Shortly before the nation went into effective lockdown, Nasarawa state indigenes were in shock as listened to tales coming out of the state House of Assembly on how a staggering N1 billion Secondary Schools renovation fund was utilised in 2018.
The fund was said to have been released by the government of Umaru Tanko Al- Makura (now Senator, representing Nasarawa South) during which the current Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Aliyu Ahmed Tijani, was the Commissioner for Education.
The need to probe the disbursement of the fund, according to the state Lawmakers, became imperative after finding variance between the testimony of the SSG and the documents at their disposal.
They also said the testimonies of the current Commissioner for Education, Hajiya Fati Sabo, and that of the SSG made probing further compelling. The House followed up its resolution with an ad hoc committee to get fact of the matter. So far, the committee has sat and submissions made, revealing some disturbing facts on how the said fund was utilised.
Unfortunately, the committee could not submit its findings before the House went into recess in deference to the rampaging COVID -19.
Then, came in a largely cyber based allegation of diversion of public fund allegedly by the Lawmakers. Story was told of how each Lawmaker was handed N 11 million each by the state government for onward disbursement to their constituents as palliative from the scourge of COVID -19.
Livid by this allegation, the Lawmakers left nothing on their path in proving that the story was a hatchet man’s job aimed at stalling their investigation into the N 1billion schools renovation fund scandal. The House did not mince word in pointing at the direction of the SSG as the masquerade behind the mask, vowing however that it would be deterred.
The Lawmakers accused Aides of the embattled SSG of setting them up against their constituents with a view to arm twist them into abandoning their its resolves to unearth how N1 billion education fund was expended.
As the fire from the House became unrelenting, one of the Media Aides to the SSG, Jaafar M. Loko, made a Facebook post dissociating himself from the source of the N11 million for palliative story, alleging that who ever was behind the story was out to “truncate the process and a direct approach to discredit the yet to be released report (and) I will not in anyway join this illegality (as) I have confidence on (SIC) the Committee, hoping (that) there will be justice and fairness without compromising anything.”
Loko went on to further clarify that “Indeed, (it) is never my scheduled and it bordered me not to commend on any funds or administrative functions of the state Assembly. It is an established fact that they are separate arm of Government empowered by the Constitution to operate according to its prescriptions of which it includes oversight and checkmating the excess of Executive. Then why should one make any comment when carrying out their statutory functions as enshrined in the law.?”
He further submitted that those behind the allegation were unaware of the unbreakable bond between the SSG and the Speaker of the House, Hon. Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi, saying the duo had come along way to be strained by mischief makers.
But, true to its threat however, the House convened an emergency session to trash out the matter and ostensibly to clear its name. The House, after its deliberation, came out with three points resolutions, to wit: debunked the allegation in its entirety, called on the Executive to make a statement to clear the air on the purported fund for palliative, and called for the arrest of three Aides of the SSG including, Mr Loko.
The Speaker, in passing the resolutions of the House, further made it clear that “the reports on social media that the state government has given us money as palliative to our constituents over COVID-19 is unfortunate and false.
“Such reports are capable of creating confusion and are inciting us against our people. No amount of intimidations, mischiefs, insults will divert our attention and we will continue to protect the integrity of the House and I urged you to remain focused.”
As if the message that the House was not ready to submit to any form of “blackmail” in its track to carry out its statutory duty got to the right quarter, the office of the SSG promptly released a statement clearing the air on the entire saga.
According to a statement personally signed by the SSG, there is no iota of truth in the allegation that N11 million was given to each Lawmaker as COVID-19 palliative on behalf of their constituents.
The statement reads in part:”the attention of Nasarawa State Government has been drawn to an online publication that has gone viral in the social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter alleging that the State Government has given each of the 24 members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly the sum of N11,000,000,00 (eleven million Naira) as COVID-19 palliative for either distribution or procurement of food items for their respective constituents.
“Government wishes to state that, this story is untrue, false and malicious aimed at, not only tarnishing the image of our Honourable members, but also that of His Excellency, the Governor of Nasarawa State.”
Urging members of the public to disregard the said report, the statement went on to urge the public to ” consider it (report) as handiwork of mischief makers bent on bringing disaffection on the already existing cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislative arm of Government in the State.”
There you have it. The verdict is out. After hearing from the actors involved in the scandal it is now clear that the House is not afraid to thumb It’s chest. It turns out that it is more believable. This is not my verdict. This is the only takeaway by any discernible mind after listening to the accuser saying nothing is missing; the witness saying nothing is witnessed; and the accused unchallengeably saying nothing is taken.
In as much as it is commendable that our Lawmakers have no question to answer after all, not a few indigenes of the state are of the opinion that taking delivery of the multi million naira Hilux as official cars at this material time is ill-timed and it smacks of loss of touch with the reality of situation of their constituents.
This is more so when juxtaposed with the norm all over the country where public officials are taking pay cuts in their entitlements while others still are giving up theirs completely in favour of the government to tackle COVID-19 and its ravaging impacts,
Indeed, many wonders what the private citizens who dolled out billions of naira in donations to the government in efforts to overcome the debilitating virus would feel like when they hear of news suggesting public officials are unwilling to make sacrifice.
Clearly, there is no begging the question that failure to postpone the delivery of those vehicles, which cost reports have put at half a billion naira, reveals our Lawmakers preference to stick to the past without regard to the prevailing grim of the country’s revenue earning position.
Regardless of this, we must applaud our Lawmakers for acting promptly to set the records straight, thereby, saving their hard earned names and reputations in this saga. They are however, urged to make sure that they do get to the bottom of the N1 billion schools renovation fund saga so that the public would not go away with the impression of a “trade off” deal at the end of the day.
Musa Adamu Esq, a Lawyer, Journalist and Public Commentator writes from Keffi and can be reached on 08059251056 (text & WhatsApp only) and firstname.lastname@example.org