Incoming governors in 2023 will have a lot of hurdles to cross as their predecessors have increased the cost of governance with permanent and non-permanent appointments as well as awarded contracts for projects with serious financial implications.
In some states, the governors have appointed between 200 and over 200,000 political aides whose remuneration runs into billions of naira.
In this category, three governors from the South-South geo-political zone top with special assistants and liaison officers, whose tasks are not clearly defined.
Although their sympathisers describe the measure as spreading prosperity among the people of the states, their critics have condemned the approach, saying it is wasteful and the height of political rascality.
On their part, the governors have stoutly defended the appointments, arguing that government is a continuum and that they are, therefore, constitutionally empowered to make such appointments even till their last day in office.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike recently appointed a total of 200,359 political aides less than seven months to the end of his second and last tenure as governor of the state.
While a total of 200,000 were appointed as special assistants on polling units, 359 others were appointed as constituency and local government liaison officers.
The appointment letters presented to some of the appointees indicated that while each of the special assistants will receive N30,000 as monthly stipends, each of the liaison officers will receive N50,000 every month.
This means that between November 2022 when they will start receiving their allowances and May 29, 2023 when Wike’s tenure will end, the state government will pay the appointees N42.127 billion.
Justifying the appointments, Wike said the special assistants on polling units were being engaged to help his administration finish well.
The governor said: “It is me who is appointing. It is me who wears the shoe that knows where it pinches. It is not you outside because you are not part of the government. I know what it takes and I know these people will help me. Now that I am finishing, I want to finish very well.”
But the opposition political parties in the state and civil society organisations seem not to be comfortable with the appointments which they see as a means of wasting the scarce resources of the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt, publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Darlington Nwauju, described the appointments as a ‘vote-buying technique’ ahead of the general elections.
Nwauju said: “On the appointment of 200,000 SAs by the state governor and his PDP administration, let me say that it is purely a vote-buying technique ahead of the elections, three months to the 2023 general elections and seven months to the expiration of Governor Wike’s tenure.
“Are you aware that appointments to the office of a special assistant requires that such a fellow should have to make public their assets through the Code of Conduct Bureau. Have you heard of any of these persons approaching the CCB office in Port Harcourt?
“Then again, this appointment is reserved just for members of the PDP as, like I have said before, it is purely targeted at vote buying, ballot snatching and intimidation of political opponents at the polling units. The list of SAs is populated by known roughnecks and certified cultists.
“Where in the state’s budget is the appropriation for this outlandish appointment? Factually and legally, is it right for the governor of a state who has powers under Section 206 to make appointments of his personal staff to overstretch the obligations of the state just to massage his political ego?
“If the state were so rich as to cater conveniently to this latest obligation, how come the state still owes teachers of the state-owned Demonstration Secondary School? How come the state still owes for close to five years the salaries of RSSDA staff?”
Noting that no new government will contemplate retaining the appointees, he said, “These are bogus appointments that shall expire at the expiration of the tenure of the appointing authority.”
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port, publicity secretary of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the state, Chief Luckyman Egila, said the governor’s appointment of more than 200,000 special assistants would not make any difference for the PDP in the 2023 elections.
Egila said: “The appointment of 100,000 special assistants on polling units is actually the height of political rascality, abuse of power, governance and public trust.
“Governor Nyesom Wike has less than 240 days in office and he is making these frivolous appointments which, of course, is a product of fear and a waste of Rivers’ resources meant for the development of other parts of Rivers State since a majority of his projects are centred in just two local government areas in a state that has 23 LGAs.
“As we all know, these are appointments that were made for the purpose of the forthcoming 2023 Elections, and I don’t think it will make any difference. If he likes he can appoint 500,000 special assistants, it won’t make any difference because Rivers’ people are wiser now and are prepared to come out and vote right, and because for the very first time in the history of our democracy, there is a glimpse of hope that the votes of Nigerians, especially Rivers’ people will count.”
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP, chairman of the Rivers State Civil Society Organisation (RIVCSO), a coalition of civil society groups in the state, Enefaa Georgewill, described the appointments as “the governor’s ploy to buy votes for his party using the back door.”
Georgewill said: “RIVCSO views the appointment of 200,000 special assistants by the Rivers State governor as a ploy to buy votes for his party using the back door. For a government that has refused to build industries or invest in agriculture for over seven years to employ our army of unemployed youths, to appoint 200,000 aides without known portfolios just less than three months to election can’t convince reasonable people otherwise.
“The governor’s action is equally insensitive to calls of Nigerians and civic groups across the country for the government to reduce the cost of governance. Over-bloated government workforce has been identified as one of the reasons why the government has failed to fund critical infrastructure in the state and country.”
In Cross River State, Governor Ben Ayade has made over 1,000 fresh appointments which, he said, was for the good of the state given the fact that there is general economic hardship,
Apart from numerous appointments of special assistants to put food on the table of young men and women, who hitherto had nothing to eat, the critics of Ayade’s style of governance are of the opinion that such appointments were done at the expense of the state, because money that would have been used to fix the economy of the state is thrown into the garbage as beneficiaries of such appointments are not making contributions of any type to the economy of the state; instead they are a big burden and short-changing the state.
However, in his remarks, a PDP stalwart and one of the youth leaders in Cross River Central Senatorial district of Cross River State, Mr. Martins Egbe, said although he is not contesting election to occupy any of the elective offices in the state, as one who is so concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of the state, he is sure that once the likes of Prof. Sandy Onor wins election to assume the seat of governor, most appointments, especially the ones that are not even necessary, would be reversed.
“Too many people cannot begin to lean on the state doing nothing. They should really work rather than earn money that they don’t work for.”
Another PDP stakeholder to comment on the issue is former Governor Donald Duke, chairman of the newly Inaugurated 1,080 members of the PDP Campaign Council and staunch supporter of the PDP governorship candidate, Senator Sandy Onor. Duke said the appointments were unnecessary.
But in reaction to allegations in some quarters that Governor Ben Ayade is among the state governors wasting the state’s lean resources with mass appointments less than seven months to exit from the seat of government and unnecessarily dabbling into construction of industries that hardly works, Ayade’s special adviser on media and publicity and chief press secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, stated he would not join issues with anyone, adding that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own fact”, as per Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“To start with, the party’s claim that projects undertaken by the governor are bogus is laughable. It is mere political talk that reeks of infantile theatrics.
“If PDP has any modicum of integrity, it would have saved itself the embarrassment of eating its own words by not spewing inanities about the projects.
“Like a drowning man trying desperately to catch at a straw, it is quite convenient for the embattled faction of the PDP in Cross River to forget so soon that just a few months ago when the governor was still in the PDP, its leading lights were all over the place waxing effusively lyrical and heaping platitudes on the same projects they are now describing as bogus.”
Our correspondent was told that Cross River State monthly allocation from the federation account is comparable to states like Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa Lagos and Kano, yet appointments are made almost on a daily basis, with the administration of Prof Ayade a few months to end.