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The looting of offices by outgoing public officers is repugnant and must be checked

As in previous transition years, there are reports of outgoing governors who have started to ‘appropriate’ the resources of their states. Vehicles are being relocated from government pool, furniture and household items in official residences are being carted away just as offices are being stripped. Besides, new commitments running into billions of Naira are being made as some of the outgoing incumbents raid public treasuries before the onset of the successor administrations. The situation is not different in Abuja where ministers and heads of agencies in the outgoing Muhammadu Buhari administration have embarked on a bazaar of huge contract awards.

 We are aware that the president and about a dozen governors whose tenures will lapse on 29 May have the right to perform the function of their various offices till that date. We also concede that the executive powers of a president or governor cannot be suspended simply because their tenures are coming to an end. The responsibility of the newly elected public officials is to govern whenever they are inaugurated, and that might include the review of whatever had been done by predecessors. But no section of the constitution states that the duties of the president or governors include manipulating the machinery of government to impoverish the country or state, especially at the twilight of their term in office.

It has not escaped the attention of Nigerians that most of the decisions being taken in Abuja and the states are on transactional matters. Yesterday, the federal government announced the postponement of the 2023 population and housing census earlier scheduled for 3rd – 7th May, pushing the decision to the “incoming administration”. Yet, the same federal government is planning to float a new national carrier before 29th May which is less than a month away. At every Federal Executive Council (FEC) session in recent weeks, what follows is usually announcements of some jumbo contracts. Meanwhile, these are the sorts of deals that have left the country with judgement debts running into billions of dollars, especially when jettisoned by succeeding administrations.

 The matter is of course more serious in many of the states. A great number of governors and their appointees come into office with a culture of poverty. So, when they are about to leave, both movable and unmovable government assets become unsafe in their custody. As a result, each new government must start by borrowing from banks, sometimes to refurbish residences, replace vehicles, etc. Worse still, many of the governors are busy right now making appointments into the civil service even where their states are already bankrupt. 

We need to enter a caution on behalf of the public against these deliberate acts of pillage, especially by people who have already built retirement houses and allocated life pensions and multiple perks to themselves at public expense. Beginning from 2007, many states have passed scandalous pension laws aimed at giving former governors and their deputies a life of opulence outside office. Although this law differs from one state to another, the essentials are the same: They provide for a former governor a befitting palace in both the state and nation’s capital, Abuja while they are also entitled to furniture allowances and brand-new cars every four years at the taxpayers’ expense.  They are also entitled to medicals abroad.

 It is unconscionable that a nation with so many challenges – from getting enough to eat to providing shelter and jobs for many of its citizens and to stalling in payment of the meagre salaries of workers–can sanction the indiscriminate awards of its resources to already well-heeled and comfortable citizens. But the immediate challenge is in the lack of transparency and accountability that defines the last days in office by many outgoing elected public officials at all levels.

We hope the relevant agencies are taking note.

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