It is less than two weeks before winners of the just concluded general elections assume office. As observed in the past, these final days of the outgoing administrations have great influence on the early life of their successors, especially in the states.
About two weeks ago, the governor-elect of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, issued a statement alerting civil servants and banks in the state to “attempts being made to siphon the wealth of the state by agents of the exiting government”.
In response, Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala’s spokesperson, Dotun Oyelade, said the claim that the “administration plans to loot the treasury before May 29 is so heartrendingly ridiculous that it beggars no comment”.
Mr. Oyelede further said “May be as many have suspected, we have a grandstanding, alarmist group on our hands”.
Observers may have been tempted to view Mr. Ajimobi’s allegation as the result of political rivalry but recent events make it difficult to ignore his claim. At the weekend, Babalola Owolabi, the commissioner of health in Mr. Alao-Akala’s cabinet accused some members of the cabinet of plotting to kill him because he refused to be used to siphon money from his ministry.
"I will not be a party to any last minute arrangement to deplete the resources of our commonwealth,” Mr. Owolabi said last Friday after he had been attacked twice in two days.
Whatever the veracity of Mr. Owolabi’s claim, it is important that the security agencies investigate the matter and take necessary action. The anti-graft agencies too should begin to sniff around more seriously in case Mr. Owolabi’s allegation of fraud being perpetrated by the government in which he serves is credible.
More than anything else, these claims of clandestine dealings in Oyo State should open our eyes to the likelihood that outgoing administrations will leave empty treasuries. This has been the case on many occasions in the past. When Kayode Fayemi took office as governor of Ekiti State, he was reported to have said his predecessor, Segun Oni, left debts of over N30 billion. In his defence, Mr. Oni said he left debts but not as much as was reported.
A repeat of the Ekiti debt crisis looms in Ogun State. Last year, the state’s finance ministry put its debt profile at N22 billion. The federal government’s Debt Management Office declared the debt profile healthy and said it would “still be within acceptable threshold” by 2011. But the state’s governor-elect, Ibikunle Amosun, claims that its debt has hit N100 billion. Having not entered office, Mr. Amosun may not know the true state of the state’s finances but if he is right that its debt now stands at N100 billion, there is little doubt his administration will face a tough task setting the state on the path of economic growth.
Across the country, states are struggling to meet their financial obligations. This is the reason many governors gave for issuing bonds last year. It is, therefore, necessary that our anti-graft agencies beam their searchlight on the activities of governors, especially those leaving office on May 29. If they choose to ignore these allegations of looting, it should be no surprise if a new governor enters office and finds he cannot pay the N18, 000 minimum wage approved by the federal government early this year. (James Sambo/Daily Times)