By NICK DUGBA, Jalingo
With the government having to grapple with the burden of 25 moribund companies and a liability of hundreds of redundant and unpaid workers, the Authority’s Nick Yashi, looks into the situation and its impact on the fragile economy of Taraba state.
The present administration in Taraba state is in for a raw deal with a myriad of liabilities steering it in the face. Like the federal government and its counterparts in other states, Taraba has had to grapple with the short fall in federal allocation as a result of the fall in price of crude oil in the international market. The state, mainly an agricultural and rural state has the civil service as its biggest source of employment. Despite the huge agricultural potentials, farming plays a peripheral role in the scheme of things as civil servants and politicians merely use it to augment their income.
The current administration of Darius Ishaku, happen to meet the state at the most challenging period of its existence. The boom of the 90’s when the state was created, the extravagance of governments in the new millennium when democracy was restored and the recklessness of the immediate past governments, plunged the state into debts, a marked infrastructural deficit and projects that have either been abandoned or completed but not utilized.
Besides that, the state has a low revenue profile and is among those states that is unsustainable outside the federal allocation. According to a National Bureau of Statistics estimate, Taraba is among the states that generates less than 10 per cent of all that it gets from the federation in a year. This implies that, should the flow of allocation from Abuja stops, the state would be unable to meet salary obligations and running of government. The only leeway could be corporate borrowing from banks which it often does to pay workers. It also has a debt burden of $23.01m, according to latest figures of the Debt Management Office, (DMO).
The current situation has indeed posed as the biggest challenge of the Darius Ishaku administration whose slogan is ‘the Rescue Mission’. The governor often laments the financial position of his government and likens previous administrations as ‘horse riders’ while his is just a ‘donkey rider’, alluding to the difficulties he is facing due to lack of resources. It seems like the burden of moribund state owned companies is what is causing the government sleepless nights the most and the governor is not pretending over the challenge.
When the opportunity arose, Gov. Ishaku never relent in lamenting the fact that his government had inherited up to 25 moribund companies of which the government has tried its best in reviving some of them that are economically viable. However, some of those that were revived include: Mambilla Beverages Production Company (producers of Highland tea) and Viva Feed Mills. Taraba Gas Ltd, was established in 2001 and supplies domestic gas to residents of Jalingo and beyond. Investigations show that it is rendering skeletal service and in no wise operating at full capacity.
Gov. Ishaku, an architect, a former minister of State for Power and also Niger Delta, coupled with his experience in the organized private sector should be in a vantage position to handle this liability and exit the state from this conundrum. But it looks like the administration is lacking the political will and could not muster the courage and confidence to face the unfortunate situation as it looks forward to completing its tenure. Granted that the administration has mustered more political will compared to previous administrations as far as reviving moribund companies is concerned, some cases in the state are so pathetic and might be a source of serious embarrassment to government. Some of these companies in question include Taraba Motels, Taraba Produce Marketing Agency (TAPMA), Taraba Asphalt and Stone Crushing Company, Taraba Road Construction and Maintenance Agency (TARCMA), Taraba Printing Press and Taraba Publishing Company Ltd. The state-run football club, Taraba FC and Taraba Queens, although not organisations in their own rights, are also part of the liabilities that are causing ripples in the state.
Investigations by The Authority show that these companies do not have Boards to run them and are run badly by those employed to manage them. Also, there is little supervision and control by ministries and the state legislature hardly does any oversight save during the customary yearly budget defence.
For instance, the Taraba Asphalt and Stone Crushing Company, located along the Jalingo-Wukari road, was established to serve the state construction firm with raw materials for road construction. Even though it is located close to a large deposit of granite rock, it has since ceased to render services. All that can be seen within the vicinity are abandoned worn out heavy duty machines and gravels ready for supplies. The State Road Construction Agency (TARCMA), which is supposed to play complimentary role with the Asphalt Plant, is at best at the mercies of management staff who hire some of the serviceable machines to private individuals and small businesses. Services like grading of access roads to private homes, clearing of private sites and so on are being carried out in transactions that are non-official but based on understanding between the parties. Monies realized from such activities hardly even get to government coffers. Amazingly, such companies usually go to the House of Assembly with demand for running cost during budget defence. When they are probed on what they used the monies they get during the year, they are simply short of cogent explanations.
