OKOWA GOVERNMENT IN DELTA STATE – ALREADY ON THE PATH OF MALADMINISTRATION LIKE ITS PREDECESSORS
Considering the fact that the new governor of Delta State, Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, can best be described as an ‘offshoot’ and more of a continuation of the immediate past two governments of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and James Ibori, many stakeholders like us were not expecting much (or any) sustainable change at all with regards to the development of Delta State. This fear, which we were actually praying not to come to reality, is however playing out already when we look at every of the actions, statements and body language of the new Delta State Governor since he came into power.
For instance, it is really sad to observe that the same set of persons (whose pedigree and questionable integrity are of great concern), most of whom were in the deplorable immediate past government of Uduaghan, were still absorbed by the Okowa administration. This was what we observed when Governor Okowa recently forwarded 12 Commissioner-nominees to the State House of Assembly for consideration. Both the said Commissioner-nominees (which includes Uduaghan’s brother – Vincent Uduaghan), and some so called Special Assistants/Advisers already appointed by Governor Okowa, clearly shows that the new Delta State Governor is not a serious person who truly wants to serve the people of Delta State and make a difference. When such persons that were part of the immediate past government that had left a deplorable legacy behind in the State, are now appointed as one thing or the other by the Okowa government; what kind of advice, input and contribution are we going to expect from them? What iota of ‘needed change’ can such group of supposed public officials make in the new Okowa administration to the benefit of Deltans? Are we going to expect any positive change and development from the Okowa administration with such moves? It is simply sad!
To put it bluntly, if Governor Okowa is really serious about addressing all the ills left behind by his PDP-cabal-brother Uduaghan, then who would ensure not to have anything to do with the immediate past government and its ‘off-springs’. If Governor Okowa is serious about ensuring “Prosperity for all Deltans” (as his Campaign motor states), then he would have started by drastically pruning down the size of its observed entourage with their usually number of “empty” exotic vehicles. Aside the required ‘Security Protocol’ that is expected of the entourage of the Governor to have, we do not see the need for such outrageous size and number ‘official/unofficial’ public officials on the trail of the Governor wherever he goes in the name of Government Entourage. If the Delta State Governor is planning to cut down the size of the State’s Public Service accorcing to reports, then he should start with himself and those around him. He should start trimming and curbing the usually observed ‘excesses’ of the Executive Government of Delta State, this includes the so called ‘unconstitutional’ Office of the First Lady of Delta State.
The Delta State Governor cannot expect Deltans and Nigerians in Delta State to take him seriously when he recently advised the daughter of the former Delta State Governor James Ibori to “not to bring disgrace to the Ibori family name – but to sustain and continue the legacy left behind by her father.” Ibori, his wife, his sister, lawyer friend and even his mistress have all been convicted and jailed for money laundering and corruption in far away UK. Ibori (who is the father of the said Hon. Erhiatake Ibori), Governor Okowa was advising, is still serving his 13 years prison sentence in UK over corruption charges committed against Delta State. So what is good about the Ibori name that Governor Okowa is asking his daughter to sustain? How does Governor Okowa want well-meaning Deltans, Nigerians and even the international community to view him when he made such a public statement/remark concerning the name of a family whose ‘Heads’ are convicts of corruption charges committed against the State? Does Governor Okowa not think people will assume he is asking Ibori’s daughter to continue and sustain the bad legacy of corruption her father had left behind?
If Governor Okowa is serious about entrenching true governance in Delta State on the platform of transparency and accountability, then by now, one would have expected him to glaringly expose all the financial ills and atrocities committed by his predecessor Uduaghan, against Delta State. When we were constantly calling for the former Governor Uduaghan to come out and account for every Naira and kobo of Delta State public funds that his administration enjoyed in the last eight years, many thought that we were on a vendetta quest or that we did not know what we were saying. But we are glad that, gradually but steadily, a lot of well-meaning Deltans and Nigerians are beginning to reel out more facts to justify the outrageous financial atrocities that was committed by the Uduaghan government against Delta State.
In fact, some officials in the current government circles have accused former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of running the State with a troubling depth of financial profligacy. One of the sources described the state of affairs in Delta as “Cyclone Uduaghan,” alleging that the former Governor not only ran the State aground financially, but also actually went ahead to program a catastrophe for administration of Governor Okowa. One source said Governor Okowa had chosen not to whine like many of his colleagues, but added that the incumbent Governor “knows very well that he is in trouble. In fact, several elder statesmen across the State are putting pressure on him to let the world know what he met on ground.”
