The legislature, executive and milking of Taraba
Speaker, Taraba State House of Assembly, Professor Joseph Albasu Kunini
The Taraba State House of Assembly has become a stooge of the Governor Darius Ishaku ‘forcing’ the legislature to approve loans for the supposed development of the state but lined into private pockets.
By Yusuf Salihu Sansani, Jalingo
Majority of people are looking at the Taraba State House of Assembly as a loan approving institution and appendage of the Executive Arm of Government as members have been dancing to the tune of Governor, Architect Darius Ishaku.
In fact, it is alleged that members are only concern with approving loans for the Governor and getting their percentages.
It is also claimed that Ministries, Boards and Parastatals are operating without overhead and running costs but the Assembly is looking the other way and many unwholesome activities are going on in government agencies without recourse to oversight have decided to keep mute which observers say probably due the fruits it is reaping from the whole show.
Tarabans say although last year some top government officials in the State Bureau for Local for Government and Chieftaincy Affairs including the Permanent Secretary, the Accountant and Cashier, bank personnel and some contractors in Taraba State have been in the net of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over series of alleged financial irregularities that has bedeviled the state and accused of withdrawing N21b in tranches over a period of time from the Joint Accounts of the State and the Local Government Councils without commensurate evidence of appropriate expenditure while at the same time heads of the State and Local Government Pension Boards were also drilled by the EFCC Zonal Office in Gombe in connection with inappropriate management of entitlements of pensioners in Taraba State which is also as a results of the failures of the State House of Assembly in carrying out its oversight functions accordingly and so much need to done by the antigraft agency. Tarabans are now of the view that the state House of Assembly is not doing the checks and balances of the financial transactions and other activities of the State Government and is considered as a toothless dog that cannot even bark and not capable of checkmating the corrupt tendencies in Government agencies in the state.
It is estimated that the Assembly under the Speaker Rt. Hon. Prof. Joseph Albasu Kunini has approved various categories of loans of over N3 billion and permitted the use of the loans obtained and the monies received as succour from the Federation Allocation which observers viewed as not properly utilized thereby negating Authority the Nigerian Constitution gives to the Assembly on Government Financial Transaction and ensuring transparency but unfortunately in Taraba State the contrary is the case.
The Taraba State House of Assembly under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Kunini is accused of neglecting its primary responsibility of making laws and checkmating the finances of the State by monitoring the activities of government.
In an interview with Apex News Exclusive in Jalingo a veteran labour leader and politician, Comrade Faruk Mohammed Kunini described the Assembly in Taraba State as a washed-out with no positive effect whatsoever on the people of the state.
Comrade Kunini who is the pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Taraba State said members of the State Assembly are a disappointment and disgrace to the people of the State.
The veteran Labour leader attributed all the woes and underdevelopment in Taraba State to the failure of the members of the State House of Assembly to properly carry out their statutory responsibilities.
He particularly attributed the problems of local governments in the State to injustice by the government who turned the finances of the Councils as personal property swindled at will through the State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs while members of the State House of Assembly who are quite aware of the atrocities going on turned their faces to the other side in spite of the existence of the House Standing Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
He observed that every member of the State House of Assembly is in control of all the affairs in their respective constituencies most of the times the State Government liaises with the members in carrying out all activities in the Local Governments but according to him “the Members have become rubber stamps of the Governor. It is the desire of the Governor they carry out not the wishes and aspirations of the people whether good or bad on the people.”
Kunini was however quick to note that the members of the Taraba State House of Assembly have no alternative than dancing to the tune of the State Governor because majority of the members particularly those of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were all handpicked not elected and even the few members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) are not helping matters as they all joined the wagon and dancing to the tune of the Governor probably because of what they are reaping from.
