Business More Than Usual
I am compelled to write this article by an incident that happened at Rumana, a settlement just 5 km away from my village. The people appealed to government for compensation after flood and rainstorm devastated all their farms last August. Over N8million was approved and released as relief to the villagers but in the end they were given only N139,500.00! Officials have pocketed 82.6% of the allocation. I have personally interviewed the village head and the incident was earlier reported in the media. The village head was immediately suspended by the District Head for revealing government secret. Tabdi. Ga mari ga tsinka jaka. The investigation panel set up by the state government on the matter failed to turn up in the village or interview the villagers.
Things are really getting too bad here and I cannot continue to bear the silence. I know I have promised the Trust not turn this page into a battlefield between Mu’azu and Yuguda but that does not mean I spare Yuguda the wrath of my pen just as I did not spare Mu’azu even when I served under him. The people of Bauchi State need to be saved from this unprecedented level of corruption. The state government needs to be awakened from its slumber while investors in First Inland Bank Plc need to be n their guard. If the government is not checked, the resultant failure will deepen our disillusion with the current political experiment. I know the Trust would not like this either. The paper has gained the reputation of an even-handed egalitarian and any connivance in suppressing the ongoing mess in Bauchi will devastate the northern psyche. I pray that the article is published.
Rumana is not an isolated case in Bauchi State, I am sorry to report. This has to do with the philosophy of the ruling party here. Its chairman was once reported in the media saying that “members of his party have fasted for eight long years. It is now our turn to ‘chop.” This comment, unfortunate as it was, not only explains but also seek to justify the pervasive corruption that is taking place in Bauchi State today, contrary to the promise that the government will be people-oriented and transparent.
The first window was opened was a petition against the government barely two months after it assumed office. The report was officially received on 13/8/2007 as indicated by the EFCC stamp. It called on the Commission to investigate the following: one, the N40 billion asset declaration of the governor; two, the order he gave to the Ministry of Finance to transfer the main account of the state from GTB to First Inland Bank where he was a Managing Director and still a substantial shareholder with the understanding that the account could be overdrawn to the tune of N25billion; three, the circumstances that led to the quick withdrawal of a petition before the EFCC by the new government on the N1.2billion overdraft incurred during the last days of the previous administration; four, the deal for purchasing 50 Nos. Honda CRV jeeps which was negotiated with the then Speaker of the state house of assembly and one Kashim Bukar and financed by First Inland Bank Plc; five, the award of N1.3billion contract to a Chinese firm for drilling boreholes; six, the renovation of Government House, SSG’s house and some guest houses at the cost of N860million without approval of the House of Assembly; seven, the diversion of N110million local governments funds to sponsor pilgrims without prior approval of councils’ chairmen; eight, the use of N14million by the governor to clear his personal goods from Dubai involving one Mukhtari Magas; and nine, the squander of N100million by the inauguration committee. Importantly, all petitions and paid adverts that I know so far are coming from members of the ruling ANPP who have fallen out with the present government.
Most of what the petition said was later to become common knowledge in Bauchi. For example, when the 50 Nos. Honda CRV Jeeps arrived, the news that they were supplied at double their rates quickly spread. Computation quickly showed that the contractor, or whoever, made away with over 250million on that single transaction. Also, the N1.5billion loan collected from GTB was quickly misappropriated. The checks for the severance allowance were instantly blocked by the governor and diverted elsewhere. When I officially protested I was assured that the severance allowance will be paid whenever the government gets surplus funds. Nothing is heard about it to date.
The approval for the boreholes which the EFCC petition mentioned was actually given by the Governor on 18/8/07, the day it was forwarded, at the rate of N1,353,020,704.05. The contractor is a Chinese company, M/S China Zhonghad (Nig.) Ltd. The contract, in which the memo claimed that due process was followed, consists of 47 motorized borehole schemes and 38 hand pumps without any specification but from the one drilled at GSS Toro they did not differ from those of the previous administration. Yet, the governor approved it to the last kobo without any council in place, directing that the “approval to be ratified by the executive council when constituted,” which indicates that no executive council was in place as at that date. Though the unit price was hidden, using simultaneous equation, I calculated that each borehole and hand pump was given at the cost of N24,780,598.97 and N4,956,119.75 respectively, i.e. N15billion and N3.5billion over the cost Mu’azu used to award each. Mu’azu’s administration used to award them at the rate of N10million and N1.5million respectively. Someone under Yuguda has neatly pocketed N825million on this deal over the rates of Mu’azu!
