EDITORIAL: Governor Lalong’s outrageous expenditures

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Uba Group

Uba Group

An uncontroverted memo from the Plateau State government inadvertently surfaced in the public place last week showing that Governor Simon Lalong had approved a whopping sum of seventy-three million, six hundred and eighty-six thousand, three hundred and forty naira (N73, 686,340) for a trip to the United Arab Emirates.

In the memo obtained by The Point, the governor, his wife, some government officials and some of their aides are to be in Dubai for the UAE Missions/NGF Investment Meeting and the 11th Global Annual Meeting slated from March 27 to 31.

The governor, according to the memo, will remain in the UAE for a medical checkup for another three days after which he will proceed to Atlanta, Georgia for a visit to last from April 4 to 10.

The budgeted amount included fees for flight tickets for the governor, his wife and eight officials.

According to the memo signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Danladi Abok Atu, the sum of N19, 658, 158 will cover the return flight ticket booked for the governor and his wife.

Another N2.3 million was budgeted for the return flight ticket for two personal assistants while another N7.4 million was included to cover the flight tickets for about eight officials.

A whopping sum of N13 million was budgeted as estacode allowance for three commissioners and the Chairman of the Economic Council amid other expenses included in the budget breakdown.

The memo signed on March 11 reads, “With reference to the letter received from the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on the proposed trip to Dubai (UAE) for the above-mentioned investment Summit Meeting (Copy attached) and subsequent visit to the United States of America, I wish to submit logistics requirements for His Excellency’s consideration.

“As proposed, the Governor and entourage will depart Nigeria for Dubai from 27-31 March 2022 for the Summit, then spend additional three (3) days (1st-3rd April, 2022) for medical check-up thereafter proceed to Atlanta, Georgia, for a visit between 4 and 10 April 2022.

“One would have expected the governor to seriously examine the economic situation in his state and work in unison to address the high cost of governance and other obstacles to development”

“In light of the foregoing, the Governor is invited to consider and approve the release of the sum of Seventy-Three Million Six Hundred and Eighty-Six Thousand, Three Hundred and Forty Naira (73,686,340.00) only as logistics for the trip.

“The amount is to be charged from Head 022000700100, Sub-thread 2202105 (Leave & Passages) of the approved budget, please.”

We recall that while delivering the 11th annual memorial lecture in honour of Sir Ahmadu Bello in Kaduna in March last year, Lalong, who is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, lamented that high cost of governance was responsible for the poor standard of living among Nigerians and particularly, Northerners.

He observed that the high cost of governance has increased the inability of governments at all levels to meet the basic needs of the people.

Lalong had noted that all tiers of government in Nigeria must as a matter of urgency cut down on the high cost of governance and redirect their funds to critical areas of development that will address the challenges of Nigerians.

He observed that factors such as corruption, insecurity, large number of government appointees, high salaries, corruption, among others were among some of the factors that drive the high cost of governance in the country.

He said that this must be addressed immediately to change the trajectory of growth in Nigeria and the North in particular.

It is unfortunate that less than a year after Lalong made these valid observations, he is practicing the complete opposite of his preaching.

“CBN"

It is sad that the high cost of governance has worsened the standard of living in the Northern part of the country which continues to battle with infrastructural deficit, poverty, illiteracy, diseases and insecurity.

One would have expected the governor to seriously examine the economic situation in his state and work in unison to address the high cost of governance and other obstacles to development.

For the governor to have approved N73, 686,340 for a trip to the United Arab Emirates for a mere seminar and medical tourism is not only outrageous, but extravagant.

Governor Lalong is expected to adopt measures that will reduce huge spending and wastages so that funds will be available for development.

Plateau is one of the states with the lowest internally generated revenue in Nigeria.

It generated internal revenue of N17 billion from January to September 2021, while it has N106.8bn as its 2022 budget appropriation.

Despite revenue targets being at least N2 billion monthly, the state is only able to generate over a billion naira per month.

The current economic hardship in Nigeria should be a wake-up call for state governors to rise to the realities of looking inwards to survive through the difficult times.

Most states of the federation apparently live from hand to mouth, severely feeling the impact of unstable oil prices.

Every month, their representatives go to Abuja for the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meeting, where oil revenues are shared among the three tiers of government and the FCT.

In days when crude oil sold for an average of $100 per barrel, money was not the problem for some of the states. Allocations were often above budgeted benchmark price, and, besides statutory allocations, the government had excess crude oil money to share.

With revenues from oil exports shrinking every passing day and the excess crude revenue account almost depleted, states are expected to explore alternative ways to survive.

Despite the poor revenue situation of the states, the flamboyant lifestyles of their governors remain untouched. The trademark of most state governments is long convoys of latest models of exotic cars for governors, members of the executive councils and their wives.

The costs of maintenance, fuelling and repairs of these vehicles are always major drain pipes on the resources of the states. If the states could cut down their appetite for exotic cars in long official convoys, they will save significant resources for other development priorities.

Apart from long official convoys, state functionaries spend huge portions of their resources on travelling within and outside the country.

Most state government officials travel with first class air tickets, as in this case with governor Lalong, while others have private executive jets permanently on standby to fly them across the country and abroad, many, on private trips.

If the states cut down the use of First Class air tickets and use of private jets, huge revenues can be saved from the excess expenditures associated with these lifestyles.

The ultimate goals of our governors should be value for money, the enhancement of the quality and the timeliness of service delivery.