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Yari kicks over alleged political witch-hunt, indictment over misuse of N90 billion

By Adamu Abuh, Abuja
25 February 2020   |   4:12 am
The last is yet to be heard of the face-off between Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and his predecessor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, over salient issues relating to the governance of the state.

Abdulaziz Yari

The last is yet to be heard of the face-off between Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and his predecessor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, over salient issues relating to the governance of the state. A Project Verification Committee led by Alhaji Ahmad Zabarma instituted by Matawalle of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) indicted the Yari-led administration for allegedly misapplying the whopping sum of N90.3 billion while he was at the helms from May 29, 2011 to May 29, 2019.

Matawalle, who recently ordered the stoppage of the payment of N10 million monthly upkeep allowances to Yari, has vowed to recover the fund to address multifaceted challenges bedeviling the state ranked as the 10th poorest in Nigeria based on a 2019 report of Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The panel indicted Yari’s administration of flagrant abuse of office, corruption and diversion of state resources.

In the report submitted to the governor, Zabarma claimed that impunity and wanton act of lawlessness reigned in ministries, departments and agencies of government while Yari was governor. In the report, the committee alleged that the sum of ₦2 billion was provided as loan from the Federal Government in 2014 for the purpose of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The report indicate that after a lot of paper work was done between the Chamber of Commerce and the then Managing Director, Investment House and imaginary beneficiaries, only the Chairman Chamber of Commerce allegedly benefitted from the ₦2 billion loan. He received only ₦5 million, saying that this was clearly attested to by the committee Chairman himself.

The committee noted that till date, no one could say where the remaining ₦1.9 billion went except Yari, Fatima Umaru Shinkafi, some members of the House of Assembly, commissioners and top government officials who shared the money among themselves to the detriment of the wellbeing of the people of Zamfara State through Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.

The committee uncovered the sum of ₦17 billion bailout funds received from the Federal Government, but alleged that the money practically vanished among Yari, Ministry of Finance and the State House of Assembly who initially assented to authorise ₦6 billion for the construction of Gusau International Airport. The committee further alleged that Yari expended the sum of ₦10 billion which could not be traced to meaningful and verifiable projects. It said in many cases involving huge amounts of money, the finance ministry refused to cooperate with the committee intent to covering up the sleaze.

Aside that the committee alleged that the sum of ₦5 billion was equally paid into the account of the Commodity Marketing and Distribution Board from the CBN after the board received directives from the then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance to reactivate its dormant account, which hopefully was not covered by Treasury Single Account (TSA).

“This money was paid on 7 February 2019 into the account of Dambazau Global Investment Company but nothing was supplied,” the report states, “the money just vanished and should be recovered.”The committee equally found out that the sum of ₦1.7 billion was expended on School Feeding programme for students per year. It said only N875,455,995.52 or 50 per cent of this amount was spent in providing extremely poor and inadequate meals to children per month, adding, “The balance of N875,455,995.52 is siphoned by the contractors, the officials and commissioners of the commission, the powers that-be, some or all of the principals.
This has been going on since the creation of this commission and nobody, not even our Islamic clerics, our parents, our traditional rulers, our politicians have frowned against this. In the past 8 years N7,003,647,960.00 was illegally siphoned by the Feeding Commission alone.

“As in the case of the missing ₦5 billion for purchase of essential agricultural commodities with the Commodity Marketing and Distribution Board, the state government received a loan through the CBN amounting to ₦5 billion for purchase of agricultural inputs. The sum was credited into the account of ZASCO —1014692584 domiciled with Zenith Bank on 6 February 2019, as directed by then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance. The money was transferred into the account of a Bureau de Change organization, Babura Global Concept A/C № 1013486487 domiciled with Zenith Bank in five ₦1 billion tranches. Nothing was heard about the money or the agricultural inputs since then.

“The state government under the previous administration has purchased vehicles to the tune of ₦8.4 billion (N8,400,542,879.00) only. 1,550 vehicles are said to have been purchased but only 531 have been documented. The remaining 1,119 vehicles or 65 per cent of the number purchased amounting to over ₦5 billion are not properly documented. This calls for serious investigation.

“In the eight years of Abdul’aziz Yari Abubakar’s tenure, over 110 exotic vehicles were purchased and allocated to Yari, his deputy, his wives, friends, and political, economic, social, associates. Most of these vehicles cannot be traced as at May 29, 2019 except for the 20 exotic vehicles found when EFCC raided Yari’s residence. These vehicles constitute almost 20 per cent of the total number of 531 vehicles that have been documented out of 1,550 that are said to be purchased. The beneficiaries of these exotic (110+) vehicles are highlighted in appendix 1 in the main report.”

The report indicates that during the period under review 2011—2019, the amount of internally generated revenue stood at N32.6 billion for eight years. Out of this amount, the sum of N377,447,887.71 was paid as consultancy services for virtually doing nothing positive. The report reveals that out of the sum of N253,886,027.11 or 67.26 per cent for one and a half years was paid to Al-Sha’ib, allegedly owned by one Sha’aya, who is a close associate of the former governor. The report said the total money paid to Alsha’ib totaling to N253,886,027.11 should be refunded and the law that allows Al-Sha’ib to collect 7% of gross internally generated revenue should be repealed immediately.

As part of the then government’s effort to improve water supply in 10 local government areas and the state capital, the report says the sum of ₦8 billion was earmarked for the project. Unfortunately, the report adds that payments made to the contractors have not been justified and over ₦3 billion had been wasted without a drop of water.

