Appointing SSAs, SAs, and PAs carelessly drains scarce funds in low-income states.


Many state governors continue to hire a large number of aides, some of whom are unnecessary, despite calls to reduce the cost of governance and limit borrowings to pay salaries.

A large number of Senior Special Advisers (SSAs), Special Assistants (SAs), and Personal Assistants have already been appointed in states like Abia, Adamawa, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kano, Niger, and Yobe, demonstrating an innate recklessness, according to The Guardian.

Stakeholders believe that the appointments benefit recipients by creating new jobs, but they have a devastating impact on the budgets of several states.

Several of the 36 states are already in extremely precarious financial positions, with enormous debt loads and a failure to meet essential obligations.

The Debt Management Office reports that as of December 2022, the combined domestic debt of all 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory was N5.337 trillion, an increase of N879.50 billion from the previous year.

From N4.46 trillion at the end of 2021, this is an increase of 16.47%. At N807.20 billion, Lagos’ share of national debt was the highest, followed by Delta at N304.24 billion.

Ogun State owes a total of N270.45 billion, putting it in third place, behind Akwa Ibom and Imo States, which owe N219.26 and N204.22 billion, respectively.

As of December, Jigawa was the state with the lowest debt, at N43.95 billion, followed by Kebbi, with N61.31 billion. Other states with significant domestic debt include Katsina (N62.37 billion), Nasarawa (N71.43 billion), and Ondo (N77.15 billion).

Recently, some of these states have made a number of political appointments that don’t reflect the debt burden or the intention to curb profligate spending.

Abba Yusuf, governor of Nigeria’s Kano State, appointed 97 people to various advisory and support roles.

Governor Umar Bago of Niger State recently appointed 131 women to positions as coordinators and senior special assistants (SSAs) in order to “fulfil his campaign promise on women inclusion in his administration.” There are a total of 101 new appointees, including 41 coordinators and 90 Senior Special Assistants.

Adamawa State’s governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, hired 47 people specifically to work with the media. The State Assembly already gave him permission to have fifty unique advisors. There are now 523 special assistants, 104 senior special assistants, and 15 liaison officers working for Governor Mai Mala Buni in the state of Yobe.

The Southeast region is not immune to bloated and comical appointments of Special Advisers and Assistants, as evidenced by the recent inaugurations of governors in the states of Enugu, Ebonyi, and Abia. Some appointments are redundant, and it was unclear what others were meant to accomplish.

There are currently 41 Special Assistants and Senior Special Assistants working for Ebonyi State Governor Francis Nwifuru. This is in addition to the Commissioners he’s appointed to serve in his administration.

Nwifuru appointed two Special Assistants for Airport Security and a Special Assistant for Security for each of the state’s fourteen local government councils. On Streetlight, he also placed an SSA.

There are currently 52 Special Advisers and Assistants in Abia State, all appointed by Governor Alex Otti. One of the portfolios was called “Women Affairs,” while the other was called “Women Mobilisation.” The governor was responsible for appointing commissioners to various government departments.

Twenty-two Special Advisers and Assistants have been appointed by Governor Peter Mbah in Enugu State. The governor has requested and received approval from the State House of Assembly to appoint fifty additional Special Advisers, so this figure is expected to increase soon. If that happens, the total could rise to 77.

He had appointed and sworn in commissioners earlier in the month, all of whom had been selected from among the State’s seventeen municipal governments.

Bunmi Jenyo, a commissioner in Osun State, has appointed twenty assistants to work directly with him. But Jenyo, who was just named Commissioner for Commerce, said he would be paying his 20 assistants out of his own monthly salary.

To quote what he had to say: “The aides numbering over 20 are to work with the commissioner either directly or indirectly on specific assignments.”

Aside from the long queue of SAs and SSAs, Nigeria has also seen governors create “ridiculous portfolios” to pay off their friends and family.

In addition to the Ministry of Happiness (Imo) and the Special Assistant on Street Lights (Kano), there is also the position of Special Assistant on Divorcees (Bauchi).

One of the most consistent calls to action from the people over the years has been for the government to find ways to reduce the cost of administration. This is also one of the promises made by politicians during election campaigns.

This is because there is a widespread belief that public resources are being mismanaged, and because doing so provides a channel for more money to be put towards development projects, which are desperately needed but severely underfunded.

However, unfortunately, the political class has continued doing business as usual, with neither the campaign promises nor the wastages having been addressed.

Festus Nzenwa, a public affairs analyst, told our correspondent that some appointments are made for “political patronage and not essentially to improve governance,” and he questioned what a governor would be doing with such a large number of appointees, the vast majority of whom would never see him again after his term ended.

“So, what’s the point in paying someone whose contribution you can’t justify with public funds?” ”This is the Achilles’ heel of our representative government and democratic process,” he said.

Ayodele Adio, national publicity secretary for the Youth Party, said it was perplexing that the state and federal governments, which are facing a revenue crisis, were also seeking to increase the cost of governance by creating new, unneeded portfolios.

