Governor Yahaya, who begged southerners to be his brother’s keeper, borrowed and looted 55.3 billion naira in two years
While begging the governors of the south to be their brother’s keeper and let the federal government continue to collect value added tax, saying the people of Gombe could face acute hunger, Governor Inuwa Yahaya s ‘is launched in a wave of loans intended primarily to help him accumulate personal wealth, documents obtained by Spectacle de la Gazette des Peuples.
Since taking office on May 29, 2019, Mr. Yahaya has applied for and obtained approvals to borrow 44.3 billion naira, according to official documents obtained by The Gazette. The governor also collected 11 billion naira which his predecessor Ibrahim Dankwambo requested but was unable to receive before his term expired. The governor also has a new plan to borrow an additional 35 billion naira.
The Gazette’s audits found that the governor did not spend the loans on the projects he cited as being necessary. Instead, it has cornered billions for itself, leaving the specter of crushing debts on a state already plagued by a shortage of health and education infrastructure and ranks among the top indices of poverty.
In documents reviewed by The Gazette, the governor in October 2019 obtained approval for loans of N 10 billion and N 2 billion respectively for the “provision of infrastructure projects in the state and payment of requirements. matching funds to access the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) donor. funded projects.
But Mr. Yahaya did not settle the matching funding after the loan was approved by the House of Assembly, but used the fund to execute projects within his own official residence and offices that were contracted. with individuals from its pool of fronts. The conduits have always helped the governor divert state funds to jurisdictions outside the state, officials said.
Again on October 9, 2019, the governor obtained approval to secure N14. 5 billion from the Guarantee Trust Bank to provide infrastructure, ensure the payment of state and local government employees and establish an industrial park to increase the revenue generated internally by the state.
On July 9, 2020, Mr. Yahaya applied for approval to obtain a N2 billion loan from the United Bank for Africa to provide health infrastructure in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Less than N50 million from the fund was spent on containment of COVID in the state, as the actual support came from the federal government and international relief organizations, The Gazette found.
On June 24, 2021, the Gombe House of Assembly, in a letter to Mr. Yahaya’s office, granted his request to obtain a contract finance facility of N10.8 billion from UBA Plc. .
The governor had requested the request on June 22, citing “infrastructure, in particular the provision of solar street lights, biometrics for employees and retirees of the state and local communities, as well as additional funding for construction and the renovation of certain selected hospitals in the State â, as grounds for the loan.
A new loan of 5 billion naira from Family Homes Funds was requested by Mr. Yahaya on July 27, 2021, at an interest rate of nine percent with a flexible tenure period of 96 or 120 months. His administration, however, settled the 96-month repayment. According to the letter sent to the state parliament, the funds would be used to build 1,000 affordable housing units.
Mr. Yahaya also gave the banks and other bodies that made the loans available Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders (ISPOs) that will allow the loans to be deducted from the state’s federal allowances at diverging but significant interest rates.
The good life
Mr Yahaya’s borrowing frenzy could push Gombe – for a decade classified as one of Nigeria’s poorest states – further into impoverishment. In 2019, it was ranked ninth on the poverty rate in Nigeria, at 63 percent.
Amid a storm of debates over the value-added tax regime last month, Mr. Yahaya implored Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Nyesom Wike and other southern governors to be their brother’s keeper, claiming that residents of Gombe state could face acute hunger if there was a reform that would allow each state to collect and keep a large portion of its VAT revenues.
Governors in the South have waged a legal battle to reform the current VAT regime that allows Sharia states that destroy shipments of beer to benefit from alcohol revenues. The federal government and some northern governors have joined forces to urge southern states to preserve the status quo.
“The VAT issue will have negative effects not only on Gombe State but on almost all states in the federation,” Yahaya said at an event where he was represented by Gombe’s finance commissioner. Muhammad Magaji on September 8.
