It is a season of probes in Nigeria. Across the country, governors are beaming their searchlight on the tenure of their predecessors. From Rivers to Kastina, Lagos to Bauchi, the situation is the same.
It is not surprising that most of the new governors are probing their predecessor, especially owing to the bitterness that characterised governorship contests in most of the states during the last general election.
Expectedly, the former governors who are being scrutinised are crying foul, with most of them alleging witch-hunt by their successors. Undeterred by the hues and cries trailing the exercise, governors of the concerned states are pressing on with the probe.
In Rivers State for example, Governor Nyesom Wike is hot on the heels of his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi. Wike had accused Amaechi of plundering the state’s resources and leaving behind an empty treasury, a claim the former governor has vehemently refuted. While the former belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the latter is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Amaechi has maintained his innocence, saying that Wike, who used to be his ally, was witch hunting him.
The story of the former Rivers State governor and his successor is typical of love turned sour. Before now, both men were bosom friends such that after the controversy surrounding the 2007 Rivers PDP gubernatorial primaries that saw Mr Celestine Omehia replace Amaechi as the party’s governorship candidate, it was said that Wike not only mobilised and used his political structure to support Amaechi, he also sourced more of the funds which was used to fight Amaechi’s legal battle.
The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the immediate past Rivers State governor was the validly nominated PDP governorship candidate in the state and directed that he should be sworn in immediately.
Shortly after he took over, Amaechi appointed Wike as his Chief of Staff. The position made the latter very powerful, such that he overshadowed the then deputy governor, Tele Ikuru. At that time, he called the shots and his word was law in the state.
A story was once told of a meeting in which a former governor of Cross Rivers, Liyel Imoke led former South South governors to meet with Amaechi in Rivers State. Informed sources said during the meeting, Wike addressed the governors. After his lengthy speech, Imoke was reported to have told Amaechi that his Chief of Staff had said all that needed to be said, and as such, there was no need for further speeches. That event allegedly infuriated Amaechi who had already become uncomfortable with Wike’s growing influence and the relationship between the two gradually waned.
Today, the erstwhile friends are sworn enemies, and Wike’s emergence as governor has further deepened the row.
A few weeks after his inauguration, Wike inaugurated a seven-man Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate Amaechi’s eight-year tenure in the state. At the inauguration of commission, Wike said that the probe was in conformity with Section 2 (1) of the Commission of Inquiry Law of Rivers State. The panel was charged to investigate among others, the sale of Omoku 150 MW Gas Turbine; Afam 360 MW Gas Turbine; Trans-Amadi 136 Gas Turbine and Eleme 75 MW Gas Turbine.
It is also to investigate the withdrawal and expenditure of N96 billion from the Rivers Reserve Fund without compliance with Rivers State Reserve Fund Law N0. 2 of 2008, the non-execution of the contract for the construction of Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte Specialist Hospital after the payment of $39,200,000 to the contractor and the non-execution of some contracts, the major part of which had been paid for.
The commission was given one month to conclude its assignment and submit its report to the governor.
Also in Katsina State, hostilities between former governor Ibrahim Shema of the PDP and his successor, Aminu Bello Masari surfaced shortly after the former handed over to the latter. Masari, who was a member of the PDP before defecting to the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the parties that merged to form the APC, announced immediately he assumed office that he met an empty treasury and a debt profile of N42billion.
He accused his predecessor of waste and mismanagement of resources in some critical sectors. Masari, shortly went on to raise four different committees to probe the activities of four sectors of the state during the second tenure of his predecessor which lasted from 2011 to 2015.
The four-key sectors whose activities would be probed are Katsina State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Katsina State Road Maintenance Agency (KASROMA), MDGs/SURE-P, and, the Department of Girl Child Education and Child Development.
Part of the duties of the committees were to ascertain the location and status of project executed between 2011 and 2015, to determine whether or not funds earmarked for the said projects have been judiciously allocated and economically used.
Masari said the setting up of the committee had nothing to do with witch-hunt, but was borne out of the desire to set the records of government activities straight. He admonished the committee members to resist the temptation of allowing their personal interest and preference interfere with the job.
According to the governor, available records indicate that SUBEB, the agency saddled with the responsibility of coordinating primary education, received huge amount of money within the period to be covered by the investigation, as counterpart funding to strengthen primary education.
Besides, the Kastina governor noted that reports available to him showed that Shema left a debt of N42 billion, a shortfall of N13 billion in federation allocations, N15 billion in foreign debts and N6.2 in arrears owed pensioners at the local government level.
Expectedly, the constitution of the committee has continued to generate different reactions from different sections of the state. The people have continued express diverse opinions as to its propriety or otherwise of the investigative panels.
In his response to the allegations levelled against him, Shema described the probe as a witchhunt meant to taint his reputation. He said that aside ensuring that he left no uncompleted project, he left N4 billion in the state treasury and ensured that no state worker was owed salaries.
The former governor, who spoke said through his spokesman, Oluwabusola Olawale, insisted that his administration did not borrow money throughout his tenure and therefore, he did not leave debts behind, adding that he disbursed N8.5 billion to all the local governments shortly before handing over on May 29.
