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ABEG, WHERE IS “WHITE LION”?

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*By Tunde Olusunle*

There’s always the tendency to ascribe our failings and flailings in our developmental and democratic growth as a nation, to our amoeboid leadership recruitment process. I differ slightly though from this perspective. My contention is that prospective leaders must first be identified and groomed before they can be deployed to the various sectors we expect them to function. Tunji Olaopa’s 2022 essay titled “Nigerian Civil Service and the Trajectory of Public Administration” illuminates the evolution of Nigeria’s civil service which was inaugurated in 1954. He alludes in the paper to “a very strong and professional civil service regarded as perhaps the strongest of the colonial legacies bequeathed to Africa.” Olaopa speaks to the “quality of the officers who founded the civil service and the institutional quality of the public service itself.” He lists Nigeria’s “civil service pioneers” to include: Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Samuel Manuwa, Ahmed Talib, Abubakar Koko, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imoukhuede, Ojimiri Johnson and Fola Ejiwunmi. This generation of public servants Olaopa notes is what we now describe as the “golden age of the public service in Nigeria.”

The second generation of public administrators and civil servants who grazed the limelight between the 1960s to the early 1970s are those popularly described as “super permanent secretaries.” This is the generation of Allison Ayida, Sunday Awoniyi, Liman Ciroma, Philip Asiodu, Abdul Aziz Atta, Festus Adesanoye, Olu Falae, Solomon Akenzua, Francesca Emmanuel, Ahmed Joda, Gilbert Obiajulu Chikelu, Gray Longe, M.A. Ejueyitchie, among others. Olaopa reminds us that the actual core of this generation who were festooned with the broche of “super permanent secretaries” were so described because they were called up at a period of grave national emergency. It was during the Nigerian civil war and they were requested to avail the country their “administrative acumen, competencies and wisdom,” to steer Nigeria through the war and stabilise the polity thereafter.

Olaopa observes that beginning from the 1975 civil service purge by the Murtala Mohammed/Olusegun Obasanjo government and onwards to the era of the Ibrahim Babangida Structural Adjustment Programme, (SAP), a de-institutionalisation process had begun. The concomitant value-orientation of the inherited civil service had been damagingly eroded. He laments that his own generation of permanent secretaries came at an age when, according to him, the service “was already deeply embroiled in the dynamics of the bureau-pathology that had debilitated the civil service.” He laments that his generation of public servants was mentored by the icons of decades past who connected them to the ideals of the golden age “in terms of their passion, professionalism and knowledge-propelled zeal for service.” Such was the archetypal stuff the pioneering Nigerian civil service was made of.

I needed to lay this background to underscore the rigour, the exertion, the perspiration which typified the discovery and grooming of those who operated the levers of public administration in decades past. They were an integral part of the conceptualisation of government policies and also contributed largely to their actualization. I should equally remind us that the famous, now ancient, “fattening rooms” of the Kalabari, Efik and Ibibio in south south Nigeria admitted women in their puberty and prepared them for womanhood. Among others, they are grilled on marital etiquette, their culinary capacities improved upon even as they were tutored in acceptable social customs and comportment. They were usually admitted in facilities away from their families and could be so boarded for various lengths of time, the minimum being for one month.

Reports in recent weeks and months have alluded to the disappearance of Yahaya Bello, the immediate past governor of Kogi State from the prying lenses of the public and press. The initial rumour was that he had made himself a permanent guest of Lugard House, Lokoja, the government house of the intriguing state capital which sits at the confluence of Nigeria’s two largest rivers, the Niger and the Benue. Not satisfied with the eight full years of his despotic, even demonic over-lordship in Kogi State, he has chosen to encamp permanently within the same facility on an extended post-disengagement vacation. Elsewhere in the media, it has been suggested that Bello is now a permanent member of his successor, Usman Ododo’s convoy on all his travels. Ododo is his official shield from investigators on his trail.

After hectic, sweaty public service immersion over long spells, the tradition has been for public officers to embark on extended holidays and rest. Willie Obiano, immediate past governor of Anambra State, left for the United States on extended rest, immediately after he handed over to his successor Chukwuma Soludo in March 2022. Babatunde Fashola was chief of staff in Lagos State; governor of the state for eight years and minister under the Muhammadu Buhari regime for eight years. He served notice during his valedictory conversations that he wanted to return to be “president” of his home, after being a virtual absentee for 20 years! The practice of former governors pursuing “residency programmes” in the very same addresses where they operated from for years, is novel.

