FIVE months after being re-elected into the office for a second term, the Governor of Adamawa state, Ahmadu Finitiri appointed two special advisers, 10 senior special assistants and 35 special assistants to his media team.
Section 196 of the 1999 Constitution empowers a state governor to appoint any person as a special adviser (SA) to assist him in performing his [the governor] functions. While the law does not state clearly how many SA’s can be appointed by the governor, it says that “the number of such Advisers and their remunerations and allowances shall be prescribed by law or by resolution of the House of Assembly of the State.”
The ICIR findings showed that the governor might be paying over N17.9 million to offset the monthly salaries of two special advisers and 45 special assistants (this is a total of N214.5 million annually). These calculations were based on the remuneration approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) if a review has not been made.
According to the commission, each special adviser earns N380,241.76 monthly and N4.6 million annually. The assistants are also entitled to other allowances like accommodations, furniture estacodes, medical, severance gratuity, leave and motor vehicle loans, which are paid based on application.
Also, an SA is entitled to receive a duty tour allowance (travelling allowance) reviewed by the former president, Muhammadu Buhari, based on your grade level.
Although there are no clear breakdowns between what an SSA and an SA earn monthly, it is assumed that their remuneration would be different, which might increase the payment above N17.9 million monthly.
This N17.9 million monthly payment does not capture other allowances, nor does it capture the salaries and allowance of aides that are not under media.
There have been growing concerns over appointments and allocation made by public officials and how it increases the cost of government. The ICIR reported on N110 billon palliative and N218 million holiday allowance for lawmakers and how the funds can improve some sectors of the economy.
As what is obtained in Adamawa, experts told The ICIR that the remunerations of these assistants could ameliorate several challenges facing the state.
This report intends to capture the financial sustainability ranking of the state with a look into the state’s budget and how the remunerations of these assistants can solve some socio-economic issues confronting the state.
Poor sustainability ranking
In 2022, BudgIT, a civic society organisation, ranked Adamawa state low on debt sustainability. The state scored 33 out of 36 states ranked by the organisation.
The report captured that Adamawa increased its personnel cost by 25.07 per cent from N27.84bn in 2020 to N34.82bn in 2021 as against the capital expenditure, which increased by 15.43 per cent from N21.30bn spent in 2020 to N24.59bn in 2021. There are projections that the personnel cost might increase in 2023 due to the recent appointments.
“It is not clear why a state that needs to fix its management of scarce resources would decide to take up a burden that would impoverish the state purse. It might be necessary for the State House of Assembly to propose a bill to limit the number of Special Assistants that a Governor can have,” Vahala Kwagwa, senior research & policy analyst for BudgIT, told The ICIR.
Poor socio-economic growth
Amidst the concerns about the appointment, Adawama state also ranks low on several socio-economic indicators. In 2021, the World Bank said the state had the highest poverty rate in the Northeastern region.
According to the Multidimensional Poverty Index report released by the National Bureau of Statistics, as of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 2 million people (54.9 per cent) were reported unemployed.
Also, a report captured how hospitals in the state face a shortage of staff, water supply, poor power and inadequate equipment to attend to patients. The state’s capital, Yola, has also been known to have a lingering water crisis, which Fintiri promised to address.
Meanwhile, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), also said 71 per cent of schools in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states that are operating with unqualified teachers.
What the monthly N17.9 million media aides salaries can do?
The ICIR examined the 2023 Adamawa Budget, using it as a benchmark to explain how N17.9 million can offset some capital expenditure.
Findings showed that the amount can offset the proposed construction and provision of fire fighting stations in the state valued at N17.7 million, or the rehabilitation and repairs in electricity and housing sector valued at N5.1 million and N10 million, respectively.
It can also offset expenditure on rehabilitation and repairs of traffic street lights, plant and equipment and agricultural equipment budgeted at N10 million, N17.4 million and N19 million, respectively.
To put it into context, the state government allocated N9 million for the drilling of a borehole and overhead tank at the HASC complex. This means, about two boreholes could be drilled from each monthly remuneration and about 22 boreholes in a year.
Also, N25 million was budgeted for the construction of 3 classroom blocks in GDSS Yadim. By this, the annual remuneration of these assistants can construct eight classrooms with less than two months salaries.
Kwagwa said, “Where the state raises the cost of governance without a corresponding increase in revenue generation, these would all lead to higher debt. This is because the state would not be able to pay back its debts as and when due.
“But where the state raises its revenues efficiently, invests in programs and projects that empower its citizens and uses the revenues it has judiciously-it would optimise the cost of governance. The latter is something that every state should focus on.”
Several reports have been published by The ICIR documenting misappropriation of funds, allocations and socio-economic issues facing the state.
For instance, this report captured how a deplorable road deprived the state of investment despite several allocations released for its rehabilitation.
Another report exposed how an N43.5 million COVID-19 testing centre was awarded to a non-existing company while an investigation looked into some unresolved issues and allegations surrounding the implementation of the Anchor Borrowers Programme by the Central Bank of Nigeria to beneficiaries in the state.