The case of Lagos has a different twist to the emerging face off. This is because the immediate past governor, Babatunde Fashola and his successor, Akinwumi Ambode are members of the APC.
In the run up to the APC governorship primaries, Fashola was said to have preffered a former Attorney General in the state, Mr Supo Sasore to succeed him as governor. On the contrary, Ambode had the full backing of a national leader of APC and former governor of the state, Bola Tinubu. Ambode eventually won the party primaries.
Even though Fashola participated actively during Ambode and President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign, insiders insist that there was still ill feelings between Fashola and his predecessor, Tinubu.
Fashola’s political battles with Tinubu dates back to 2007, when he was seeking a second tenure. Those privy to events in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), where both men belonged before the advent of APC said that Fashola was not favoured to earn a second term over allegations of disloyalty to his predecessor.
If these speculations were considered invalid, the events which occurred around that time gave the rumours that Fashola had fallen out with his predecessor more bite. One of such incidences was the refusal of the seventh State House of Assembly led by former speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforji to approve the year 2010 budget proposal. The proposal was sent back to the then governor on three occasions. It took a short unscheduled meeting between Tinubu and the lawmakers for the budget proposal to be approved. The message was clear. Tinubu still called the shots.
While the dust from the budget proposal debacle was yet to settle, a group known as True Face of Lagos, petitioned the Lagos House of Assembly asking it to probe Fashola over alleged mismanagement of funds. Again, Tinubu intervened and the probe never saw the light of day.
A subdued Fashola eventually got a second term ticket, but it was obvious that all was not well. With Buhari’s emergence as President, many felt that Fashola would play a key role in Buhari’s administration especially because of his closeness to the president. Sources say this possibility did not go down well with powerful forces in Lagos who do not want an enhanced political profile for him. They figured out that the only way to stop that from happening is to “discredit” him.
The recent revelation by the Lagos public procurement agency of some of the ‘over bloated’ expenditures made during Fashola’s administration lends credence to this assertion. The first publication that was released on the website showed that Fashola’s administration spent N78 million to upgrade his personal website. Information on the agency’s website also states that Fashola spent the sum of N139 million on the drilling of two boreholes at the Lagos House, Ikeja in 2013. The report further revealed that in 2013, Deux Projects Limited was awarded the sum of N300 million for the relocation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.
Also awarded to Deux Projects Limited was the sum of N220 million, used for the facility management of the Lagos State University College of Medicine. It was also availed that in the same year, the Fashola administration spent N640 million on the reconstruction of a car park and “other associated works” at the Lagos House, Marina, awarded to Julius Berger as part of phase two of the reconstruction of Lagos House.
Although Tinubu has denied any rift between him and Fashola, the fact that no APC leader or governor turned up at the recent book launch held in honour of the immediate past Lagos governor was an indication that his battles were far from over.
In Niger state, the scenario is slightly different. The Niger State governor, Abubakar Bello of the APC said his predecessor, former governor Babangida Aliyu of the PDP misappropriated N2.9 billion and asked him to return the money he allegedly took from the state coffers. Bello, through his spokesman, Ibrahim Dooba, had said that the money was taken as loan on the eve of the expiration of Aliyu’s tenure as governor.
While saying that his administration would not witch-hunt any past leader, the Niger governor insisted that the “misappropriated” money belongs to the people. Already, the State House of Assembly has reportedly directed Bello to raise a panel to probe Aliyu. Also, Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar of the APC has accused his predecessor, Isa Yuguda of the PDP of destroying the state. Abubakar said apart from leaving an empty treasury, the former governor also left a debt of N125 billion and unpaid salary arrears.
He pointedly asked Yuguda to account for the sum of N825 billion received by his administration, vowing to employ all measures to trace funds and property allegedly looted during the tenure of the immediate past administration under Yuguda in the state and recover same.
So far, the new administration in Bauchi State has allegedly seized a total of 22 vehicles in the possession of Yuguda’s wives.
The chairman of the transition committee, Senator Mohammed Mohammed said that the recovery of the vehicles was in tandem with the mandate of the committee to recover all items confirmed to have been allocated against due process and return them to the government. According to him, 11 cars were recovered from his first wife, seven from the second wife and four from the third wife.
A lawyer and public affairs analyst, Martins Agoziem says the fight against corruption and embezzlement should be holistic for it to achieve results.
“Corruption in Nigeria is endemic and should be dealt with in a very sincere way. Nigerians want to see the sincerity of our governors and even the President in the way they carry out their probes. So far, the fight against corruption is being done selectively. It should not be so. In a situation where probing is done based on party affiliations or vendetta, it won’t achieve much results. If a governor is a member of party A, and his predecessor is a member of party B, then the likelihood of probing and scrutiny would be very high. But if both are from the same party, and are still in good terms, the likelihood of probing would be low or nonexistent. So far, the probing that is going on both at the federal and state levels show very high rate of nepotism. If we want to tackle corruption, it should be done without fear. Probing should not be used to score cheap political points.” he said.