As governor of Kogi State, Bello hailed and serenaded himself, by himself with his own *oriki* whenever he had a microphone. He introduced himself with flourish as “His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, CON, the Executive Governor of Kogi State.” Humility, civility and restraint had no place in his thesaurus. He beaded himself with the moniker of “white lion” and rechristened Government House, Lokoja the “lion’s den.” Yahaya Bello apologists and boot-lickers defaced the public space with billboards celebrating their idol, throwing him in the face of a populace so mercilessly trampled upon by him. He never left people in doubt about his limitless powers as a governor cum demigod who could do whatever he wanted and get away with it.

Bello cast a permanent pall on the people of Kogi State. Mentions of his name were in cover-mouthed whispers. Remember the depiction of the former Ugandan carnivore, Idi Amin Dada in the film titled *The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.* The character, Maliya Mungu was his undisguised hitman. Bello reportedly recruited spies in various WhatsApp groups who reported the direction of discourse to him and fed him with the names of his critics. He mutilated the payrolls of hapless civil servants and paid them preposterous percentages. Workers and pensioners dropped dead like flies during his reign, unable to cater for the basic needs of their families. By its very characteristic the economy of Kogi State is fuelled by the civil service. Staccato remittances of workers salaries was therefore going to affect the burgeoning business community in the state.

Elections were weaponised in the vilest of fashions. Bello’s goons were condemned to win every and any election “by force, by fire.” There were mortal consequences for failure. His aides moved around on election days with platoons of vagrants and policemen, scaring voters with gunshots, seizing ballot boxes and rewriting poll results. For dissenting with poll riggers in her unit, hapless woman politician, Salome Abuh was on November 18, 2019, burnt to death in her home in Ochadamu. Bello’s men reportedly dug trenches around Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan’s community, Ihima, all in a bid to disenfranchise her during the February 2023 senatorial election which she contested. Yahaya Bello indeed corroborated the action saying he was helping to build a security hedge around her during the election.

Yahaya Bello is the first governor I ever heard about, who launched a post-disengagement media and public relations salvage project. Some officials and members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE), about a month ago honoured an invitation to visit Kogi State to tour some of Bello’s so-called legacies. Curiously, for all the time the team led by the President of the NGE, Eze Anaba spent in the state, the most senior state official they encountered was the Kogi State information commissioner. They could neither meet Bello at whose instance they visited, nor his successor, Usman Ododo. I sent private notes to some of our colleagues who went on the needless voyage asking them a few questions: Apart from being herded through so-called Yahaya Bello’s achievements, did you go to the streets to find out the last time civil servants and pensioners were paid their monthly entitlements 100%? Did you check about the last time workers were promoted after writing promotion exams? Did you find out how many Permanent Secretaries own official vehicles? Did you try to obtain contract award documents about Yahaya Bello’s so-called “legacy projects?” Did you endeavour to compare with the costs of similar projects elsewhere? Did you ask for example to be driven through the “State Secretariat/House of Assembly/DSS road”? Do you know that all through his years in office, Yahaya Bello didn’t rehabilitate that all-important road?

Bello is validating the title of a classic novel by the legendary American thriller writer, James Hadley Chase. Back in 1957, Chase wrote *The Guilty Are Afraid* a blockbuster which gained global appeal and readership in its days. This is the same Bello who was showcasing his boxing skills to the world on social media, virtually calling for a match with Anthony Joshua. We have seen him working out on the treadmills too, thumping his chest as he reminded us that he will flatten Mike Tyson in a fitness contest. So why wouldn’t Bello move around freely, “flex” as we say in contemporary Nigerian lingo, the way his former contemporaries are free birds? It is uncharacteristic for the lion, king of the wild to be mirrored cringing beneath the bed of his successor.

We are indeed talking here about a “white lion,” a very rare *albinoid* species native to the *Timbavati* region in South Africa. Public discourse in recent weeks has thrown up the thesis about Bello evading arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) for the monumental heist his regime committed against Kogi State during his reign as *King Herod.* The weekend edition of *Aljazirah* newspaper of April 6 and 7, 2024, had Bello’s photograph and that of the EFCC chairman, Ola Olukoyede with the headline: *Ex-Gov Yahaya Bello Seeks Safety in Kogi Govt House.* Bello is said to be reaching out to former first lady, Aisha Buhari, even as the EFCC is hot on his trail. The President, Bola Tinubu is said to have distanced himself from Bello’s plea to be given a soft landing in his matter.

