The fraudulent habit of outgoing governors and their aides in frantically embarking on a looting spree of government property shortly before they hand over to successors is worrisome and unacceptable in a clime of law and order. The practice as old but has become rampant since the Fourth Republic, and this is because no one has been sanctioned for stealing.
Reports of such dirty practices have been rife since May 29.
when new governors took over the government. In Benue State, for instance, the Reverend Farther Hyacinth Alia, who took over from former governor Samuel Ortom has lamented the brazen plunder of assets belonging to the state. According to him, he did not meet one single vehicle in Government House, Makurdi. A statement issued on his behalf by his Chief Press Secretary, Tersoo Kula decried the rampage. He said “The PDP looted Government House to the point that the new government under Governor Hyacinth met no single car or truck in government house. The governor’s visit to parastatals has uncovered the highest level of rot ever witnessed in the history of Benue State.”
That’s not all. He alleged that the state coffers were emptied, leaving a debt profile of N187.56billion, months of unpaid salaries, pensioners’ entitlement and a rash of last-
There is still controversy over the actual number of vehicles carted away from Government House, Zamfara State, as former governor Bello Matawalle retreated.
Governor Dauda Lawal Dare said a total of 17 vehicles, television sets and kitchen wares, were among items stolen from the state house. Operatives of the Zamfara Police Command were reported to have stormed the former governor’s residence in a bid to retrieve the vehicles.
In Osun State, properties belonging to the state government were also looted in the last days of former governor Gboyega Oyetola’s stay in office in November 2022.
Spokesperson to Governor Ademola Adeleke, Olawale Rasheed reported that valuable items were stolen from the Governor’s Lodge as well as that of the Deputy located at OkeFia, Osogbo. He lamented: “From the main house to the service flats and up to the boys’ quarters, clear indications of valuables removed can be observed. Items such as television sets, chairs, foams, electrical fittings, bed sheets, spoons and cutleries, among other valuables were illegally removed from the lodge. Every utility vehicle procured for use inthe lodge was also carted away from the building.”
The State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) confirmed the looting, which was blamed on “unknown men”.
Whether in Benue, Zamfara or Osun, it has become a nauseating habit for outgoing occupants of government residence to violently strip them of valuable assets that are meant to provide comfort for the next set of occupants. And this has been the case since the Fourth Republic was flagged off in 1999.
In 2003, the first set of legislators who moved out of their Apo legislators’ quarters after their four-year tenure ransacked the quarters as they took away every valuable item on sight, from water heater to wash-hand basins, bathing tubs and electrical fittings. Even recently, National Assembly lawmakers who were not re-elected for the 10th Assembly carted away items in their official quarters. That meant that the new occupants would be paying for new sets of appliances for their offices.
It is not clear under what arrangement this waste of resources is happening, either at the state or federal levels. But any arrangement that allows public officers or political appointees to pilfer or take away items to which they are not entitled after their service does not encourage accountability. It means that every four years, the same items will be budgeted and fresh procurement carried out. In a country that is highly indebted to local and foreign creditors, the era of unbridled waste in public service should be checked.
Instructively, a monetization policy was conceptualized during Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration between 1999-2007, which provided that fringe benefits and non-pecuniary allowances of public servants and other categories of political office holders were to be converted into cash through their monthly salaries. Thus, housing and vehicle and other allowances were to be converted to cash for public servants, legislators and commissioners.
The obvious fallout from this policy was the stoppage of government properties being attached to public officers who are affected. Other public servants were to be given vehicles, payment of which was deducted from their salaries after which they assume ownership. The overall idea was to instill financial discipline in the public space, cut off unnecessary spending and trim the over-weighted recurrent expenditure.
It is worth investigating how well the public service has absorbed the monetization policy, or how well it has permeated the system, particularly in states. What is obvious is that there appears a return to the era of profligacy and reckless spending. For example, every legislative Assembly budgets heavily to procure costly vehicles for members. The 8th Assembly, for example, reportedly spent around N6billion to buy vehicles for its members. That did not stop the 9th Assembly from making its own arrangement. The 10th Assembly is presently computing its own figures to attend to welfare needs of members.
The Federal government in 2022 spent N1.6 billion to add to its array of exotic vehicles, after it spent nearly half a billion on the same items in 2021. In six years, the Buhari government invested N5 billion on vehicles alone for the President’s office.
Going forward, the Tinubu administration should revisit the monetization policy that is in place and review it if necessary to meet fresh challenges in a cash-strapped economy. The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation should pay attention to unbearable cost of governance and apply extant rules to reduce it. State governments can no longer afford to be reckless in the application of state resources. As citizens have been called out to make sacrifices, the onus is on governors to show example by cutting down on their wasteful habits. Beyond this governors should ensure full account of government properties, including official vehicles in custody of the past administration.
Anyone found to have stripped the assets should be sanctioned appropriately to deter others with potential fraudulent inclinations. Governors should put in place a near fool-proof system, using established inventory, to stop this unwholesome and financially reckless practice.