My Heart Bleeds for Borno State

0

Ring True

By  Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

The mob that attacked officials of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency at the scene of a suicide bomb attack in London Ciki area of Maiduguri on Monday is a reflection of extreme frustration of the residents of this town. The youth, who attacked the team dispatched to evacuate corpses and render assistance to the victims, were angered by recent spate of suicide bombings in Maiduguri and the failure of government to curtail the terrorists. Some of them chanted slogans against the relief officials, saying, “leave, we do not need your assistance.” The youth, armed with sticks, smashed one of SEMA’s vehicles and prevented the team from carrying out its mission. The Civilian Joint Task Force had to swiftly rescue the SEMA officials.

Inhabitants of this town have suffered greatly in the hands of terrorists since 2009, but the last two years have been most painful, with Maiduguri becoming a killing field. In recent months, suicide bombers strike virtually on a daily basis, hitting mosques, markets, camps for those displaced by the conflict and other civilian soft targets. The London Ciki attack claimed eight lives. Just on Tuesday, six powerful multiple explosions rocked Maiduguri, with casualty figure unknown. Last week, 23 persons were killed in multiple suicide attacks in this town. The University of Maiduguri has also been repeatedly attacked.

In the last six months, these terrorists have attacked the university nine times, killing innocent people, including a professor of veterinary medicine, Aliyu Usman Mani. Never in the history of this institution has this much pain been inflicted on its staff and students. It is even more disheartening that no single top official of the federal government deemed it necessary to pay a solidarity visit to the university. Where is the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu? He is simply sleeping while precious human lives are being wasted at this university. Adamu’s inaction on the precarious security situation in this school is giving a boost to Boko Haram’s ideology.

Tales from other towns and villages in Borno State are not palatable. The terrorists are everywhere. This is why millions of IDPs in the 27 camps across the state can’t return to their homes. This week, the terrorists boldly showed a video of 14 women from Dalwa village that were abducted on June 20. They ambushed the women, alongside Mobile Police men, mourners and several vehicles on Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu Highway on June 20, as they were conveying the corpse of one Sergeant Rahila Antakirya to Askira for burial.
Right now, there is so much fear in and around Maiduguri. For how long will Borno State remain a killing field? For how long will millions of Nigerians remain in squalid IDP camps across this state? There is an urgent need to rejig this war against Boko Haram.

Still on Seized Nigerian Governors’ Forum Fund
I am shocked that three weeks after a court in Abuja ordered an interim forfeiture of N500 million and $500,000 seized from the consultants engaged by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for the Paris Club refunds, nobody has come forward to claim ownership of the money. Who are these consultants? Are they ghosts? How come such a huge amount of money is seized from people and they have remained silent? Who owns the seized money? I can smell a rat here. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is clearly making sense on this issue.

According to the EFCC, huge sums of money were fraudulently diverted from the bank account of the NGF on the instruction of Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who chairs the NGF. Fees due to the consultants (some of them are clearly ghosts) engaged by the NGF were paid into NGF’s account. Thereafter, a huge part was disbursed to the ghost consultants. Wonders will never cease in Nigeria.

In an affidavit by the EFCC, it alleged that the N500 million was diverted to offset Yari’s personal loan obtained from the First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited. It also alleged that another firm, Gosh Projects Limited, got $500,000, which was allegedly used for the purchase of building materials for Yari’s hotel project in Lagos. Yari has refused to disclose his relationship with the two companies the funds were seized from. The EFCC should sincerely unmask these ghost consultants, with the aid of the companies’ registration details.

Again, why did these squandering governors agree to pay 5 per cent as consultancy fees when it was obvious that the figure involved is over N1 trillion? By my calculation, a whopping N38 billion will be paid to the ghost consultants from the N766.53 billion so far released to the governors. This is food for thought for today.

Rauf Aregbesola and the Wages of Pride
The biggest undoing of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State is pride. This is why the state has been in a big mess, with so much poverty and huge unpaid salaries. The good people of this state are seething. For many, Aregbesola represents pain and deceit. That was why the people of Osun state voted against his candidate in the July 8 Osun West Senatorial election. People trying to interrogate the rejection of the APC should not look far. Aregbesola should examine himself. He should blame himself. The way and manner he treated the first civilian governor of the state, the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, in death is despicable. Yet, Serubawon was the one who rescued him from the jaws of imminent defeat in 2014. What did he get in return after his death? Aregbesola went on the rostrum, castigating him, saying it was the APC that rescued Adeleke from political humiliation by his PDP; that it was the late Adeleke that needed APC then and not the other way round. Haba! Aregbesola said more unprintable things that are distasteful to recount here, lest one joins this insensitive man.

