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Take governance seriously, Diaspora group tells Taraba gov

A pressure group, Tarabans in the Diaspora, has called on Governor Agbu Kefas to stop ‘wasteful spending’ and take governance seriously. Martins Joel, spokesperson of…

A pressure group, Tarabans in the Diaspora, has called on Governor Agbu Kefas to stop ‘wasteful spending’ and take governance seriously.

Martins Joel, spokesperson of the group, in a statement in Abuja, said there are a lot of reasons that suggest that Governor Agbu does not consult or seek the opinions of either his aides or relevant stakeholders before arriving at critical decisions. 

Joel said the idea of going around meeting consultants or embassies without first discussing or critically examining such issues as education, economy, security, or even projects is not a good path to take.

“It will only mean that Taraba goes for those meetings without the right data for engagement and with a shallow understanding of the situation. 

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“This has also led to a lot of rumours that the governor trusts outsiders for decisions affecting the state rather than relying on the abundant human resources in the state. Are we stopping him from consulting outsiders? No! But he shouldn’t ignore the people within, and if he is consulting them, it should be clearly seen,” he said.

While acknowledging that the governor showed flickers of hope in his early days in office as he was seen visiting schools – primary, secondary, and tertiary schools, and hospitals, among others, Joel said: “What we have seen since the few days of what now seems to be a subterfuge is a downward spiral of everything in governance even if we were to use his predecessor (ex-gov Darius Ishaku)’s abysmal standards as a criterion to gauge Gov Kefas.”

He said: “Most of Agbu’s commissioners rarely stay at their duty posts to work for the majority of Tarabans; they are seen travelling along with the governor wherever he goes. This has further helped in crippling government activities within the state and further encouraging staff redundancy within the ministries.

“Months after the inauguration of the state cabinet, the commissioners have not been able to articulate and communicate in clear terms what their focus or any new reform that will kick-start the Taraba economy. The new ministries have not been able to come out and educate the citizens on what to expect or what reforms they intend to carry out.

“This has left us to wonder if at all, the governor has any plans for the state outside travelling all over the place. If these travels are for this very purpose, then there should be a clear picture of what will happen and how it will happen, and quickly too,” he added.

 

