DELTA: How Government Properties Were Looted In Asaba
A CASUAL visitor to Government House and the Commissioners’ Quarters opposite the sprawling seat of power both in Asaba, cannot help, but notice the emptiness of the car parks, which used to be jam-packed with Delta State Government vehicles.
Parking space there used to be a precious commodity at those two places, but not anymore. One hardly sees any car marked ‘DTGH.’
The number of cars at the car parks gradually dwindled just before May 29, when former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan handed over the reigns of government to his successor, Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa.
Now there are practically no vehicle as they seem to have all skedaddled with the exit of Uduaghan. Some of the political appointees who are the chief culprits reportedly vamoosed with four vehicles instead of one, which they were entitled to going by a circular letter signed by the former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ovuozourie Macaulay.
Macaulay had explained that political appointees, which include Senior Special Advisers, Senior Political Advisers, Chief Advisers, Special Advisers, Political Advisers, Economic Advisers, Project Directors, Executive Assistants, Senior Special Assistants, Special/Media Assistants, Chief Press Secretaries, Press Secretaries and Political/Media Aides, are entitled to just one car.
The former scribe emphasized that the gestures preclude all other official vehicles, as well as, government properties still in possession of those categories of political appointees. He added that such properties must be returned immediately to the most senior officer in their respective ministries, department and agencies as part of the disengagement process.
As people of the state continue to wait anxiously for the governor to make more appointments into his government, the Commissioners’ Quarter were stripped bare, allegedly by the former commissioners in the past administration. Civil servants attached to the official residential quarters of the commissioners were seen in clusters discussing the development in hush tunes.
One of the workers, who would not disclose his identity, explained that the former commissioners looted almost everything including air conditioners, television sets, furniture and even kitchen utensils from their official residences.
This again ran contrary to the directive of Macaulay, who advised all political appointees in the former administration to ensure the proper handover of all government property which included official vehicles, furniture and equipment in their possession as directed by the State Executive Council.
The scribe further wrote: “This is without prejudice to my circular on retention of official vehicles by entitled political appointees. In fact, persons who have either been given the privilege to retain their official cars as gift in appreciation of their services or in lieu of severance gratuity are also required to return or handover the government official number plates affixed to such vehicles as a condition for the issuance of the letters of release.”
Another source, who would also not want his name in print, explained that there is no way a political appointee will be issued a letter of release if he came with more than two plate numbers, as it is only one vehicle they are entitled to.
He lamented the open disregard of the order, advising that the governor should wield the big stick by inviting law enforcement agents, preferably officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to investigate the activities of the erring officials and prosecute them if indicted.
“It beats my imagination that somebody can take about two, three, four or even five government cars away and nothing happens to him. Some even took the air-conditioners, televisions, fridges and other electronics in their offices and residences away. They should be held accountable.
These are government properties and should not be carted away,” said the source. According to him, with over 200 political appointees in the state, the cost to the tax payers of the vehicles and properties carted away could be over two billion Naira, wondering where the new governor is going to get money to buy new ones, against the backdrop of dwindling allocation from the Federation Account.
Presently, the state government only manages to pay salary of workers, while new political appointees will not be given official cars while those living in government quarters will have to make do without furniture and electronics.
He said that the former political appointees had the audacity to loot the properties because the new administration, just like the former, are both of the same ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and that the new governor was a former commissioner and Secretary to the State Government.
The thinking, according to our source, is that Okowa, being a part of the system will not read the riot act out to them and may just quietly let them go with the loot.
“Having served as a commissioner under ex-governor James Ibori and as the Secretary to the State Government under Uduaghan, they feel he is a homeboy, who will not hurt them. Okowa had declared in his inaugural address on May 29 in Asaba: “And on this day, let it be known that the business of government can no longer be business as usual.”
This obviously seems to be first acid test for Okowa who promised to “avoid waste, profligacy and never lose sight of the fact that we will be held accountable to God and man for our stewardship.”