Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has been advised against going ahead with his planned appointment of 20,000 senior special advisers (SSAs) and special advisers (SAs), Leadership reports.
A pro-democracy group, the International Transparency and Good Governance for Africa Initiative, which gave the admonition yesterday, said the appointment of numerous aides by state governors has become a strategy of winning election in the midst of poor performance by such states’ chief executives.
The group described the practice as a grievous act of corruption and urged the legislative and anti-graft agencies to intervene to prevent public resources from being wasted on unproductive and unwanted aides.
In a statement issued by the group yesterday, it charged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies to demonstrate the political will to deal with the situation.
The group also condemned the recent appointment of no fewer than 40,000 special assistants and senior special assistants by the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as the 2023 general elections approach.
The group’s executive director, Cheryl Olusanya, who signed the statement, described the move by Obaseki as an “act capable of discrediting elections in the country.”
Olusanya said similar appointments by Obaseki in 2020 contributed largely to the tension that followed the election in Edo.
According to him, the group monitored the 2020 governorship election in Edo State and suggested in its report that the appointment of numerous aides by Obaseki contributed to the crises that ensued before and during the election.
He said, “Appointment of aides ahead of election is a mockery of our democracy. We have seen thousands of SSAs and SAs appointed for election purposes in Zamfara, Cross Rivers, Delta, Niger, Bayelsa and many other states of federation. It is not only uneconomical and wasteful, but a setback for our democracy by those we trusted.’’
When contacted , the state commissioner for orientation and communication, Chris Nehikhare, denied knowledge of any plan by Obaseki to employ 20,000 SSAs or SAs.
He however said such a decision is the right of the governor take or not.
Nehikhare said, “If there are such plans, have the people been employed? They are free to speculate, they want be heard. I’m not going to give them the opportunity to become champions. I’m not aware of any such plan. However, it is the governor’s prerogative to employ or not.”
The group called on Governor Obaseki to direct the monies for the payment salaries of those illegal aides into roads and other infrastructure. “That is why you were elected into public office as governor,” Olusanya said.
He asserted that most political aides appointed by governors a few months to elections always come with “a do-or-die” mindset to win elections, so that they can be recognised and rewarded by their employers. He described such appointments as “illegal, corrupt and daylight rigging.”
The group claimed that Nigerian governors were abusing the mandate given to them by the people to superintend over the treasury by using it for selfish purposes. It urged the National Assembly to address “this political menace and abuse of office by public officers in Nigeria.
It however advised the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies to collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prosecute such governors after leaving office for corruption.
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