Fleeing Kogi Ex-Gov in a Web of Allegations … Fingered for Fraud, Bribery, Human Rights Abuse

By Yinka Adaranijo

Penultimate weekend, an Abuja-based nongovernmental organisation, Centre for Tansparancy, Accountability, Fairness and Responsiblity in Governance (CTAFRG), had drawn attention to the wanton wastage of state funds to obtain reprieve for an embattled former governor. The body had called for investigations by federal authorities into alleged attempts by a corrupt former governor of one of the North Central States wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to bribe his way to access President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The troubled former governor was said to be paying his way through to seek Tinubu’s intervention for a softlanding in his imminent arraignment over humongous and verifiable thievery under his watch.

The ex-state chief executive has indeed been accused of ruling the state by proxy and taking cover in the Government House of the state capital, several months after the expiration of his tenure. This is in a bid to evade arrest and prosecution by anti-graft agencies. He is further accused of desperate resort to corrupting and compromising state officials with scarce state funds after several failed attempts to see the President.

CTAFRG had raised concerns that the slush funds for the nefarious activities are proceeds from tax payers money, warning that the continued bleeding of the state by the ex-governor with the approval of his successor have not gone unnoticed. Adding that, “There will be severe consequences for the offenders when formal interrogations commence”.

These allegations and warnings were raised less than 48 hours to the ambush of the former governor of Kogi State Mr Yahaya Bello by operatives of the EFCC. He has since been on the run, inspite being declared wanted by the police and placed on the watchlist of the nation’s immigration service.

‘Stop Using State Funds to Bribe for Access to Mr President’

Dan Ishaku, an attorney, who spoke on behalf of CTAFRG said, “Whistleblowers reports at our disposal have it that in recent months and weeks, a former governor in one of the North Central states with pending criminal accusations went into overdrive in a bid to see President Tinubu.

The said former public servant has been at large since he left office late January 2024. He has evaded arrest thus far, sticking like second skin to his successor. Money in millions of United States dollars are said to have been paid to certain gate keepers around the President to allow access to the nation’s Number One citizen, by the pliable successor to the former governor under inquisition. He had hitherto evaded the handcuffs of anti-graft departments, seeking sanctuary in the premises of his former address.”

It noted that officers and aides to the President who were involved in the transaction are yet to be ascertained. “Reports, however, have it that the duo, the embattled former governor and his stooge, were on a joint Save-Our-Soul, (SOS) mission to Mr President, at the weekend. They were said to have said two prayers to Tinubu during their freak encounter.

First, the ex-governor pleaded to be given a soft landing concerning his hot chase by the EFCC. He is alleged to have stolen over N500 billion state funds during his eight years in office. Secondly, the tag team appealed to the President to mediate in the ongoing proceedings at the elections petitions tribunal investigating gross infractions during the November 2023 off-cycle governorship election, which produced his successor. It is rumoured that revelations at the tribunal proceedings portend a bad case for the successor to be jittery, likewise the former governor. They turned out to be Bello and Governor Usman Ododo.

Filters from meeting with the President, however, said Tinubu advised the former governor in clear terms to submit himself to be cleared by the statutory anti-corruption policeman, the EFCC. Concerning the matter at the tribunal, Tinubu asked that the judiciary be allowed to enjoy its autonomy and do its job. Attempts by the jittery former governor to play on the sentiments of the President to the effect that he, the governor-on-the-run, needed to begin the campaign for the President’s reelection in 2027, was defused. The president, according to our source, made it clear that since election petitions are pending at the courts, they should wait for the outcome.

On EFCC, Tinubu told them point-blank that the administration has been clear on financial matters and that accountability is its most important watchword. Concerning 2027, the President thanked his visitors for their thoughtfulness. He insisted the focus of his administration is on security and the economic challenges of our dear nation.

According to a source, the failed bid to lobby Mr President on the two prayers was preceded by a recent visit to the presidential villa by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), accompanied by the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ola Olukoyede. Both federal officials were said to received express presidential orders to pick up the eering former Kogi governor, in the event of his failure to honour official invitation or to submit himself for interrogation.

