Sunday, 28 February 2016

Update on 2016 Budget proposal of Niger State

There has been a concern from various quarters over the status of the budget proposals presented by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello on December 31, 2015. The curiosity was instigated by a show of concern on the pace of implementation of projects by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello-led administration. Many Nigerlites previously assumed the budget has already been passed by the legislature and thus wondering why intended programmes and policies are yet to be initiated.

In a recent announcement by the State House of Assembly, it confirmed that deliberations are already ongoing in preparation for the passage of the proposed budget. This sensitivity to the the concerns of the people is not only commendable but shows the lawmakers are responsive and follow public discursions by the people whose interests they represent and protect.

However, in a recent report, some members of the State Assembly made an observation on the Governor’s promise to recover funds looted by the past administration. They sought to know the reports of the committees up by the Governor to “investigate the activities of the past administration with particular reference to the Finance of the state.” And of course, the current administration has been painstaking, though cautious, in its forensic audit of the state and tracking of the financial dealings of the past administrations and the individuals and groups culpable of any financial fraud.  

What’s perceived as the Governor’s “lack of courage” is actually an unfair judgment of his exhibition of caution in his investigation of the suspicious financial dealings of the past administration, and this is so because he has chosen to abide by due process instead of appealing to non-legal sentiments.

Hasty judgements have never been virtuous in documenting evidences against a group under whose watch financial transactions were poorly handled. This is why there’s a need to track and prepare convincing evidences before inviting the guilty party for trial, or the process may only end up as a media show with the accused walking away at the end of a dramatic and long litigations with the dismissal of a filed case as one based on weak evidences.

Even at the federal level, the process of bringing treasury looters into book isn’t as smooth as foreseen, expected or promised by both the government and the observant citizens. Some of the major actors in the past administration are yet to be tried by the anti-corruption body despite the extent of their participation in the mismanagement of public funds in the court of public opinion. Perhaps this explains President Muhammadu Buhari’s description of such dilemma in a famous speech, that “order is more vital than speed.”

The truth is, even though it may be the interest of all for those accused to be hastily arrested and tried, there’s a difference between our opinions of them and the Law. The legal procedures aren’t built on our subjectivity and wishes, and thus appearing for litigations without enough substantial evidences against any member of the past administration found wanting is bound to a certain doom.

According to a statement attributed to the Deputy Speaker in that report, “stolen funds have been recovered in other states.” But the truth is funds are actually being recovered in Niger State, which explains the lack of needless drama that’s seen as the hallmark of anti-corruption crusade by some. I don’t see any state government that has embarked on media trial of former leaders of the state. For all we know, no immediate past Governor of any State has been jailed yet. This is so because due process is being followed by the serving Governor, who’s only the head of the Executive, not the Judiciary.

Another aspect of the Governor’s anti-corruption crusade that wasn’t revealed in the report is, on assuming duty as Executive head of this government, Governor Bello ordered all members of the past administration to return properties of the state in their possessions. This was actualised with the dispatch of law-enforcement agents who tracked them down and retrieved government-owned properties in their possession. Even the residence of the past Governor was visited and government-owned cars in his possession were recovered and submitted to the government. If this is not courage, I wonder what is. This clearly contradicts the statements attributed to the Lawmaker.

In his interview with the Hausa service of Voice of America, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Jibrin Baba Ndace, explained the Governor’s administrative style and approach to recovering of looted funds. He clarified that the reason for the misperception of Governor Bello’s approach to governance is simply because he’s not a showman, and that he has always shied away from putting up a show for media sensationalism. He’s chosen to tread the path of honour, honesty and diligence and this obviously may not impress proponents of sensationalism.

One thing that must be understood is, the Governor’s relationship with the other branches of government are cordial and geared towards the development of the State. The activities of the legislature are a proof that he doesn’t interfere with legislative processes, and allows each branch to function as provided for in the Constitution. Even today, February 27, Governor Bello was Guest of Honour at an event for the launch of a constituency programme by the Hon. Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Ahmad Marafa. This is the beauty of democracy we all yearn for!

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