The former labour leader cum politician also berated the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), composed of all Chairmen of Local Governments for conniving with the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the underdevelopment of the Councils and the problems faced by the staff and the entire people of the various Local Governments because of the pittance they receive as Security Votes out of the several millions of Naira voted to their accounts every month from the Federation Accounts which is not controlled by them but was also quick to sympathize with the Chairmen because like the Members of the State House of Assembly they were not elected but imposed so anything contrary to the wishes of the State Governor will be suicidal to their seats.
Kunini, a one-time governorship candidate in the state, maintained that he is not against the Joint Accounts of the State and Local Governments which is Constitutional and has been in existence for years but unhappy with the way the Accounts are being handled exclusively by the State Government.
He said to make it worst for the Local Governments the Governor with the approval of the State House of Assembly secured a huge loan in the name of the sixteen Local Government Councils in the State mortgaging the finances of the Councils for three years which is the main reason that payment of salaries to local government staff remained uncertain every month because once the monthly subvention of the Local Governments are remitted into their Accounts the banks automatically deducts the remittance of the loan for the month leaving nothing for the payment of salaries.
That is why payment of Local Government salaries in Taraba State has been epileptic and rotational because the Government has to look for alternatives elsewhere every month to pay staff of the Local Governments further compounding the predicaments of the councils and the Chairmen have no courage to speak out.
He said however there is a little improvement in the payment of salary generally now but still salaries and pension are not paid promptly because even now salaries and pension are paid either at the middle or almost at the end of next month and in intervals of days or weeks depending on the luck of organization to be picked first. Comrade Kunini said for Members of the Taraba State House of Assembly to turn back now and refused to approve loans of N14b and N5.5b respectively for the Governor “is just shedding crocodile tears” saying “it is too late to cry when the head is cut off” that the Assembly has totally failed and nothing they will do to cleanse their shame at this wee hour of their tenure.
He said to wipe out corruption and corrupt tendencies at the Local Governments, Ministries, Boards and Parastatals in Taraba State, first and foremost, elections at all levels most be free and fair and people should be allowed to vote credible persons not imposition as was the case in the past so that all aspect of Governance will function effectively.
He noted that as far as imposition of elected officials continue, they will not have the guts to challenge the Governor who single-handedly brought them on board.
Kunini said genuine Autonomy in all ramifications -financially, politically, socially and morally must be accorded Local Government Councils so the state government hands-off from all affairs of the Councils whereby Executive Chairmen will have full control of their finances to enable them serve the people effectively but a situation whereby a Council will be allocated N100 million to N200 million from the Federation Account every month and a kangaroo Joint Account Meeting conducted by the State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs with the Local Government Chairmen who at the end do not even know what happen with their monthly subvention after payment of Salary which is also done online by the Bureau through the accounts of the individual staff of the Local Governments at various banks. In fact, it is a sorrowful and pathetic situation for the Local Governments in Taraba State.
The labour leader observed that the problem at the Local Governments directly affected primary school teachers in the state because their salaries come from the subvention of their various council at the moment the teachers are having backlogs of many months of unpaid salaries just like their counterparts at the local government.
He accused state governors of escalating insecurity in the country by abandoning the thugs they trained and provided with all sorts of dangerous weapons and introduced to drugs during elections as these categories of people resorted to violence and other dubious means of livelihood to make ends meet.
The problem of payment of salary which is epileptic in the Local Government has since reared its ugly head at the State level, payment of monthly salary apart from being delayed nowadays is now paid in ration sometime State Pensioners and Boards and Parastatals are paid and after some days salaries of those working in the Ministries are paid and thereafter a week or more retirees of the Local Governments will be paid and vice versa then after two or more weeks primary school teachers will be paid that is the experience of civil servants in Taraba State every month.
In fact, it has been quite a long time when workers and pensioners in Taraba State received their salaries and pension at the same time which is negatively affecting the standard of living of the entire people of Taraba State where majority of the people depend on the salaries and pension of their bread winners where even traders wait for salaries to be paid to recover the credits of the wares and cash they loaned out to workers and their dependants to make further purchases.