A major indication that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the former Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, regards the state he was once saddled with leading was his audacity to create and proudly proclaim an unknown “ Office of the Former Governor “. He also had the effrontery to flaunt such an illegality before the current constituted authority.
After rushing through a law granting former governors, their deputies, speakers and deputy speakers through the House of Assembly two months before quitting office, Yari, last week, confronted the legislature, executive and general public with a bill of allegedly unpaid allowances of N10 million monthly over five months.
It did not matter to the former governor that the said allowance runs contrary to prescriptions of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the body constitutionally saddled with regulating such activities. Like a tax collector running after defaulters, the former governor was miffed that his successor did not accord the illegal payout priority over other items of governance.
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We condemn the ex-governor’s action. He created a contraption to permanently exploit the tax payers in the state. It is unfortunate that he sought to do that in one of Nigeria’s poorest states. He had flagrantly flouted the extant minimum wage law that prescribes no worker in Nigeria should be paid a monthly wage below N18,000. Yari told the labour union he was in no position to bear such a burden. He paid a miserly N7,500 till he left office. Pensioners suffered a worse fate under Yari who saw himself as an emperor for whose taste all state resources should be committed. They were not paid for about a year under the ex-governor’s watch, again with the lame excuse that the state was poor.
Zamfara is a state that has been so serially raped over the years by those mandated to serve the people but who turned themselves to overlords. The consequence is the violence bedeviling the state today. On many occasions, faced with starvation and squalor, the people were turned into slaves in gold mines where foreigners called the shots and scores died as a result of poor safety measures and pervasive insecurity.
Zamfara is not the only state where rapacious politicians have cornered resources for personal needs and greed. BudgeIT, a credible non-governmental organization, has listed 23 states where public funds have been similarly cornered by former governors. They are not only paid huge pensions, but have certain clauses that could only have stemmed from a mindset that the states had been converted into fiefdoms by the ruling class.
Only recently, an attempt by Bayelsa State to extend the largesse to all legislators was shot down following public outcry. In most states, including Zamfara, the law covers Speakers and Deputy Speakers in a desperate bid by the governors to enlist the support of the legislators. The public must become more vigilant in monitoring how public finance is administered. Good governance must be the major yardstick for deciding who to be returned at elections.
We commend the Zamfara State government, both executive and legislature, for acceding to public demand that the obnoxious legislation be repealed. The speed by which this was done is particularly laudable. The likes of the former Zamfara State governor should be shut out of the public space as the recycling of such characters is one reason the country is not making progress.