RT. Hon. Yakubu Dogara’s Spurious Allegations Against Bauchi State Government
This statement has been prompted by the reasons adduced by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, for his defection back to the All Progressive Congress (APC), the party that he jettisoned in 2019 in the quest of a sanctuary to pursue his political career. If he had simply resigned from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), without creating any spurious alibi that touched on the integrity of patriotic citizens of Bauchi State, there would not have been need to oblige him with a response because as he personally admitted, such political nomadism is consistent with his character. However, we are compelled to respond, if only to set the records straight and put certain matters raised by him in proper perspective.
Notwithstanding that he has been running his mouth, apparently to rationalize and stave off the embarrassment that his misguided action is attracting to him, we will limit ourselves to the points raised in his letter of resignation.
Right from the inception of this Administration, the state has judiciously adhered to the extant financial rules, in the management of allocations to the local governments, based on federal allocation and cash flow. Since June 2019 we have faithfully released the LG allocations as at when due. To the best of our knowledge no one has complained of any violation of the provisions of either the Revenue and Mobilisation Act or the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
Contrary to what obtained during the last Administration which Dogara endured for four years, the present Administration has been paying wages and salaries as at when due. However, it should be placed on record that the LGs are indebted to the State Government to the tune of N9b. This arose from projects purportedly executed by the previous administration, through the Joint Account Committee. But we have stopped the charade and we are now rebuilding the finances of the Local Governments.
No detractor, not even Dogara will deny that one of the major achievements of the Bala Mohammed Administration, in its first year in office, is the restoration of life and activities to the hitherto comatose Local Government Areas. For the first time in many years, the people have started feeling the presence of Government and all stakeholders acknowledge the changes that are taking place. Health care is being brought closer to the people through rehabilitation of Primary health care centres, many schools have been rehabilitated and furniture supplied, rural roads are receiving rapid face-lift. All these have been achieved because of the State Government’s commitment to transparent inter-governmental relations, the type never witnessed in the past several years. No petition or plea is standing, anywhere challenging what we are doing with LG funds, except perhaps, in the jaundiced eyes of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara. Unfortunately, the main obstacle to the Government’s effort at accelerated transformation of the LGs is traceable to the mismanagement of the past, a situation that threw them into the debt reported above. Up till now, the LGs are taking overdraft of 3.5b to pay staff salaries. However, we have no doubt that this debt will progressively decline and ultimately disappear as the strategies to upscale the State’s IGR begin to take effect.
Like the LGs, the Emirates councils are getting their allocations. But we will not be surprised if Dogara is not aware of this. It takes someone like Dogra who is not in touch with his place, not to recognise that we have comprehensively reinvigorated the Emirate Council system for greater efficiency and comfort of our highly revered traditional institutions.
Though we inherited two months arrears of salaries, our track record of prompt payment of salaries both at the state and local government levels, has earned us the confidence and respect of workers in the state. This stabilisation of salaries has been achieved by rebuilding a robust cash flow system using tax refunds from the federal government and blocking leakages such as contract inflation and other bogus expenditure through which the state was being haemorrhaged during the immediate past Administration. It is the height of mischief for Dogara to seek to make political capital out of the recent short delay; caused by the ongoing verification aimed at harmonising the payrolls and eliminating ghost workers.
Unless Hon. Dogara is afflicted by incurable selective amnesia, he could not have forgotten, just under one year, that Bauchi State was the first to implement the minimum wage in the North East zone, for workers between levels 1 and 6. Hon. Dogara could not have forgotten so soon that apart from the staggering over N27 billion backlog of pensions and gratuities, these senior citizens were also being owed several months before we assumed office. By extension, he could not have forgotten that, as an expression of fidelity with the ex-service men and women, the Government of Bala Mohammed set aside an irrevocable monthly allocation, to defray the gargantuan deficit inherited from past Administrations while striving to meet current obligations, within the constraints of fund limitation caused by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Naturally, the pensioners and labour unions appreciate the situation. That explains the absence of any labour agitation since the inception of this Administration; more so because all verifications are being done in conjunction with all stakeholders including the state chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC.
The allegation of outsourcing of salaries is a figment of the imagination of Dogara who has just chosen to be mischievous by creating issues that do not exist. Bauchi State runs two different payroll systems: one for the state and the other for the LGs; a situation that has provided a fertile ground for the perpetuation of the ghost workers racket. The public will recall the issue of people collecting salaries without BVN.