Yahaya Bello is a very good example of the post-1975 degeneration of the public service to which Olaopa alluded. He was neither scouted for leadership nor was he trained for the job. He was reportedly an anonymous personnel of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, (RMFAC). He reportedly made good for himself ostensibly through corrupt enrichment and floated a transport company, *Fairplus Transport* with a handful of mini vans. With this, he sold the impression of a nouveau riche to delegates to the 2015 gubernatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Bello emerged second behind the late governor Abubakar Audu in that contest. He was hoisted to the gubernatorial high stool courtesy of some unprecedented judicial interpretation of the constitution, upon Audu’s mysterious death before the results of the governorship election! We must revert to the leadership grooming process of the pre-independence era and its immediate aftermath to begin the sanitisation of governance and leadership. And beyond the EFCC, Bello should have his day in court to defend his appalling human rights record during his eight year sojourn in Government House, Lokoja. Hopefully, victims of his queer and insensitive governance model will have the last laugh.

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)*

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Opinion

PLAUDITS FOR OTTI, SOLUDO AND BAGO

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By Tunde Olusunle

A video clip which is just about two and half minutes in duration has been trending on the social media in the last few days. It captures the moment top officials of the Abia State government, arrive for a meeting of what could pass as a state executive council meeting, (ASEC), the sub-national variant of the federal executive council, (FEC). The faces of a few of my friends and colleagues indeed stroll past in the short clip. They include Kingsley Agomoh, an Assistant Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, (FRSC) who is on leave-of-absence to help the new administration in Abia and Kazie Uko, my colleague in the old *Daily Times.* Iheanacho Obioma, (we call him *Chomen*), a former federal parliamentarian, also appears in that recording. The curious and discerning will easily know that the venue of that converge is not the designated executive council chambers of Government House, Umuahia.

From the lacquer on the fence of the facility, to the interlocked driveway, and thenceforth to the improvised conference room where the meeting was held, it is obvious this is a private property. I’m indeed told it is the country home of Alex Otti, in Isiala-Ngwa, Abia South senatorial zone. The official address of the governor in Umuahia is probably undergoing renovation. And for Otti that is no reason to negatively impact the course of governance. Each senior Abia State government functionary, secretary to government, chief of staff, commissioner, adviser, technical assistant who walk past in the said video, carried their essentials themselves. They hauled their files, folios, notepads, laptops, handbags, backpacks, to the meeting themselves. There are no squirming, stampeding aides and security details needlessly occupying space, shoving people aside to make way for their principals. And you could see smiles on the faces of some of the officials an attestation to their subscription to the new administrative regimen. Otti, governor of the state himself arrived without fanfare, without ceremony in the said video, holding his mobile phone.

The Alex Otti regime in Abia State is barely one year in office. But the incumbent administration has compelled national attention and admiration to the state for the novel to governance championed by Otti, a former helmsman of the erstwhile Diamond Bank, which has since coalesced into the mega Access Bank. A few months ago, the 141 megawatts *Aba Integrated Power Project, (AIPP),* was commissioned by Nigeria’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima. Reputed to be the first of its kind in Nigeria, it will produce uninterrupted electric power for nine local government areas of the state which is about half the entire Abia State. True it was work-in-progress before Otti’s advent dating back 20 years by the governor’s own admission, the eventual consummation and operationalisation of the initiative was courtesy of the former banker. Critically, the infrastructure will liberate the infinite potentials of Aba, the *Enyimba City* which is the folkloric socioeconomic hub of the state.

Aba’s direct competitor in Nigeria’s South East is Nnewi in Anambra State, an equally vibrant nexus of multilevel entrepreneurial ingenuity. Since he became chief executive of the state two years ago, Chukwuma Soludo the globally recognised economist has worked hard to redefine governance and administration in the state. Soludo came into the job with a virtual truckload of competencies and experience. First, he is a class professor of economics who was called up by the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar regime to serve first as economic adviser. He was soon after appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), a position from which he superintended over the recapitalisation of Nigerian banks which facilitated their competitiveness in the global financial market. The exercise shrunk the nearly 100 banks, some wobbly and breathless, to 25 solid entities, a process which entailed partnerships and absorptions in many instances.