Uduaghan reportedly left behind a total debt of more than N773 billion, according to current estimates by officials of the State. They disclosed that ex-Governor Uduaghan
The State’s internally generated revenues (IGR) of N3.5 billion a month bumped the figure up to N7.3 billion a month. On the surface, revenues of N7.3 billion look like a tidy sum for Delta State, and Uduaghan used that figure to claim that he did not leave an empty treasury. However, reported sources described the former Governor’s claim as a big lie. They revealed that personnel costs, in terms of salaries, pensions and other benefits to workers, amount to N7.6 billion each month. In addition, statutory transfers to statutory agencies, including the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESPOPADEC), amount to N4.3 billion a month. Overhead costs in the State Public Service are N4.4 billion a month, bringing the State’s total statutory expenditure to N16.3 billion a month. “Governor Okowa would need to borrow N9.1 billion every month just to run government business in Delta,” said one source. He added, “If His Excellency, Dr. Okowa, chooses not to borrow, then his administration is dead on arrival.”
The source accused Uduaghan of aiming to ambush his predecessor with a financial picture that is programmed to lead to Okowa’s failure. “Where will the new administration source the funds to bring development projects and initiatives to the people of the State as the dividends of governance?” one source asked. Another source accused Uduaghan of structuring the repayment schedule of the loans to start in June 2015 to coincide with the arrival of a new administration in the State.
To clearly illustrate the weight of the financial burden that Uduaghan left behind, one source said, “If you shared the debt exposure of N773.2 billion [among] the entire local government areas in Nigeria, each council would amass a debt burden of N1 billion.” They added that Uduaghan frittered away scarce State resources to serve his obscene taste for expensive personal acquisitions as well as his unrestrained social lifestyle.
By contrast, the former Governor Uduaghan’s has obviously left no meaningful projects or infrastructure in Delta State during his eight-year control of the State treasury, save for a dubious Asaba Airport project that has gulped more than N40 billion but has yet to be approved by Nigerian Aviation Authorities because of the facility’s haphazard conception, construction and delivery. In the words of one source: “Today, the five major cities of the State, namely Warri, Asaba, Agbor, Sapele and Ughelli, remain a shadow of themselves.” Another source said that, while a few other oil-producing States were busy advancing the fortunes of their States with such infrastructure as metro rails, stadia and highways, Mr. Uduaghan’s administration “simply dipped its hands in the State treasury and simply asked Deltans to ‘go to hell.’”
Funny enough, some of the above reported facts were reaffirmed by the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, recently when decried the financial position of the State and disclosed that the government had over N636 billion debts, including contractual obligations, to contend with in the next three years. Addressing the State legislature, Okowa said: “A total monthly deduction of N4.60 billion will be made from our FAAC receipts with effect from this June through to March 2017, and thereafter N1.098 billion monthly until September 2018. This leaves us with a balance of N3.4 billion assuming the FAAC allocation stays at N8.03 billion. The receipt from Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, is about N2.0 billion monthly, after deducting cost of collection.”
The big question now is, with all of these mind boggling revelations of financial atrocities committed by the former Delta State Governor – Uduaghan, how come Governor Okowa has not come to openly tell Nigerians the dire state he met the State’s treasury like we have observed in other States? Why is Governor Okowa obviously shielding the former Governor from being exposed? Why is Governor Okowa acting as if all is well when in reality, the immediate past government of Uduaghan has left a big hole in the State’s public purse that is already adversely affecting the developmental progress of the State?
The only answer we can deduce out of this is that Governor Okowa, his immediate predecessor Uduaghan and of course Ibori, are all birds of the same feathers. It is really sad that all we have had in the last 16 years of democratic rule in Delta State; is a dynasty of corruption of the highest order and impunity, electoral fraud of unimaginable proportions and self-perpetuating government of a ruling cabal of the PDP. That has been the deplorable dynasty and story of Delta State. As one is set to leave the Delta State Government House, he ensures that someone who will cover his tracks and to continue draining the State’s resources without any hindrance, is put as replacement. Ibori started it in 1999, and after 8 years he laid the foundation for his dynasty and placed his cousin Uduaghan, who continued from where he stopped. And now, they have succeeded in placing Okowa to take over from where they stopped. This is a logical conclusion to make judging by the actions so far, of the new Okowa administration.
Let us conclude here by saying that if Deltans start seeing and observing the ‘actions’ of Governor Okowa as ‘genuine’ (without any links whatsoever with the immediate past governments), then they will have sympathy for him and give him the needed support required of the people. But when the reverse is the case, many well-meaning Deltans will regard him as another ‘chip of the old PDP-block’ that should not be seen as a serious person.
Zik Gbemre, JP
Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC)
No.28, Opi Street, Ugboroke Layout, Effurun-Warri,
P.O. Box 2254, Warri, Delta State, Nigeria.