More information was to arrive. Last July, the construction of new Tafawa Balewa General Hospital was single-handedly awarded to a Lebanese company, Eagle Construction, at the asking price of N586,983,262.25(!). The bills did not include roads, water or even any hospital equipment. Two other hospitals at Zaki and Kafin Madaki were later awarded at a more reasonable figure of N170million each. But why the inconsistency, if we may ask? Again, N416million was pocketed here on T/Balewa and N100million on the other two. Mu’azu’s administration used to award such contracts at N120million.
There is also the scandal involving the supply of 2 Nos. 1,500kva generators to Gubi Water Treatment Plant which was awarded to JMG LTD after the Governor’s approval was gained on 2/7/07. The beneficiary was, again, the impeached Speaker of the state House of Assembly. The contractor supplied 1,250kva instead after waiting for three months for the order to arrive. Disturbed by the failure of the generators and the prolonged lack of water in Bauchi town, the governor who visited the site could not hide his disappointment on TV. Viewers saw how the state Commissioner of Water Resources quickly gave an alibi that the 1,250kva generators were temporarily supplied! The real 1,500kva are yet to arrive to date, the contractor is not apprehended, oga Commissioner is sitting tight while the residents of Bauchi are suffering from lack of water.
The claim made at Yuguda’s 100 days in office that all general hospitals in the state have been supplied with “brand new generator sets” which was made by the administration months is also a hoax. A lorry passed through my village just before Christmas carrying four refurbished generators, dropping one at the nearby Toro General Hospital before proceeding to other destinations. The second-hand generators are yet to be installed as at the time I am writing this article. And let us pray that they work.
There are issues of serviceable auctioned vehicles and generators, the present state of bankruptcy of the treasury in spite of receiving over N32billion from the Federation Account in the first six months, the daily reckless receipt of overdrafts from First Inland Bank Plc which is alleged to be in the region of N20billion now, the ongoing negotiation to receive a loan of N40billion from Islamic Development Bank which the government denied but which I have confirmed as true, another EFCC petition involving N500million, the N15million fraud at Shariah Commission over Ramadan meals, the fraud over N250million scholarship allowance that led to the constitution of a new disbursement committee, the unlimited personal expenditure of the governor, and so on. I do not want to waste my precious space narrating what is seemingly endless.
FEDERATION ACCOUNT ALLOCATION TO BAUCHI STATE
FROM MAY T0 NOVEMBER 2007 IN NAIRA
MONTH STATE GOVT LOCAL GOVTS
MAY 2,374,105,559.21 1,812,810,865.00
JUNE 2,421,717,824.47 1,820,826,850.92
JULY 3,066,633,909.94 2,312,515,693.36
AUGUST 2,883,707,976.81 2,246,405,514.36
SEP 2,403,657,198.78 1,894,933,221.70
OCT 2,489,400,146.63 1,976,547,702.44
NOV 2,422,813,403.07 1,931,586,027.89
SUB-TOTAL 18,062,036,018.91 13,995,625,875.67
GRAND TOTAL = 32,057,661,894.58
What I just wanted to prove was that Rumana is not an isolated incidence. The real problem, however, is Yuguda himself. I have a natural affection for this amiable person and I cannot tell why. Yet, I can clearly see that he is too weak to be a governor in contemporary Nigeria. This conclusion is inevitable. He has surrounded himself with chronically corrupt and incompetent people who have dominated the scene to the detriment of many of his aides who I personally know are really good and sincere.
The worst part of it is the elaborate attempt made by the administration to deceive the population and silence his critics. Those who served under the previous administration are daily threatened with one investigation or another. It has finally ended in setting up a judicial commission of inquiry that included names of people who are known for their chronic hate for Mu’azu, who have earlier made written and spoken libels against him, and who headed committees that called for his indictment.
