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Why governors shun government houses

This old idea seems determined not to die, in spite of the financial implications on the purse of concerned offices in the course of building…

This old idea seems determined not to die, in spite of the financial implications on the purse of concerned offices in the course of building and maintaining such usually palatial buildings. Across the country, most state governors have abandoned the government houses meant for them and opted for the comfort of their private residences.
Weekly Trust reports, however, shows that while some governors dump the idea of living in official quarters, others have since embraced it.
A public affairs commentator Yakubu Saidu said the fact that billions of taxpayers’ money is being spent on building official residences for elected officials, they have no reason not to stay in them. “The most honourable thing to do, in my view, is that not a single kobo meant for official accommodation should be spent on the personal residences of elected officials, because that will be shortchanging the state of its much needed funds.”
The vogue of chief executives living outside the Government Quarters seemed to have become history in Borno State in the last two years owing to the Boko Haram insurgency which makes the Government House in Maiduguri the safest haven for the governor and his family.
Unlike former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, who stayed in his private residence throughout his eight-year tenure, Governor Kashim Shettima stays in the government house together with his family.
Even principal members of the Borno State House of Assembly now live in some of the VIP lodges in the precinct of the government house.
The fact that the governor stays in the government house has prompted security operatives to mount many security measures, including blocking access roads, stationing armored personnel carriers at the gate and subjecting visitors to thorough screening by soldiers, police and SSS.
In Lagos State, sometimes in 2002 during the tenure of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos state, there was an incident that brought about a change in the residential arrangement.
Situated beside the old official residence of past Nigerian Presidents, at the old State House at Marina, Lagos, some part of the ceiling of the official governor’s house collapsed and caused injuries. This led to evacuation and relocation of Tinubu and his family from Marina to the State Guest House located at GRA, Ikeja.
Shortly before he bowed out of office, the traditional official residence of Lagos governor was rehabilitated gulping huge amount of money. Since Babatunde Fashola assumed office in May 2007, he has been living at the palatial Lagos House till today.
However, Governor Fashola has added to the structure as renovation had taken place. The large official residence of the governor has a mini football playing field where the governor exercises, a mosque, church and quarters for domestic staff.
In Sokoto state, Governor Aliyu Wamakko is one of those who live in their private home despite having an attractive official residence built with huge fortunes. He had said that the major reason why he does not live in the government house is because he is always in the midst of large number of people who throng to see him on a daily basis. At the official quarters there would be restrictions naturally.
Speaking on the issue, Wamakko’s Senior Special Adviser on Media, Mal. Sani Umar recalled that “when there was a fire incident at Wamakko’s house and he had to move to government house, for the two weeks he was away from his private house, it was like prison for him as people were prevented from entering the government house.” as a man of the people, the governor was worried that people could not see him as they usually did,” Umar added.
In the same Sokoto state, virtually all the military administrators who served in the state have lived in the Government House.
During the Second Republic, Shehu Kangiwa who governed Sokoto from October 1979 to November 1981 lived at the Government House and after his sudden demise during a polo tournament, his deputy Garba Nadama, who took over as governor from 1982-83, remained in his private house. The grief over his predecessor’s abrupt death was assumed to have put him off from going to government house.
Yahaya Abdulkarim was the next civilian governor (January 1992 to November 1993) and ived at the Government house.
But Attahiru Bafarawa, who governed the state from May 1999 to May 2007, did not live in government house with his family.
Like his Sokoto state counterpart, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state prefers his private home in his village than the official quarters.
Plateau State has two full-fledged government houses in the capital city, Jos: one in Jishe, along the popular Hill station Hotel area and the other one in Rayfield. A third one is under construction not far from the existing Rayfield Government House; but Governor Jonah Jang is not known to often use either of the two functional government houses as lodge or official quarters.
While official functions involving the governor take place mostly in Rayfield and occasionally in Jishe, Jang passes his nights mostly at his private residence in his village of Du, in Jos South Local Government Area.
“He sleeps at his private residence in Du, that’s where he passes his nights,” a source close to the governor confirmed to Weekly Trust.
Pressed further on whether Governor Jang uses any of the official lodges in Rayfield and Jishe, the source was emphatic that Jang does not sleep in Rayfiled: “He sometimes uses the Government Lodge in Jishe when he decides not to retire to Du for the night but he doesn’t sleep in Rayfield.”
