Taraba State Governor Killing Workers And Pensioners–APC Chieftain

By Ikenga Chronicles June 4, 2017

Taraba State Governor Killing Workers And Pensioners–APC Chieftain

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika is the immediate past chairman of the major opposition party in Taraba State, the All Progressive Congress. As a man who spent majority of his life serving Taraba as a civil servant, he knows a lot about the state and its leaders.

In this exclusive interview with Ikenga Chronicles, Alhaji Jika explosively lays bare his assessment of the administration of Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku.

Excerpts:

Ikenga: Please give us your sectoral assessment of this administration in the past two years.

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika: Let me start by way of introduction. I am an indigene of Taraba State, born and brought up here. After my school days, I joined the civil service and served for over 20 years across the length and breadth of Taraba State. I can confidently say I am very conversant with issues in Taraba State. Having worked in key offices such as Ministry of Finance, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Office of the Head of Service of the state and Ministry of Information, I think I should know much about Taraba State than any politician around. Having been a career civil servant, I can give you a vivid assessment of what Taraba State has been from inception in 1991 when it was carved out of the defunct Gongola State. I know what it was because it all started with us. We served under military and civilian governors.

If you go round Taraba State today, the entire government infrastructure you will see, without mincing words I will tell you who did what and when. Despite the fact that a lot of accusations were made against the past military governors/administrators and their civilian counterparts, in my view if you go round you will agree with me that the worst administration ever is Governor Darius Ishaku’s administration. Why am I saying so? We have a lot of justification for this assessment.

To start with, over the years, I have served in different administrations. We have never had a history of accumulated salaries, pension and gratuities amounting to over N15bn until Arc. Darius Ishaku assumed office as governor two years ago. Past administrations made frantic efforts to pay gratuities, pensions, salaries, and promotion allowances; but today a substantial number of retired civil servants die prematurely because they have nothing to live on. After 35 years of meritorious service and expending the better part of their lives, these retirees end up as beggars. This is because their meager pension is not forthcoming, their gratuities are not paid and many of them are now lying on their beds critically ill. Their children and grandchildren cannot even access their benefits. It is the most disheartening thing that could ever happen to any retired civil servant.

The consequential impact on the integrity, morale and character of those still in service can better be imagined than explained. What I am simply saying here is that when those in service see the experiences of the retirees, they are obviously tempted to deep their hands into public funds. I mean they will always steal at every given opportunity. Therefore, this is one of the major reasons for all forms of corruption in the civil service.

Now on infrastructure, as I speak to you, I can take you round the state capital. There is no single project; just a single project constructed by this administration to a completion level. In fact, I can tell you without any fear of contradiction that there is no single ongoing project. I have heard a lot of comments in the media by the governor and his aides and the cabal around him saying Governor Darius has a slogan which says “Give me peace and I will give you development”. It is really unfortunate that we cannot see any. Let me tell you something, notwithstanding the crises across the state during the tenures of past administrations, there was development. But now as I speak to you, there is no single project that is going on.

On your way to Sunkani from the state capital, between Taraba State University and College of Agriculture, you will see one small project going on there called the Green House. Unfortunately, in the whole of this country, there is no state that has come up with this idea of Green House project because even in the United States where it started, it is no more in vogue. For me, it is simply a white elephant project. I think for somebody to start looking for soup, there must be food to complement the soup. Information reaching us so far shows that the state government has spent N2.2bn on that project.

It is unbelievable that such a huge amount will be spent on such project. I am asking a simple question: how can a government that has focus spend N2.2bn on a greenhouse project? What is the time frame within which the government can recoup its investment? We are not saying the money should be recouped, but how long will it take government and Tarabans to derive the needed benefit and feel the impact of the project within the next two years? It is really unfortunate!

Now to rural water supply. I have been in government, I know the secret. The records are there, you can go and verify. I have heard the governor claiming the water projects going on were initiated by him. And we got information that he had contracted a water project to the tune of N6bn. Please go and verify. This project is a World Bank project and the counterpart funding was paid by the former governor Danbaba Suntai. Danbaba paid the counterpart fund during his time. So, for someone to start taking credit for another person’s project, I think it is the highest level of corruption in this country.

