Probing Fashola for ‘massive corruption’

National Mirror

May 13, 2013

Probing Fashola for ‘massive corruption’

OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU examines the call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to probe Governor Babatunde Fashola over alleged “massive corruption.”

Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, EFCC boss.

Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, EFCC boss.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Lagos State have been at each other’s throat since 1999. The latest in the series of attack on the Babatunde Fashola-led administration and the ACN from the PDP came penultimate Sunday, when the PDP state chairman, Olatunji Shelle called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the Fashola administration, alleging massive fraud by the administration.

Shelle had accused the Fashola administration of having a skeleton in its cupboard, the reason why he said that the antigraft agency should spread its tentacles of investigation to the “Centre of Excellence”.

He hinged his submission on the fact that Fashola had gone to court to obtain an injunction stopping the state House of Assembly from probing the activities of the ministries and departments and agencies in the state, adding that a recent “shut-up order” on the officials of the state was one of the attempts by the Fashola administration to cover its tracks and asked the state government to give a comprehensive statistics of its projects for the people of the state to assess in order to either put a lie to the government’s claims or confirm them.

Shelle said: “Recently, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, talked about plans by the House committees to begin the probe of ministries in the state. This move, we learnt, has been vehemently opposed by Fashola and the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria.

“Media personnel covering the Government House, including the deputy governor’s office are now forced to swear to an oath of silence. Media houses that have in the past tried to reveal happenings in the State House were banned from covering the governor/deputy and the ministries.”

Not done, Shelle also challenged Fashola to disclose all the projects his administration has undertaken and is undertaking presently, as well as explain how the over N23 billion that accrued to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) were disbursed.

His words: “There is the need for the government to give statistics on projects it is handling and allow the public to have access to such information to know if its claims were true or false”.

On the security situation in the state, the PDP chairman said that Lagos State has actually become the hub of criminal activities if recent events in the state were to be taken seriously.

He added: “Lagos has now become the hub of armed robbers and kidnappers. Recently the chairman, Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Kehinde Bamigbetan was kidnapped. There have been over 20 reported cases of kidnapping of foreigners in the state recently and these incidents were kept away from the public by the state.”

The state PDP chairman promised to expose the corrupt practices of Fashola and his predecessor in office, Bola Tinubu, when the his party takes over power in Lagos come 2015.

Throwing its weight behind the PDP’s call, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), speaking through its executive chairman, Debo Adeniran, averred that Shelle’s allegation of massive corruption in Lagos corroborated its earlier petition to the EFCC on the state.

It therefore called on the anti-graft agency to begin investigation into the allegations without further delay.

Adeniran said: “This statement corroborated our stand on the administration of Fashola. It is a good thing that more members of the public are now coming up with their demands to probe the Lagos State government. It is not because CACOL is in alliance with any individual or political party that we are lending our voice to this call, but it is a point of vindication for our earlier call that the Fashola administration be probed.”

Wondering why “a governor that claims to be progressive should be so secretive that he would not want his activities to be probed,” Adeniran said: “When the Lagos State House of Assembly wanted to investigate him, all he did was to run to the court of law to obtain injunction from being investigated. If the governor had not perpetrated corruption, why should he be afraid of being investigated?”

CACOL also urged Fashola to “come up with the state of the state’s address” to render his stewardship so far to the people of Lagos who voted him to power, tell them how much the state has generated and how much has been expended for the people to be sure that appropriated money was judiciously spent.

But the Lagos State chapter of the ACN, speaking through its Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, described the probe call as laughable, saying that the PDP is “brain dead and writhing under the throes of acute frustration and rustiness” and trying to use the EFCC to achieve a feat it had never achieved nor will ever achieve, which is capturing Lagos.

In a statement titled “Stop Ridiculing Yourselves”, Igbokwe said that “when a party notorious for corruption and incompetence makes a life business of forging and marketing lies so as to further its political interests, it can only detain itself to wolf crying and raising the kind of wild hoaxes the Lagos PDP has made its primary business since it found out that it has no electoral value in Lagos.

“For us in Lagos ACN, the Lagos PDP has become a regular nuisance with one petty gossip or the other to spread with each passing day. We know that Lagos PDP does not exist beyond this trade in fickleness. Their wild concoctions and insensate forgeries have become the most remarkable features of their wild fantasy that, by whatever means, they will get a chance of adding Lagos to their looting empire.”

Igbokwe assured the PDP that its electoral woe in Lagos would continue without abeyance, saying that Lagosians would not allow it to bestow on it, the curse of misrule it had bestowed on the central government and on states it controls since 1999.

Saying that it was ironical that a party that is notorious for “gargantuan corruption running into hundreds of trillions of naira, is the one raising one funny corruption allegation or the other against a government noted for compliance with due process and best practice in Nigeria,” Igbokwe added: “Is it not queer that it is only a few cabal that remain in Lagos PDP that have chosen voluntary blindness so as not to acknowledge the tremendous developments in Lagos? Is it not paradoxical that at a time the PDP has ran Nigeria into one seamless gang land, it is the PDP that is raising noxious allegations of insecurity in the very oasis of safety, which Lagos is to Nigeria at present?”

The Lagos State House of Assembly also condemned the PDP call for Fashola’s probe, saying that the “’massive corruption alleged by the PDP against Fashola is the only way the Lagos PDP could express its frustration and desperation to rule the state.”

The Chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy, Security and Publicity, Segun Olulade maintained that there has never been any occasion where the House planned to probe the ministries in the state.

His words: “The Lagos PDP knows too well that the rat race to capture Lagos by the PDP is a lost battle from inception. This is the more reason the Lagos PDP is trying to fabricate lies to create disaffection among Fashola, Lagos House of Assembly and ACN leaders.”

Saying that it was the constitutional responsibility of the House to carry out oversight functions on ministries, departments and agencies, which the House has been doing, Olulade said: “We take exception to an unfounded, baseless, vindictive and malicious call for probe against Fashola who has been widely acknowledged as a model of good governance in Nigeria given his transparent, honesty and brilliant performance in transforming Lagos State to its present megacity status.”

Olulade therefore challenged the PDP to come out to the open with proven evidence of corruption against Fashola to facilitate such probe instead of “trying to malign his image and that of his party, the ACN, in the desperate bid to capture Lagos State.” He said that the allegation of “massive corruption” against the Fashola administration by Shelle and the PDP was “a figment of the imagination of failed politicians, witch hunters and enemies of Lagos State who are hell bent on destabilising the state and distract the government from carrying out its primary responsibility of raising the living standards of the good people of Lagos State.”

Another group, the Fasholamania Independent Support Movement (FISM), also carpeted Shelle and the PDP, describing them as enemies of Lagos State. Speaking through its president, Olukayode Salako, the FISM said that Lagos PDP has been deceiving Lagosians with “childish lies, baseless accusations and unintelligent propaganda.”

Salako said: “Lagos PDP has refused to see anything good in the Fashola administration because of its desperate desire to capture the state. Whether Lagos PDP accepts it or not, the Fashola administration remains a benchmark for setting copious standards for good governance in Nigeria. Shelle and Lagos PDP have not governed any state before, so they may not really know the challenges of governing an overpopulated, complex and cosmopolitan environment like Lagos.

“Any reasonable person who sees the quality of the state government’s projects will know that it costs money to build good and lasting infrastructure.”

To pundits, the call for Fashola’s probe is political. The Lagos PDP will do well by providing concrete evidence of massive corruption under Fashola administration and petition the anti-graft agency with hard facts instead of mere verbal accusation.

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