However, Weekly Trust learnt that there a good number of security personal as well as security arrangement in the private resident as it is in the official house. Most of the governor’s kinsmen and close associates prefer seeing him at his personal residence even though it is also somehow as difficult as it is in the official quarters.
It could not be verified if Jang collects rent allowance despite the surfeit of government quarters. “The Jang that I know would not collect frivolous allowances,” an official said, continuing, “Here is someone who is widely accused of being tight-fisted and stingy. I think he is truly tight-fisted and prudent with public resources even when it comes to his personal interests.”
Meanwhile, most Military Administrators in the state lived in the official government house, while former civilian governors like Solomon Lar also lived there.
However, Fidelis Tapgun shuttled between the official quarters and his private home, even though he mostly lived in the official quarters but had his relatives in his private home.
For Joshua Dariye, all his eight year reign, he lived in his private home in the Southern part of Jos city.
In Taraba State, Weekly Trust investigations show that the state acting governor, Alhaji Garba Umar, makes maximum use of his official residence whenever he is in the state. It couldn’t be ascertained if the acting governor has a private residence within Jalingo, the state capital.
Our correspondent equally gathered that Governor Danbaba Suntai, who has a private residence in his town, Suntai, usually spend some time there as well as in his official residence at the Government House Jalingo before the ill-fated plane crash of last October.
Meanwhile, former Governor Jolly Nyame Jolly Nyame was the executive governor of Taraba State between 1999 and 2007 and spent most of his eight years tenure in his private apartment than in his official accommodation. It was also gathered that his retinue of friends, family members and associates usually troop his residence for the period his tenure lasted.
In Rivers State, Governor Chibuike Amaechi is a man whose ways and motives are very difficult to understand. The only house speculated to be owned by Amaechi was his official residence when he was the Speaker of the State Assembly.
The house is located at No 13 Forces Avenue very adjacent to Government House, Port Harcourt. The house was allocated to him by former Governor Peter Odili as his Official residence when was the Speaker of the State Assembly.
When Amaechi parted ways with Odili as a result of the issues surrounding his disqualification as PDP governorship candidate in the 2007 election, he was booted out of the state and subsequently re-located to Ghana. Thereafter, the certificate of occupancy of his official residence was revoked by Odili and his properties thrown out.
However, immediately he was sworn in as a Governor, Amaechi moved into his Official residence inside “Brick house.”  He has been living there with his family.
The Private residence of Amaechi remains a mystery to the people of the State. Nobody can point a particular building in any part of the State and say “this house belongs to the Governor”. Even when he visits home, he stays in a little four bed room apartment said to have been built by his late father.
In Kaduna State, Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero just recently relocated to the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the seat of power of the state. Before then, he was residing at the Deputy Governor’s lodge located on Tafawa Balewa way in the state.
Yero has been living in the state’s deputy governor’s lodge since he was made deputy governor of the state when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in 2010 and the then governor of the state Architect Mohammed Namadi Sambo stepped up to become the Vice President.
He became the Governor of the state when Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa died in December last year and he moved into the palatial government house months later. Weekly Trust gathered that the government house was giving a facelift before he moved in.
Our correspondent report that visitors to the Kaduna state government house are welcomed by an abandoned billion naira administrative wing, which was started by Namadi when he was governor of the state. The structure has been completed but the building is left unused.
For Kogi State, Governor Idris Wada, living in the official quarters is the best bet. He has been staying in the governor’s official quarters at the Lugard House since he assumed office in January 27, 2012.
The special adviser to governor on Media and Strategy, Jacob Edi, said the official quarter is meant for the governor to stay hence since elected he has been occupying the quarters.
He said Wada’s decision to stay at the quarters was borne out his desire for accountability and not wasting state resources on issues of less importance.
In Cross River State, the proximity of Governor Liyel Imoke’s official residence and his personal house is less than three kilometers. His official residence is opposite the old University of Calabar Teaching Hospital neighbour to the Appeal Court complex that was burnt over a year ago.
Governor Imoke most often operates from his palatial home which situates in the quiet neighbourhood of Ikot Omin Avenue in the state housing estate, a shouting distance from the popular Marian Road but close to Channelview hotel.