He questioned the government’s moral authority to ask citizens to make sacrifices when its leaders weren’t willing to do the same.

Although I am aware that the government needs capable assistants in order to function, I am totally against any misuse of this system. He argued that a government that promotes waste and vanity was unsustainable in a country with the highest unemployment rate in the world.

He insisted that politicians should stop abusing their power and start controlling their appetites.

The least we can do as citizens is to urge the government to cut spending during these trying times. Bear in mind that we are not in this predicament by chance, but rather as a direct result of the ineptitude and lack of consequences shown by some politicians who are still in office. He proclaimed that politicians must contribute to the sacrifices made by the people.

Aare Oladotun Hassan, secretary of the Epe branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), is advocating for legislation to curb governors’ power abuse.

Hassan, who said there’s no problem with SAs if the governors want them, but pushed back against non-governance-related portfolios.

For instance, it’s pointless to have departments whose sole function is to keep tabs on the single population and cemeteries. These are positions mandated by law to be held by the local government.

An antiquated system where governors appoint SAs has developed in our system, and the bloated structures within it have nothing to do with good governance. All SAs have an equal say in naming new SAs. The roll call of the excesses and wastages must be properly corrected and amended, as SSAs and PAs also appoint personal PA or special aide. The fixing of these leaks and wastes should be mandated by law.

There should not be another SA in charge of what the government is already handling. It’s a waste of resources for these SAs to waste time and money transporting sirens and entourages to stroke their inflated egos, and it amounts to a duplication of duties.

This is the kind of system we have at the federal, state, and even National Assembly, and it means that taxpayers will end up paying more than they should. What is the speaker doing with over fifty PAs and special assistants on different topics?

Therefore, there should be constraints on how we address the wastes in our governing structure. Hassan argued that looking at these problems from a legal perspective was the only way forward because “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is ingrained in the African psyche.

He thinks that maintaining such a system in the modern world is wasteful at best and an affront to justice, equity, and good conscience at worst.

It is very unfair and unfortunate to maintain such wastages at this critical point in our national life, when the economy is in bad shape and inflation is rising daily, he said, so there should be a lot of re-engineering and renovations to solve the problem.

When you have overpriced SAs and SSAs that aren’t very useful, “the little air that we have is running on the sweat of the poor masses, and if the president says ‘let the poor breathe,’ the poor can never breathe.” It will continue to suffocate the poor, and it will almost certainly cause their deaths en masse. This can’t continue.

It is undemocratic and despicable. A law should be passed to limit the number of appointments a government official can make without having to pay for them out of his own pocket. So, I think that will address the issue,” he concluded.

Dr. Tunde Akanni, acting dean of the School of Journalism at Lagos State University (LASU), has expressed disappointment that many newly elected officials appear to be uninterested in doing serious work.

He called it a “mockery of governance” and said it should be stopped immediately. Stakeholders, especially Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), he said, have been critical of government spending, calling out the inflated and irresponsible nature of the cost of governance.

According to Akanni, state-level actions are even more absurd than federal ones.

“Nyeson Wike, the former governor of Rivers State, appointed 15,000 SAs back in the day. There were those who defended his actions on the grounds that he was democratising government hiring practises, but I find him to be rather ridiculous. We need to know what payoffs resulted from making that choice.

It’s fine if a state creates a portfolio if it can explain why it needs one, but it’s unacceptable if it makes a joke out of government, he said.

Muyiwa Kayode, CEO of USP Brand Management and author of The Seven Dimensions of Branding, emphasised the need to rebrand democracy and shed its reputation for ostentatious, inconsiderate, and careless behaviour. He claimed that the bloated government and its overpaid officials were holding back progress.

Most special advisers, he claims, are nothing more than pampered runners for their superiors.

According to him, all they do is act busy while contributing nothing to better government. They push and shove to get on board whenever Oga takes a trip. I have not heard of any special adviser coming up with a truly novel suggestion or approach to one of our persistent issues.

In today’s market, advice is the cheapest commodity available. It’s always there, and it’s always free. In gratitude to Google. This begs the question, why do political leaders employ a slew of specialised advisors? The role of the special adviser is one of many that have become obsolete as a result of technological advancements. Only the appointed special advisers and the politicians who put them in place are unaware of this.

Must governments always have a bloated appearance, inflated by the appointment of useless people with fake titles? Nigeria is not the only country still engaging in this barbaric practise, but our situation is especially sad.

The culture of special advisors is blatantly obvious, as is so often the case with us. Too bad we have to waste money on this army of parasitic appointees.

A governor may appoint any person as a special adviser to assist him in the performance of his functions, but the number of advisers and their compensation shall be as prescribed by law or by a resolution of the House of Assembly of the state. This provision is used by most governors to justify their long list of appointees.

Consequently, the Constitution did not place restrictions on the number of advisors a governor could appoint to help him carry out his duties. It delegated authority to the state legislatures, which are unfortunately shackled to their governors.

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