Meanwhile, those worst hit are the Taraba Motels and the Taraba Publishing Company Ltd. The Taraba Motels Ltd., is a 94-room three star hotel, established in May 1999. It has been a subject of industrial actions by staff and presently remains the shadow of itself. It has a conference hall, two huge dome tents, and standard indoor and outdoor bars among other facilities.
Our reporter was at the motel to see things for himself and the encounter was really worrying and calls for concern considering the huge investment that went into it. It was discovered that due to the non-payment of staff in 2013 which resulted in several strikes, the private firm running it had to hand over the place to its original owner in 2014. It is now run by the State Tourism Corporation. A visit to the motel on a Monday morning revealed the absence of customers at the reception and rooms except just the receptionist, the manager and one other individual. The manager complained of lack of customers and that those who patronized the motel were persons who exploited their positions as state officials to use the rooms with their guests free of charge. In fact, the ugly situation prompted a state lawmaker and majority leader of the state legislature, Joseph Albasu Kunini, to raise a motion on the floor of the House recently, asking it to act on the poor state of the motel. The House considered it and has set-up a committee to look into the matter.
The same thing goes for the Jolly Nyame Sports Complex, unarguably the best of its kind in the entire north-east region. The complex has a 15,000 football main bowl, basketball, volleyball, handball, lawn tennis and badminton courts, all with stands for spectators, mini pitches, indoor sports hall, a gymnasium, a swimming pool and standard lodges. The unfortunate thing is that apart from the gym hall which is used occasionally for social events, none of these facilities is put to good use. The sports council which oversees the sports stadium has not been able to plough back what it generates from those social events into stadium maintenance.
The government is also faced with liability of unpaid salaries and sign on fees of both Taraba FC, (which was relegated from the elite league to the lower division) and Taraba Queens, the female football club. At a point, a hotel where the team lodged in Abuja during one of their away games recently, had to seize the club bus for the club’s inability to pay for services enjoyed. That embarrassment resulted to the firing of the club chairman, Hon. Ishaya Gani. The whole drama climaxed with protests by the players in Jalingo recently, where the state secretariat was locked and the greater of the state’s civil servants held to ransom for a whole week.
In essence, another case that remains most disturbing and which has attracted the sympathy of most Tarabans is the issue of the Taraba Publishing Company Ltd. Established in 2010 by Late Danbaba Suntai, TPCL is the publisher of the once vibrant Nigeria Sunrise newspaper- a grassroots based and regional newspaper which has helped in closing the information gap in the state. The company has ceased publication since 2013 and the staff are being owed about 40 months’ salary arrears. Most unfortunately, some of the staff, 46 indigenes only were dubiously sneaked into the civil service to work in the state information ministry, TV and radio, while the non-indigenes and a few indigenes who were not ‘connected’, were left in the cold with nothing said about their status. The Managing Consultant, who helped in establishing the company on behalf of the Suntai administration is being owed over N40million contract fees. The company now only has less than 10 staff who only spend time in the premises doing nothing. Lying waste is about four Toyota Camry 2000 model, two Toyota Hilux vans and official cars of the editor, company secretary and the Managing Consultant who do not know their fate as it were.
Recently, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Anthony Jellason, paid a visit to the company to see things for himself and he was visibly shocked to learn of the company’s situation. He only left with the promise to brief the governor on the issue.
Meanwhile, these instances are but a true reflection of the rot in the public service, lack of continuity in our political system and bad governance that serve the interests of incumbent governments. This is so because some of these liabilities date back to the Jolly Nyame administration, through to the Suntai administration, then to the Danladi and Umar UTC’s administrations and down to the present administration. The unfortunate thing is that none of these governments was ready to solve a problem that it was not a party to, forgetting that government is a continuum. This then raises the question, in whose interest is these companies?
The Authority made effort to contact the Secretary to the State Government (SSG,) Anthony Jellason, but to no avail. What the present government is doing to offset the liabilities of moribund companies in the state, was among a set of questions that were before his office for response. But a week after, no response came from his office.
Quite interestingly and ironical too is that, with this situation plaguing the state, so many Bills establishing agencies and parastatals were being sponsored by the executive and legislature arms. The fear therefore is that, should those agencies come to being, they could eventually become like the moribund companies that remain a liability to the state.
PERSPECTIVE: How Senator Bwacha Distinguished Himself At The Eight Senate-Emmanuel Bello
He is the Deputy Minority Leader of the eight Senate, but Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, representing Taraba South, is one of the most respected figures in the Nigerian National Assembly. And this appeal is bipartisan as both members of the green Chambers and the red of various political leanings are in unanimity when it comes to assessing the University of Jos trained lawyer.