The report also indicates that two special schools were constructed by the Zamfara State Government in collaboration with the Federal Government – in Talata Mafara and Gusau.Surprisingly, the special school in Talata Mafara costing over ₦790 million was allocated to a private organisation under mysterious circumstances.

In summary, the report uncovers that: “Under administration sector, the sum of N12.5 billion, for economic sector N64.4 billion, for environmental N13 billion, for social sector N254 million, totaling over N90.3 billion which were discovered as over-invoicing by contractors, government’s officials, consultants and beneficiaries should be refunded to the state government.”

However, Yari’s aides have released a statement indicating that their boss was a performing governor, credited with many achievements during his tenure. They say evidence abound of both current and former senior Federal Government’s officials who visited Zamfara to eulogize the performance of Yari. They say Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in Zamfara State from 2016 to 2018 in his capacity as acting president and commissioned projects in Bakura and Talata Mafara Local Government Areas, projects, which included the solar-powered borehole to provide water for the people of Gamji, Abubakar Tanau Model Primary School and Government Girls Secondary School, Talata Mafara, amongst others.

Yari’s sympathisers argue that it has become fashionable for incumbent governors, especially if their predecessors are of the opposition, to accuse them of treasury looting. In some bizarre instances as well, an anointed successor who is of the same political party has equally accused his benefactor of the same. They say where there are proven cases of impropriety, such should be handed over to the necessary government agency for appropriate action.

Yari, who spoke to reporters recently at the national secretariat of All Progressive Congress (APC), faulted Matawalle on the decision to stop the payment of his pension. Yari, who has approached the Supreme Court to seek the reversal of the declaration of Matawalle as winner of the 2019 governorship poll, accused Matawalle of witch-hunting APC chieftains in Zamfara State.

According to him: “About the pension policy, government cannot change this policy for now, but I promised I won’t say anything for now. As I said I don’t want to comment on the happening in Zamfara State.

“But time will come when everything will be put on the table. For now we will allow him (the governor) so that he will not say we distracted him from governance, from doing the right thing, but time will come when we will look at the measures then we will start talking.”

While calling for concerted effort to tackle the security challenges in the state, he noted: “As one time Chief Security Officer of the state, I know the issue of security and one of the major frontline states when it comes to the issue of insecurity. If it is not Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, Zamfara may be second. I know the predicament of the state when it comes to the issue of security.”

Yari, who led hundreds of party members to the APC national secretariat in Abuja, called on APC National working committee (NWC), led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to wade into the issue. Zamfara State APC chapter chairman, Lawal M. Liman, claimed that the Matawalle-led administration recently forced seven APC chairmen, their vice and councilors to defect to PDP after allegedly inducing each of them N35 million.

The aggrieved party chieftain further alleged that the remaining six council chairmen of Gusau, Shinkati, Gummi, Talata Marafa, Bakura, and Maradun as well as the local government vice chairmen of Kaura-Namodo, Gusau, Shinkafi Bakura. Talata Marafa and Gummi local councils who didn’t decamp to PDP were denied their official vehicles purchased with council funds.

They also accused the PDP government of clamping into detention and imprisonment of several of its members. They made reference to one Shafi’u Bala Gusau and Nura Giradi who were kidnapped by police officers wearing masks and suspected to be working under the directives of the ADC to the governor and were taken to an unknown location suspected to be Government House, Gusau.

They claimed they were later released, and warned that they would be killed in the event that they continue to voice out their opinions on governance in the state.They added: “Hon. Ibrahim Danmalikin Gidan Gaga was arrested on 25 November 2019 at about 10:00pm. He was taken to the CIB office and detained till on Tuesday, 26 November 2019, when he was arraigned before an Upper Shari’ah Court in Samaru, Gusau, on charges of defamation and public incitement. After mentioning the case, the judge instructed that Hon. Dan Maliki be remanded in prison custody.

“Arrest and detention of former Commissioner, Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Muhammad Betto Dankande Gomji, who has been in their custody since 25 November 2019 till date. Revocation of the bail granted to the detained two former commissioners mentioned in items above.

“Arrest and detention of Zomfora State APC social media crew member, Ukoshatu Abubakar Gusau, who has been in their custody since January 2020. Demolition of Morodun Local Government’s APC Secretariat (home of the state hovernor).

“Attempt to burn the residence of state’s APC Publicity Committee’s Secretary, member, ‘Forward with Buhari Organization and former Commissioner of Information’ Hon. Ibrahim Danmaliki Gidangogo, August 2019. Suspension of two district heads, who as demanded by the Sharia Court, sitting in Gusau, signed to bail the detained two former commissioners mentioned above.

“Despite the fact that we have been declared as the legally bon fide Zamfara State’s All Progressives Congress executives by the Federal High Court of Justice, Gusau, Zamfara State’s judgment, the PDP-led government in the state has been sponsoring some disgruntled elements through funding, logistics, as well as cover to open a parallel office along Gusau Eastern by-pass road where they currently operate as illegal state executives of our great party under the leadership of one Alhaji Suraja Moikataka Gusau currently serving as permanent commissioner with the PDP led government.

“Attempt to influence the outcome of the current local government pre-election matter currently before the Zamfara State High Court. “Oshiomhole, who expressed gratitude over the visit of APC Zamfara, promised to intervene on the issues raised accordingly, just as he warned against the misuse of security agents and the judiciary to score political goals. Oshiomhole thereby reminded the Matawalle-led administration to respect the tenets of multi-party democracy, which permits freedom of speech and the right by the citizenry to belong to any political party of their choice.