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17 New Govs to Inherit N2.1tn, $1.9bn Debts

 Benue’s Alia, Abia’s Otti to battle months of unpaid salaries, pensions

The 17 newly-elected governors face an uphill task to stimulate the economies of their respective states as they will inherit at least N2.1tn in domestic debts and $1.9bn in external debts from their predecessors.

Investigations by Saturday PUNCH showed that some of the first term governors-elect would also be confronted by many months of unpaid workers’ salaries and mounting pension liabilities amidst agitation for the implementation of the nationally agreed minimum wage, rising inflation, escalating prices of goods and services, and dwindling purchasing power.

Following the governorship election that was conducted in 28 out of the 36 states of the federation on March 18, 2023, a total of 16 governors-elect emerged to take over from their predecessors, who will complete their constitutionally approved second term in office, while a first time governor lost his re-election bid to the candidate of an opposition party.

As of September 30, 2022, the Debt Management Office put the country’s total domestic indebtedness at N21,551,924,507,448, while foreign creditors were owed $39.66bn.

In Abia State, Dr Alex Otti, who emerged as the only governor-elect of the Labour Party, will take over from Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party on May 29 and will inherit total domestic debt of N104,573,334,025.73 and external debt of $95,632,239.04. Health workers and teachers in the state are currently owed between 10 months and 27 months’ salaries.

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, will be leaving behind for his anointed successor, Umo Eno (both of them are of the PDP), N219,617,660,991.63 in domestic debt and $46,569,647.22 in external debt, provided no new debt is accumulated between September 2022 and May 28, 2023.

In Benue State, apart from unpaid salaries of between eight and 15 months, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress will take over from Governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP N143,368,150,982.89 in domestic debt and $30,472,977.14 obligations to foreign creditors.

Bassey Otu, the incoming governor of Cross River State governor, will have to carry the burden of N175,198,799,155.96 and $215,754,975.33 that his predecessor, Prof Ben Ayade, will be leaving behind. Both belong to the APC.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State will be bequeathing to his successor, Sheriff Oborevwori, N272,612,510,528.95 total domestic debt and $60,046,972.41 foreign debt. Okowa was the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP in the February 25 presidential election, while Oborevwori is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly.

Francis Nwifuru of the APC will take over the rein Ebonyi State from his party man, David Umahi, and inherit N67,060,019,562.44 and $59,841,539.37 as domestic and external debts, respectively.

A similar scenario will play out in Enugu State as the outgoing governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, will hand over to his preferred successor from the PDP, Peter Mbah, total domestic debt of N89,887,652,914.75 and external debt of $123,024,888.67.

When the governor-elect of Jigawa State, Malam Umar Namadi of the APC, takes over from Governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, also of the same party, he will  have his work cut out with N44,406,862,432.83 owed domestic creditors and $27,611,046.36 in external debt.

Still smarting from his narrow victory in the Kaduna State governorship election, the APC’s Uba Sani will inherit from the outgoing governor, Nasir El-Rufai, domestic debt of N86,863,069,011.79, while the external debt profile of the state stood at $586,776,219.18 as of September 30, 2022.

As high as the enthusiasm and jubilation that greeted the emergence of Abba Kabir of the New Nigeria People’s Party as Kano State governor-elect are the state’s debt profile. Kabir will inherit from Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC N125,186,662,228.72 and $109,422,176.85 owed domestic and external creditors, respectively.

In Katsina State, the transition between Governor Aminu Masari and Dr Dikko Radda should be smooth as both men belong to the ruling APC. However, the incoming governor will inherit domestic debts adding up to N62,374,809,154.32, and liabilities to foreign creditors amounting to $55,824,330.35.

While the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the Kebbi State governorship election inconclusive, what is in no doubt is the debt profile being left behind by Governor Atiku Bagudu of the APC. The state owes local contractors and others N60,131,306,074.57 and has foreign obligations totalling $42,403,327.93.

Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, will bequeath to his fellow APC man and successor, Umar Bago, N98,262,195,557.88 and $69,266,186.30 in domestic and external debts, respectively.

The Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, will not only hand over the reins of government to Mr Caleb Mutfwang of the opposition PDP, he will be leaving behind N151,903,415,543.09 in domestic debts and $33,735,927.81 in liabilities to foreign creditors.