Bwacha is the quintessential law maker who started from the very lower rungs as member Taraba state House of Assembly years ago. At the state’s level, he’s seen it all: Commissionership, member and insider back home before ascending the ladder in Abuja. It was indeed a powerful preparatory ground. So when, in Abuja, he started from the House of Representatives, he was, in the words of a popular hip hop song, “all way up”!
Bwacha’s colleagues attest to his unique style in the chambers: respect and friendship. His warmth and friendly disposition anchored on a deep sense of the value of humanity is one of his talisman confessed a colleague. Although, Sen. Phillip Aduda, for instance, is clearly a close compatriot of Senator Bwacha, the Donga born politician, is perhaps closer to many of his colleagues than is readily known. And this cuts across the age and status divide. There is practically no senator involved with Bwacha that does not feel he is with a special friend. And Bwacha knows how to be jocular with all of them, understanding their individual quality, even playful nicknames. So while he could laughingly tap the back of a Dino Melaye as a younger brother, Sen. Gemade, for instance, could easily relate to the courageous “Jukun boy” from Taraba state. The elderly Senators often pull the younger Senator Bwacha aside for commendations and for boldly speaking their mind.
Courage! This is one of the reasons Bwacha’s views are highly regarded in the Senate. Never scared of baring his mind on even controversial issues, Senator Bwacha would even tread on grounds seen as politically slippery. He once boldly made a case for decent dressing- an area many may want to avoid as not to offend the ever fiesty modern fashion scene. But once Sen. Bwacha is convinced about a matter, he chases it with unbridled zeal.
On security matters, Sen. Bwacha was very vocal when he condemned the weakness of the security agencies in tackling the herdsmen menace. He dropped the bombshell when he suggested the Federal Government admits its failure and seek for external help if it thinks the battle was too hot.
When Bwacha is on his feet, it is always pin drop silence on the floor as he brings deep perspective on issues. A delight of the Senate Presidents, Bwacha’s views always come in handy in unravelling knotty issues.
But it is behind closed doors that Senator Bwacha’s measure and stature is more pronounced when it comes to legislative business. That’s where he brings in his wealth of experience, his years in the minefield and his familiarity with power to weigh on matters of national development.
Decency also stands him out. A respected Christian leader, often leading the devotional sessions in the senate, Bwacha does not suffer fools gladly. Firm and principled, not for him the Epicurean preoccupation of powerful men in Abuja. Spare time goes to family and his constituents. Work and worship takes up the rest. A devote Christian of the CRCN hue, his convictions are deep and engaging. He believes in shunning materialism, while rejecting primitive accumulation. He says pride is the cardinal sin of man and so Sen. Bwacha strives to be humble at all times. Not flamboyant or extravagant, he cuts the image of a genial next door neighbor.
This has helped in shaping up his leadership qualities: honesty, plain talk, ability to easily forgive, compassion, kindness, meekness among others.
His understanding of how the Executive works is also an arsenal in his kitty. Being a former Commissioner and someone very close to several governors and ministers has helped. A receipt of the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Senator Bwacha is atop his game in this city of power, even as he retains his principles and sterling character.
Let Anybody Lead This Country, Not PDP – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has again faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly mismanaging the nation’s resources.
He stated this at a meeting with a select group of South East leaders on Friday at the State House in Abuja.
The President believes that although the forthcoming elections should not be a do or die affair, he will never support the opposition party to rule the country.
“Let anybody lead this country but not the PDP,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.
President Buhari added, “They (PDP) were so reckless with the resources of the country. The state of infrastructure we inherited was terrible – no roads, the railway was killed and power.
“They lacked conscience because anybody with a conscience will not do what they did. We will report them to Nigerians.”
The President noted that the reported split within the Ohanaeze Igbo socio-cultural group over the purported endorsement of the PDP candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, did not come to him as a surprise.
He said the moment the said resolution was announced, he got calls from some leaders from the region asking him to disregard it as it was without any substance.
“From that moment, I knew that the resolution would not stand, and alas, there it was,” said President Buhari who added, “We have done so much. Given the chance, we will do more. Given every chance, we will tell Nigerians where we were in 2015 and what we have achieved up to now.”
He stressed further, “We will not get tired of speaking about the golden opportunity Nigeria lost during 16 years of the PDP. We earned money, which we didn’t use.
