One unhappy year of Gov Bello in Kogi needs revisit – Rights group

*Challenges House of Assembly to wake up to their Constitutional roles

Old politics are doomed, as the accelerating internationalisation of the market economy is met by the continuous decline of representative democracy. The impotency of the present administration in Kogi state to control effectively the market forces, in order to tackle  the fundamental problems of massive unemployment, poverty, insecurity, non completion of workers’ salaries, and the prolong verification of screening exercise is worrisome development.
While we congratulate the governor on his one year in office, it is pertinent to look at some of the decisions of this government in the last year.

It would be recalled that this current government was inaugurated on the 27th of January 2016, and since then several decisions has been taken that has affected the lives of the citizens one way or the other, which range from staff verification, to demolition of roundabouts in Lokoja, the state capital, the illegal composition of Sole Administrators in the 21 LGAs of the state, to suspensions without justifications of all Permanent Secretaries, to the crisis in the state Assembly, to collection of Bailout and Paris club refund funds, to the security crisis and subsequent purchases of vehicles, to the arrest of journalist, and lack of tour to the LGAs.

Despite the fact that it is the prerogative power of any administration or employer to verify the strength and capacity of its workforce, it was disturbing that the staff verification of Kogi State Civil service took as much as 10 months and the outcome of those disturbing activities led to non payment of several workers and pensioners. As at today, the report of that verification exercise is yet to be gazetted as required by law, and posted on the state website, in the interest of transparency. We demand that such should be posted for the world to see and those found guilty should be prosecuted without further delay.

In the 21st century, we have a government that decided to demolish existing monument such as roundabout in the state headquarters, built by previous administration. This was done without any explanations to the citizens of the state, despite that these monuments were built with tax payers’ money and should have been preserved. It is condemnable that one year after such unwise decision, nothing substantial has been done to rebuild these roundabouts that were demolished.

Despite the provisions of the law and the Constitution that state clearly that local government administration shall be administered through democratic council, the current administration in Kogi state has illegally constituted Sole administrators to administer these councils since May 6th 2016. And no genuine efforts have been made to conduct elections to these councils as provided for by the law.

More worrisome and disturbing is the fact that these illegal administrators were constituted without pronouncement or resolutions by the Kogi State House of Assembly, as the local government administration is under the power and purview of the Kogi State house of Assembly that makes laws and performs oversight functions for them. More so, the statutory allocations from the federal government for these local councils, has been squandered by this administration without recourse to the state House of Assembly. We wonder who approved the expenditure and the so called “loans” that were used to purchase vehicles for the Sole Administrators, when many of the staffs of the councils have not been paid.

It is on record that the most senior civil servants that are the engine room of the state civil service (Permanent Secretaries) were suspended for several months without justification or indictment. This created a serious vacuum and resulted in the impotency in running of the civil service in the state, and as we speak and celebrate the one year of this government, these permanent Secretaries have not been returned to their previous positions or reassigned as almost all the senior positions in the civil service are been run in acting capacity, including the Head of Service. It is also worrisome and disturbing and unacceptable that this government has not inaugurated the boards of parastatals and agencies since coming to power. We reject such a situation and call for immediate reversal as it is these boards that award contracts, make recommendations to State Executive Council and grant approvals for these boards.

It is noted that the State Assembly was engulfed in monumental crisis as never witnessed in the state, where 5 members on the 16th of February 2016, invaded the Assembly and pronounced the impeachment of the then Speaker Hon. Jimoh Lawal, which led to avoidable crisis as several legal cases were instituted, under the watch of the Governor. This led to pronouncements by the National Assembly, which were ignored by the Governor, until the crisis were resolved through Alternative Dispute Mechanisms by the members of the State Assembly themselves with some citizens of the state. We are delighted that a substantive Speaker has since been elected by the House Members in person of Hon. Umar Ahmed Imam. We call on the Assembly to continue to believe in themselves and shun external manipulations and perform its constitutional duties without fear or favour.

The state has witnessed and continues to witness security challenges under the current administration. This ranges from kidnappings, armed robbery and other vices dangerous to human existence. We noted that at the 25th anniversary of the creation of Kogi state, more than 100 vehicles were distributed to security agencies in the state. This has had a significant improvement in the security situation of the state. We call for more pragmatic actions and inclusion of citizens in the security architecture as the nation is still witnessing security challenges and Kogi state is in a precarious situation sharing boundaries with the Federal Capital Territory  and 9 other states with makes it very vulnerable.

We also note that the current government in the state happens to be the luckiest since the creation of the state as not less than N70 billion has accrued to the coffers of the state. This ranged from the N20 billion bailout from the federal government, to the monthly statutory allocation which is not less than N2 billion, the internally generated revenue which is not less than N500 million monthly, more than N2 Billion inherited from the previous administration, to the N11.9 Billion Paris club refund from the federal government. However, there is nothing substantial to be shown for this huge resource inflow except the large numbers of vehicles has been purchased at random without due process and reference to the Appropriation Act. Since the Constitution bestowed the State Assembly the powers to appropriate and perform oversight functions on the revenue and expenditure of the state, we call on them to look seriously into the funds of the state as the government cannot be ran in secrecy and the state affairs is not the personal estate of anybody under any guise. Those who find themselves in position of power and authority do so through the provisions of the law and constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and must respect these laws.

We also note with utmost dismay and concern that freedom of opinion and expression as provided by international conventions and covenant and provided for by the Nigerian constitution, is been threatened in the state under this current administration with the arrest and detention of Prince Friday Ogungbemi, The Publisher of Policy and Lawmaker, a local magazine based in Lokoja. We condemn this in totality as every citizen has the right to participate in the governance of his or her state through any and every chosen means.

Finally, the states exist to attend to the need and rights of the people, from the basic necessities of life to more complex demands. We call on the citizens of Kogi State not to fold its arm and watch a government that was democratically put in place, which continue to violate the rights of her citizens through non payment of salaries and lack of meaningful infrastructural amenities despite the huge resource accrued to it.
Long live Kogi State
Long live Federal Republic of Nigeria

IDRIS MILIKI ABDUL
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
LOKOJA

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