“CTAFRG is hereby using this medium to warn the ex-governor to desist from his hide and seek posture and be ready to face justice for looting the treasury of his state to the tune of N500b over the period of eight years he was in power. We also warn his successor and executive errand boy, that the continued fleecing of the state with his approval portend grave consequences for the offences. Consequently, we called on the federal authorities to launch full investigations into the allegations of bribery to gain access to the president and the unconstitutional involvement of the ex-governor in the day-to-day running of the affairs of his state”, the group warned

Hurdles on the Path of Bello

A fresh petition before the EFCC accused the former governor and his successor of conniving with others to either loot or misappropriate over N300Billion allocation to the 21 Local Governments of the state between May 2016-January 2024.

The fresh petition listed all the 21 immediate past Local Government Chairmen as co-conspirators in the looting of the over N300billion LG funds. The petition stated that in 2016, N23.1billion was received as Local Govt Allocations and in 2018, N43.6billion was received. In 2019, N41.1Billion was received while in 2020, N34.4billion was received as Local Govt allocation from the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission.

The petitioners, name witheld, added that in 2021, N44.7billion was received while in 2023, N73.1billion was received from the RMFC for Local Governments in the state.
At the time the over N300billion was looted, the current governor served as the Auditor General for Local Governments, making him the one who supervised the misappropriation and looting of the billions.

Dino Melaye, a former Senator from Kogi State says the over N80bn case of alleged fraud and money laundering does not account for the Paris Club and two CBN bailouts. The two bailouts amount to N50.,8bn. There is also the N20bn abandoned in Sterling Bank, which has been confiscated by the CBN. It was variously further alleged that Bello’s hands were soiled in the lucre of state assets and resources, appropriated to self and family members including the State’s liaison office, Victoria Island, Lagos, properties worth billions of Naira scattered in Abuja, other parts of the country and abroad.

EFCC Chairman, Olukoyede, on Tuesday was caught on camera as he relayed how Bello withdrew $720,000 from the state’s coffers to pay his child’s school fees, upfront and ahead of the expiration of his tenure.

The EFCC Chairman said he had personally put a call through to Bello, inviting him to clear the air on the issues but he refused to honour invitations.

Authentic feelers from deep inside sources in EFCC suggested to the effect that Bello has over half a century of instances of documented and otherwise suspicious movements of state funds. His matter is so monumental that even if he’s freed from one he will jump into another. His case was described to be like “Hurdles racing competition”

“This your former Governor is living in self delusion and is a confirmed nincompoop. He thinks he can escape the long arms of the law?. He must be living in a fool’s paradise. What makes him think he is above the law?.Over 68 cases pending and the worst is that they are electronically generated banking transactions”, revealed the source in the EFCC legal department.

Stepped on Toes, Dehumanised His Constituents

One other factor that may be working against Bello in his current self inflicted travails are his catalogue of activities that saw him work against the interests of the President Tinubu, notably in 2015 and 2023.

It is no news that Bello was the direct beneficiary of the efforts of the late governorship candidate of the APC in the 2015 Kogi governorship election, Abubakar Audu, even though he (Bello) openly worked against the APC. That same election divinely ushered his first term. He had collected money from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and delivered his domain, Okene Local Government to the PDP candidate, the then incumbent Governor Idris Wada.

This was done in a bid to stop the APC and Audu who at the time of his death was coasting to victory. Pursuant to that unfortunate incident, all eyes were on Audu’s runninmate, Abiodun James Faleke, nominated by Tinubu, to step up as the replacement candidate in an election he was a joint owner of the impending mandate. However, controversial constitutional interpretations were invented to stop Faleke. His place was taken by Bello on the abracadabra that he (Bello) came second in the APC governorship primaries. But that wasn’t the big story.

