‘We are in a very precarious financial situation. During the dark 25 months, when Governor Danbaba Suntai was incapacitated, there was wanton greed and financial recklessness with impunity, which led us to unprecedented indebtedness to commercial banks. As I address you today, the immediate task ahead is seeking creative ways to revamp our finances; otherwise we shall be heading for bankruptcy.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to pay workers’ salaries, let alone embark on any project. I see the reality of a disenchanted and degenerated bureaucracy; I see the reality of an oversized public service; I see the reality of a financially indebted state.”
The foregoing was taken from the inauguration speech of Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State on May 29 this year as he painted a picture of a state that had been mismanaged by his predecessors after which he promised to begin a “rescue mission”. But if there is any evidence to show that he is not serious about the promise, it is the fact that he has appointed 20 commissioners and 112 Senior Special Advisers and Special Assistances for a state that he himself admits is already very broke.
Unfortunately, such financial recklessness is not restricted to Taraba as there are also many states where, despite lean resources, the governors have embarked on wasteful expenditure. For many of them, as long as there is oil money to be shared in Abuja, the binge can continue with little or no thought for the welfare of their people. That is what Governor Ishaku has demonstrated by his appointments.
According to a recent report by the federal government, many states cannot meet their obligatoons to contractors or implement capital projects. About 22 states collectively owe the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) N2 billion as registration fees of their candidates for the May/June Senior Secondary School Certificate examinations. Also in many of the states, salaries of workers are being owed for several months. And in August, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was quoted as saying that the states owed commercial banks N685 billion, “making it difficult for them to meet their statutory obligations.”
Given these stark realities, we are at a loss as to how Governor Ishaku of Taraba State would explain his appointment of 112 special advisers and senior special assistants and 20 commissioners. Because, here is a state that projected to raise only N4.5 billion of its N97.3 billion 2015 budget proposal as internally generated revenue, with the rest, including an uncertain N25 billion refund, expected from allocations from the Federation Account!
To be fair, there are some reasonable governors who, with dwindling resources, are cutting the size of ministries and number of commissioners and advisers/assistants in order to conserve funds to do capital projects. There are governors like Malam Nasir el-Rufai (who reduced Kaduna’s 19 ministries to 13); Ibrahim Geidam (who slashed Yobe’s ministries from 22 to 15), Abdulaziz Yari (who restructured Zamfara’s 25 ministries to 16) and Abdullahi Gunduje (who reduced Kano’s 18 ministries to 14). Those are worthy examples.
Unfortunately, Ishaku cannot learn from those governors despite the precarious nature of the finances of his state. He seems to have no clue on how to grow the IGR; he depends almost entirely on oil revenues from Abuja, yet making appointments for purely political reasons and without minding the consequences on the development of his state.
For a governor who inherited what he himself described as “an oversized public service” and “a financially indebted state,” the expectation was that Ishaku would work towards the development of Taraba but as things stand, he seems to be more preoccupied with expanding his political base with patronage than working for his people. It is a big shame.