Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
State Governors and Nigeria’s Anti-Corruption War
Dan Azumi Kofarmata
November 16, 2005
The nation waits for the outcome of the submission of the list of at least 15 indicted State Governors to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) by the former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Crimes Commission (ICPC), Retired Supreme Court Justice Mustapha Akambi. The 15 State Governors have been indicted by the ICPC on alleged corrupt practices against them and found them worthy of prosecution by the relevant authorities.
However, before CJN delivers his verdict, some of the indicted State Governors are also under the surveillances of their citizens and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). The Bayelsa State Governor, Dr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha for example, was recently arrested by the British Metropolitan Police and is presently being held in prison custody in London for alleged money laundering etc. Plateau State Governor, Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye has since jumped bail from London under similar money laundering charges against him by the British Metropolitan Police. The gate is still wide open for others to trespass.
The Sokoto State Governor Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa has also confessed and admitted to owning a mansion in London. It is now no longer news that a number of our Executive Governors belong to the league of multimillionaire Nigerians who own palatial mansions in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the Caribbean Islands and even in Asia. The Nigerian public have been provided with more information and facts on this issue by some anti-corruption investigative journalists both at home and abroad. For example, Messrs Jonathan Elendu and Sowore Omoyele of the now popular internet-based Elendureports.com are making great contributions in this respect. The Elendureports.com has given Nigerians the opportunity to know who’s who in this shameful act of looting being perpetrated by our so-called elected leaders and thus, has broadened the frontiers of anti-corruption war and contributes to strengthening accountability and transparency in Nigeria.
The astonishing issue is that the foreign properties being amassed by these greedy States Chief Executives are used for purposes that are not even economical. For example, some of them are left underutilised for most of the time; being put to use only when the owner or his family members or friends come for brief visits. I understand that Governor Bafarawa’s London mansion is going to be used by his London-based son, who will soon be engaged in marriage to one of the daughters of a retired colonel of the Nigerian Army from Kebbi State; both Bafarawa’s son and the young lady are studying in London.
Following the footstep of Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State, who owns a mansion in Malaysia where one of his wives is permanently stationed, the Kebbi State Governor, Adamu Aliero’s London mansion which he bought from the family of late Senator Adamu Augi when he died recently, is going to be used as a residence by his recently wedded 18 year old daughter of a top notch national security officer to President Obasanjo. This shows that, there are no economic justifications for acquiring these foreign properties even if the Governors claim that they were born with the wealth they used to acquire these expensive foreign and local properties. They are only propelled by the human desire where all that matters is greed.
Other State Governors that are yet to be exposed publicly are now busy devising strategies to hide their ill-gotten wealth from the eagle eyes of the EFCC, ICPC and their citizens. They will not succeed as long as President Obasanjo is serious (which I tend to believe he is) about the anti-corruption war no matter whose is involved. It is interesting to see that some of these Governors are resorting to blatant black mail in order to extricate themselves from the allegations of corruption against them instead of allowing the law to exonerate them! For example, some of the accused Governors are playing politics with the issue; blaming their predicaments on the now popular excuse of victimisation by the presidency for belonging to the political camp of Vice President Atiku Abubakar or even, supporting and/ or championing the cause of resource control for that matter. Some of the accused Governors have even gone to the extent of blaming their political opponents for fabricating false allegations against them in the various petitions made against them and lodged at the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), respectively.
In their desperation, of recent, some of these Governors have also resorted to hiring professional spin doctors to counter the media blitz against them. For example, Governor Bafarawa of Sokoto State recently engaged the services of some individuals and face-less non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to counter all the allegations made against him. One Mohammed Salihu, for example, who claims to be an Abuja based public analysts, attempted laundering the image of Bafarawa while writing in the Guest Column of one of the national dailies recently (on Friday, October 20, 2005). Furthermore, some of these Governors are also reaching out to some foreign media outlets in order to launder their images. The Voice of America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa services are the main outlets frequently used for this purpose. Some politicians (Governors Orji Kalu and Boni Haruna, for example) even shamelessly attempted to use the sad and tragic deaths of the First Lady Chief Mrs Stella Obasanjo and the 117 passengers in ill-fated Bellview crashed flight 210 to get closer to Mr. President in order to reconcile their hitherto irreconcilable political and moral differences.
Some Governors are so desperate to the extent that they are looking for all manner of ways to bring themselves closer to the helmsmen of Obasanjo’s government that they are even getting married to the siblings of those in charge of the nation’s national security affairs. They believe this strategy can insolate them against visits by the men and women of the EFCC. The case of the Kebbi State Governor, Adamu Aliero mentioned above and Atiku Bagudu, the Grandmaster of the Abacha money laundering scheme are good examples. Governor Adamu Aliero borrowed a leaf from Atiku Bagudu, who got married to the daughter of a former national security boss recently. He too, Governor Aliero recently got married to the youngest sibling of a top notch national security officer to President Obasanjo as earlier mentioned above. Others are planning similar arrangements while some of the Governors under close scrutiny are hedging their risks by belonging to the IBB political train and will soon abandon their party and embrace the ruling party on the side of Baba or IBB or both.
One of the lame explanations often given by some of these Governors while defending their sudden wealth is that, long before they became Governors they were successful rich businessmen. Of course with the nature of the Nigerian politics, only rich men and women can contest elections. These elections are heavily rigged because of the influence of money and the very high rates of financial, economic, social and political returns with “winning” elections; particularly Gubernatorial positions. The fact that most politicians were very rich and successful businessmen before “winning” elections does not in any way explains the stupendous wealth they have acquired while in office today. At any rate, the Nigerian Constitution absolutely prohibits political office holders to combine these responsibilities with private business at the same time. Only farming is allowed.