Soludo signalled his faith in home-made brands when he rode a sports utility vehicle, (SUV) built by the Nnewi-based indigenous vehicle production outfit, *Innoson Motors* to his inauguration in March 2022. The various components of his regalia to his swearing-in ceremony derived from various parts of Anambra State. He inherited a state which had previously assumed worldwide notoriety for large-scale violence. Faceless murderers branded “unknown gunmen” had free reign prawling contiguous streets of communities in the state hunting the innocent like game, in the full glare of the afternoon skies. Abductions, cannibalism, arson were rampant before Soludo’s coming. I had reason in 2021, to engage with the worrying issues in two public discourses, *Unknown Gunmen, November 6 and the Epidemic of Bloodletting* and *Gun Smoke from the East.* It seems the horrendous trends have been on a gradual downward slide, since Soludo’s coming.

Soludo is equally pursuing an aggressive infrastructural development programme. First, he is concerned about congestion in Awka the state capital and Onitsha the commercial capital of the state. His administration is poised to build three new cities. Masterplans for *Awka 2.0,* *Onitsha 2.0* as well as the *Anambra Mixed Industrial City* are being concluded. While those are in the works, Soludo has embarked on a very ambitious road development programme. This encompasses 400 kilometres of roads in the present phase and aims to facilitate seamless commuting by road users. Remediation of failed portions of existing road infrastructure is a regular chore, handled by statutory departments of government and contracting firms. The Soludo government has also been credited with remarkable fiscal prudence, the stuff of the prototype economist.

I began to take studied note of the enterprise of Mohammed Umar Bago the governor of Niger State when I followed his courageous works in the agricultural sector. I was once his guest a few years ago in his Maitama, Abuja home when he was in the House of Representatives. I visited him in company of a mutual friend, Bimbo Daramola who was in the “Seventh Assembly” with Bago. He is a tea aficionado by the way. He is also a dog lover which is a point of mutual convergence between us. Bago began this year by clearing one million hectares of arable land, preparatory to the approaching rainy season. Food security for his constituents is paramount on his agenda. His government has procured a record 500 mega-capacity tractors, as well as irrigation equipment, tillers, water and solar pumps among other accessories, to drive his agricultural vision.

True, Bago ruled against the shipment of truckloads of produce from his state to others earlier this year, in the face of inflation and imminent famine. He is fully cognisant though of the fact that his state has headwind advantage over many others in the country, in the agricultural sector. He is willing to do legitimate, mutually beneficial business. The landmass of Niger State is larger than that of Sierra Leone, by the way. If Niger State was a ravenous python, the belly of the state would effortlessly swallow Gambia and Togo put together! Bago’s administration is willing to partner with other states in agricultural development and exchange which informed the memorandum of understanding, (MOU), signed between Bago and his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on behalf of their entities.

Governor Bago has also been unyielding in the battle against sundry criminalities which have held his people helplessly captive over the years. Kidnappings for ransom, routine invasions, occupation of communities by vagrants and wanton banditry, have headlined the security situation in Niger State in recent years. Bago has been at the fore of the mitigation of the situation vis-a-vis increased collaboration with, and support for the security sector in his state. His administration has provided support in terms of motor vehicles and equipments to the various security agencies, to enhance their performance. There is said to be motorised patrol by joint security services which has brought sanity to the state, notably the very important Suleja-Paiko-Minna road.

Bago has also directed the redesignation and remodelling of the moribund *Shiroro Hotel* in Minna as the new *Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Teaching Hospital.* The Niger State leader who spots a strikingly luxurious black beard and was a notable banker like the older Alex Otti before his political journey, is redeveloping Minna the state capital, as well as Suleja and Bida into model towns. His fiscal shrewdness evidenced by the fact that he saved N10 Billion from leaking valves within his first four months in office has loosened funds for investment in needy departments of statecraft. Among these is the ongoing construction of roads in all the local government areas of the state to ensure unimpeded movement by commuters and by extension the evacuation of agricultural produce to the secondary markets.