Full statement below: AGBU: HAS TARABA MISSED IT AGAIN? – Concerned Tarabans in Diaspora
The emergence of Governor Kefas Agbu of Taraba as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 elections was met with mixed reactions. While a section of Tarabans saw his emergence as a ray of hope, several other people questioned his capacity to govern. Left with no viable option, the people pacified themselves, rallied behind, and voted for him overwhelmingly during the general elections. Fast Forward to the 29 of May 2023, Kefas Agbu was inaugurated and sworn in as the Governor of Taraba State. On the inauguration day, he wrote: “I am humbled to be sworn in as the Governor of Taraba, today. It’s a new dawn in our history as a State and People – I am privileged to be your Servant-Leader. I am committed to serving you all with tact, and dedication to the development of our Society.”
To be fair to him, the Governor showed flickers of hope in his early days in office. He was seen visiting schools – primary, secondary, and tertiary schools, and hospitals. The hitherto dirty metropolitan roads were swept clean too. This was, for the people of Taraba, a show of presence and empathy; the presence of their governor in their midst who is empathetic with their problems – something the people of the state did not experience with his predecessor, Former Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku (DDI). He also organized a Youth, Economy, and Security Summit in those early days. This gave the people a ray of hope. Sadly, that is as far as the story of this newfound hope went.
What we have seen since the few days of what now seems to be a subterfuge is a downward spiral of everything in governance even if we were to use DDI’s abysmal standards as a criterion to gauge Agbu Kefas. Come with me….
Appointments
Gov. Kefas Agbu promised there would be a paradigm shift in governance and he hoped to start with appointments. He told everyone who cared to listen that his government was the government of the youths. When he was ready to appoint commissioners, he sent a memo to the party office through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the State, to nominate candidates for appointment. The memo contained a number of criteria, one of which is ‘nominee must possess cognate experience’. Though Gov. Kefas did as promised, the youth demographic, I am afraid, is a far cry from even the Governor’s standard. Critics within the state have summed up the major activities done by these heads of ministries – photo-ops sessions. And over five months in office, the Governor has continued to shy away from the appointments of advisers and others. You just wonder how he intends to run the government – well, “he knows what he is doing.” At least, that’s what he keeps saying. We hope so…
Lack of Managerial and Administrative skills
You’ll never see a more chaotic and directionless administration like that of Gov. Kefas. No one in the whole of Taraba State can distinguish between official communication and social media posts by data boys. Everyone seems to be a government or branch of government. The Governor sits in the comfort of his sitting room or office and makes statements to the press and expects civil servants to carry out the “instructions” without official memo to minute on. A very good example is the implementation of minimum wage. As of the time of writing this, Taraba state workers have not been paid their October salary. The reason is that the Governor promised on media that minimum wage will be implemented by October. He did not communicate this officially to the right authorities. When it was time for salary, and  vouchers were raised with the old salaries, he asked them to return it and ensure minimum wage is implemented or “heads will roll’’, a news, carried by these ‘media team’ to mean that the Governor meant business. Still, I stand to be corrected, this was without an official communication from the Governor to the right authorities. When confronted about making spurious promises in a media chat, the Governor retorted that he was making declarations. Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!…..But once again, “I know what I am doing” is the story from the Governor.
Wasteful and Reckless Spending
Governor Agbu Kefas has been in office for 5 months and 10 days today. He has not spent one whole week at a stretch in any part of Taraba State and has not spent more than 1 month combined in the state in the period stated. And he travels with a chartered plane. The cost of flying a chartered plane is online for everyone to see. Kefas is so reckless that he can fly into Jalingo Friday evening, does nothing, or performs a function as useless as inaugurating a committee, which even his Chief of Staff can do, and flies out on Saturday morning before the cock crows. More than 50 percent of these travels are done with more than half the cabinet members – heads of ministries and key government offices, notably the Commissioner of Information and Finance, thereby crippling the administration of these offices. You would prefer the monies to be embezzled to this monumental wastage going on in the state.
Unending Retreats
Credit to Governor Kefas. He organized a retreat in Abuja for the newly appointed commissioners, Permanent Secretaries and Directors, and other government functionaries, to get them up to speed. But as we write this, the people of Taraba State have lost count of the retreats that the commissioners and legislators have had. As a matter of fact, the commissioners have spent more time on retreat than they did in their offices since they were sworn in in July. This leaves you wondering what exactly they are retreating from to refuel and get back to work. They haven’t done any work anyway. One would expect that they are at least learning the ropes of administering ministries and understanding bureaucratic processes so as to avoid the blunders perpetrated by some of them. But then, this is where we are, after all, it is still a young government with enough time to adjust. That nonetheless, these endless retreats is another area where Governor Agbu has shown how wasteful he can be.
Failure to Expose Taraba to the Outside World
