Can Matawalle Pursue the Yari Probe to Logical Conclusion?

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Adedayo Akinwale writes that with the submission of the report by the Zamfara State Project Verification Committee, which investigated the eight-year tenure of the immediate past governor, Abdulaziz Yari to Governor Bello Matawalle, a chain of reactions have started

Until recently when bandits took over Zamfara state, little was known about the high deposit of gold in the state and the activities of miners-foreign and domestic. However, despite the rich mineral resources in the state, especially gold, the North-west state has clinched on firmly to a bad reputation as one of the poorest and poverty stricken states in the country. Most of the poor states in Nigeria became poor due to bad governance, mismanagement of state resources or security issues as the case may be and Zamfara state is not an exception.

The 10 poorest states in Nigeria according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its 2019 report are; Sokoto, Kastina, Adamawa, Gombe Jigawa Plateau, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Kebbi and Zamfara States. With 70.8 percent poverty rate, Zamfara was ranked by the NBS as the 10th poorest state in the country. 

Zamfara finds it difficult to swim out of the pool of poverty for reasons not quite different from the ones enumerated above. With a new government in place and a new party in power, Bello Matawalle, who was elected governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) thought it wise to probe the two terms of his predecessor, Abdulaziz Yari.

With the jaw dropping discovery of alleged financial mismanagement, this may not be the best of times for the former governor following the submission of interim report by the Zamfara State Project Verification Committee set up six months ago by the governor. The Committee indicted Yari for alleged flagrant abuse of office, corruption and direct diversion of state resources to the tune of over N90 billion during his eight-year his administration.  The committee report unraveled various allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds during the tenure of Yari.

The Chairman of the committee, Alhaji Ahmad Zabarma in the report submitted to the governor said that during the past eight years, most organs of government degenerated into lawless organisations where impunity prevailed.  He said that corruption was prevalent in all sectors of the economy in the state because many officers refused to obey the laws put in place to ensure good governance.  

The Discoveries of the Committee

The committee said the sum of ₦2 billion was provided as loan from the Federal Government in 2014 for the purpose of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It said it was regrettable 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 the Committee by the Chairman himself.

The committee noted that till date, no one can 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 Enterprises. 

Moreso, the committee uncovered that the sum of ₦17 billion bailout funds was received from federal government, but alleged that the money practically vanished between Yari, Ministry of Finance and the State House of Assembly who initially assented to ₦6 billion for the construction of Gusau International Airport. The committee further alleged that Yari expended the sum of ₦10 billion which cannot be traced to meaningful and verifiable projects. It said in many cases involving huge amounts of money, the Ministry of Finance has refused to cooperate with the Committee.

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. “This money was paid on the 7th February, 2019 into the account of Dambazau Global Investment Company but nothing was supplied, 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 programmes for feeding students per year. It said that only N875, 455,995.52 or 50% of this amount was spent in providing extremely poor and inadequate meals to children per month. 

It said, “The balance of N875,455,995.52 was 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 eight years N7,003,647,960.00 was illegally siphoned by the Feeding Commission alone.” 

The committee added, “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 to the account of ZASCO on 6th February, 2019 as directed by then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance. The money was transferred into the account of a Bureau de Change organisation in five ₦1 billion tranches. Nothing was heard of the money or the agricultural inputs since then.”

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

“In the eight years of Abdul’aziz Yari’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 could not be traced as at May 29th, 2019 except for the 20 exotic vehicles found when EFCC raided Yari’s residence. These vehicles constitute almost 20% 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 pointed out that during the period under review 2011—2019, the amount of internally generated revenue stood at N32.6 billion. Out of this amount, the sum of N377,447,887.71 was paid as consultancy services for virtually doing nothing. The report revealed that out of the amount, the sum of N253,886,027.11 or 67.26% for 1½years  was paid to Al-Shaib, allegedly owned by one Sha’aya who is a close associate of the former governor. The report said that the total money paid to Al-Sha’ib, which is 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 governments and the state capital, the report said the sum of ₦8 billion was  earmarked for the project. Unfortunately, the report added that payments made to the contractors have not been justified and over ₦3 billion had been wasted without a drop of water. 

Moreso, the report indicated that two special schools were constructed by the Zamfara State government in collaboration with the Federal Government, one in Talata Mafara and another in 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 uncovered that, “Under administration sector, the sum of N12.5 billion, economic sector N64.4 billion, environmental N13 billion and social sector N254 million totaling over N90.3 billion were discovered as over invoicing by contractors, government officials, consultants and beneficiaries should be refunded to the state government.