“If you ruin the economy, send your children abroad to get an education; won’t they come back? I said it 30 years ago that this is the only country we have. We must stay here and salvage it together.”
The leaders of the delegation, Mr Emeka Ekwuosa and the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr Chekwas Okorie, promised to mobilise support for the President in the South East.
They informed him that his re-election would be a national consensus, adding the people of the South East understood the good things he was doing for the country.
Saraki, Lai Mohammed in Battle for Supremacy as Kwara Holds By-election
It will be a test of popularity and acceptance today for President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki as they battle for control of Kwara politics in the by-election for Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero federal constituency.
The seat became vacant following the demise of Princess Funke Adedoyin.
President Buhari had charged the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the state headed by Lai Mohammed to take back the state from Saraki who defected from the ruling APC to the main opposition party- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although, Lai Mohammed, being the highest office holder in APC from Kwara comes from Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area, which is within the federal constituency in contest, Saraki, who is highly influential in the state, would prove that he remains in control and could command followership even after dumping his former party.
Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has distributed sensitive electoral materials to all the four local government councils where the exercise will take place.
Thisday reports that tension has gripped residents of the state, following alleged arrest of some PDP officials and members in the constituency by men allegedly in police uniform. .
Besides, scores of the PDP members in Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state had been declared missing in the wee hours of yesterday’s night ahead of today’s by-election.
However, the state police command has deployed 1,500 policemen to maintain law and order during the by-election, which will be a straight fight between Saraki’s PDP candidate Mr. Saheed Alatise and Lai Mohammed party’s candidate, Mr. Raheem Olatunji.
Both parties have been throwing barbs at each other resulting in the palpable tension in the state. Besides, there have been accusations and counter-accusations on plots to rig the election.
The PDP camp had accused the APC leader in the state of planning to “import” political thugs from Lagos and Osun states to manipulate the exercise with the state chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu also alleging plots by the federal government to arrest their party leaders so as to make way for the ruling party to muscle through and rob them of victory.
The APC leadership, on the other hand had accused the PDP of planning to use uncollected permanent voters cards to rig the election.
The state chairman of APC, Hon. Bashr Bolarinwa told journalists that the party advised the INEC in the state to check such illegal plot so as to have a free and fair bye-election.
Tension heightened Thursday over a reported attack on the campaign train of APC’s candidate, Mr. Olatunji by unknown gunmen though no casualty was recorded.
However, the state police command said that it was still “investigating the veracity of the claim raised by the APC candidate for the bye-election.”
The state police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi told journalists in Ilorin yesterday that “the report on the attack was being awaited from the reported area where the incident purportedly happened.” He however assured the people of safety within the area of the by-election and the state generally.
Despite the tension, the two leading political parties campaigned across the federal constituency soliciting the support of the electorates.
Speaking at the campaign rally of the PDP at Omuaran, the headquarters of Irepodun Local Government, the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed urged the residents of the four local government councils that make up the federal constituency to come out en masse to vote for the PDP and its candidate, Alhaji Alatise.
He said that the people of the area should allow the good work of the later holder of the seat, Princess Adedoyin to continue.
The governor also urged the people not to be intimidated by the heavy presence of security men in their communities, but should feel free to go out and cast their votes for the PDP.
Ahmed said that the PDP would continue to win election in the state because of the transformation that every section of the state had witnessed between 2003 and now under the administration of Saraki and his own government.
The government in a statement condemned the alleged crackdown on members of the PDP and charged the people to fearlessly guard their votes.
Also at a mega rally of the APC at Omuaran, Alhaji Mohammed urged the people of the area to come out and cast their vote for APC candidate, Mr. Olagunju.
The minister, who condemned the alleged attack on Olatunji by unknown gunmen during his campaign tour of the area, said that the party would work with relevant agencies to ensure free, fair and credible election today, with adequate security before, during and after the election.
He said the election would begin a new chapter for the party and would be used to show the world that the APC was intact and the preferred party.
Meanwhile, INEC said that a total of 170, 918 ballot papers and other electoral materials were distributed to all the four local government councils where the by-election will take place.
Madami also said that “1,855 electoral officers would be involved in the election. A total of 125, 865 PVCs were collected from the four local governments where the election will take place.”
He however restated that the commission would conduct free, fair and credible by-election.
Ahead of today’s election, the police had banned the activities of vigilante groups in the affected areas.
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