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Thursday, 5 May 2016
Governors Spend Billions of Naira on Foreign Trips despite Cash Crunch
Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Zamfara State Governor, Mallam Abdulaziz Yari
State governors are still spending billions of naira from public funds on foreign trips in the name of seeking foreign investors, despite the cash crunch facing their states.
With dwindling federal oil allocation, coupled with dismal internal revenue, the states’ chief executives have not cut down on their foreign travels against their campaign promise of slashing the cost of governance.
investigations showed that about 25 governors have travelled abroad at an average of 10 times in the quest for investors since May 29 when they came to office.
The governors, usually with large entourage that include close aides and family members, spend fortune from their cash-strapped treasuries on first class airlines tickets, luxury hotels, estacodes, among others.
But unlike for lawmakers and judicial officers, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) does not set a limit on estacode for governors.
The commission also does not specify the amount to be collected as Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) for local trips. The RMAFC simply said estacode and DTA “would be provided upon request by governors.”
Finding by Daily Trust shows that a first class return ticket to Dubai on Emirates Airlines is N886,743, while the same airline’s first class return ticket to New York is N1.4 million.
A first class return ticket to London on British Airways is N799,145.
From 1999 to 2007, Jigawa’s Saminu Turaki carved a niche for himself as the most travelled governor, while Katsina’s late Umaru Musa Yar’adua was the least travelled within that period.
But findings show that very little investments have been brought to these states despite spending so much in those trips.
Opposition parties and civil society organisations across the states told Daily Trust the governors’ globetrotting hasn’t resulted into foreign direct investment, rather it only guzzled funds meant for development.
Among the most travelled governors are Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Nasiru el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo).
The least travelled governors include Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe, Aminu Masari of Katsina, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, and Samuel Ortom of Benue.
Analysis of the trips shows that most of them are personal visitation of family members, medical checkups, vacations, among others.
The recurrent destinations of the state governors include United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United States, China, Australia, South Africa, India, France, Israel, Singapore, Malaysia and Italy.
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, for instance, has so far travelled to Saudi Arabia three times, USA once, Dubai twice and India once since May last year.
Ganduje’s first trip to Dubai was for the graduation of his daughter while the second was for an investment forum.
Kano’s commissioner of information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said many investors had indicated interest in investing in the state because of the trips.
But a former aide to Senator Rabi’u Kwankwaso, Sharu Garba Gwammaja, said though “the governor has been to Saudi Arabia, US, Morocco, Senegal and India but not a single investor so far invest in the state.”
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state has been to Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Italy, China, Niger and the USA.
Tambuwal’s spokesperson Imam Imam said only trips to China and Italy were meant for investors, while the rest were at the instances of President Buhari.
However, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) secretary in the state Alhaji Kabiru Aliyu said Tambuwal’s trips were a waste of public fund because “we have nothing on ground to justify them.”
In Plateau state, Governor Simon Lalong made six foreign trips to Brazil, Israel, China, Dubai so far but all without any official announcement to that effect.
Just few weeks after he was sworn in last year, Lalong was first in Brazil on a two-week visit. He was also in Israel last year for a two-week visit which he said was to pray for the country.
The state PDP chairman, Ramond Dabo, said Lalong’s trips were “secret and worrisome.”
In Ogun state, Governor Ibikunle Amosun has made no fewer than 10 foreign trips across Europe, Asia and Africa.
His media aide Adejuwon soyinka said as at January 2016, five of the automobile firms had concluded arrangements to have assembly plants in Abeokuta.
But the state chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Comrade Olawale Aremu Oduntan, said the governor’s “foreign tour is with no clear cut mission, it is as good as a jamboree exercise.”
In November last year, Katsina state governor Aminu Masari led a state delegation to India and Dubai on a five- day visit in search of foreign investors.
During the trip to India, Masari visited Mahindra group, an India-based company with operations in 18 industries that include aerospace, agribusiness, automotive, industrial and farm equipment.
The state chairman of National Conscience party Abdulmumin Sani said Masari’s investment drive is a mirage as up till now not even a single pin factory had been established in the state.
The state commissioner of information Hamza Borodo said the trips were yielding fruition from recent interests shown by investors.
Bauchi State Governor Muhammed Abubakar has travelled to Czech Republic, the United States and China.
Bauchi State commissioner of commerce, Alhaji Garzali Abubakar said the state was trying to use its naturally endowed potentials to strengthen its economy and provide an enabling environment for international and local investors.
However, a PDP stalwart, and a former commissioner to the former Governor Isah Yuguda, Alhaji Salisu Barau said the frequent travels by the governor should not be priority at the moment.
Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state has made dozen foreign trips in the last one year.
Chairman of a civil society organisation, Northern Youth Assembly, Munnir Haidara, described Yari’s foreign trips as jamboree.
“No single investor was attracted by this government since its inception in 2011. And the worst part of it is that the development partners are going away,” he said.
The state commissioner for commerce and industry Hajiya Fatima Umaru Aliyu Shinkafi said she would speak on the matter at the appropriate time.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has been to United Kingdom, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, China and France to woo foreign investors.
Media aide to the governor, Samuel Aruwan when contacted, promised to furnish Daily Trust with details of the governor’s foreign trips and the investments they had attracted soon.
In Yobe, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam was in China on September 1, 2015, in an effort to empower up to 40,000 youths on irrigation scheme for self-reliance, across the state.
Spokesperson to the governor, Malam Abdullahi Bego said the visit was an invitation by Chinese agriculture and infrastructure investors.
Gaidam rarely travelled outside the country, unless to Saudi Arabia for religious purpose. But he spent most of his days in Abuja and Kano.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo has been to China and Turkey twice; Ireland and Kosovo once and China thrice from May 2015 to date.
Deputy governor’s spokesperson, Uche Onwuchekwa, said the governor’s trip to China led to the building of refinery and industrial park, among others.
The former publicity secretary of PDP in the state Enyinnaya Onuegbu said since the governor travelled to Turkey with 100 people after receiving the bailout funds, no investor had come to the state.
Governor of Oyo State Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi has been to United States of America, United Kingdom, China, Canada, Lebanon and many other countries of the world, in search for foreign investors.
In Benue state, Governor Samuel Ortom has been to USA and China since May last year.
Speaking on the outcome of the governor’s foreign investment trip, his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Terver Akase said Ortom used the opportunity to attract a number of investors to Benue.
But the former Lagos state police commissioner Abubakar Tsav said Ortom’s foreign trips were for pleasure because “he has not properly addressed the issue of insecurity in the state. Who will invest in a place without adequate security?”
In Lagos, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has embarked on a number of foreign trips in search of foreign investors but only a few of such trips have attracted media attention.
The latest among such trips was the governor’s recent participation at the 10th Biennial US-Africa Business Summit hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February, 2016.
As for Kwara’s Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, he is said to have travelled only once since May last year.
Jigawa state Governor Mohammad Badaru Abubakar has travelled to China, Saudi Arabia and France.
Speaking after his two-week trip to China, Badaru, said a team of foreign investors from China, Lee Group had planned to invest $120 million sugar cane factory in the state.
The acting deputy chairman of PDP, Aminu Jahun described governor Badaru as one of the most travelled governors in the country, saying there was no result up to this time for his globetrotting.
The governor’s spokesperson, Bello Zaki said Badaru only travelled thrice out of the country.
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