For eight years, Yahaya Bello, former governor of Kogi State, did his best. Last month, he left the state better than he met it. He left in a blaze of glory. He was also privileged to hand over to a government of continuity headed by Governor Usman Ododo.
But, out of jealosy, his foes have invaded the media to mount a campaign of calumny against the former governor. How far can they go?
Kogites believe that Bello served meritoriously. The new government is planning to build on his legacies. But, political opponents are on the prowl with their tools of propaganda, deceit and falsehood.
Kogi State Government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are on collision course over moves by the commission to bring corruption charges against the former governor.
The state government said the commission was only trying to tarnish its image and reputation of the firmer givernor.
After crossing the hurdle of succession and handover to his successor, Governor Usman Ododo, the state government is agitated that the anti-graft body is trying witch-hunt Bello.
According to the Information and Communications Commissioner, Kingsley Fanwo, there is a sinister motive, in fact, an agenda, to charge Bello for diverting public funds when he was in office.
The commissioner attributed Bello’s ordeal to the antics of ‘rougue politicians’ conniving with the anti-graft agency to ridicule the former governor, fondly called the ‘White Lion’ by admirers.
He said the goal is to dent his image outside power. In the process, Fanwo said that recourse to a clandestine agenda is, in turn, tarnishing the image of the commission.
Then, Kogi government challenged EFCC to a duel. It said that Kogi money is working for its peoole, and not missing as being insinuated by the commission.
Fanwo also said exploiting EFCC as a tool of oppression and repression is against the anti-corruption vision of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Trouble started when EFCC, in an amended charge, accused the former governor of diverting Kogi State Government funds in September 2015, four months before he assumed office as governor in Lokoja, the state capital.
To the state government, this is not only laughable, but smacks of lack of due diligence.
Fanwo said: “The fact that the EFCC, in charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022: FRN V. 1. Ali Bello 2. Dauda Suleiman, currently pending before Honorable Justice J.K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division further amended the ‘Amended Charge’ to include in the count, the name of H.E Yahaya Bello, describing him as being “at large”, is ridiculous, laughable and portrays the EFCC as an agency infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of Mr. President to defeat corruption in Nigeria.”
At issue is the phrase: “Being ‘at large,’ means that a person is evading arrest or is on the run and cannot be found after an attempt to arrest.
The commissioner claried thathe original charge was against Ali Bello and Dauda Suleiman, Ali’s associate.
The offence which H.E Yahaya Bello is alleged to have committed upon which he has been named in the count is conspiracy to convert the total sum of N80,246,470,089.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand, Eighty Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo).
He was said to have committed the offence on or about September 2015 in Abuja. His co-conspirators, according to the count, are Abdulsalami Hudu (Kogi State Government House Cashier), described as being ‘at large’ too, Ali Bello and Dauda Suleiman.
What is curious is that “the Count of the offence is most laughable as the election that produced Yahaya Bello as governor of Kogi was only conducted in November 2015. Also, it was Captain Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that held sway as governor at that time until he handed over to Bello on January 27, 2016.
There are puzzles: How could Bello have as of September 2015 conspired with anyone, including Abdulsalami Hudu, a Kogi Government House Cashier, to convert any money belonging to the Kogi State Government?
Also, how could have Bello, had no financial dealings with the Kogi State Government before assuming the reins, have converted monies belonging to the Kogi State Government?
Following the EFCC’s statement, sime political actors have intensified their campaign of calumny.
Warning them to desist, the state government maintained in a statement that no public mobey is missing in Kogi.
It said EFCC leadership should tender apology because of its “ridiculous, shameless and indefensible allegation.”
Kogi government also urged the President to step in to save the integrity of the EFCC from those “pushing the Commission into a fight that should be left to politicians.”
It added: “The Kogi State Government under the leadership of His Excellency Alh. Ahmed Usman Ododo will continue to support the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President.
“We will also continue to promote probity, accountability and transparency and open our books to agencies and institutions constitutionally empowered to look into them. We will continue to win awards in transparency and accountability.”
The rift between EFCC and Kogi government is not new. In 2021, the Commission came out with a false claim that it had uncovered over N20 billion of the state’s bail out fund in a Fixed Deposit Account in Sterling Bank. The allegation prompted the state government wrote a letter to Sterling Bank for clarifications.
The bank clarified that Kogi government had no such account with it.
Fanwo said EFCC style may betray President Tinubu’s determination to retool the agency and make it more vibrant in preventing and fighting corruption in a genuine and objective manner within the ambit of the rule of law.
He said EFCC under the current leadership should not tow the path of the commission under the leadership of Abdulrasheed Bawa, who in August 2021, decided that the Kogi State Government had N20 billion in an account, secured ex-parte, an Order of the Federal High Court, Lagos empowering him to direct the Manager of Sterling Bank Plc to freeze Account No. 0073572696 with the name Kogi State Salary Bail Out Account, pending the conclusion of investigation or possible prosecution.
Fanwo added: “The EFCC has since refused to answer to the suit filed against it since 2021 by the Kogi State Government and its officials challenging the falsehood on the issue of bailout funds. The commission has continued to maintain frivolous appeals even when the Court of Appeal had confirmed that the trial Court had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.”
At a time too, the former first lady of Kogi State, Rashida Bello was named in the counts of offence and described as being at large in Charge No: FHC/ABJ/573/2022: FRN V. (1) ALI BELLO (2) ABBA ADAUDU (3) YAKUBU SIYAKA ADABENEGE (4) IYADI SADAT. She was alleged to have conspired to criminally misappropriate over N3 billion funds allegedly belonging to some Local Government Areas. She was never invited by the EFCC or arrested.