However, Yari, through his aides had released a statement showing that he was performing governor, credited with many achievements during his tenure.  Evidence abound of both current and former senior Federal Government officials visiting Zamfara on an annual basis to eulogize the performance of Yari. Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in Zamfara State on an annual basis from 2016 to 2018. In 2018 he was in Zamfara State in his capacity as the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He 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, the Abubakar Tanau Model Primary School and the Government Girls Secondary School Talata Mafara amongst others. On this particular occasion, Osinbajo could not hide his joy at the exponential development in Zamfara State.

Other notable citizens who commissioned projects executed in Zamfara State by the Yari administration over the years, include the Honorable Minister of Defense Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (rtd.), who was honoured to commission the Command Secondary School for Boys in Talata Mafara and the first Command Secondary School for Girls in Nigeria located in Gusau. He also commissioned the Motorized Water Borehole project in Furfuri town. At Yari’s sixth anniversary, the then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and the then National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun amongst others, were on hand to commission various developmental projects of the Yari administration.

Some of the projects commissioned by these eminent Nigerians include; the Gusau-Maru-Bungudu-Tsafe highway, the Anka-Bukuyum-Nasarawa-Gumi Road, the Kaura Namoda-Zurmi-Birnin Magaji-Shinkafi Expressway, the rural electrification project in Jaurin Fulani and Jaurin Yamma in Gusau Local Government Area which linked five rural communities of Tsamiya, Rakuma, Gwarguwa, Adarawa and Rafin Dankure to the national grid, 84 water borehole projects in several communities including Maradun, Moriki, Rini, Gamji, Gora, Furfuri, Morai and Garbadu. The rehabilitated Government Girls Comprehensive Secondary School Moriki, the rehabilitated and upgraded Primary Healthcare Centre in Moriki, as well as the Poverty Eradication and Economic Empowerment Programme which yielded motor vehicles, tricycles, motor-cycles, sewing machines, grinding machines and other forms of empowerment to citizens to enable them earn a decent living.

In the area of education, a total of four billion, seven-hundred and fifty-four million, seven hundred and seventeen thousand, three hundred and forty-three Naira, seventy-five Kobo was expended on 18 projects including the renovation of Government Girls Secondary School, Talata Mafara, LGEA School Maradun and others. Also the UBE project resulting in the renovation of over 100 primary schools gulped over Four Billion Naira. The Zamfara State University Talata Mafara which is a response to the yearnings of Zamfara citizens, being the only state without a university in Nigeria was also commenced in 2018.

In the provision of potable water, Bakura, Nahuche, Badarawa and other communities benefitted from the nine billion, four hundred and twenty-two million, eight hundred and fifty-one thousand, three hundred and fifty-five Naira forty kobo water project embarked upon by the Yari administration. The government also built 131 mosques in the 14 LGA including in Dole, Kwashabawa, Danfarko and other communities. Similarly, a befitting palace was built for the Gusau Emirate Council and many others.

Renovation and equipment of hospitals and health centers was also a priority of the Yari government as those in Zurmi, Magaji, Gusau and more received the governments touch. More roads to link rural and urban centers were also constructed. These include the Talata Mafara bye pass, Bungudu/Gada road and others. Five Fire Service stations were also built and equipped, and more rural communities linked to the national grid in continuation of the rural electrification project. These include Gidan Katangari, Bawa Ganga and others.

The governor of Katsina State Aminu Bello Masari, former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani Yerima and many other prominent Nigerians were in Zamfara at one time or the other during Yari’s two terms in office to commission some of these projects. Many of these citizens some of whom are still in office till date including the Vice President Professor Osinbajo, called on other governors to emulate the giant strides of the then Governor Yari.

Yari’s sympathizers have argued that it has become a norm for incumbent governors especially if their predecessor is of the opposition to accuse him 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 said where there are proven cases of impropriety, such should be handed over to the necessary government agency for appropriate action.

QUOTE:

With the jaw dropping discovery of alleged financial mismanagement, this may not be the best of times for the former governor following the submission of interim report by the Zamfara State Project Verification Committee set up six months ago by the governor. The Committee indicted Yari for alleged flagrant abuse of office, corruption and direct diversion of state resources to the tune of over N90 billion during his eight-year his administration.  The committee report unraveled various allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds during the tenure of Yari. The Chairman of the committee, Alhaji Ahmad Zabarma in the report submitted to the governor said that during the past eight years, most organs of government degenerated into lawless organisations where impunity prevailed