Graft is a feature of Nigerian governance. It corrupts every part of the governing process, from the local government chairman to the presidency. Just yesterday, governance non-profit BudgIT released statistics that showed that the country’s excess crude account, a joint account managed by the federal government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to divert excess revenue from the sale of crude oil had dwindled from 20 billion dollars in 2012 to 70 million dollars in 2020. None of the money taken out of this account is accounted for at any level, and there are no capital projects that the spending can be directly linked to. There are fewer governments in the country where graft has been as pervasive as the recently ousted government of Abubakar Yari of Zamfara state.
— BudgIT Nigeria (@BudgITng) February 20, 2020
Zamfara state has long been regarded as the poorest state in the country, with about 80% of its population living under the poverty line. Desertification caused by climate change is claiming its land and making refugee of its citizens while its former governor Yari stuffed himself with wealth by signing into law, provisions that would give him an exorbitant lifetime salary and pension. The new government in Zamfara state, led by Bello Muhammad Mattawale is determined to do something about it. First he reversed the laws that granted all former governors exorbitant lifetime salaries with the support of the Zamfara State House of Assembly and called governor Yari’s bluff when he threatened to sue the state government.
Now he is taking things one step further by probing the 2 billion Naira contract given out to build a new government house. Building government buildings is a common embezzlement ploy used by governors across the country. Governors in Akwa Ibom and Rivers have awarded contracts when the existing government buildings were perfectly fine or at the worst needed minimal renovation. It is especially concerning in a state that cannot pay salaries to prioritize a new government building over the lives of citizens. The probe has only begun, timely too because the construction on the project has not begun in earnest and if the deal is found to be fraudulent, Mattawale can salvage much needed funding.