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Katsina: Shema Battles Masari Over Probe

Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State may have made good his promise to probe his predecessor, Ibrahim Shema who held sway from April 2007 to May 29th 2015. Governor Masari had expressed dissatisfaction with the handover note presented to him by his predecessor, prompting him to set up a probe panel. “We will do so (probe) if we are not fully satisfied with the explanation given to us in the handover note”, Masari said.

Masari explained that it was the level of rot in the state that had made it necessary to work out a solution to problems facing the state. Masari said the people of the state had the right to know how their money was spent.

Interestingly, the governor who had since commenced the probe appears dazed by the level of revelations made by the probe panel. To this effect, Masari on Sunday said he has “concrete evidence” to drag his predecessor before anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to recover all stolen funds.

Masari who stated this while receiving the Emir of Daura, Umar Faruk, who paid him Sallah homage in Katsina recently noted that the former governor would only escape from the hammer of the EFCC if he agrees to return the looted funds. The governor promised that all stolen public money would be retrieved to correct past mistakes and bring sanity into the public service. He alleged that the former governor misappropriated over N76.6 billion collected as excess crude oil allocation and diverted over N7.5 billion into his private pocket.

The governor of Katsina also alleged that Mr. Shema and other top government officials of the Ministry of Local Government Affairs connived and faked used receipts to divert over N750 million earmarked to purchase drugs for local government councils. Alhaji Masari said his administration was aware of media campaign of calumny sponsored by his predecessor to frustrate him from the ongoing probe and retrieving of stolen funds, alleging that more than N1.8 billion was paid by the former governor to proprietors of some newspapers for the job.

“No amount of intimidation will stop us from probing Shema’s administration. It is better for them to return all the looted money or face the wrath of the EFCC. We will run an open door policy,’’ he said, and solicited for constructive advice to move the state forward. Though the depth of the probe is yet to be known, The UNION however learnt that Masari is puzzled that Shema, which said it handed over N4 billion in the handover notes would be among some states that owe workers. Apparently not confortable with the on-going probe, Shema has described it as a deliberate attempt by the Masari-led administration to witch-hunt him and tarnish his glowing image before the people of the state.

To this end, the former governor has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to intervene in the matter. Shema’s grievances, according to a letter written by his lawyers, Wole Olanipekun and Co, was the “unwarranted and unexpected campaign of cal¬umny being waged against him coupled with the deliberate attempt to blackmail, denigrate and vilify him and his aides.” In the letter dated July 11, 2015 and signed by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the former governor stated that the Aminu Bello Masari-led administration had been making concerted efforts “all in a conscious bid to decimate his towering image and reverse the progress attained in Katsina State under his leadership.”

He described as blatant lies, nauseating and malicious the claims that the “Ibrahim Shema-led administration incurred and left the state with a debt of N42 billion upon the expiration of its term; that the administration ‘incurred a foreign debt portfolio of $78 million’ and that ‘a sum of N13 billion ‘got missing’ and/or was unaccounted for at/by the Ministry of Finance between January and May, 2015.”

The former governor also debunked the alle¬gations that ‘a sum of N7 billion was dubiously transferred to the account of the state chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and same was recklessly used by the said local government areas;’ that the Ibrahim Sh¬ema-led administration embezzledN7,100 billion from the fund meant for the SURE-P scheme;’ and that ‘a sum of N556 million was misappropriated by the State Universal Basic Education Board, and/or that the said Board purportedly cannot ac¬count for it.”

Prior to the May 29 handover, the former governor had promised to leave at least N3.7 billion in the state’s treasury to enhance the taking over of his successor. He recalled that on assumption of office in 2007, he had promised not to leave an empty treasury at the end of his tenure, adding that he had kept to his promise in spite of the Federal dwindling allocation to the state. ”

Let me equally assure all and sundry that Katsina state treasury will have at least, not less than N3.7bn cash by 29th of May 2015. So, I can tell you that anybody who comes to inform you that Katsina State (government) is owing, is certainly just playing politics with you.

Any other story is falsehood,” he had said. On the alleged debt of over $70 million, Mr. Shema said the information allegedly released by the Debt Management Office (DMO) about the state’s debt profile was false, adding that the state government had been over-deducted to the tune of over 200 million dollars by the DMO.

The former governor enjoined his successor to concentrate his energy on critical issues of governance in the state and not use the probe to witch-hunt him. In a statement signed by head of his media team, Oluwabusola Olawale, and made available to newsmen, Shema tasked Masari to focus on how to fulfill his campaign promises to the people of the state. Shema specifically admonished Masari against embarking on witch hunt of officials of past administration “which will not help in the delivery of dividends of democracy.”

“It will be in the interest of the state if the new administration focuses on issues of governance and not witch hunting,” he stated. The former governor said his attention had   been drawn to statement credited to Governor Masari alleging that his ADC received N680 million from council chairmen for security related issues, describing the statement as regrettable and unfortunate.

Shema restated that his administration left over N4 billion in the state treasury and paid salary for the month of May by 24th for both the state and local government workers. On assumption of office, governor Masari promptly froze the accounts of the 34 local government areas in the state, a development that did not go down well with the latter. Consequently, the Peoples Democratic Party, Katsina State chapter and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) took a swipe on the governor, questioning the rationale behind the decision. The local government council areas are predominantly manned by the PDP.

In separate statements signed and made available to newsmen by the state publicity secretary of the party, Alhaji Salisu Sukuntuni and the state ALGON chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba, they described the governor’s directives as unconstitutional, illegal and affront to the rule of law and the democratic tenets in the country. They insisted that the governor has no power to freeze the account of any local government since according to them the local governments were under democratically elected structures.

According to them the governor’s move portrays a clear intent of blackmail and sabotage to the council’s chairmen in their effort to fulfill promises made to the electorates. They equally warned banks not to honour the governor’s directive as according to them such directives negates the rules of customer- client relationship. They therefore warned that should the governor or the banks fail to heed their advice, the duo stressed that they would meet and take appropriate action. As the allegation and counter allegation between Shema and his successor lasts, watchers of political development in katsina argue that the ultimate aim of the probe should be to clean up the state and ensure that all alleged stolen funds from the state’s treasury are recovered.

-Peterclaver Egbochue examines the controversy emanating from the probe of former governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema by his successor, Alhaji Aminu Masari.

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