From Tunde Suleman, Minna
Former political appointees in Niger state are in panic following the resolution of the state assembly to investigate the eight-year rule of the last administration of Governor Muazu Babaginda Aliyu.
This was sequel to alleged huge debts left behind by the last administration, coupled with uncompleted projects scattered all over the state for which huge funds were released but were not executed. There is also the discovery of many reviewed projects allegedly done unnecessarily to divert state funds into private pockets as well as alleged massive looting by government officials who served the Aliyu administration.
The former officials are reportedly making frantic overtures to the powers that be in the state to dissuade Governor Abubakar Sani Bello from setting up a commission of inquiry into the activities of the immediate past administration, with a view to prosecuting the corrupt among them.
It would be recalled that Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has reiterated his determination to emulate President Muhammad Buhari’s agenda on fighting corruption, recovery of looted public funds and properties.
Recently, the state House of Assembly passed a motion to set up a commission of inquiry to probe the immediate past administration. However, the state government seems to be foot-dragging on launching the corruption probe, with dissenting views on the resolution coming from official quarters and some saying it will distract the government.
The House of Assembly, through a motion moved by Hon. Mohammed Haruna, representing Bida II and seconded by the member representing Lavun, Hon. Isah Mohammed, resolved and directed Governor Sani Bello to set up the Commission of inquiry.
But in apparent discordant position on the motion the governor, through the Chief Press Secretary, Dr Ibraheem Dooba, said government would not want to be distracted by such commission.
The motion, adopted unanimously by the House of Assembly, listed 22 major areas that the governor must probe, with Bond Projects, Minna city centre Projects, Airport city projects , Three Arm Zone projects as well as the moribund five-star Hotel Minna forming parts of core areas of probe.
Hon. Haruna in the motion noted that the huge expectations of the people that voted the members as their representatives had made it expedient for the House to order the probe.
Haruna alleged that “the past administration left the state with heavy and unnecessary debt burden just to fill in their personal pocket,” while urging the House to act under the power conferred on it by Section 128 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and in accordance with Section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Law 1989 of Niger State to investigate all activities of the immediate past government with particular reference to the 22 areas listed.
The member representing Gbako, Hon. Abdullahi Mamagi in his contribution noted that the call was long overdue as the APC government could not afford to be like “a new wine in old bottle” by being reluctant to look into past record.
In the same vein, the member representing Agaie noted that the statement of the member representing Lapai was right because those prominent in the immediate past administration should not still be seen wielding influence in Governor Sani Bello’s government.
After several contributions the House resolved and adopted the motion to set up the Commission of Inquiry while the Speaker, Rt Hon Ahmed Marafa, directed the Clerk to inform the governor of the resolution and that immediate action be taken to implement the resolution.
However the governor through the Chief Press Secretary noted that “the government didn’t want to be distracted by such commission. Therefore it resolved to do two things that would achieve the same purpose. One, any infractions of the previous administration uncovered during our work would be handed over to the law enforcement agencies, such as the EFCC, seeing that they are better equipped to deal with such matters”
He stated further that “ two committees have been empanelled to review work done and expenditure incurred as regards infrastructure and finance commitment. This would enable the government to assess our obligations and what is due to us from other parties, so that we could adjust our plans for the people accordingly”.
The Chief Press Secretary added that “however, this resolution was passed by the honourable representatives of the people; therefore the government would accord it the respect it deserves and consider it accordingly”.
But spokesman to former Governor Aliyu, Mr. Israel Ebije, said it was apparent that Governor Bello was being forced to probe Aliyu, adding that the former governor who “served the state meritoriously should be thanked and not to be probed”.
Ebije stated that “the records of Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu stewardship are open and straight. It is what the people could see and feel hence there is no cause for alarm. Dr Aliyu has always made his desire for the growth and development of Niger state clear.”
On the House of Assembly order, Ebije stated: “They cannot cry more than the bereaved. If the governor has found it expedient to probe, it won’t be the Assembly that would direct him to inaugurate a panel. While former Governor Aliyu is not afraid of probe, records are available for all to see that he has indeed served the state meritoriously. He deserves to be commended for his people based programs and projects.
“The Assembly therefore, must not act in a way it will present itself as people in cahoots to witch-hunt the former governor. There are other pressing issues that need the attention of the Assembly beyond issuing an order that will amount to playing to the gallery.”