This point is somewhat tied to the preceding one. Now, here is a Governor who wants to boost tourism within the state, but he prefers to take major events outside the state. An example was the first retreat for the commissioners which was hosted in Abuja and the current one going on in Lagos. One will assume that hosting events within the state will help boost tourism, and encourage more visitors to visit the state, thereby creating patronage for businesses within the state but, the governor prefers to host events outside the state. How then will outsiders know about Taraba and boost the confidence of intending tourists? Though the Governor has a personal life and is free to make choices, one would expect that the event where he celebrated his daughter’s call to bar should have taken place in Taraba and have all the visitors invited over. Well, it is not up for debate, however, the state was nearly empty because every government official was in Abuja to attend that event. Did they sponsor themselves to be there? That’s a question for another day. Like stated before, this was a personal event. We can do better.
Unrealistic Policies – Education
At the time all the schools in the universe were increasing school fees, Governor Kefas Agbu was declaring free education in Taraba State. Of course, education from primary school to JSS 3 has always been free. Reduction in school fees too is not a bad thing. But where is the money to fund it? Aside from that, the Governor wants to sew uniforms for school children. How sustainable is this practice? Where on earth is this done in 2023? As we write this, most schools, especially those in urban areas, are filled to the brim. A class that, according to UNESCO standards, should not have more than 35 students per class, is accommodating 200-300 students.
In the past 4 months, commissioners and other government functionaries have travelled to Kenya, Rwanda, Netherlands, and Finland to “study” their free education model for implementation. The same free education that Obafemi Awolowo implemented here in South-West, Nigeria, more than 60 years ago. Waste. Waste. Waste. Everywhere!
Unrealistic Policies – Agriculture
The only agricultural policy Agbu has is buying power tillers like machines he constantly referred to as tractors. If there is any other policy or even a direction for developing the agricultural sector, we have not seen or heard of it, and that is besides his speeches of focusing on the agricultural sector to boost IGR. We are talking about Taraba state, an agriculturally viable state in the world, yet, without a well-thought-out plan to harness this sector. “I know what I am doing”.
Out-Sourcing of Patrimony
Taraba state is one of the states in northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large, that boast of the best brains in almost every facet of life. But what Gov. Agbu has achieved in the past 5 months is to relegate Tarabans to the background.
Ministries are now run by consultants (and not the commissioners) shipped in from all over Nigeria. Contracts, which none has followed due process, are awarded to non-indigenes when there are capable indigenes. All the retreats bar one that he has organised, were held outside the state, thereby enriching outsiders with Taraba meagre resources. Tarabans did not vote for Governor Agbu so he could push them into poverty. The Governor should know that for every consultant he brings, there are 3 or 4 Tarabans who are far better than that consultant.
Too many Committees
Most of Governor Agbu’s commissioners rarely stay at their duty post to work for the majority of Tarabans, they are seen traveling along with the governor wherever he goes. This has further helped in crippling government activities within the state and further encouraging staff redundancy within the ministries. The Governor seems to prefer the concept of governance using committees and then having the commissioners as members of those committees. Could it be that he doubts the capacity of these commissioners- or that he needs to compensate the older stakeholders who are angry with the Governor for changing the landscape of political appointments in Taraba State? Needless to say, these committees need to understand their tasks, the policies guiding their fields and what needs to be done to be better positioned for growth.
Crippling the state legislative arm
The speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly has been turned into a member of the executive arm of Governor Agbu’s government. He has almost become a part and parcel of the Governor’s traveling entourage. He is constantly in Abuja with the Governor or seen traveling to other countries as part of the Governor’s entourage. In sane societies, the speaker will be busy shaping the laws of the land, working to domicile certain laws to the benefit of the state and helping to cut the excesses of the executive arm. Well, not here, not now. This has left the legislative arm of government redundant and inactive with little or no activity besides approving loans that were not well thought out. The other members of the State Assembly have been spending days attending a series of retreats outside the state than they have done sitting in the chambers and legislating for the people of the state.
No Economic Plan
Taraba state has all the wrong economic indices; high poverty, high unemployment rate, high in multidimensional poverty, etc. One will assume that on assumption of office, the governor will assemble an economic team that will fashion out a workable economic blueprint for the state and ensure its implementation, but nothing of such is in place at the moment. The Governor only talks about it but does nothing to show Tarabans that we are on course. On Internally Generated Revenue, Taraba is also lagging behind as we still can’t raise as little as 10% of our yearly budget as IGR. There are still issues of payroll racketeering going on, where some very few people are feeding fat on state resources and using the wealth to build hotels within the state capital. The governor hasn’t acted on these or has he attempted to deploy technology in addressing the leakages in the revenue and payroll problems.
Unclear Policies
It is getting to the sixth month of this administration, and Tarabans still cannot state in clear terms what the policy directions of the Agbu’s government are all about. Months after the inauguration of the state cabinet, the commissioners have not been able to articulate and communicate in clear terms what their focus or any new reform that will kick-start the Taraba economy. The new ministries have not been able to come out and educate the citizens on what to expect or what reforms they intend to carry out. This has left us to wonder if at all, the governor has any plans for the state outside traveling all over the place. If these travels are for this very purpose, then there should be a clear picture of what will happen and how it will happen, and quickly too.

Efforts to speak with the governor’s spokesman were unsuccessful as he was said to have accompanied his principal to Bayelsa ahead of Saturday’s governorship elections.

 

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