by Rachel Ogbu
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has asked governors of 19 Northern States to account for the N8.3 trillion given to their states between 1999 and 2010.
According to the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), there is hardly anything to show for the huge resources at the state and local government levels. Ribadu said that despite the fact that each of the 414 local governments in the north has budget in excess of that of the entire Northern Region under the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, successive administrations in the region have failed to meet the expectations of the people.
“We have got a problem with our country and we all know it and therefore we do not need to be constantly reminded of it for it is an issue that we confront in our daily lives, in our schools, and our interaction with the police, in the army or SSS, customs and immigration offices, prisons, the legislature, the ministries, hospitals, in our courts and in the private sector as well like our banks, markets and not to mention, the media are daily awashed with mind boggling reports on corruption all over the country. Most of us here may be wondering how and when corruption took charge of our lives?” he said.
Ribadu said this in a paper in Kano at a two-day summit of Northern Development Focus Initiative (NDFI), he blamed the problem on corruption and said it was unfortunate that 90 per cent of the nation’s resources were stolen by public officials.
“When Major Nzeogwu made his speech to justify the takeover of power on January 15th, 1966, he mentioned that the military took over because the first republic politicians were collecting ten percent bribes. (Though I am in disagreement with his assumption given the achievements recorded with the paltry sum) but nonetheless it is presupposed that at least they were using 90 percent of the resources to do the work,” Ribadu said.
An excerpt of the paper reads:
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“It would be great to pause the question ‘What is happening now’? It is either the other way around: public officials taking away 90 percent and using 10 percent to work or even out rightly looting of the treasury. In fact, from recent reports, a lot of money is stolen from the source, that it does not even make its way to the treasuries of the many governments in the country today.
“To be fair, it is important to mention that there is corruption in every society including all the advanced countries. However the irony is it has not stopped development. There was corruption in the first republic too. But it was dealt with effectively and it was not allowed to be the cancer that it is now. It was not as widespread and as rampant in scale and magnitude as it is now.
“As I was writing this paper I stumbled on a tweet that got me thinking that read as follows, “The revenue Nigeria received for the whole of last year (2012) from the sale of crude oil is more than the yearly aid, the entire sub Saharan Africa received. Where is the money, where is the improvement?” This was a question posed to us by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“For starters, I would like to take a walk with you down memory lane on our recent past as a region. Sir Ahmadu Bello the first and only Premier of Northern Nigeria and his lieutenants, most of blessed memories, led this vast region effectively for just about a decade.
“Keenly look at what they were able to achieve, largely with internally generated revenue because there was no oil then or it was insignificant in the revenue profile of the country. The last annual budget by the late Sardauna for the whole north was just 44 million pounds.
“It is important to state that with this scanty resource, they were able to maintain law and order and ensure effective security of life and property for this vast region. They built Ahmadu Bello University , the largest in sub-Sahara Africa; they built Ahmadu Bello Stadium one of the largest and best in Africa at that time. They built NNDC, the largest black owned conglomerate in black Africa; they built many textile factories, good roads, marketing boards, efficient water supply where it was available and good sanitation, well planned urban areas with trees and good hospitals with ambulances; good primary and secondary schools; Kaduna Polytechnic that is the largest in black Africa .
“Northern Nigeria which Sir Ahmadu Bello led at independence is now 19 states, the federal capital territory Abuja and 414 local government areas. These 19 states and over four hundred local government areas got a total of N8.3 trillion from the federation account between 1999 and 2010.
“ We know quite well that every one of these local government areas has budgets per annum that is more than the budget of the entire northern region of old. Can we please emulate the glowing examples of Sardauna?
“My take is that they were not corrupt and that was the reason they achieved so much with so little. What is really happening now with all these huge sums have?
“These local government areas do not even repair township drainages. They do not maintain existing markets and motor parks amongst many other things that would take a while to mention.
“Nobody knows what they generate as revenue internally because all the sums quoted in the reports and newspapers are just what they get from the federation account monthly. They hardly meet in council except when there are subventions to be shared.
“The state governments are mostly not fairing any better. Some of the states have governors that are doing some commendable developmental initiatives but many of them just need our prayers. Governance has been reduced to periodic elections. Once a governor gets elected, he or she will start planning for a second term; and as soon he or she gets a second term, the scheme to be president or vice president will start being initiated.
“For those who are not going to be either president or vice president, the retirement house for many governors is now the Senate on top of installing his preferred successor.
“Today, if the legislators are doing their work effectively, many who are appointed ministers or commissioners wouldn’t have been there.
“Their oversight functions are now reduced to visit to ministries and agencies to get packages. Even monies that are appropriated as budgets, the committees of the legislature are part of those being awarded contracts by these departments in addition to their very generous constituency allowance that is not subject to any check and balances.
“To make matters worse, many legislators, especially from the northern states, hardly attend sittings to defend the interests of their constituents. They are mostly busy traveling to various parts of the world with their new found wealth.
“There are a few of them who are very good but I do not know when most of these distinguished and honourables will sit down to really distinguish themselves in their primary duties of making laws for the good governance of the society.
“The judiciary is supposed to be the last hope of the common man. Justice is an attribute of God and is the real foundation of any egalitarian society. It is sad to say that the judiciary in Nigeria has of recent times become the main legitimizing institution for any corrupt practice.
“When you rig an election it is the judiciary that gives validity to that election, when the politicians are not in agreement, a judge will give a helping hand to the one with more power and money. When you steal public money and the anti-corruption agencies charge you to court it is the judiciary that cleanse that illegally acquired wealth and makes what is unlawful (Haram) to be lawful (Halal) it may be made Halal by the judges but the society knows it is not and God knows one day we will account for all these deeds, if not now then certainly later; and if not here then definitely in the hereafter