In Nasarawa, There’s a Brewing Cold War

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Tanko Al-Maura

There is a cold war between Governor Abdullahi Sule and his predecessor, Umaru Tanko Al-Maura, over an alleged plot to unseat the Secretary to the State Government, writes Igbawase Ukumba

Abandonment of renovation work at Government Secondary School, Mada Station in Nasarawa Eggon Local Government Area of Nasarawa State by the immediate past administration of Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura has compelled the State House of Assembly to summon the Secretary to the State government, Ahmed Aliyu Tijani, for explanation.

Presenting a motion under matter of public importance at the assembly, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ogah Ogazi (APC- Kokona East) said the state government approved N1billion in 2018 for the renovation of schools across the state, but unfortunate that classrooms in Government Secondary School, Mada Station had their roofs brought down without replacement, leaving students permanently under trees.

According to Ogazi, “We discovered this during our oversight functions to Agidi Development Area in Nasarawa Eggon Local Government Area of the state. In the school, many classroom projects awarded in 2018 by the ministry of education had their roofs brought down without replacement as well as proper renovations hitherto leaving students studying under trees while some of the buildings have been pulled down by the rain.

“I am calling on honourable members to support my motion so that the former commissioner of education, who is now the SSG, Aliyu Ahmed Tijani, and the present education commissioner to appear before this House to explain why renovation work at the school has stopped.”
Seconding the motion, the House Minority Leader, Hon. Danladi Jatau (PDP- Kokona West), added that something needed to be done to nip the matter in the bud. He described the situation as unfortunate while appealing to his colleagues to allow the present SSG and the commissioner for education to appear before the House on the matter.

Thus, ruling on the motion, the speaker, Ibrahim Balarabe-Abdullahi, summoned the duo. The speaker said it was sad and unfortunate that the school projects started in 2018 as presented before the House was not completed.

“I want to commend the mover of this motion and other members for your positive contributions. It is very sad and unfortunate that those, who are saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring that right things are done, are abusing their responsibilities.
“I want to commend the education committee for being up and doing as I have been following your activities towards ensuring that the right things are done in the education sector. It is a rise up call to other committees to intensify their efforts in oversight to know what is happening in the health, agriculture, Works, Water Resources, among others.”

Complying with the directive summoning him to appear before the House to explain to the lawmakers why the renovation of GSS Mada Station was abandoned, the SSG narrowly escaped being suspended by members of the state assembly over his inability to explain his role in the seeming diversion of N1billion meant for renovation of secondary schools across the state. He however admitted that he collected N1billion in November 2018 to renovate 205 secondary schools in the state.

He told the assembly that in November 2018, while he was serving as commissioner for education, he requested for N1.4 billion to renovate 205 secondary schools across the state but only N1billion was finally released to him.

He maintained further that the contract for the renovation of those schools were awarded to politicians but none of them received up to 30% mobilisation fee from him, and at the time he was leaving office as commissioner in may 2019, he left only N18 million out of the N1billion he collected.

The SSG, who could not explain how he spent the money without carrying out the renovation, told the members that all the records of what he did were in the ministry and wondered why the house chose to invite him instead of the present commissioner for education in the state.
The current Commissioner for Education, Hajiya Fati Sabo, while speaking told the assembly that she took over as commissioner in November 2019 and according to her, “at the time I took over, the brief of the projects in question was not captured in the handover given to me by the then permanent secretary.

“I came across this issue on 23rd December 2019 when N84 million was released to the ministry to pay contractors, who have completed their work. When I started verifying those projects, I discovered that some politicians, who were given the contracts started complaining that they were not mobilised,” she said.

It was at that point that the majority whip of the house, Mohammed Muluku, representing Nasarawa Eggon East, moved a motion for the suspension of the SSG to pave way for proper investigation and was seconded by Luka IIya Zhekaba, representing Obi II state constituency.
The entire assembly supported the motion. But the speaker, Ibrahim Balarabe, ruled the other way and instead, set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the SSG.

“It is in view of this that we are setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate the projects in the interest of our children, who are sitting under trees across the state to learn. I urge the committee to do a thorough job as it is sad and unfortunate that our children in some secondary schools are learning under the trees.”

Consequently, the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has come under attack for probing the alleged misappropriation of N1billion meant for school projects around the state by the SSG as a former member of the assembly, Kasim Mohammed Kasim, stated that the action of the lawmakers was driven by greed for self-enrichment through coercion and blackmail.

Kasim, who represented Akwanga South constituency in the state assembly, said this at a press briefing in Lafia.
“The assembly is consumed by greed and we will not allow them trade our state off for their pockets. I can authoritatively tell you that the grouse of members in their perception is that the SSG is guiding the governor against frivolous spending on the numerous demands of the members of the assembly.

“It is rather unfortunate that those causing the crisis are all beneficiaries of Al-Makura’s legacies in the state but are now attempting to ridicule his enduring name and legacies,” he said.

Kasim, therefore, concluded by challenging the lawmakers to publish the true position of school renovation and fencing scam for public perusal.

Also, a group, United Youths for Progressive of Nasarawa State said that while it strongly advocates for probity, accountability and transparency in government and private dealings, it would not accept any action capable of undermining ethical proceedings all in a bid to drag the personality of SSG to the mud.

The group made its position known through its spokesman, Yahaya Abdulrahman, at a press briefing in Lafia and opined that actions of many groups calling for Tijani’s head leaves one with the conclusion that there was an ulterior motive, which has so much to do with political undertones.

Abdulrahman said: “The United Youths for Progressive of Nasarawa State hereby calls on esteemed citizens of our dear state to remain focused in their poise to enthrone sanity and progress in the polity while not dancing to the whims and caprices of individuals and groups seeking to cause unnecessary heat and disrupt the smooth success of legislative oversight by our state lawmakers.”
Not deterred by attacks on the assembly from external forces, the speaker inaugurated the ad-hoc committee to investigate the SSG with an urge on the committee to do a thorough job over allegation of abandoned N1billion Secondary schools projects across the state since 2018. He said the committee was not to witch hunt any body but to ensure that the House gets to the root of the matter in question and to salvage the education sector.

“The House will not be deterred by all intimidations, mischiefs, insults, noise making in newspapers and social media sponsored by some people. If you have being alleged, you have the opportunity to come and clear yourself as the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandated us to do investigation,” the speaker said.