Feud between Governor Bello and his deputy gets messier
• As Achuba Alleges Threat To His Life
The rift between Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and his deputy, Elder Simon Achuba has taken another dimension, as Achuba cried out that his principal was after his life. Last week, Achuba threatened to drag his principal to court for allegedly denying him legitimate entitlements since 2017. The issue appears to have defied every known solution.
The Guardian gathered that the once robust relationship between Governor Bello and his deputy started experiencing hiccups sometimes in 2017, following the Deputy Governor’s alleged disloyalty.
Achuba was appointed deputy governor in 2016, shortly after Bello was sworn in as Governor, following refusal of the deputy governorship candidate to the late Prince Abubakar Audu, Honourable James Faleke to accept the position.
Preparatory to the 2019 general election, Achuba was accused of secretly visiting former Senate President Bukola Saraki, who doubled then as the Director General, Atiku Presidential Campaign organisation at his official residence in Abuja.
The duo’s irreconcilable differences became more noticeable last November, when Governor Bello travelled out of the country and handed over to the Speaker, Kolawole Matthew, instead of his deputy. The development was greeted with discordant tunes from stakeholders. But within 24 hours, a face-saving letter granting the Deputy Governor a two-month holiday was circulated.
For over one and a half years, the Deputy Governor has not been seen at any public functions organised by either the state government or his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Many who thought the Deputy Governor should have resigned were disappointed, as he stayed put, despite serious humiliation from his principal.
But penultimate Thursday, the embattled Deputy Governor again raised alarm over alleged mobilisation of gunmen by his boss to attack him, appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to come to his rescue.
Achuba made the allegation at a press briefing, held at his residence in Lokoja, the state capital. He told journalists that information at his disposal revealed that Governor Bello had mobilised gunmen to attack him over lingering issues.
Achuba said: “Bello should be held responsible, if anything happens to my life. I am appealing to President Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police to beam their searchlight on Kogi State, due to Governor Bello’s alleged gunmen activities…”
On the state government’s claim that he had been paid all his entitlement to date, Achuba refuted it, describing the claim as false. He threatened court action to obtain his two-year unpaid salaries and allowances without further delay.
He said: “As a Deputy Governor, I have staff, whose salaries come under my office, including mine and other allowances and imprest to run the office. But since 2017, the Governor refused to pay. The issue of salaries is critical and not about me, as labourers deserve their wages. My monthly salary, as a deputy governor is N385, 000. How can I run my office with this kind of pay without imprest in the last two years?”
He admonished his boss to always see himself as servant of his people and not master, by being humanitarian in all his actions and inactions in the administration of the state.
He explained that the continued rift with his boss had nothing to do with non-performance on his part, as is being alleged but because of his disenchantment with the bad governance style.
But the Director Media and Publicity to the Governor, Kingsley Fanwo, quickly doused the tension then, saying: “We didn’t cut him off from state’s affairs. He remains the deputy governor, and as long as he remains in office, he takes part in state’s affairs.”
However, unfolding events have proved otherwise, as Achuba cried out that his life was “in grave danger, following withdrawal of my security details by the Kogi State Commissioner of Police, Busari Hakeem.”
He lamented that his security details were ordered to report to
Government House for briefing and they were not seen again.
Even though Achuba said his security had been restored, there was no concrete step taken to genuinely reconcile him and his principal.
The matter took a turn for the worse, following Achuba’s threat to drag Bello to court, if after seven days, his entitlement amounting to N819, 709, 980.00 since 2017 is not paid.
A letter signed by Femi Falana (SAN) on the Deputy Governor’s instructions, called for the release of all statutory allocation due to the Deputy Governor’s office since 2017.
The letter addressed to Governor Bello and dated July 17, 2019, said the Deputy Governor’s office has been a creation of the 1999 Constitution, with releases due to it and signed by law by the Governor and State House of Assembly, but that the Governor has refused to release funds for the office.
This latest development was coming just after Achuba formally visited the Presidency two weeks ago to ask for intervention in the matter.
During the visit to Abuja, Achuba had held a closed-door meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari.
Addressing journalists after the visit, Achuba confirmed that his relationship with his boss, Governor Yahaya Bello, had not been “smooth.”
Bello allegedly stopped approving Achuba’s statutory allocations after relations between the two went sour. The official explanation for stopping the payment was that there was no money to pay him.
On how he survived in the last two years, the Deputy Governor said: “In life what sustains a man is God. So, if your hope is in God, you will be very much alive. If you have money and don’t have God, you will be living like a dead person. But if you have God you can live. So, if one source closes, God opens another for you to live. Supposing I am not a deputy governor, won’t I live?”
However, a statement by Fanwo said the state Government had appropriately responded to the letter and expressed its readiness to meet the Deputy Governor in court over what he described as “his bogus claims.”
According to Fanwo, the salaries of the Deputy Governor had been paid up to the same date as that of the Governor and other political office holders in Kogi State.
He said it was government’s belief that the claim for salaries in paragraph four of the letter of Demand was done to generate sensational headlines in the news, “as there is no stated salary arrears in the prepared breakdown of claimed entitlements attached to the letter of demand.”
He maintained that the salaries of the Deputy Governor had not been stopped at any time since he assumed office.
He said: “The sum of N786, 427,480 of the outrageous N819, 709,980 claimed by the Deputy Governor has not been approved, let alone processed for payment by Government.
“The Deputy Governor is aware that, by virtue of extant financial regulations, even where expenditures are provided for in the budget, they are still subject to approvals, based on estimation that funds to defray will be available. And where they are approved, the release of such funds still depends on availability of funds.