Going through Taraba State budget of 2016 and 2017, you will shed tears. Last year (2016), there was no single bag of fertilizer given to our farmers but I heard someone saying last year they had a bumper harvest. Find out for yourself from the farmers in the state. There was no single bag of fertilizer, even a molecule of an atom which is the smallest indivisible particle of an element, given to any farmer last year. I came across a write-up that they had a bumper harvest last year. Who gave farmers fertilizers? Go to the Ministry of Agriculture and check their records; go to as many individual farmers you can, to find out from them if there was a single bag of fertilizer given to them. There was none.

This year I expected that any serious minded government, for example Taraba State being an agrarian state, will assist farmers by subsidizing the cost of fertilizer especially at this period of economic recession. That, for example,  if fertilizer in the market sells for N6,000 or N7,000, government should subsidize it to N4,000 by making it affordable to farmers.  But that is not the case. Rather than doing this, the governor and his allies are using fertilizer for their campaign against 2019 telling farmers that they are going to provide them with fertilizers; but they won’t be able to pay for it. Let me give you a little example. The Speaker of Taraba State House of Assembly is distributing fertilizer in Gembu. The Speaker is selling a form for the purchase of fertilizer at the cost of N2, 500

Form for what?

For those that want to get fertilizer from him at subsidized rate. The form is N2, 500. After you buy the form for N2, 500 then you pay N10, 000 and then he gives you two bags of fertilizer. What is the cost of a bag of fertilizer in the market? Add the N2, 500 to N10, 000; it will amount to N12, 500. If the two bags of fertilizer amount to N14, 000, it means he has given you N1, 500. Someone came here and said that at the open market, fertilizer is sold between N5, 500 and N6, 500. In fact, from Kasuwan Yelwa somebody brought his purchase receipt to show me that he bought a bag for N4, 500. If the Speaker is saying that he is subsidizing fertilizer to farmers by buying one and giving them two, what is the cost of the one bag? When you critically evaluate what he is doing, he has not helped you. Rather, he is making profit from you.

Taraba State has the highest concentration of cattle in the country. My local government happens to be one – the Mambilla Plateau; because of the serene environment it is free of tse-tse fly and good for animal husbandry. Go and check last year’s budget. There is no provision for livestock and veterinary drugs. No dime was allocated for livestock and veterinary drugs when you have about five million cattle in Taraba State. It is the highest in the country. You then begin to wonder if livestock is not part of agriculture and when you look at this issue critically, it is only through the livestock that government earns substantial revenue. At all points in time, cattle pay taxes. There is what we call cattle tax that is always paid, N50 and above. When you sell a cow, you pay N200, when you slaughter a cow, you pay a specific amount. When you are moving cattle from the Plateau to the East or West, we pay for each of the cows. Just imagine the colossal amount of revenue government generates; yet you cannot make at least one million naira provision for veterinary drugs?

If you go round the state to inspect and take inventory of projects, you will not see any major project done by this administration in spite of the N60bn allocation received (from the federation account) in the last two years. For instance, the multi-billion naira Jolly Nyame Stadium was conceived and fully executed by former governor Nyame. The roads and bridges we have were constructed by former governor Danbaba; the ministries and secretariat were constructed by former military administrators and governor Jolly Nyame. What has Governor Darius Ishaku done in the past two years except claiming credit for projects not executed by him?

Ikenga: The Commissioner for Works told us that this administration constructed two bridges between Bali, Serti and Gashaka to replace the colonial ones. But you say Governor Ishaku has no single project ongoing…

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika: My dear brother, I think there is no reason why I should tell lies. The road from Bali to Gembu was awarded to PW Nigeria Ltd by the administration of UTC and not Governor Darius Ishaku. And he (UTC) paid them.

Ikenga: What was the amount UTC paid PW Nigeria for the project?

