When state governors complained bitterly about lack of funds to carry out life changing programmes for the people, you will want to pity them. But you think again, when the same state governors like in the case of Adamawa State turn around to make a silly claim about expenditure for burials you quickly realize that indeed state governments have money. Otherwise, the music coming out of Bauchi State over funeral expenditure is as displeasing to the ears as it is utterly nauseating and suggests the extent to which managers of state resources often misapply same. In Bauchi, the incumbent administration and his predecessor in office appear to be singing discordant tunes over an obviously bizarre funeral expenses.
Governor Bala Mohammed claims that the former government spent N2.3billion as burial expenses, bad enough. The governor however admitted that it spent N1.2 billion instead. What is easily discernible from the altercation is the fact that over N1 billion was spent as burial expenses with the immediate past administration for the purchase of grave decking woods and other materials for burials.
Former Governor Mohammed Abubakar’s media assistant, Mukhtar Jibril, said his principal inherited the practice of purchasing the burial materials for the graveyard from his predecessors. While justifying the curious expenditure in a state with a high out of school children, Jibril said: “However, the project like any other one of same magnitude was awarded to qualified contractors. Based on the available verifiable record, N1, 270,743,520 had been expended since its inception and not the exaggerated figure of N2.3bn mischievously posted on the social media by critics.”
Where is the sense in that justification? It is clear that the immediate past administration of Mohammed Abubakar expended such a humongous amount on burials in the state, even though the state did not experience security challenge in the manner we have seen in Zamfara or Benue States. This means, those two states could easily have spent N5 billion to purchase burial materials. We therefore can’t see why the government spent such amount for burial. This is a seemingly outrageous expenditure.
What are even the materials for burial: clothes that are used in wrapping dead bodies and the woods used to lace the graveyards! And this expenditure was captured within the last five months of the immediate past administration. So if we are to count for a whole four years the governor may have spent over N10 billion for funeral.
As we speak, the fact that this expenditure was carried out at a time the state ranked low in most human development indices suggests a dreadful understanding of public administration. For example, the Economic Confidential Annual State Viability Index. ASVI, 2017 ranking of states by internally generated revenue, IGR compared to federation account allocation in 2017, showed that whereas the state received N85billion from the federation account for the period under review, it only generated a paltry 5.13 percent which came from Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deducted at source from salaries of civil servants, thus placing the state in the last position in Nigeria.
Schools in the state are in tatters with no chairs, desks and instructional materials for teaching. Many have no roofs and pupils/students can’t go to school when it rains. Sadly too, the state, in the last four years, has performed woefully in national examinations- WAEC and NECO.
By UNESCO records, there are about 1.3 million out of school children in Bauchi, one of the highest in the country. With such grim reality, the governor still claimed to spend more for dead people than the living yet expects somehow for the state to make progress. Things don’t appear to add up as far as the expenses are concerned and hence, we want to ask: was there an open bidding for the contract for the supply of these materials? Which firm won? Was this money appropriated for? Where are these materials domiciled?
There seems to be a reality that the money must have been stolen and thought therefore the easy heading to retire the fund is through burial. The suggestion is dumb. It leaves the state looking too cheeky, pedestrian and stupid. This is surely how not to run a state. Little wonder the governor was roundly defeated during the last election. We still have a long way to go if in such a dire situation like Bauchi, the governor still finds time to joke about his own sleaze. The new government must not stand down until justice is done.