Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
By A Special Correspondent
Though Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa is barely seven months into his second and final term as Governor of Delta State, the politics of who succeeds him in 2023 seems to have become the major pre-occupation of some politicians in the State.
And in this no-holds-barred scheme, there are no limits to conspiracy theories being weaved to advance group interests. The Secretary to State Government (SSG), Chiedu Ebie, had a taste of such scheme in a recent story by an online journal. In what followers of leadership in Delta State saw as appalling display of ignorance of the dynamics of power equation in the State, the writers alleged that Ebie had begun building a war chest of funds to prosecute an imagined quest to be the running mate to the governorship candidate of Urhobo extraction in 2023.
According to the report with the headline: MONEY NO BE PROBLEM: DELTA SSG EBIE WASTES N1.3 BILLION ON NONE EXISTING NGOs, CBOs and FBOs FROM PUBLIC COFFERS AS HE EYES DEPUTY GOVERNOR SLOT, Ebie has spent over N1.35 billion in “just one year” to engage Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
By the writers’ imagination, the money was channelled through the CSOs to prepare him to run for the office of Deputy Governor with an unknown Urhobo candidate in 2023. In the haste to cobble a false narrative, the authors lost sight of history. While claiming that the SSG had spent N1.35 billion in “just one year”, they forgot that Ebie was appointed only in June 2019. In effect, he had only been in office for just seven months when the story was published on January 2, 2020.
A glaring omission in the story that has made the exercise a hatchet job is the fact that the SSG has an approval limit of N5 million. To then initiate the documentation for approving the withdrawal of the phantom N1.35 billion would require documentation of immense proportion to achieve such approvals for CSOs. Of course, this is practically and administratively impossible.
For a State that operates under a strict fiscal regime, the story lost sight of the fact that even the Governor of the State does not have the power to unilaterally approve such amount. Only the State Executive Council can make such approval, a situation that cannot even be imagined.
Given the complementary role of CSOs as watchdogs on government, the Delta State Government supports and collaborates with them. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) have been part of efforts of the government of Delta State to institute transparency in the machinery of governance.
What was lost on the authors of the story is that as part of Gov. Okowa’s desire to entrench greater transparency in governance, CSOs are involved in the evaluation of bids for project execution under the auspices of the Delta State Public Procurement Commission (DSPPC). The Commission was established in 2016 courtesy of a bill by the Governor to entrench procurement reforms in the State and plug loopholes for wastage. CSOs are usually invited by the DSPPC to witness the opening of contract bids for projects.
Again, contrary to the authors’ false claim, all CSOs are required to register with the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development with proof of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) being one of the key conditions for registration. Clearly overcome by its desire to undertake a hatchet job, they failed to access the information that are on the public domain.
Sen. Okowa has repeatedly stated that in the conduct of public affairs, award of contracts and disbursing of funds, his administration is always guided by extant fiscal rules designed to curb waste, deliver quality projects and provide the platform for businesses to thrive and individuals to actualise their dreams.
In Delta’s nearly 20 years history, Ebie is the first SSG with a rich pedigree in the corporate world. A brilliant and successful lawyer, he came armed with impressive experience in the private sector and was picked by Okowa to drive his agenda of creating the right ambience for entrepreneurship, private investors and development of human capital to thrive as encapsulated in the governor’s Stronger Delta mantra.
It is still a long road to 2023, a period Deltans who overwhelmingly voted Okowa for a second term to lift the quality of their living to deliver. That is the task Ebie is committed to superintending. And he needs no distractions from politicians at this time.