- Aisha Accused Of Arm Twisting Judiciary,Lobbies Emirs, Elites
- Gov Darius Moves N250m For Legal Battle
- EFCC Ransacks Ministries Over Missing N38 bn
Ben ADAJI, Jalingo, and Chris RICHARDS- Abuja
The Taraba State Governorship debacle is taking
intriguing turns as parties go ahead of the expected
Supreme Court of appeals verdtct to attempt
compromising the judiciary, whip up sentiments,
and sway public opinion, in their quests to out play each
other in the power game. While Governor Darius Ishaku was alleged to have stashed away money for the purpose of swaying court judgements, the opposition, Aisha Alhassan is reported to have mounted vigorous lobbies to oust him.
An online publication on Saturday alleged that about N250 Million in cash was conveyed to the residence of PDP Chairman; Bala Kona; in the state, ostensibly for onward conveyance to end beneficiaries, possibly members of the judiciary in a pending court verdict in Yola. That allegation coincided with views from the other side, accusing the Minister of Women Affairs and the All Progressive Congress’, APC, candidate in Taraba Guber poll, Senator Aisha Alhassan of engaging in vigorous lobbies amongst emirs, and northern political leaders to attract sympathy for her cause.
She was said to have set up a lobby group to reach out to political elites in the North, traditional rulers, the judiciary and other stakeholders, to intercede for her in the ongoing battle. Sources said, she appears determined to convince stakeholders to if possible skew the up-coming judgment or get the presidency to support her cause.
These developments are coming at a time when operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have been combing Ministries and extra ministerial departments in the ongoing investigation of massive looting of the treasury by former acting Governors, and alleged diversion of about N39 billion Intervention fund given to the present administration.
Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stormed Jalingo, Taraba State capital last week to investigate alleged high scale fraud in Government ministries and parastatals in the State.
nationalTrail investigations reveal that the operatives stormed the state following petitions from several individuals to the EFCC, alleging diversion of public funds in the administration of former Acting Governors, Garba Umar, Sani Danladi Abubakar and under Governor Darius Ishaku’s eight months tenure in office.
The operatives who drove to the state in a Toyota Bus with registration number Abuja: GWA486 AG are said to be investigating the discrepancies over the actual amount given to Taraba State as bailout funds by the Federal government, and the amount the state government told its citizens it received.
Late last year, the Chief of Staff Government House Administration, Mr. Rebo Usman reportedly disclosed to newsmen that the state received N9.6billion as bailout funds from the Federal Government, a claim the EFCC does not seem to agree with, as well as the mode of its disbursement..
He claimed that N6billion was deducted by two commercial banks for previous over draft incurred by Government and N2 billion was given to the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs for settlement of outstanding debts, leaving the state with only N1.6 to respond to the matters for which the bailout was initially sought.
Ironically, sources told our correspondent that the actual amount allegedly received by Taraba State as bailout funds was N38.4 billion and not N9.6 billion as claimed by the Chief of staff. This disparity has generated controversy between the state Government and some prominent Tarabans who had insisted that the government was being economical with the truth about the actual amount received as bailout.
It was gathered that there has been several petitions to the EFCC by some people on the diversion of the bailout funds by the Governor Darius Ishaku’s administration, which partly informed the coming of the operatives of the EFCC to the state.
We gathered that while in the state the EFCC invited both former and the present officials of the MDGs, state Sure-P Programme, Taraba Investment Company, Local Government Pensions Board and Taraba Micro Finance Bank from where billions of Naira was said to have been carted away during the administration of the immediate past Acting Governor, Danladi Sani Abubakar.
That was not all; the EFCC also investigated the diversion of about N2.4billion allegedly diverted from the N9.6billion bail-out fund claimed to have been received by the state government from the Federal Government for settlement of arrears of workers’ salaries, allowances and other indebtedness.
According to reliable sources, billions of Naira was said to have been diverted from the state treasury while over N15billion bank loan received by the Governor Darius Ishaku administration allegedly developed wings since assumption of office of Governor Ishaku. The 15 billion Bank loan was collected in two installments, N10 billion and N5 billion loans collected between July and September last year.
It was alleged that billions of Naira was withdrawn from one of the commercial banks in the state and transported in two ambulances at night out of the state few days to the December 31st Court of Appeal ruling in the Taraba Governorship elections tussle.
The money was allegedly taken to Ajuji Hotel located at Apo village near the legislative quarters Abuja were a deal was said to have sealed. It was widely speculated that huge sums of money was used by the state government to prosecute the just concluded case at the Appeal Court were the judgment of the lower election petition tribunal was decided in favour of Governor Ishaku and set aside the Governorship election petition tribunal which had earlier declared. Sen. Jummai Aisha Alhassan of APC as winner of the last governorship election in Taraba State.
A member of the EFCC team to Taraba who confided in nationalTRAIL last week revealed that the commission has uncovered diversion of state funds to the tune of over N30billion by the immediate past administration and the present administration, adding that vital documents in connection to the fraudulent activities in Taraba State have been recovered.
While government officials were being interrogated for their alleged involvement, commercial banks where state government funds were alleged to have been arbitrarily withdrawn were requested to submit all financial transactions within the period the alleged fraud was committed to EFCC Headquarters in Abuja.
Another issue being investigated according to our EFCC source include the alleged diversion of N200 million meant for the training of local government staff in the 16 local government areas. The Bureau for Local and Chieftaincy Affairs is expected to remit the sum of N25 million to theLocal Government Service Commission Account monthly but failed to remit this money amounting to N200 million for the past eight months.