Thus, the correct position is that the state government engaged the services of a Consultant to harmonise the payrolls into one with the goal of eliminating ghost workers and put an end to the collection of multiple salaries by some fraudulent civil servants. In the process, even prior to completion of their work, we have keyed into the platform being installed by the Consultants. If this is what Hon. Dogara refers to as outsourcing payment of staff salaries, we have no apologies to offer.
However, we are satisfied that rather than lose funds due to the work of the Consultants, the state is saving huge amounts of money that will be subsequently deployed in creating the environment for the employment of more hands. It is ironical that Hon. Dogara is questioning a transparency record that has earned Bauchi State, under the leadership of Governor Bala Mohammed, a grant of N2 billion from the Federal Government. If we may ask: must one throw common sense and decency away just to achieve some self-serving mischief?
It is public knowledge that, as a democrat par excellence and in keeping with the manifesto of the People’s Democratic Party, then candidate Bala Mohammed, had made the restoration of democratically elected local government councils a major campaign issue. It was and remains one of his main strategies for recruitment and training of future political leaders and to jump start development at the rural level, through the felt need approach to development. But for the avoidance of doubt, at no time did he ever promise to conduct local government elections, within six months of assumption of office. Unless he was being plainly mischievous, we can excuse Hon. Dogara for the misrepresentation, since he never participated in our campaigns to know what we promised.
Yet, the truth is that two previous attempts by the Bauchi State Government to conduct the LG elections were shelved because of the COVID-19 crisis that has affected schedules globally. We had to postpone the elections in line with the cautious approach adopted by the Federal Government, to prevent spread of the virus. However, still without throwing caution to the wind, we believe that the environment has sufficiently improved and that we can now manage the protocols, hence the election has now been rescheduled for 17th October 2020. We cannot blame Hon. Dogara for his ignorance. It will take a “lost and found” politician not to know what is happening because he disappeared after the elections.
4.6 BILLION NAIRA LOAN
In this again, Dogara is being dishonest. First, we wish to state categorically that there was no N4.6 billion loan. Perhaps, Hon. Dogara is privy to something else that we are not aware of. Be that as it may, the state government only adopted the well-known contract financing approach to handle an immediate need without piling too much pressure on our cash flow. The practice, however, is that the bank, granting the loan, decides the mode of disbursement, to ensure that goods and services are delivered. This contrasts sharply with previous practice, in the state, whereby loans were taken for projects, without evidence of any work done.
As the records show, the mandatory price intelligence was carried out by the Due Process Office in conjunction with the Bank, after getting the approval of both the House of Assembly and the State Executive Council for a loan of N3.6 billion.
It is true that, as part of the transaction, we had to revise the contract sum to accommodate the FG’s new policy on customs duties which had keyed in. Besides being mandatory, payment of the revised Customs Duties was imperative so that the beneficiaries of the vehicles will not be subjected to embarrassment. It is common knowledge that the beneficiaries included members of the state house of assembly, commissioners, special advisers, judges and khadis, as well as Bauchi State members of the National Assembly. Of course, as one of the illustrious sons of the state who falls in the legislative category, Hon. Dogara got a Toyota V8 that he gleefully collected with thanks. We did it as part of good governance, to enhance efficiency, monitoring and evaluation and smoothening relations among government functionaries. Now, all the vehicles have been supplied and 50% of the loan repaid.
INFLATION OF CONTRACTS AND PAYMENT OF MOBILISATION
When Hon. Dogara claims that the state is not observing extant rules in the award of contracts, we ask, which extant rules: The established Government Extant Rules or Dogara Personal Rules?
We can say, without any fear of contradiction, that award of contracts, in the state, has followed due process. In fact, rather than inflate, one cardinal principle of this Administration has been to ensure judicious application of resources through cost reduction without mortgaging quality of work done. That was why, very early in the life of this Administration, we engaged Engr. Emeka Ezeh, aka “Mr. Due Process”, a man whose antecedents are well known to Hon. Dogara, to create for the state, a pricing index within global best practices. Today all our projects are subjected to Basic Engineering Management and Evaluation (BEME), the global standard for evaluation of contracts, not arbitrariness. The result is that, because of intense negotiation with the contractors, most of our projects costs have been reduced drastically, sometimes by as much as 30%. One such project is the Awallah to Miri Road that was awarded by the immediate past Administration at the cost of N10 billion. Based on negotiation, the contractors have accepted a reduction from the initial N10 billion, to N7 billion, to complete the project. That is a saving of N3 billion on only one project. Another current project of interest is the 60 km road between Burga and Yelwan Duguri which cost was negotiated down to N8 billion from the initial N15 billion quoted by the contractor. The project has four major bridges, 48 box culverts and 60 pipe culverts. The public should compare the above project with the 45km road from Bogoro to Dull-Burga, awarded at the instance of Dogara when he was Speaker, as part of his constituency project, to the same contractor for the sum of N17 billion! Those who care to scrutinize our records will come to the inescapable conclusion that Hon. Dogara has elevated political mischief to the level of an art.