Take for example, a Governor whose only lines of business before coming into Executive office were smuggling of petroleum products across Nigeria’s porous borders and petty contracting. This same Governor now claims that, the stupendous wealth he accumulated in the last six years or so, all come from these lines of business! Some of these Governors make more money than say, the construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. Any one in doubt about how Julius Berger Nigeria Plc makes it money can easily find out by looking at the mega projects they have been handling in Nigeria in the last 40 years or so and also their audited accounts are in the public domain. How then, can a single individual, governing a very underdeveloped State; with a very poor internal revenue base be making more money than say, Julius Berger Nigeria, Plc? This is one of Nigeria’s Paradoxes that needs explanation from our Governors, the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau.
It is also interesting to note that, while trying to defend Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, who also confessed to owning a mansion in London, His Special Adviser on Policy and Strategy, Bolaji Abdullahi, deliberately skipped the issue of prohibition of ownership of Foreign Bank Account by public officers under the Nigerian Constitution. Hear what Bolaji has to say regarding Governor Bukola’s Lodon mansion: “Dr. Saraki took 4.5million pounds and went to buy a house. However, as you reported Dr. Saraki took a loan to pay for the house. The initial deposit required for the house was between 20-30% of the total amount it was sold. He was able to mobilize this amount from the sales of the previous properties he had, while the balance is payable through a 25 year mortgage. If you do your calculation, this would approximate to between N3-4million monthly. You would agree with me that Dr. Saraki certainly has the personal wherewithal to meet this level of obligation. The important point to note here is that the issue of him taking 4.5million pounds to buy a house should not arise at all” (Elendureports.com, dated Friday, 04 November 2005) (emphasis mine). It must be emphasized that, one cannot obtain a mortgage and also service the mortgage without having a bank account with the financial institution that provided the mortgage. By this statement, it shows that Governor Bukola continues to maintain a foreign bank account which the Nigerian Constitution prohibits. Therefore, Governor Bukola and or Bolaji Abdullahi over to you for further explanation on this one.
Almost all the Governors, particularly those from the North West geopolitical zone, do not have any tangible manufacturing industry or financial investment portfolio such as that of say, Dangote and Aminu Dantata to name but a few. How do they come about their sudden stupendous wealth in less than 5 years? Mind you, these Governors govern Nigeria’s typical rural agrarian States; almost totally dependent on the monthly Federation Account Allocation for their wellbeing and sustainability. These States have no tangible internal revenue bases not to talk of any flourishing and profitable business and commercial activities going on. They are typical of what one can rightly call Federation Account Allocation dependent States! The main source of earnings in these States (apart from subsistence faming by the majority rural poor) is the public treasury. The EFCC has already informed the nation that the 35 State Governors control over 50% of the economies of their respective states. Also, the 2 Hon. Ministers of finance, Messrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nenadi Esther Usman have also buttressed this situation long time ago.
Again, no one should be deceived by the bogus audited accounts routinely dished out on pages of Nigerian newspapers by some State Governors (Abia and Sokoto States, for example). Independent audits of these State government accounts either by professional auditing firms or the EFCC will reveal cans of worms if they will ever allow that to happen. Most of the State Governors benefit immensely from inflated government contracts often awarded to their own private companies using their proxies. No wonder therefore, in some States, such as Sokoto and Kebbi, for example, names of people such as Umaru Kwabo and Abba Aliero ring bells. Any person who wants to do business in these two States must of necessity, obtain express clearance from them or else should forget contemplating doing any business with the Governments of these States. Umaru Kwabo and Abba Aliero dispense and collect rents from rent-seekers; themselves, rent-seekers per excellence. They are the present day Atiku Bagudus and Terry Wayas of the infamous Abacha days.
Therefore it is understandable that the anti-corruption policies of President Olusegun Obasanjo's government are not liked by the State Governors. That is why they are resulting to cheap black-mail of branding the war on corruption as political witch hunting being waged by President Obasanjo using the instrumentality of the EFCC, ICPC and CCB against them; being perceived as ardent supporters of Vice President Atiku Abubakar (see the for example, the detained Bayelsa State Governor Dr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha’s story, The Guardian Newspapers, Sunday, 13 November 2005, http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/news/article01).
The reality is that, these State Governors are upset and angry that under Obasanjo's second term, it is no longer business as usual for them. They are no longer free to loot government treasuries, live in obscene opulence, and think they can easily get away with it. President Obasanjo has amply demonstrated his resolve to do something about the cancer of corruption in both the public and private sectors by taking unprecedented draconian action of sacking his cabinet ministers, the Inspector-General of Police and of recent, some Chief Executives of private banks have been apprehended by the EFCC. This is to further stress his seriousness and underscore the point that there will be no scared cows and no one is above the anti-corruption laws. People may accuse the system of selective justice, but, I permit me to say that, half justice is better than none at all. The train must move and must be seen to be fair and just at all times.
One Mr. John Kay, writing in one of the national dailies recently (November 11, 2005) says it all “I commend president Obasanjo on his efforts and I urge all well-meaning Nigerians to speak up in support of the president's efforts. The fight against corruption cannot be won by the government alone. These corrupt enemies of the people may be wounded now but they are not going to give up just because one or two of them have been exposed” (emphasis mine).
I join the footsteps of Mr. John Kay and millions of other Nigerians to say well done President Obasanjo, keep the flames of the anti-corruption war burning at all times. Nigerians are behind, in front and at all sides supporting you. God Bless.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.