The good thing is that the people paid him back in his currency. They dealt with him and his protégé, Mudashir Hussain. And they did this in a humiliating way. Of the 10 LGAs in Osun West, Aregbesola and his boy only won in one – Ejigbo where Hussain hails from. And even in that Ejigbo, PDP and Serubawon’s brother, the vivacious and bubbly Ademola Adeleke, made a good showing. Truth is that the election was a referendum on Aregbesola and the governor lost the vote. The spineless Osun House of Assembly can go on from now till 2018, passing a vote of confidence in him.

However, if the APC wants to rebound in 2018 and take its right of place in Osun, then, the party should do away with Aregbesola’s brand of politics that promoted his many amorphous groups like O’Rauf, Mandate Group, State Boys, etc at the expense of the party machinery. This governor alienated the party hierarchy and made it redundant in Osun. Not only that, he carried on arrogantly, believing in his fabled ascendancy as a leader. Yet, this is the same man who appointed commissioners almost three years after he assumed office and only on the eve of that Osun West poll. Aregbesola has more time poking his nose and finger into Lagos politics than in Osun where he was elected to superintend. If APC is desirous of retaining Osun, they need a new arrowhead, a new rallying point today, not the gregarious Aregbesola with his political baggage.

For now, the good people of Osun State are earnestly waiting for 2018 to kick out this governor and his cronies. Seething civil servants and pensioners have spent most of the last seven years protesting huge unpaid salaries, gratuities and pensions. They have also accused Aregbesola of diverting bailout and Paris Club funds meant for payment of salaries and pensions. The chairman of the retirees, Omoniyi Ilesanmi revealed recently that more than 2,000 retirees had died waiting for pension and gratuity, while many others were down with various ailments. “Many of our members are married to their wheelchairs till God knows when. Their children are out of school because of inability to pay fees. The untimely and avoidable deaths continue unabated among us because of non-payment of our benefits,” remarked Ilesanmi.

Instead of addressing issues raised by these retirees, the government mischievously sponsored a faction of the union to counter the protest. Aregbesola has also been pushing out a lot of falsehoods about payments to these senior citizens. This is the height of man’s inhumanity to man. Few weeks back, medical doctors in the state’s public hospitals were on the streets demonstrating against payment of incomplete salaries. Both serving and retired civil servants are going through hell. Anybody remotely connected to Aregbesola in the 2018 election is simply digging his grave.

Health Minister Should Respond to Sleaze Allegations
Much as I disagree with the insubordination of the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Professor Usman Yusuf, I would want us to focus on the issues raised by Yusuf. Yes, it is preposterous for Yusuf to publicly declare that the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole has no power to suspend him. Yes, he is clearly silly to say that it was only President Buhari that could suspend or remove him. Yusuf, being a public officer, is bound by the regulations governing the public service. The NHIS is an agency supervised by the Federal Ministry of Health. Besides, Adewole got the approval of the Acting President before taking the decision to suspend him. So, Yusuf’s suspension is legitimate.

However, I am worried that Yusuf was accused of corruption and suspended few weeks after he raised allegation of sleaze in the NHIS scheme and alleged pressure from the health minister to make some dubious payments. Perhaps, Adewole does not understand the implications of these accusations in relation to the Buhari administration’s war against corruption. I think I need to repeat the allegations. He alleged that you, Adewole, asked him to pay N197,072,500 for contracts awarded by the ministry “without budgetary provision.” That on March 28, 2017, you directed him through your Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Binta Bello to pay the said amount for rehabilitation works in some Federal Medical Centres, but that he visited the affected chief medical directors, and discovered that no such projects were executed. He also alleged that you tried to force him to release $37,383 to some staff in your ministry to attend a World Health Organisation conference in Switzerland, contrary to an existing government circular from the office of the SGF that ministers should not pressurise parastatals to sponsor foreign trips.

These are the issues our dear health minister should properly address in the spirit of this government’s anti-corruption war. My dear Adewole, please, do the needful. Meanwhile, the minister should, in the spirit of fairness, allow the ICPC to handle the alleged fraud/gross abuse of office against Yusuf.

Musings on Sule Lamido’s Presidential Ambition
Former governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State wants to be the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2019. He has been doing a lot of underground work. This is the same party he openly worked against during the 2015 Presidential election. During the campaign for Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election, Lamido gave tacit support to Buhari, candidate of the then-opposition APC. His style of politics is frightening. Many will not forget in a hurry how he was appointed the North-west Presidential Campaign Coordinator for Jonathan, but suddenly turned around to mortify his party.

His words are still fresh in my memory. Lamido remarked then: “As far as I am concerned, I have not been appointed Jonathan’s campaign coordinator at any level. As I am talking to you, there is no official letter in any form served to me in respect of this appointment you are talking about. I am not Jonathan’s campaign coordinator, only what I know is I saw my name in the newspapers, period.” Lamido ensured that none of the campaign vehicles used by his candidates throughout Jigawa State carried Jonathan’s picture. This is clearly not how to be a loyal party member. The wages of vanity is clearly waiting for this ex-Jigawa governor as he continues dreaming of 2019.