But Mr. Yahaya himself did not put the plight of his people first, instead focusing on securing loans that he could use up to expand his personal wealth and appetite for luxury destinations.
Although the governor over time justified his borrowing, arguing that it was important to rely on borrowed funds to finance projects in the state, senior Gombe officials revealed to The Gazette that Mr. Yahaya had embezzled the money.
“The governor embezzled the money he borrowed and changed most of it into dollars,” an administration official told The Gazette. “He loves silver in the Caribbean and European islands, and any time he’s in Nigeria you will likely find him in Abuja and not on the ground in Gombe.”
The official, who works closely with Mr. Yahaya, agreed to corroborate this story to The Gazette after our reporter sent him copies of the loan documents.
“We asked His Excellency to curb his appetite for loans and to focus on developing the state with federal allocations and internally generated resources,” said the senior Gombe official. “We haven’t accused him of bribery in the face, but we have given him the message that people will soon be asking him to explain what he’s done with all the funds he’s got approval from. borrow from the Gombe National Assembly.
The 55.3 billion naira loan that Yahaya has acquired so far barely half of his four-year tenure did not include what Gombe raised in federal allocation over the same period. Between May 2019 and December 2020, Gombe received N 67,905,649,663.68 in federal allowances. Figures from January to September 2021 were not included as they could not be changed for accuracy before this publication.
The state revenue office also confirmed that it generated 8.4 billion naira in 2020, among several other revenue streams that periodically flow to the state treasury.
Officials said there were other loans the governor guaranteed and looted using the state’s name, but The Gazette could not easily report them due to insufficient information and documents.
For more than two days, Mr. Yahaya and his spokesperson, Ismaila Uba Misilli, declined The Gazette’s request for comment. The governor initially promised to recall and clarify how he spent 55.3 billion naira borrowed from various channels, but did not keep his words or respond to subsequent efforts to seek his clarification.
Two members of the House of Assembly also said they could not comment on how the governor used the approved loans, even though they have constitutional powers to oversee the activities of the executive.
Concerns are mounting
Over the past month, individuals and groups have expressed concerns about the governor’s constant borrowing for a variety of reasons, claiming that Gombe’s infrastructure and public facilities continue to deteriorate, despite income from IGR and the Committee. allocation of Federation accounts (FAAC).
In the 2021 edition of his annual report on the state of states, BudgIT, a civic technology organization for transparency and accountability, noted that the northeastern state “still has infrastructure gaps in the areas of education, health and roads which require a significant capital investment “.
While referring to Gombe’s total debt as of December 31, 2020, BudgIT also stated that âGombe spent 13.92 billion naira on internal loan servicing and 616.68 million naira on external loan servicing in during fiscal year 2020 â.
The municipal media recommended that Mr. Yahaya improve Gombe’s low IGR generation capacity, which makes it “dangerously” dependent on the federal government for its recurring revenue.
Two weeks ago, Senator representing Gombe Central, Danjuma Goje, lamented that the state’s health problem is worsening due to the lack of access to specialist hospitals where diseases can be properly diagnosed and treated.
During a debate on the bill to establish an FMC in Deba, Gombe, which increased second reading in the Senate, Doje lamented that the state has not yet had an FMC since the existing one. has been transformed into a teaching hospital.
âIn Gombe State, the story is different because there is no federal medical center after the modernization of the existing one into a teaching hospital; therefore, the adoption of this bill becomes timely to alleviate the suffering of the Gombe people, âGoje said.
The Gombe Good Leadership Association, a state lobby group, called Mr. Yahaya “unable” to avoid mortgaging the state through excess borrowing in a statement released last week.
“The government has awarded contracts on paper, but we boldly state that the reality on the ground does not reflect such contracts,” he noted. The group also said that Mr. Yahaya borrowed and looted at least 109 billion naira before stepping down, with an additional 50 billion naira of interest projected during the same period.
Click here to download the 10-page document of Mr. Yahaya’s loan applications and approvals since 2019.