Despite a debt figure that peaked at ₦105 billion in 2019, Bauchi govt borrows ₦3.5 billion to pay governor’s firm for exotic cars

Despite a debt figure that peaked at ₦105 billion in 2019, the Bauchi State government has taken a ₦3.5 billion loan to procure vehicles for some of the state’s officials, news men can report.

The loan, granted by the United Bank of Africa (UBA), was paid directly to the bank account of Adda Nigeria Limited, a company in which Mr Mohammed retains a 20 per cent stake, according to documents seen by this newspaper.

Dated August 21, 2019, an approval written by the bank to Adda Nigeria Limited showed that the ₦3.5 billion loan was for the “supply of 105 utility vehicles and operational vehicles to some officials and MDAs in Bauchi State government” and was to be repaid within 36 months.

Prior to the bank’s approval, the state’s House of Assembly had, on July 17, 2019, a day after the state government wrote it for approval, given its go-ahead for the loan.

The legality of the purported approval is, however, in question as the state’s assembly was not properly constituted at this time. The assembly was at the time embroiled in a leadership crisis as 18 of its 31 members declined to be inaugurated.

The loan repayment, documents of the deal show, is to be deducted on equal installment from the state’s FAAC and VAT account domiciled with UBA.

The ₦3.5 billion was paid into a newly opened UBA account of the company on September 9, 2019, documents show.

Bauchi’s debt toll

For seven consecutive years, Bauchi State has seen an uptick in its debt figure. The state’s latest debt figure, according to the Debt Management Office, as of September 2019, is ₦105.2 billion.

In 2018, the state’s domestic debt figure stood at ₦92.4 billion; in 2017, it was ₦74 billion; and 2016 in, it was ₦70 billion.

Also, the 2015 debt profile of the state was ₦57.6 billion while its 2014 figure was ₦28 billion.

These figures rose from ₦16.8 billion of 2013 — a figure that is exclusive of the arrears owed to the federal government as a result of unanticipated disbursements or exchange rate gains due to exchange rate fluctuations.

The chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, said with this toll, borrowing to fund vehicles for government officials is uncalled for.

He believes it impoverishes the people and can backfire to trigger unrest in the state.

Governor’s connection with company

Adda Nigeria Limited, first incorporated in late 1996 with a share capital of 500,000, has four directors, records obtained by this newspaper on January 8, 2020 show.

Abdullahi Salihu Bawa holds 200,000 share capital while each of Bala Mohammed and two other persons, who appear to be Mr Bawa’s children, have 100,000 share capital.

Mr Bawa is a close associate of the Bauchi governor.

Mr Mohammed used 227 Gombe Road as his address in the registration forms.

PREMIUM TIMES checks in Bauchi show that the house belongs to Sarkin Duguri, Mr Mohammed’s father. Relatives of the governor are said to be presently occupying the property, while his brother, the present holder of the Sarkin Duguri title uses the residence when he comes to Bauchi for Sallah festivities.

Records obtained by this newspaper from the Corporate Affairs Commission show that Mr Mohammed was in 2006 reappointed as a director of the company. Company filings between 2006 and 2018 filed with the commission show that Mr Mohammed remained a director of the company, including the period he was FCT minister — another violation of the law.

Section 6 of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Act bars any public official employed on a full‐time basis from engaging in management of any private business, save farming.

Denial

Mr Mohammed, through his spokesperson, Mukhtar Gidado, had claimed that the “Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed” listed among the directors of the company was not the governor.

“The specimen signature appearing against the name of the said Alhaji Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed of ADDA Motors Ltd, affixed on Form CAC 7 of the company during incorporation, is entirely different from the signature of Senator Bala Mohammed, CON, Governor of Bauchi State,” the official said.

Other than name, the official failed to provide other evidences like the portfolio, picture or other clearcut information about of the purported Bala Mohammed.

Also, Mr Gidado did not deny that the address, 227 Gombe Road, is a family residence of Mr Mohammed.

Legal infraction?

Due to the immunity state governors enjoy in Nigeria, the prosecution of Mr Mohammed by anti-graft agency EFCC was relaxed upon his assumption of office in 2019. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 provides for five years imprisonment without option of fine for any public officers found guilty of using their offices to confer an unfair advantage upon themselves, their relation relation or colleagues.

Also, CCBT Act, in its section 5, frowns at public officials from meddling personal interests with public responsibilities.

Officials found guilty of these infractions by the Tribunal, are liable to outright sack, disqualification from holding any public office, elective or not, for a period not exceeding ten years.

But Mr Mohammed is excluded from these provisions because his immunity is absolute, Ismaila Alasa, a legal practitioner, said. But he can be prosecuted once his tenure expires, he added.

Bauchi, a northeastern state in Nigeria, has  354,373 out-of-school children, the tenth highest in the country and a share of 26.6 per cent of the nation’s total. The state government believes it is more.

If the loan is alternately deployed, the state could build 3000 blocks of classrooms (at the rate of ₦500,000 per block), fund 1000 SMEs and build over 70 healthcare centres.

Last month, the Bauchi State government said it could only sponsor about 13,000 candidates out of 21,000 available students for the Senior Secondary School (WAEC) examinations, because of “lack of funds.” The action drew the ire of the students who took to the street to protest.

The amount in question would have also been enough to give ₦500,000 loan to 1000 SMEs.

Also, according to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, a Type 2 Primary Health Clinic is expected to cater for a group of villages or neighbourhoods with a population of 2,000 to 5,000 people. 

This type of clinic could be built for ₦21 million each, an Africa Check document showed. At this rate, the remaining balance on the loan would build 70 centres.

Mr Suraj said priorities should be set by every government and the citizens have to brace up in holding elected leaders to account. He said but because the electoral process in the country is heavily manipulated, the citizens are easily shortchanged.

Yet, he noted, 

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