute
logistics needs of the trainees and their trainers, such as accommodation, transportation,
feeding, workshop facilities, among other necessities? What of renting a hall for the training
and equipment provided for the participants as part of the start-up incentives?
Tracka also failed to put into its consideration that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it
is unwise, if not hazardous, to gather all the selected beneficiaries of the fish farming training
at one place at a time.
Obviously, it is not hard to find out that the project is slated to be done in phases and not a
one-off thing. With this, no one needs rocket science to understand that Tracka’s post that
only N2.5 million out of the earmarked N40 million was spent is nothing but a fallacy.
Was Tracka in a trance? Was Tracka just out to twist facts in order to impugn
Senator Oriolowo’s hard earned integrity and mislead the general public? The whole scenario
is antithetical to the values of creativity, insight, accuracy, excellence and accountability
enunciated to be the hallmarks of BudgIT, the parent body of Tracka.
In the course of writing this piece, precisely on Sunday, September 26,
BudgIT had apologised to the Lagos State Government for another misrepresentation in its
latest release of States Report.
In tweets after tweets, the organisation said it has retracted its graphic that listed the Lagos
State government some days ago among states with inability to meet their recurrent
expenditure.
Given that ours is a clime where those who own up to their wrongdoings are in short supply,
BudgIT ordinarily ought to be commended for acknowledging its fault and apologizing in
that regard. But then, that apology is too insignificant to have any meaningful impact on
healing the wounds caused by the organisation.Through Tracka’s spurious allegation, it is hard for one to believe that BudgIT is on a mission (as it claimed) of using “creative technology to simplify public information, stimulating a community of active citizens and enabling their right to demand accountability, institutional reforms, efficient service delivery and equitable society.”
Except the civic society advocacy group takes urgent steps to do the needful by correcting itself on this issue of 2020 FG ZIP, it is doubtful whether BudgIT would ever realize its noble vision to “see a community of active citizens that relentlessly make effective use of public information to demand accountability, geared for institutional improvement, efficient services delivery, and an equitable society.”
Indeed, with what misinformation could do to humans, BudgIT’s false information on 2020 FG ZIP is extremely dangerous not only to the constituents of Osun West Senatorial District and Senator Oriolowo but also to the FG and the Nigerian people in general. This is quite disappointing in view of the role expected of BudgIT.
This matter goes beyond Lagos State government and the 2020 FG ZIP. It transcends tendering apology in a series of tweets to only the Lagos State government. BudgIT needs to be evaluated psychiatrically.
If nothing mentally is wrong with the organization, BudgIT should apologise to Nigerians and pay appropriately for the inestimable damage its avalanche of misinformation has caused Nigeria and Nigerians.

# Adedimeji is an Abuja-based legal practitioner and can be reached through: ilovedisjob@yahoo.com

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