It is instructive that Alex Otti, Chukwuma Soludo and Mohammed Bago belong to different political tendencies, namely: the Labour Party, (LP); the All Peoples’ Grand Alliance, (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress, (APC). What this implies is that if democracy is allowed to grow and fruit without unobtrusive impunity and high-handedness from political high commands, Nigeria can be availed of some of its best across board. Enyinnaya Abaribe the senator representing Abia South for instance, is in the parliament for the fifth successive time for instance. Muscled out of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP’s) ticket by the immediate past governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, Abaribe contested on the platform of APGA and won! Soludo himself had his own share of gravitation from the PDP to the APC before pitching his tent with APGA which ensured his pathway to his present office. Let’s hope that party politics in Nigeria is gradually throwing up some of our best albeit from unanticipated platforms.

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

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Opinion

EFCC vs Yahaya Bello: What the story must not be on or after June 13

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By Lere Olayinka

On May 10, 2024, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, adjourned till June 13, 2024, for the arraignment of the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, with the alleged N80.2bn fraud charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Count one of the charges reads: That you, Yahaya Adoza Bello, Ali Bello, Dauda Suliman, and Abdulsalam Hudu (Still at large), sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to convert the total sum of N80, 246,470, 088.88( Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended”.

Yahaya Bello assumed office as governor of Kogi State on January 27, 2016 and left office on January 27, 2024.

Before the present charge was filed against Yahaya Bello, EFCC, had claimed, in the ‘Amended Charge’ No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022: FRN V. 1. Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman, currently pending before Justice J.K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, that he (Yahaya Bello) diverted N80 billion of state funds in September 2015, four months before he assumed office as governor of Kogi State!

Before adjourning till June 13, Justice Emeka Nwite, had rejected the application made by Yahaya Bello through his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN).

Nwite held that “The application cannot be entertained unless the defendant (Yahaya Bello) is present in the court. In the absence of the defendant in court, the motion on notice filed by the complainant can only be conducted if the defendant is in court.”

Responding to comment by Bello’s counsel that he would love to obey the court order and appear in court but he was afraid of his life, the judge said; “Bello should come to court on his own not through EFCC for arraignment on the next adjourned date.

“It is just a charge. It has not been proven. Counsel, it is your duty to bring him and you prepare yourselves.”

On this premise, Mohammed assured the court that he will ensure that the former governor appears in court for his arraignment on the next adjourned date.

Of course, like the judge said, Bello only needs to come court on his own and not through the EFCC for arraignment.

Issue of arrest or no arrest is already gone the moment Bello appears in court on June 13 and takes his plea.

The story must therefore not be that EFCC arrests Yahaya Bello on or after June 13. The story must also not be that EFCC invades Yahaya Bello’s house.

Rather, it should be about EFCC presenting evidence(s) of its allegations before the Court.

This is because once an accused is charged to court, it presupposes that investigation has been concluded and only the court can have hold on such person.

Therefore, when Bello is arraigned on June 13, he will take his plea and if he pleads not guilty, he will apply for bail through his counsel. If his bail is granted, he will go home after fulfilling the conditions and return to court on the next adjourned date for the continuation of his trial.

In other words, Bello no longer have any business with the EFCC. He is an accused before the Court, with the EFCC as his accuser who must prove its accusations beyond reasonable doubt.

On June 13, let there be no display of any form of bravado with the arrest of Bello, under the pretext that there is another matter under investigation.

After all, like many other cases, the EFCC has been on his case for a very long period of time and all investigations ought to have been concluded. Except may be, as usual, the EFCC will be expecting the accused to be the one to provide the evidence(s) with which he will be tried.

It will also do the image of the EFCC a lot of good by focusing attention more on the prosecution of Bello with the charges already filed, including the one alleging that sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja, he conspired with others to steal over N80 billion belonging to Kogi State.

Seeking to amend the charges will mean that EFCC, an anti-graft agency being headed by a lawyer did not know what it was doing before dragging Bello before the Court.

Most importantly, after June 13 that Bello has been arraigned in court, the onus will now be on the EFCC to prove its allegations and do so as provided by the laws.

As for me, I am hoping this will not be like that of former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Daniel, who was charged to court for stealing N58bn in 2011, only for the EFCC, after all the media noise and public drama, to come back and reduce what he allegedly stole to N211.3 million!

Interestingly, after 11 years, the case against Senator Gbenga Daniel was dismissed by the Court and the Court even describe the prosecution as malicious.

Most importantly, the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, should now have time to go after those he boasted in January, this year, that their cases will be reopened.

Or shouldn’t what is good for Bello of Kogi also be good for Bellos of elsewhere?

