Indications are that the people of Kaduna State are in support of the series of steps taken by the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the attempt made by the outgoing PDP-led administration in the state to expend about 2.7 billion naira SURE-P fund barely few days to the May 29 hand-over date. Days back, the governor-elect in Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, had issued a stern warning over the request of the outgoing state governor, Alhaji Muktar Ramalan Yero, that state lawmakers should approve the disbursement of the fund.
This had followed the outcry by APC caucus in the State House of Assembly that had refused to be part of the process for the approval of the appropriation of the fund as requested by the governor. Lately, the state APC through its Transition Committee had dragged Yero to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission.
While speaking on these developments in the course of a interview Thursday, members of the public were not only on the side of the APC members in the Kaduna State House of Assembly who first raised their objection to Yero’s request, but they also said the incoming governor was right to have issued a warning that whoever embarked on stealing of public asset would be made to face the consequence.
It would be recalled that the APC members of the House had said in a press statement released on May 15, 2015 that at a time when the handing over notes of the outgoing Government had been received and the incoming Government was busy preparing for its inauguration in order to face the daunting task ahead of it, there was an attempt by the “outgoing Government to quickly appropriate and disburse the SURE-P funds” which were hitherto unused. The lawmakers alleged “gross last minute looting and squandering of public funds.” It was sequel to this that the governor-elect issued a terse statement warning the outgoing administration that any breach of public trust would be met with appropriate consequences. “As governor-elect, it is my duty to caution every official involved in these last-minute deals that the incoming government will ensure that there are consequences for illegal conduct, breach of trust and stealing of public assets. Our government will certainly insist on accountability, and no one should be in any doubt about our resolve, be it the instigators of any impropriety or those who facilitated and executed it,” El-Rufai had been quoted as saying.
While making their views known, members of the public were not only displeased by the action of the outgoing governor, but some even alleged that he had actually expended the fund but was only seeking for a legal backing through the request he placed before the lawmakers. According to Mohammed Ibrahim, a legal practitioner, who cited sources in the State House of Assembly, the current administration had expended the SURE-P fund while it only wanted to cover its back by seeking to have the fund appropriated as part of annual budget as stipulated by law.
According to Ibrahim, he was dismayed to learn from impeccable sources that the funds had actually been expended, and it was actually in the process of looking at the request made by the governor that knowledgeable persons informed the lawmakers that the fund had been expended. “The outgoing governor had already used the fund before its appropriation as required by law. He had expended the money, he only sent the request by the way of asking for appropriation; this is exactly what happened,” Ibrahim said, adding that, “in the process, somebody informed the lawmakers that there is no money in the coffers, wondering what fund the governor wanted the lawmakers to appropriate as SURE-P fund. This was why last week lawmakers said they wanted to impeach the governor. It was over the issue of the SURE-P fund.”
Speaking further, the legal practitioner said the governor had “expended the fund so he was only looking for approval to harmonize and normalize the transaction. In fact, this information is from the members of the House Assembly themselves. You know if they like they can embark on oversight function and know what is happening to the state’s finances. Through this they got this information easily.”
As a citizen of the state Ibrahim said he did not like the idea that this was happening towards the end of the tenure of the outgoing PDP government, adding that it was not right from whichever angle the matter was considered. “This is not right, and it is very disappointing, very embarrassing that Yero would embark on this at this time,” he said, elaborating that from legal perspective the governor had committed an impeachable offence. “From the legal perspective the governor usurped the function of the legislature and it is a breach of the law because he spent the money that was not appropriated. Where did he derive the power to spend the money from?” he asked, noting that the legal way for the incoming administration to handle the matter would be to drag Yero to the EFCC since it was too late to start an impeachment process against him. “From the legal perspective there is nothing to do now apart from asking him to refund the money, that is all. And the incoming administration can use any other instrument of the law, especially the Economic and Financial Crime Commission because this is a crime against the state,” Ibrahim suggested.
Ibrahim also sided with the governor-elect who had issued a warning over the action of the Yero administration at this time. For the legal practitioner, El-Rufai, “is saying the truth, he is saying what he is supposed to say. That is what he should say because this is a clear breach of law, a breach of trust even; Yero can’t just spend the money like that. He is not on his own, he is on oath, so why should he break the law? The governor-elect is saying what the people should know; he is informing the people of what is happening in the state.”
As already noted, APC had already dragged the state government to the EFCC. In a letter signed by the chairman of the APC Transition Committee in the state, Mallam Balarabe Abass Lawal, and sent to the EFCC, the committee stated that “whereas the Kaduna State House of Assembly had declined to appropriate the Sure-P funds in the 2015 budget, and promptly removed them from the budgets submitted by the 23 local government councils”, the outgoing governor, “has mounted pressure on the legislators to approve his utilisation of 50% of the Sure-P funds for a road project, while the 23 local government councils would share the balance”. Based on this, and in what looked like a confirmation of the concern that the fund had actually been expended, the committee “appealed to the EFCC to urgently launch an investigation on whether the Sure-P funds are still intact, or if they have been illegally spent by the outgoing government without appropriation”.
In the light of the above, another resident of Kaduna State, Musa Adamu, who is an applicant pointed out that the action of the outgoing governor was not in the best interest of the people of the state and that he agreed with the actions so far taken by the APC. He noted that the APC lawmakers did not approve the request of the outgoing governor because they did not want to involve themselves in what they considered to be stealing of public fund. “I think they don’t want to involve themselves in problems, because they know that if they approve that they fund should be used the outgoing governor would use it for himself, not for the people of the state,” Adamu said, adding that he supported the steps taken by the lawmakers, the governor-elect and the transition committee. “Yes, I support them. I support the governor-elect over his call that the state government should not expend the fund. In case the fund is expended, what El-Rufai should do when he comes to power is to investigate and see what has been done with the fund. If they failed to use the fund well, they must be made to refund it. I support what the legislators and what the governor-elect are saying,” he said.
For Busayo Adeniji, a businessman, the refusal of the APC lawmakers to approve the request made by the governor to expend the SURE-P fund was in order. “The refusal is in order because this particular administration is coming to an end next week; so if approval is given the money may not be utilized well and definitely the money will be shared among members of the present administration. The present administration cannot do anything anymore at this time so the best thing is for it to leave the fund for the incoming administration to utilize. Expending the fund now is suspicious because it can’t be for the good of the people, but for some personal interests. This is a time Nigeria is running out of fund and if this one is shared now, it means the next administration will be more in trouble financially,” Adeniji explained.
As for the possibility that the PDP administration had actually expended the funds before it asked for approval of the legislators to utilize it, the businessman said, “By the time the new government comes around it should probe the case to really know where the money has ended up, because I am very sure the money would not have been used for the benefit of the people of this state.”