I don’t have the figure handy now, but we have the figure. However, during UTC’s time, every month he allocated between N300m and N700m to PW Nigeria for the project. Immediately Governor Darius Ishaku assumed office, he stopped the payment and that was why the project stopped. If he says he constructed two bridges, for a governor that has collected over N60billion from the federation account apart from other allocations and the bailout to pay outstanding salaries, what are we talking about? He spent the money on other things that cannot be visibly seen by any Taraban.

Now, let me be specific and I want you to go to government and say it is from me. I said that Governor Darius Ishaku received N9.4bn as bailout purposely to settle outstanding salaries for teachers, local government staff, pension and gratuities. This money was collected sometime in April 2016; within that time Governor Darius Ishaku collected N10bn loan from Zenith bank. In that same month, the total allocation from the federation account for Taraba was N3.5bn. Add it up. What did he do with the money?

Ikenga: You mean he collected a loan of N10bn in addition to the N3.5bn allocation in the same April 2016?

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika:  Yes, a loan of N10bn from Zenith bank. Here we go. The same governor, of recent I attacked him on non-payment of teachers’ salaries. You saw the protest staged by the teachers. They have pocketed the NUT, they can’t talk. Other organizations have been pocketed. That is why they are always interested in getting the leadership of those organizations, they can’t talk. When teachers are protesting, the children are not learning. Just of recent they held a protest. I addressed them outside here. Nine teachers or headmasters were suspended. Then, why are we talking about child’s rights in Nigeria?

Ikenga: Why were the nine teachers suspended?

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika: Because they allowed the children to go out for protest. But the children also have the right to protest and that is why we talk about child rights. That they have rights to education, that is what the law says. And you don’t expect somebody to continue teaching for free. That is his only means of livelihood and he has been teaching the children. If the teacher decides not to continue, then the child has every right also to protest since he has a right to education.

Ikenga: You talked about the administration not executing any project, but the Works Commissioner said the Ishaku administration constructed the Palace Road, Market Road, Post Office Road, Magami Road, Kona Road and other projects. Who do we believe?

You see, it is unfortunate, I would not like to sound so hard or rude to leaders, but the truth must be told. These roads that you mentioned, the last road constructed was by Sani Abubakar Danladi. It was him that constructed Market Road. Which one is Post Office road? It is the same road! Market Road is the same as Post Office Road. You are talking about Magami, it was since Sani Abubakar Danladi. I heard the talk about Donga Road. Donga Road was constructed at the time of Danbaba. Why should they go about telling lies and claiming other people’s projects? You can see the roundabout by the Ministry of Works. This man went and painted it and is now claiming to be the one who constructed it. All of you are living witnesses, Governor Darius Ishaku does not know Taraba State. He does not know the people of Taraba State. He does not know the needs of Tarabans and he was not prepared for governance.

Ikenga: But he is governor…(cuts in)

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika: By error of commission or omission he became the governor. We cannot deny the fact that he is the governor today but there is no governance

Ikenga: How did he become governor then?

It is a long story. But the Supreme Court has affirmed that. We cannot say no. We have a government but there is no governance. My dear brother, go to the Specialist Hospital in Jalingo, one of the best and the most equipped hospitals in the state today. Look at the condition of the hospital and go round the 16 local government areas. Tell me one functional hospital that we have today in Taraba State. The schools that you see were built by ETF, ITF, and TETFUND. That is, the funds came from those organizations. On your way to Lau, around Garin Dogo, just stop and see how our pupils take lessons under trees.

Ikenga: Is it a public school?

Yes, a public school. You see it is the same governor who, when he went on tour, told Tarabans “sorry”. That he could not do anything in the last two years because he was engaged in court cases here and there. Is the governor telling us that all the money allocated to Taraba State was used for court cases or what? I never saw him in court; it was the lawyers that went to court. We want to know if all the money allocated to Taraba was used for court cases so that we can go after the judges and the lawyers. Magu (the acting head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC) is there and we would get him involved.

Ikenga: It was really nice getting your views on Governor Ishaku

Alhaji Hassan Ardo Jika: It is my pleasure.

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