Contrary to Hon. Dogara’s claim, the Bauchi State Government did not break any rules by paying mobilisation fees to contractors. It is normal for contractors to be given mobilisation which can be recovered in the life of the contract. The Government followed global best practices, by insisting that the contractors provide advance payment guarantee (APG) certificates based on which mobilisation was given to them. Fortunately, except for the Burga-Yelwa-Duguri Road which has attained 60% completion, all the contracts for which 50% mobilisation was advanced, were completed within a year of the Administration and the public was not short changed, in any way. Rather, the Advance Payment has spurred the contractors to perform optimally with maximum delivery. So, we are hard pressed to understand what Dogara is complaining about.
We make bold to say that no traditional ruler has been treated with “odium” since the inception of this Administration. We are used to Hon. Dogara’s penchant for mischief. If his reference was to Misau where a communal crisis spiralled out of control and led to the death of 11 innocent citizens, there was no way that the State Government, conscious of its responsibility to the people, could have folded its hands even as threat of bigger mayhem hung ominously, over the entire area. We never maltreated the traditional rulers .But consistent with acceptable administrative practices, we simply asked them to step aside to allow for unfettered and credible investigations. Perhaps the adoption of this time-honoured administrative process, to bring the situation under control, did not play into Hon. Dogara’s script, to see the state go up in flames; a situation that would have worsened the security challenges in the North East and by extension, the entire country. Let it be known that we were guided in our decision by serious security information at our disposal and which Hon. Dogara, as former No. 4 citizen of the country, would not expect us to divulge. Be that as it may, we are not oblivious of Dogara’s antics of precipitating mischief for political gains. This time around, we have checkmated his propensity for hiding under the façade of a deceptive innocent mien to instigate violence. We have accorded him all due respect. However, he should take notice that going forward, we will not allow him to instigate people to threaten the peace of our state and by extension, the country.
DOGARA: A MATTER OF CHARACTER
We acknowledge that Hon. Dogara is one of our highly placed sons. Consistent with the policy of this Administration, we will continue to accord him the respect due to him. We also concede his right to join any group of his choice and to pursue any ambition within the law. However, he must realise that this time around, the old strategy of blackmailing and discrediting people and jumping from one party to another, will not work.
For if indeed Dogara had any real issues with the party in his state, did he exhaust the internal mechanisms for conflict resolution? The PDP is larger than the one member and there are provisions for loyal party members to exhaust all avenues for grievance-handling, real or perceived, before jumping ship. As the Chairman of the BOT of the PDP reportedly disclosed, in a recent interview, Hon. Dogara never intimated the party of his grievances. Therefore, it is both ridiculous and a huge insult on the intelligence of Nigerians that Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara is raking up non-existent murk as he struggles to justify his decision to leave a stable political party, for one that is gasping for breath, one that is reeling from deep-seated internal strife, from debilitating personality fights and leadership void. Or is he missing visits to Aso Rock?
Hon. Dogara Yakubu has made his choice. We respect it. With this clarification, Governor Bala Mohammed and his team will channel their energies to the single-minded pursuit of the good life for the people of Bauchi State, through delivering on his campaign promises and policy documents.
Meanwhile, we request the good people of Bauchi State to ignore Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and his antics. In anticipation of his fourth defection, we have no doubt that, very soon, the real reasons for this third defection will emerge. We do not want to indulge in petty speculations regarding his touted presidential or vice-presidential ambition. As to his threat that, come 2023, he will chase us out as he did to Isa Yuguda and Mohammed Abubakar, we are waiting for him, in the firm conviction that, as always, power comes from God who bestows it on whom he chooses.
May Allah continue to lead us to the right path.
SSA to Governor Bala Mohammed on Media & Publicity
29th July , 2020.