Except for the presence of security agents and the exotic cars that are regular features on that avenue, many seem not to be aware that the man ruling them lives there with his immediate family and hundreds of domestic staff.
About three months ago, when he returned from Maryland in the United States of America where he spent several months when he was sick, he preferred to host the PDP BoT chairman, Chief Tony Annenih and his large delegation of PDP top echelon in his personal residence.
There are however other few dignitaries that he would receive at the official residence and entertain other groups in the Perigrino Hall.
All the military administrators and civilian governors that have led the state since late Brigadier General UJ Esuene during the Nigerian Civil War have lived there.  His personal and official residences compete for superiority.
None of the staff in the state Accountant-General’s office and that of the state treasury could confirm if Imoke was drawing any accommodation allowance from the state.
In Zamfara state, most of the state chief executive officers preferred their private residence to the state house. In 1999 when former governor Ahmad Sani Yariman Bakura took over the mantle of leadership from the military administrator as the first civilian governor, he stayed in the government house with his family for some time but relocated towards the end of his second tenure to his personal residence in Gusau.
In 2007 when his successor, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi came on board, he accommodated himself in his personal residence throughout his tenure. However, he used to go to the government house for official engagements because that is where his office is.
The present governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, shuttles from Talata Mafara where his personal residence is situated to Gusau, and his family still live in his personal residence in Talata Mafara.
“He used to shuttle from Talata Mafara to Gusau especially during the first year of his administration but presently he stays in the government house from Monday to Friday and spend his weekends at his personal house in Talata Mafara,” a government official who craved for anonymity told Weekly Trust.
Politicians, and other people troop to the personal residence of Yari to see him especially if he is around and there is tight security in and around the area of his personal residence in Talata Mafara.
In Minna, Niger state, our reporter gathered that from 1976 to date, 13 governors served the state, with only four civilians, the rest were all Military Governors. Weekly Trust learned that all the governors that served in the state, both the Military and civilian lived in the governor’s lodge of the government House with the exception of the incumbent governor Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu.
Governor Aliyu lives in his personal residence in Minna, since his election. He was he was once reported as saying that his personal residence is bigger than the present governor’s lodge as such he preferred to remain in his private residence.
A visit to the governor’s private residence by this reporter revealed that the governor’s residence is full of activities as there is high presence of security operatives, plain cloth securities personnel, regular and mobile policemen as well as the Military personnel. Trooping in and out of top government functionaries as well the state political heavy weight could also be noticed in the governor’s private residence, particularly when the governor is around.
Weekly Trust observed that the present governor’s private residence looks more befitting than the official residence, even though not as spacious as the governor’s lodge.
In Yobe State, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam is living in his personal house located at Sabon Pegi area in the state capital, Damaturu.
Our reporter gathered that the governor has not for once stayed with his family in the government house since he assumed office as governor in January 27, 2009 after the demise of his predecessor, Mamman Ali who died occupying the government house with his family.
The government house is more secured and befitting than the one story building he occupies presently despite the security challenges in the state.
In Kano state, the story is different in the sense that their chief executives have always preferred to live in the government house regardless of their differences in terms of politics and ideology.
History has shown that ever since the creation of the state in 1967, all governors that served the state either Military or Civilian lived in the state government House. First Kano state civilian governor late Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi did his tenure as the first Executive governor of the state in the state Government House, his staying in the government house was one of the things that brought about his fallout with his party’s leadership.
Late Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo, who succeeded Rimi also stayed in government House, Kabiru Gaya, the two tenures of Governor Kwankwaso and the two tenures Malam Ibrahim Shekarau all lived in the Government House.
In 2012, Kano State Government was said to have allocated N1billion to fencing the state government house, a claim the state commissioner for works and housing disputed, saying the Kano State government has only spent N655million on the fencing project.
Presently, Kano government house has been transformed to a mega palace, with heavy security gates, state-of-the-art fence and well-armed security personnel on guard 24 hours. Similarly more structures are still being constructed within and around the quarters.
In Bauchi State, Governor Mallam Isa Yuguda lives in his private residence which he built recently in Bauchi metropolis.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ishola Michael Adeyemi, said in the first five years of Governor Isa Yuguda, he lived in the house owned by the State Government. He moved into his private house less than one year ago.
Ishola said “I don’t know if the governor receives housing allowances or not. I am not aware of anything about that.”

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