There is also the attempt to conceal the ongoing corrupt practices involving prominent northern and southern dailies and magazines. It is not surprising that such papers carry only praises about the present administration while blocking any news about the ongoing corruption, including paid adverts. According to a memo that was approved by the governor on 28/8/07, the following largesse was prepared for six editors of newspapers: “travel expenses of N90,000.00; provision of accommodation at Protea Hotel; presentation of two sets of kaftans to each editor; a cash hospitality of N250,000.00 to each of the four editors and N500,000.00 each to editors of … and ...; allocation of a vehicle to convey the editors from Abuja to Bauchi vice versa including fuelling.”
Earlier, on 13/7/07, one of the leading northern newspapers submitted a quotation dubbed “Bauchi State Government Special Project.” It was on this that SSA (Media and Publicity) submitted a memo on 5/8/08 requesting the governor to approve the sum of N8m for the newspaper and N2m for another northern newspaper. The governor approved the N8million but declined the second request. A recent development is that arrangements are concluded to put these newspapers and some prominent magazines on “retainership” with the state government. In addition, approval was also given to the office of the SSA (Media) for the monthly allocation of N2million “without prejudice to the Directorate of Press’s Monthly Strategic Media Fund for its day to day publicity activities”, as the memo concluded.
Yuguda’s media team is truly impressive especially with the above level of support. But what the team is missing, if I must advise it, is that blocking people’s access to the media will create more harm than good to His Excellency. They are pushing people to employ subterranean channels in where they are not restrained by law to use decorum and facts. The trend has started already and it is really biting. The administration was driven crazy about a nostalgic song, Tunanin Ahmadu, to the extent that the studio was raided and the composer arrested. The alleged sponsor, Alhaji Kabiru Illela, was arrested six times, his house was raided by police, and an assassination squad was sent after him, missing him by just 15minutes. They have forgotten that libelous songs were among the principal means of Yuguda’s campaign. Kama tadiinu tudaanu.
Terror is another weapon used to silence critics in Bauchi. I remember how I escaped two assassination attempts, alhamdu lillah, in May and June last year. The paper I was then writing for refused to carry the story even after I personally complained to the editor and requested that its reporter visit the scene. I didn’t know that the reporter was working for Yuguda who later appointed him as a Special Assistant (Media). My only crime was writing The Yuguda Revolution in which I advised the governor on the challenges ahead of him after he won the last April election. As I write the present article I can imagine what will follow.
Likewise, Alhaji Kabiru Illelah has suffered several arrests by the Police at the instance of the Chief of Staff, Government House, and the active participation of the State Commissioner of Police. He was once summoned by the Secretary to the State Government who threatened that if he doesn’t play ball, “he should know that government can destroy him in ten minutes.” But he would tell his own story better one day.
Finally, there is now a very tight control over government documents to prevent them from leaking. Personnel are shuffled from one office to another. Memos to the Governor from ministries are conveyed in boxes with padlocks. What is there to hide? Leakage happens even in the White House. The government should know that people do not need documents to know what is happening. Other things tell the story of the ongoing corruption: the return of refuse dump pyramids, the numerous multimillion naira houses that are sprouted in the GRA in the past two months, the acute shortage of water in Bauchi, the conversion of First Inland Bank into a government department that supplies vehicles which are parked at the Bank’s headquarters before distribution, the brand new “discussion continuous” Honda Accords for every state member of the National Assembly, the 620si Rovers for party thugs and every local government party chairman, the diversion of a new generator set to a private factory in Kano, the lavish style of the Governor’s family, the lack of ongoing projects, the delays in salaries, hard experiences like Rumana, the continuous absence of the governor from the state, the starving of local governments with funds, etc.
As I edit this article, I received a report that the government is awarding a contract for another set of boreholes at the same criminal rates that we mentioned above. This is business more than usual. Well, I have fulfilled my religious obligation to His Excellency by writing this article as I did over eleven times to his predecessor. Expectedly, the media team of Yuguda is likely to downplay the importance of my call, promising him that they and his undertakers will deal with me. But as al-Mutanabbi once advised Saif al-Daulah, I advise His Excellency to ignore their call and listen to mine because “mine is the original voice; theirs is echo.”
However, should Yuguda ignore mine, as his predecessor did, I am afraid to warn him that, one day, democracy will present him a bill which he will not be able to pay. That day, he will know that the people of Bauchi who adopted him but whom he took for granted were not as gullible as he thought.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
2 January 2008