The leader of the aggrieved PDP governors, otherwise called G5, Nyesom Wike, will hand over to his anointed successor, Siminialayi Fubara, as Rivers State governor domestic debt running into N225,505,011,356.00, while the DMO puts the external debt of the oil rich state at $140,177,828.95.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, who will complete his eight-year two-term tenure under the PDP on May 28, will hand over Sokoto State to Ahmed Aliyu of the APC a total of N85,584,818,029.23 in domestic debt and $37,127,361.58 foreign debt.

Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, will hand over to his fellow PDP man, Kefas Agbu, domestic debt   of N90,807,647,838.11 and external debt of $22,280,666.87.

Cumulatively, the 17 states, where new chief executive officers will take over on May 29, 2023 owe domestic contractors and other creditors N2,103,343,925,388.89 and foreign creditors  $1,755,968,311.36.

Salary arrears

Some of the governors-elect will also contend with unhappy workers and pensioners due to the failure of their predecessors to pay as of when due.

In Abia State, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Uchenna Obigwe, said, “The state ministry workers are not being owed. Those owed include workers of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba; Health Management Board, Umuahia; Abia State Polytechnic, Aba; College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu; secondary school teachers and the Abia State Universal Basic Education Board, as well as pensioners.

“None of them is owed less than 10 months, particularly Abia Poly, Arochukwu Technical, ABSUTH and HMB workers. Some are owed more than 20 months.”

Obigwe expressed doubt that the Ikpeazu administration would be able to pay the outstanding liabilities before leaving office, stating, “If the administration has the intention to do something, it would have done it before the election to appeal to the workers to vote for the ruling party’s candidates.

“That would have been the time they would have done that. But they didn’t do it. Even the leave allowance, they didn’t pay it.

“So, what we are hoping for is the promise by the governor-elect that within one year, he will clear the arrears.”

The Chairman, the HMB branch of the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Dave Otuiheneme, said workers were being owed 14 months’ salaries.

According to the HMB Chairperson of the Medical and Health Workers Union, Chidinma Wokoma, March 31 will make it 15 months that the workers are being owed.

The outgoing PDP administration in Benue is leaving behind a backlog of salary arrears.

Some workers, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, said that the arrears were between nine and 13 months.

It was gathered that aside from the five months’ salary arrears of 2017, the Ortom’s administration owed the state workers four months salaries as of March, 2023.

A civil servant in one of the ministries, who identified himself simply as Daniel, said, “State civil servants were owed five months salary arrears in 2017 and apart from that, what we were paid early this month (March) was November’s salary.

“So now, the government owes the state workers another four months’ salaries, making a total of nine months.”

It was a similar situation for local government workers, as they were said to be owed 11 months’ salaries.

“The local government workers were owed seven months’ salaries in 2017 and if we add another four months from December 2022 to March 2023, it is now 11 months,” Joshua Terna, a local government employee said.

Primary School teachers are said to be the worst hit as they are owed between 14 and 15 months’ salaries, while their counterparts in secondary schools are allegedly owed eight to 10 months’ salaries.

A primary school teacher, who simply identified herself as Doshima, said, “In 2017, we were paid just two months and owed for 10 months. Then for 2021, they owed me September salary, while for others, it is different. For 2022, we are owed December salary; then this year, they have not paid us since January and we don’t know when we will be paid.”

Pensioners are not left out as local government retirees are said to be owed 72 months’ pension allowances, while state pensioners are owed 36 months allowances.

When contacted, the immediate past Chairman of the NLC in the state, Godwin Anya, said the situation had not changed.

Anya stated, “Though I left office just two weeks ago as the NLC chairman, the situation has not changed at all.

“The salary paid in early March was for November 2022 and those arrears of 2017 are still there, except that the government before the election released N150m to defray the 2017 arrears, which is meaningless, and N100m to settle the arrears of local government workers’ salaries for 2017.”

Meanwhile, the governor-elect, Alia, has promised to clear the backlog of salary arrears when he assumes office.

He said, “Our state, Benue, needs a total reset! Governance in our state has hit a historic low. This election is a mandate to reform and recalibrate governance in Benue.

“We need all hands, all good and ready hands, to be on the deck. We need men and women whom the spoils of office cannot buy. We need all who believe that a new Benue is possible.

“I believe that there is an even greater obligation on me, in fact on us all, to tell the Benue people very clearly the difficult choices and challenges that we face and how we will work our way through them.

“We will clear the backlog of arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities; resettle our IDPs in their ancestral homes; address persistent insecurity challenges and set the stage for a prosperous Benue.”


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