The Kaduna State Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mohammed Abdullahi, said the immediate past government of Mukhtar Yero spent over N2.1bn on sweets, juice and chocolates to entertain visitors in 2014 alone.
He added that the ex-governor’s administration wasted another N2bn on training and retraining of workers who did not need such training.
For instance, the commissioner said, an accountant was given a training meant for an architect during the Peoples Democratic Party administration under Yero in the state.He noted that, though the Nasir el-Rufai government valued training, it was concerned about real training in line with workers’ area of need.
Abdullahi added that the Yero government spent over N40m monthly on chicken and rice for the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, Kaduna during the period.
The commissioner said this at a roundtable on the 2017 draft budget organised by the Kaduna State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, in the state capital on Saturday. He noted that the el-Rufai’s administration had to jettison such a wasteful budget system of the last government.
Abdullahi noted that over N.6m was used monthly to buy newspapers without the actual copies being on ground for verification and accountability.
When contacted to react to the allegation, Yero said he would not respond to an allegation “from a bloody commissioner.”
He added that he would not respond to any allegation emanating from the current All Progressives Congress administration in the state.
The conversation went thus:
Reporter: Good evening, your Excellency. I am calling in respect of the allegation that you spent over N2.1bn on sweets, chocolates while in office as the governor of Kaduna State, sir…
Yero: ‘I don’t respond like that.
Reporter: How do you respond to the allegation, your Excellency?
Yero: I don’t respond that way…
Reporter: How then do you want to respond to a weighty allegation like the one from the current government?
Yero: I am not going to respond to anything from this government. Let them say whatever they want to say. Before you publish your whatever (story), you are supposed to balance. Some newspapers did not even bother
Reporter: But that’s why I am calling you, your Excellency, to balance the story, sir.
Yero: I cannot respond to what a bloody commissioner said as a former governor. So, I don’t respond to a commissioner’s allegation.
But Abdullahi said the current administration decided to operate zero-based budget where every naira budgeted was tagged to a verifiable project so that the people could hold government accountable for such spending.
He said, “So, when we started the zero-based budget as soon as we came to power, civil servants in the state were not happy because they were doing budget without executing the project, and the money, for instance N20m, could go into an individual’s pocket.
“They keep on saying that this is not the way it is done, but we told them that we wanted to do it in our own way because this is a change regime. So, we recollected and redirected the budget draft.
“We inherited N8.6bn from the immediate past government which was in several bank accounts, but we were able to realise N38bn when we introduced the Treasury Single Account.
“We have money in the state, and it is not that we cannot pay salaries, but it was because we were doing the verification of workers, which had delayed payment of pensions and salaries. But as I speak to you, by this October, pensioners will get their payments.”
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, at the event, advised journalists in the state to move away from “views reporting” to factual reportage of events, and uphold the ethics of the journalism profession in carrying out their duty.
Adekeye faulted a situation where journalists reported the views of news makers to the public realm without verifying the authenticity of such opinions.
Earlier, the Acting Chairman of the Kaduna State NUJ, Mrs. Zhiroh Jatau, noted that, as members of the fourth estate of the realm and stakeholders in national development, responsibilities of journalists in educating and enlightening members of the public could not be over-emphasised.
However, she expressed the optimism that the roundtable discussion would serve as an opportunity for members to be better informed on what the administration was providing for the overall development of the state.
“It is also an opportunity for our members to help government to ensure the full implementation of the budget by proper monitoring and reportage in all stages,” she said.
In attendance at the event were members of the Kaduna State Executive Council, including the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Andrew Nock, and the Commissioner for Works, Transport and Housing, Hassan Mahmud Usman.