Similarlly, the sales of over 4,000 government vehicles, plants and Trucks scattered around the ministries and parastatals has been generating controversies. The Government was said to have sold over 20 Jeeps from Government House and Deputy Governor’s office. The vehicles which were claimed to have been auctioned were actually sold at peanuts to PDP supporters in the state to compensate them for voting Darius in the last governorship election.
During their operations in Taraba the EFCC also investigated the immediate past administration of the former chairmen, of Donga, Sardauna, Bali and Kurmi Local Government Areas where hundreds of millions of naira meant for local government Sure-P programme were allegedly stolen.
And official of the EFCC disclosed that vital documents connected to high scale fraud were recovered from the four local government areas during their visit to the council areas, adding that former chairmen of the councils will soon be invited to the EFCC headquarters in Abuja.
While the alleged maladministration continued unabated, the state lawmakers whom the people of the state relied upon to check mate the Governor’s alleged excesses were said to have been allegedly settled with N15 million each and have since travelled out of the country on indefinite recess. The Deputy Speaker, Alhaji Mohammed Gwampo told nationalTRAIL on phone “we are on recess and I cannot respond to any allegation” he submitted.
Senior Special Assistant on media to the Governor, Sylvanus Giwa described the allegations as a wag wash and figments of the imaginations of opposition groups who are bent on dragging Taraba state into confusion. While calling on the public to disregard such wild allegations, Giwa said, Governor Ishaku’s Government remains one of the most transparent in the country, and its mandate is guaranteed given facts on ground about Taraba people’s wishes.
In the same vein, PDP Chairman in Taraba state, Mr Victor Bala Kona, to whose house the alleged bribe money was said to have been taken, said the whole thing smacks of blackmail, describing the allegations as untrue, baseless and unfounded, as he does not know any judge involved in the said case and does not have any links with any judge in any way. “It is the handiwork of political opponents who are bent on dragging my name into disrepute. But I tell you they will not succeed”, he thundered.
On its part, the Taraba Mandate Group, a political pressure group has alleged in a Press release that, Aisha Alhassan’s group has since gone round the North to lobby, where they allegedly faced disappointments following the rejection of their pleas by virtually all their hosts, especially in the face of President Muhammadu Buhari’s non interference stance in judicial matters.
In their outing, according to the pressure group, a Prominent Emir renowned for his radical stance and forthrightness told them off with a stern advice for the embattled minister to go and look for good lawyers instead of behaving as if Nigeria hasn’t moved on from the past when decision of this nature could be influenced from the top.
They said, the emir lectured the minister on the futility of such lobbying; noting that it was a waste of money and time, since the judiciary under the current administration is even against conflicting verdicts by courts at the various levels, which have been sources of embarrassments to it.
“But a dogged Aisha has however continued her lobbying, and at each stop, her group or even herself would regale the Emirs with stories of how she actually won the election, but was shortchanged because of her faith and gender, always lamenting her persecution by the powers that be in Taraba State because she is Fulani”, it argued.
Signed by its Public Relations Officer, Gani Bako, and made available to nationalTRAIL in Abuja, the release by the political pressure group further accused Aisha Alhassan as merely whipping up sentiments saying she is not Fulani as people are made to believe but belongs to a tiny ethnic group in Taraba State, called Jibu; scattered randomly in the Central and Southern part of the state.
While arguing that Governor Darius Ishaku’s Deputy, Engineer Haruna Muna, is a full blooded Fulani, the group alleged that, “Aisha Alhassan has almost effectively hoodwinked many of the northern elites into believing that she is Fulani”, stressing that, “the Emirs should tell her to go and look for good lawyers if she felt she has a good case. Even fellow women folks are now saying that if Aisha wants to be governor, she would have to do so by winning votes. She can’t be dashed the governorship because she is a woman”.
It will be recalled that, Senator Aisha Alhassan, shortly after she was declared the Governor elect for Taraba state, resulting into near chaos, witnessed a reversal of fortunes when the Appeal Court reversed the tribunal ruling. She proceeded to the Supreme Court, the final arbiter on Governorship election matters, but both parties continued behind the scene maneuvers to win the sympathy of fellow Nigerians.
While accusing the foremost woman politician in Taraba state of fermenting the crisis caused by the Tribunal verdict, the Taraba Mandate Group accused her of double loyalty following her visit to a former Vice President, in apparent show of gratitude for the support she received over the matter.
“Her support was obviously for the VP who wants to dethrone the incumbent president in 2019. Part of his plans is to have a collection of governors in his kitty before 2019. He already has a certain governor of a North Eastern state who is loyal to him. Taraba is next and Aisha is his main project. That is why she went to pledge her loyalty to him on the very day the tribunal stole the mandate. Thank goodness that the Court of Appeal quickly upturned that verdict. That was when Aisha panicked and started lobbying around”, they further alleged.
They further alleged that, a video clip that went viral portrayed the woman politician as saying that she knew the outcome of the court of appeal two days to the verdict, which they described as uncomplimentary for the judiciary.
They also took exception to recent remarks credited to Aisha Alhassan, where she was alleged to have tried in vain to prevent parents of the abducted chibok girls from meeting President Muhammadu Buhari. “The aggrieved mothers stormed the Presidential villa demanding the whereabouts of their children, but the minister told the parents that the president does not have their time and would not attend to them”
They also accused her of a vile propaganda against prominent sons of Taraba state, in which she was alleged to have sponsored a group that accused the Taraba State Government of attempting to compromise the Judiciary. They alleged that Alhassan may be working hands in glove with forces working against President Buhari’s second term.
While decrying the recent visit to Taraba state by the EFCC, the group alleged that it smacks of political intimidation where the state Governor, Darius Ishaku is being deliberately distracted