By Douglas K. Udemba
In the “Coal City State”, the last attempt at road rehabilitation was made just before this year’s general election. Outgoing governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had mobilised contractors, real or imaginary, to site as he campaigned for a Senate seat and for his anointed candidate for governor, Peter Mba. Work stopped after February 25 and the sweeping victory of Labour Party candidates in the state.
Enugu has turned hell on earth because the state’s funds have been shamelessly shared among corrupt INEC and judicial bandits. It’s not surprising that the state government has not achieved anything in six months. No water, no good roads, no jobs and no hope for unemployed youth. State workers have no stationery in their offices; many have yet to receive the minimum wage approved since 2011. Pension and gratuities are not paid.
On the air waves and social media, however, water runs in every part of the state. “Audio government” is a new coinage heard in the streets of Enugu. In reality, the state’s treasury has been under severe attack. Money from IGR and certain strategic agencies is laundered abroad ceaselessly.
The cabal that “owns” the state are determined to keep Mba in power so long as he dutifully doles out cash to them as well. Jim Nwobodo, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and a number of others do not care about whom the people wanted as governor. They won’t mind letting more public funds be used to tempt even judicial officers. It would be another judicial magic for the apex court to decide that submission of forged certificates to INEC is no longer an offence or that it’s all right to count votes not captured by BVAS.
As he bribed his way through the judiciary, the usurper in Enugu State has also been visiting the tainted president. The idea is to get him to send a word to those who had earlier served the president at the bench. Birds of a feather flock together.
It’s Enugu’s money that has sealed the lips of even public commentators. These days, when they discuss the malfeasance in Kano or Plateau or Nasarawa, they don’t mention Enugu. Even LP presidential candidate Peter Obi has seldomly condemned the thievery of the people’s mandate in Enugu State. In any case, his own Fidelity Bank and Globus Bank now sit comfortably in Enugu. Mba had taken N10bn loan from Fidelity and N3bn from Globus early last year. As governor in September this year, he signed an “irrevocable standing payment order” to enable the two banks recover a N170bn loan over the next four years.
Nothing could be funnier than the budget proposal for 2024 that Mba has just presented to a rubber-stamp Enugu State House of Assembly. A total of N521bn+! A supplementary budget of N58bn had been approved for him this year, and the budget figure for 2023 was N166bn.
The usurper is hoping to raise funds for paying back the loans through crushing taxes. Traders, roadside artisans, tipper drivers, Keke riders and even barrow pushers and hawkers are to pay huge taxes from January. The taxes are not likely to be collected from the grumbling Enugu citizens with ease, however. Nor will the state witness any development. The only saving grace for Enugu will be an honest judgement expected from the Supreme Court this December. Mba’s government is sure to crumble when faced with justice.
* _Udemba, a lawyer, writes from Enugu_ .