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Why I opposed Gov Bindow’s virement proposal – Hon Isa

The Adamawa House of Assembly announced it has suspended you for three months over a virement letter Governor Bindow sent to the House and which…

The Adamawa House of Assembly announced it has suspended you for three months over a virement letter Governor Bindow sent to the House and which you raised issues on. What makes this letter so contentious? What are the details?
After the committee on Finance, Budget and Appropriation I was chairing was inaugurated, the Speaker referred a letter dated 28 August to my committee as Detailed Arrears of Virement on the 2015 Revised Budget. But as it is obvious, we don’t have a revised budget. What we have legally is a supplementary budget. I made efforts to make my fellow members understand that this letter as its contents are is not viable. It isn’t that virement is not allowed in financial regulations, but there is nothing like a revised budget. So how to approve these details the governor wanted cannot get a legal backing.
To ease matters, I made efforts to contact the agencies that were listed in the document as beneficiaries of the virement. But first, I called the Commissioner for Finance and Budget, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary and his deputy, the state’s Accountant-General and the acting Director, Budget Office, Ministry of Finance.  Some of these officials were not aware of this letter, and the Accountant-General clearly told me the contents of the letter are false.
I suggested we must examine the document more and do the right thing, because the All Progressives Congress administration is all about change  – moral, positive change  –  and both the Adamawa State government and the House are APC.  I said they should allow us do our work. But some people began to insist that we must approve the documents and its details as they are in the proposal.
I maintained I needed to examine the ministries that will be benefiting from the virement.  I invited the commissioners for Works, Agriculture, Health, Water Resources and Housing, as well as the Secretary to the State Government. They all showed up and we deliberated to some extent. We arrived at some conclusions that we would make some amends, that projects that are new should come in a supplementary form, while old budgets can be in the virement. I then told the commissioners and the SSG that I would have to report back to the House.
My advice to the House has been affected by events, because as we were discussing with the commissioners and the SSG, it appeared some of them were not happy with my suggestions. I explained to them during the discussions that while some projects are new, but the contracts had been awarded, some are old and funds, which we didn’t approve, had already been disbursed for them to certain levels. The disbursements didn’t even follow the demands of the Public Procurement Act; there was no due process.  I told the commissioners to go back to their ministries and find out which contracts were new, and those that had been awarded, what was the extent of fund disbursement.
 As they didn’t like my advice, they went back and began spreading the talk that I wanted to bring the government down. But then, as far as I know, most of the contracts that had been awarded are still ongoing, funds are still being disbursed and nobody is stopping them. But then, to really govern, to make government accountable, we have to document everything. I didn’t come here to be a rubber stamp. I was elected by the masses and I didn’t even spend a dime to win their votes. Most of us won because of the integrity and unblemished service of President Muhammadu Buhari. If the President is upright in governance, we leaders at the grassroots, too, must follow suit. I declared to them I wasn’t claiming to be 100 per cent saintly, but there would be no cutting corners. I told them I would not be party to disbursing about a sum of N8 billion or even more than that unaccounted for and without following due process. I am ready for whatever it would cost me.
 How supportive or opposed to you were your Assembly colleagues all that while?
Well, some of my colleagues went to the governor telling him I was abusing him, that I wanted to bring his government down, that they should find a way to deal with me. The governor invited us to his office, saying we should work together. I said yes, but asked him why he didn’t want to submit a Supplementary budget that would be legal to cover his proposed expenditures. He said he would submit a Supplementary budget later. I asked him again how he could submit a Supplementary budget later after we must have passed his Virement request.  I told him it was illegal, that he could not mix new and old projects, contracts and expenditures together just like that in his Virement proposals.
 He said we should go, but he told me if I could do the Virement approval for him, he would thereafter do anything I request. He promised to be giving each member of a group, the Integrity Group which I formed in the state and I head to advance morality and integrity in Adamawa State politics, a sum of N1 million monthly.
  What makes you different?
The governor has been my boss for a long time; I was his Protocol Officer when he was a senator. I have never seen him as my governor; I see him more as my brother as we are from the same town, so I am more committed to seeing him deliver Adamawa on service delivery and good governance. That is why I can’t lie to him. If I want money from him, I will demand for it clearly.
 As I was saying, there was no meeting, at least, in which I was involved; maybe they held their meeting somewhere and deliberately excised me. The following Monday, when we were back in Yola, I went to the office of the Speaker, and to my surprise, he showed me a letter dated 28 October and signed by the Governor  on resubmission of the Virement proposals. Apparently, the letter had been in his office but he didn’t present it to the House until 10 November.  By then, my committee had already started preparing a report on some aspects of the first Virement submission. The letter spoke of revision of some capital estimates in the 2015 budget, but as I said earlier, there was no revision anywhere and at anytime. You can’t revise a budget.
Then, at the plenary, they read a letter that a motion had been made, the House had resolved to approve the Virement proposals of the Governor, the proposals had been accordingly approved and the Speaker was communicating the approval of the House to the governor. In the course of saying a motion had been made, there was nothing stating the budget was revised.  When they read that letter, I raised my hand to raise a constitutional matter, nobody agreed. I pressed the button to notify them, nobody talked. So I kept quite. But I had a bill that day to present so I didn’t go out. The bill was slated for second reading, so I waited. After the reading, I walked out, went to my office, packed my papers and went to my house.
Journalists came to meet me and enquired why, I, the chairman of the House committee on Budget and Appropriation, left the chambers unceremoniously. So I told them my committee had not submitted our report but they approved the governor’s virement proposals. I maintained, before the journalists, that the governor can’t bring in new projects and say “virement”, it is illegal. I then raised some instances inside this virement. There is the dualization of the 5.56 kilometres Yola Bypass. But what is happening there is not dualization, it is expansion. There are workers working there already, but in the virement, it is deemed a new project. Even one member queried this project, saying it should be amended, that it shouldn’t be approved without being amended. Many people are intelligent and watching us.
Also, in the virement document, the governor allocated N500 million for a new project for the SSG’s office for microcredit for social change. Is the SSG Office a bank?  Does the SSG have the capacity to run a microcredit facility and spend such money? And it is called a new project in the Virement. I asked the SSG whether he is a bank and has the official power to run a microcredit facility and disburse funds.  But the money is with him now.
 What has been the mood in Yola since your suspension?
 I can’t stay in my house in Yola because I have a lot of supporters who may want to react violently, but I don’t want any violence. After the suspension, I headed straight to the court to seek redress. The court gave an order annulling both the suspension and the dissolution of the committee, but the House members vowed the court order would not see the light of day.
There are also other issues on which I am raising questions, like how the bail-out fund has been spent. I summoned the commissioner to explain how the bailout was being spent, to explain some indices of misappropriation. They didn’t allow me to see the commissioner’s report till they suspended me. Now, some people had tried to kidnap, or even assassinate me.
How?
There was a day I called one member. He said he wanted to meet me. I said no, I didn’t trust any of them. He asked where I was and I replied I was in a hotel. It was around 12am. Not more than 10 minutes. The receptionist called to say three people had just come in, leaving some others outside, saying they wanted to see me. He said he didn’t trust them. I told him to tell them they should call me first so I would be sure of who wanted to see me. But they couldn’t. The receptionist told them I wasn’t around. In the morning, they sneaked me out through the back door. 

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