The real target was Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who must be stopped from extending his political network to the North Central. Eight years after, Bello committed no sin as he expressed his desire to contest the APC predidential ticket but he might have stepped on toes in the current power configuration in the Presidency for his role during the time preceding the emergence of Tinubu as the APC predidential flag bearer.

Occasionally making a mockery of the former Lagos Governor, Bello had almost turned to a lone voice in the northern governors forum, as he vehemently opposed the moves to zone the predidential ticket of the APC to the south. He went further to openly challenge Tinubu to a contest and roundly defeated in the APC predidential primary election, Bello condemned the process that produced Tinubu as the party’s flag bearer.

There seems not a save haven for the runningman with the APC apparatchiks either. The Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja, National Secretariat of the APC is a no-no as there’s no love lost between Bello and the chief occupant.

This is because, within days of leaving office as governor and less than a week after Ododo’s inauguration at Lokoja as Bello’s successor, graced by APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Yahaya Bello’s posters appeared in Abuja locations indicating his next target, which was to take Ganduje’s seat as APC National Chairman. That was enough to ignite a trench warfare between Bello and Ganduje’s men in the APC National Working Committee.

Beyond EFCC probe and the blackbooks of the Tinubu Presidency/APC National Secretariat, have come calls for investigations and prosecution of the former Governor Bello over alleged cases of human rights abuses and state sponsored killings during the eight years “draconian” reign.

Several groups have alleged that the former governor should be held responsible for election related violence and killings in the state which they say accounted for the loss of about 50 lives under his watch, between 2019 and 2023, including the burning alive of an opposition women leader in her home. One if the groups, Network of Professional Kogi State Youths in a statement signed by Comrade Abdullahi Shuaibu noted that the former governor should be investigated over the allegation by members of the opposition that he had on his payroll a killer squad including serving men in uniform, employed to attack and kill members of the opposition, harrass journalists to submission and create a general state of apprehension amongst the citizens.

“During his eight-year tenure, he faced accusations of orchestrating a wave of political violence resulting in the deaths of over 50 individuals. Reports suggest that he allegedly utilized a network of political thugs, some of whom were involved in the infamous 2018 National Assembly invasion, to serve his interests.

These thugs, reportedly supplied by the ex-governor himself were embroiled in a dispute over unpaid dues, prompting fears that they would expose their benefactor. Tragically, they were allegedly lured to a location where they met their demise. Leading the alleged killing squad, composed of DSS and Navy personel is a current member of House of Representatives whose election was sponsored by the ex-governor as a compensation.

These allegations underscore the need for a thorough investigation into the multitude of allegations ranging from corrupt governance practices to cases of human rights abuses during his tenure”.

Meanwhile, CTAFRG further alleged that “He used the eight years stealing the state’s funds. Despite the humongous monthly allocations and bailouts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) prepared by the preceding administration, reimbursement of billions of Naira federal roads construction projects, undertaken by his predecessors, workers and pensioners for whom tbe bailouts held hope were either paid in percentages, expelled from the civil service or sent to their early graves. Needless to talk about political office holders belonging to the preceding administration, despite that their outstanding salaries and severance were captured in the highest amount of bailout funds ever received by any other states of the Federation.

The state got the highest amount of CBN bailouts, due to the prudence of the preceding administration, Yet, the emperor who held his emergence as governor during his first term to divinity, and some unprecedented constitutional interpretations, totally skewed against Tinubu and his man, adamantly refused to pay outstanding salaries and other entitlement of appointess of his predecessors.

“Unfortunately, the fleecing of the state by the ex-governor has continued unabated, even after his tenure had expired. Indeed, both state and local government workers heaved a sigh of relief following the exit of the former governor and the doubling of monthly allocations to the states by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led federal government. But while other states in the federation have started paying workers full salaries, this state is still paying her workers in percentages.

The backlog of unpaid salaries have accumulated to a level that the workers are hopeless that they would ever get their wages back in their lifetime, especially local government workers and primary school teachers”.

Yinka Adaranijo a public affairs analyst writes from Kaduna

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