Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State seems unwavering, confident and determined to pick the ticket of his party as its flag bearer in the country’s 2023 Presidential election.
Looking himself and gutsy as he declares his intention to vie for the APC’s Presidential candidate ticket at the Eagle Square in Abuja recently, he titled his campaign “HOPE 2023” aimed at bridging existential gaps in Nigeria’s body politics,.
Standing in his favour are his youthful age of about 47 years, his mental and physical fitness, courage and foresight to steer the leadership of the country.
He also has a lot to gain from his proven ability to replicate and enforce his strategies for security, unity and peace at the Federal level like he has been doing in Kogi State.
Governor Bello had during his declaration said that President Yaya Bello (PYB) administration, if and when elected as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will run on the basis of equity, fairness and justice. “My government will be open and all-inclusive in its conduct towards fostering an economy in which every citizen can maximise their potentials as wealth creators and change agents”.
Most outstanding is his globally tested and acknowledged capacity for transparency and accountability in the management of human and material resources since his election as Kogi State Governor some six years plus ago.
Even the World Bank attested to GYB’s transparency and accountability when it described Kogi’s 2020 audited financial statement as “standard of transparency, accountability in the public sector”.
The Bank’s commendation came via a letter sent to the Accountant General of Kogi State on November 21, 2021 and signed by the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme (SFTAS) Task Team Leader, Nigeria Country Office, Western and Central African Region of the World Bank Group, Deborah Hannah Isser.
Titled, “Nigeria: Review of Kogi State Audited Financial Statements for the year ended December 31, 2020 for State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability.”
SFTAS is a $750 million programme to reward States for meeting any or all of nine indicators that demonstrate improvements in fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability.
The nine indicators are an offshoot of the previous Fiscal Sustainability Plan of the Federal Government where States were to be rewarded for meeting up to 22 targets.
The criteria to be achieved are: improved financial reporting and budget reliability; increased openness and citizens’ engagement in the budget process; improved cash management and reduced revenue leakages through the implementation of State Treasury Single Account, TSA; strengthened Internally Generated Revenue, IGR collection; biometric registration and Bank Verification Number, BVN used to reduce payroll fraud.
Others are improved procurement practices for increased transparency and value for money; strengthened public debt management and fiscal responsibility framework; improved clearance/reduction of the stock of domestic expenditure arrears; and improved debt sustainability.
The SFTAS programme is part of efforts of the Federal Government to further enhance the transparency and accountability in the use of public resources through the implementation of the Open Government Partnership, which Nigeria signed to in July 2016.
The World Bank in its letter commended the state for preparing its audited financial statements in line with the accrual basis of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.
“The Bank has reviewed the Audited Financial Statements, and it is found acceptable for SFTAS Program assurance requirements.”
It is therefore interesting to note that another World Bank letter came barely four months after it issued an earlier one commending Governor Bello for good leadership.
The second letter commended GYB for the refund of a $4.63million surpluses under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP. In the letter of appreciation, titled, “Refund of Surplus Project Funds to the World Bank under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP signed by its Regional Director, Shubham Chaudhuri, the Bretton Woods institution asserted that Bello’s action made it possible for the organisation to extend its projects to other states facing deficit funds and closing date of its projects.
As a further testimony to the GYB administration of Kogi State, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN acknowledged the improvement of Kogi State on its ICAN’S Novel Accountability Index, ICAN AI.
ICAN noted that the state moved from 12th to 7th position in its 2019 assessments.
However, an issue that needs to be completely sorted out for GYB’s aspiration is the issue of payment of workers salaries. Despite the fact that the Governor and his officials, including the State Accountant General, have severally insisted that they pay 100% of salaries monthly to State workers, the issue has refused to die.
For this, GYB recently in a Channels TV interview challenged any Kogi civil servant who is not collecting full salary to come on air with a printed payslip to challenge him. He admitted however that local government councils workers get percentage salary.
“We don’t owe any salary. Since our staff screening and verification exercise which ended in 2018, we pay 100% of salaries to State workers on or before the end of every month”, GYB explained.
The man GYB appears determined to succeed as he is not leaving any stone unturned. He is in constant touch with the high and low members of his party, APC as a grassroot politician.
GYB looks set to give a big suprise at the party’s Presidential direct or indirect primary election or consensus.
How far will he go, can he really beat other heavyweights on the bill? Only time will tell.
EMEKA ANYAOKU STREET, ABUJA