Scary Sleaze Charges against Nigerian Governors’ Forum

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Ring True

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

The Nigerian Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body of the 36 state governors in our dear nation is undoubtedly neck deep in the management of slush funds for its members. The sting operation being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the payments made to consultants by the NGF, after collecting the Paris Club refund, has left many depressed. The so-called commission paid to the ghost consultants that negotiated the Paris Club refunds, was warehoused with the NGF, dominated by “Change” governors, and subsequently found its way to accounts connected to many of them. This is aside the fact that large chunk of the Paris Club refund of over N1 trillion paid to our governors is stashed in different questionable bank accounts not connected to government activities.

The latest slush fund of the NGF discovered by the EFCC is worth over N10 billion. Preliminary investigation revealed that the money was fraudulently diverted by the NGF under the usual guise of paying consultancy fee. The anti-graft agency was in court last week and the Federal High Court in Abuja approved the temporary forfeiture of seven accounts which the EFCC alleged were used by the NGF leadership to launder the N10 billion strongly believed to have been derived from the proceeds of the Paris Club refund. Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who approved the temporary forfeiture, gave seven days to the account owners to file an application which must be served on the EFCC.
As usual, nobody came forward to challenge the latest forfeiture order obtained by the EFCC. This is another clear case of money laundering by some of our governors. Few months back, another Federal High Court in Abuja ordered an interim forfeiture of N500 million and $500,000, alleged to have been laundered by the Chairman of the NGF, Governor Abdul Azziz Yari, using the usual NGF ghost consultants. The sums were recovered from the two firms by the anti-graft agency, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba gave the interim forfeiture order on June 30. Nobody from the affected firms came forward to challenge the interim forfeiture order.

Also this year, the EFCC obtained another interim forfeiture of N1.8 billion paid to additional set of ghost consultants by the Yari-led NGF. In fact, one of the consultants allegedly confirmed to EFCC detectives that he did not do any job for the NGF. This particular fictitious consultant had $3 million transferred into his account by the NGF from the Paris Club repayment to states. This forfeiture order was also not challenged. By my calculation, a whopping N38 billion must have been paid to the ghost consultants from the N766.53 billion released to the governors as at October. It was gathered that virtually all the governors nominated ghost consultants for the fees paid out to the specialist by the NGF. This is evidently a money laundering arrangement.
Many will be shocked to know that the only consultant known during the process of negotiating for the Paris Club refund was one Bizplus GSCL Consortium. EFCC investigators also confirmed this. When the first tranche came out, the NGF allegedly caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay N19.4 billion into its account for supposedly onward payment to BizPlus as consultancy fee. It is scandalous that immediately the money entered NGF’s accounts, all sorts of ghost consultants emerged.

The EFCC stated in its report on the latest recovery: “N10bn of the N19.4bn paid to the NGF account by the CBN was fraudulently disbursed to the seven accounts of companies and individuals, who were not part of the said BizPlus GSCL Consortium. Substantial amounts from the fraudulent disbursements into these accounts have further been laundered to some other accounts or withdrawn as cash. The NGF had agreed to pay success fee of two per cent to BizPlus GSCL Consortium. But upon the success of the recovery, rather than stick to the two per cent fee, the NGF caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct five per cent, amounting to the N19.4bn.”
I have been earnestly waiting for what Zamfara governor has to say about these skullduggery allegations. I am also traumatised that Governor Yari is still showily parading himself as the Chairman of the NGF despite the terrifying corruption allegations against the leadership of the NGF. This is clearly not the “Change” Nigerians voted for. This association of governors is under investigation for paying billions of Naira to ghost consultants, yet, Yari and his colleagues have refused to respond. The EFCC has spent several months trying to retrieve huge public fund paid to the ghost consultants by the NGF. In sane climes, this Zamfara governor, who leads the NGF would have resigned. It is so sad that many of those who promised us “change” are now enmeshed in corruption allegations.