Olayinka, a journalist lives with the Irunmales of Oke Agbonna in Okemesi Ekiti

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Opinion

EFCC Verses Two Bellos A Smack of Bias

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By Adamu Garba

What is the sin of Kogi people and Yahaya Bello in particular that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has shown us this level of hatred? Ola Olukoyede, the anti graft ceazar must explain to us the reasons why he has deployed so much energy and resources to chase Yahaya Bello who has just left office barely four months ago where as his Zamfara State Counterpart, Bello Matawalle with similar offence is left to enjoy the luxury of the office as Minister of State for Defence in the current government.

One would have expected the same measure with which the Commission is chasing Yahaya Bello of Kogi State over the alleged laundering of eighty billion Naira Kogi state fund in the case of the seventy billion Naira also allegedly diverted to private purse by Ex- Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle. After all, both equally share the same name, Bello. The other Bello from Zamfara left the office a year this month of May.

In fact, Nigerians are beginning to question the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s, (EFCC’s) approach to its war against fraud cases under the agency’s current leadership headed by Ola Kayode.

While some people have crowned the anti graft agency, the pursuers of little flies, (yahoo boys), others have denounced it for being selective and biased in the investigation of politically exposed persons especially the Ex-governors.

The EFCC Chairman, in one of his media briefings, vowed before journalists that he would rather resign from office than fail to prosecute Yahaya Bello. He had also hurriedly arraigned him before an Abuja High Court and subsequently declared him wanted after a failed attempt to arrest him in his Abuja house last month.

One wonders why the agency’s boss is pouring out so much venom and anger in pursuance of the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and keeping quiet over Matawalle’s case which it inherited since one year from the previous management headed by Abdulrasheed Bawa.

The agency had last year accused the Ex-Zamfara Governor of having allegedly diverted the sum of seventy billion Naira,(N70billion) from the state’s treasury into personal account through fantom contract awards. That case was started immediately, whereas Matawalle left office in May 2023.

The commission through its then spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, told Nigerians the same last year that the EFCC had interrogated the proprietors of one hundred companies allegedly used by Matawalle to perpetrate the alleged diversion of the huge sum.

Mr Uwujaren equally disclosed that the owners of those companies upon interrogation allegedly affirmed that the moneys paid to their companies’ accounts by the Zamfara state government were on the instruction of the former Governor allegedly converted to dollars and returned to him.

He also went further to allege that the Ex-Governor Matawalle obtained the said N70billion as loan from a commercial bank under the guise of executing a conceived project that was to be replicated in all the local government areas of the state which he never carried out.

Since the exit of Ex-Governor Matawalle from office, various pressure groups had repeatedly protested to the EFCC headquarters demanding his prosecution but despite the promises of doing so, the commission has remained lethargic in carrying out the conclusion of the case.

Just last week, the news went viral that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has assured that it would continue the alleged N70 billion corruption case against committed by the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle while he was the governor of Zamfara State from 2019 to 2023 but nothing has happened yet.

Matawalle even had a running battle with the former Chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who he accused of demanding two million dollars bribe from him (Ex-Governor Matawalle) over this same matter. It has been equally suggested in some quarters that the body movement of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who despite the dangling corruption case on Matawalle’s neck went ahead and appointed him Minister of State for Defence might have probably constrained the anti corruption watch dog from biting the former number one citizen of Zamfara State.

Protest groups from the state had severally demanded his sack from the federal cabinet to redeem the image of President Tinubu led government as one that shields corrupt individuals from facing justice.

Without holding Matawalle to account over the claims that he allegedly diverted seventy billion Naira from the Zamfara treasury to his personal account, the EFCC lacks the moral justification to keep harassing the Ex-governor of Kogi Stste, Yahaya Bello.

The EFCC under Olukoyede must conduct the affairs of the commission in good conscience. He has no explanation for confining Matawalle’s alleged corruption case to mere claims of not abandoning it. As a federal minister, the Ex-governor is not under any immunity, so EFCC has no reason not to prosecute him if he actually committed the alleged infraction.

EFCC can not convince Nigerians that it’s raging war against Yahaya Bello is not vindictive if it fails to conclude that of the Ex-Governor of Zamfara State which it started a year ago. It must also show its concern for every state of the federation, which resources have been misappropriated by any Governor, the same way it is chasing to recover money from Bello for the benefit of Kogi people.

Adamu Garba writes from Lokoja

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