Boko Haram and the Sack of General Ibrahim Attahiru
The removal of the Theatre Commander of the counter-insurgency operation (Operation Lafiya Dole) in the North East, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru over persistent embarrassing attacks by the terrorists, is comical. Replacing this military commander is not the solution to this sagging war that has claimed thousands of innocent lives in the last 30 months. Attahiru is not the only one responsible for these failings. The appointment of a new commander is just cosmetic. We are losing too many soldiers and territories to these terrorist; a much more drastic action must be taken by Buhari. The truth that must be told is that these terrorists are still roaming unhindered in many communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. They still hold territories and control at least three local governments in Borno State, from where they launch attacks on soft and hard targets. Our gallant soldiers are willing to fight, but they are ill-equipped and ill-motivated. Army Chief, Tukur Buratai recently confirmed that troops on the war front had not been paid operational allowances for three months. So, where is the motivation to fight Boko Haram? Where is the high-tech equipment to tame the terrorists? This is why Boko Haram strolls into military formations and kill soldiers with ease. The Buhari administration must show sincerity in this war against Boko Haram by first sacking Buratai and other service chiefs who have obviously failed our gallant soldiers. If our President is desirous of progress, he has to retire those in the top hierarchy of this war and appoint fresh hands. The likes of Gabriel Olonishakin, Buratai and Sadique Abubakar are doing what they consider their best, but it is just not good enough for this war. They must make way for new hands in the interest of Nigeria. I have also persistently clamoured for the return of South African and Israeli mercenaries. We all saw their impact when the Jonathan administration used them. Buhari came and unwisely sacked the mercenaries. This country must employ the best fighters from anywhere in the world to end this trauma called Boko Haram.

What’s Happening to Ogoni Clean-up?
The much-talked-about clean-up of Ogoni land is fast turning into another big fraud. The inauguration was done in June 2016 amid pump and few months later, the federal government did another groundbreaking for the construction of the integrated contaminated soil management. The oil spills in the area had destroyed the soil and the people’s source of water. The rate of pollution in Ogoniland is expanding, while the obliteration of the fertility of the soil in this area has adversely affected food production. The contaminated water is also the source of numerous health challenges in this hapless community. As I write this piece, construction or clean-up of the area is only on paper. Nothing concrete is happening. Ogoni youths, under the aegis of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People, are getting set for a fight. President of NYCOP, Young Npkah, warned that the federal government should be ready to engage the people in a fresh legal and internationally-recognised opposition over the delay in the clean-up.
“We are two years away from that sugar-coated innuendo of the clean-up of Ogoniland. And sorrowfully today, nothing has taken place. Not even a grain of sand, a tea-spoonful of our polluted waters or a leaflet has been cleaned,” remarked Npkah.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People added: “If by the end of December this year, we did not see anything that convinces us that the government is ready to commence the clean-up, we will go back to the trenches and embark on a peaceful campaign against the federal government, until government match its words with action.”
Many will agree that anything built on trickery will not last. This is why the federal government is now getting reproach from all direction on this clean-up issue. This government has conspicuously shown that it is not sincere with the clean-up of Ogoniland. It is very sad to note that the four-year tenure of this administration will elapse without any progress. This is the tragedy of the Nigerian nation. But for how long must this continue?

Musings On Our $1.5 Million-Worth Malaysian Specialists
It is now over three weeks since the Federal Executive Council announced plans to hire foreign consultants from Malaysia to set up three focused labs aimed at aiding the execution of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). The FEC also approved N458 million for the exercise, equivalent to $1.5 million, to be undertaken in three months and will comprise of the pre-laboratory, laboratory and post laboratory stages. I had refrained from commenting on this repugnant contract, hoping that it was just a dream. I was expecting that there was an error somewhere and that it would soon be corrected. Well, after over three weeks, I have to face the fact that it is not a dream. This contract is real. So, the federal government has contracted Malaysian experts, to aid the execution of our quivering Economic Recovery and Growth Plan? Precisely what would they be doing for $1.5 million that Nigerian experts are incapable of doing?
According to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, the Malaysian consultants will help us conduct some pilot laboratories for the ERGP in agriculture and transportation, power and gas and manufacturing and processing. The key objective of the labs to be set up by the Malaysian experts, states that they would help identify all relevant key stakeholders from the public and private sectors that are crucial to the delivery and implementation of the ERGP. The labs will also be used to mobilise private sector investment to finance specific capital projects. The consultants, according to Udoma, will help Nigeria build capacity and review/re-evaluate the ERGP and sectoral plans against set targets and progress. The labs will also identify gaps in the current economic system and the key success factors.
I took the pain to highlight what the foreigner experts would be doing, and honestly, I don’t think we need imported specialists to do all these for us. This is the height of ineptitude in government. Nigeria has some of the best brains (within and outside the country) for jobs of this nature. Engage the stupendously-brilliant Olufemi Awoyemi of Proshare and he would deliver within weeks. There are so many of his quality within and outside Nigeria. It is a big shame that this government can’t see these brilliant Nigerians and went ahead to approve $1.5 million for these imported experts. Why waste our forex amidst scarcity and hunger in our land?