Alleged N7bn bailout scam: Ekiti commissioner, AG arrested as Fayose declares presidential bid
Olusola Fabiyi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Eniola Akinkuotu, Leke Baiyewu and Leye Aluko
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested the Ekiti State Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo, and the Accountant General, Mrs. Yemisi Owolabi, for their alleged roles in the diversion of N7bn.
The money was alleged to have been part of the bailout which was paid to the Ekiti State Government by the Federal Government.
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The state was said to have received over N11bn from the Federal Government.
Incidentally, the arrests were made on the same day Governor Ayodele Fayose, formally inaugurated his presidential bid campaign.
The spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the suspects had ignored a series of invitations, leaving the commission with no choice but to arrest them.
Uwujaren stated, “The accountant general and the commissioner were invited on several occasions but they refused to honour invitations and they were picked up and the investigation has to do with the misuse of bailout funds.”
The EFCC spokesman also dismissed claims that the Ekiti State Government had obtained a restraining order against the commission.
The Ekiti State Government had last year rejected plans by the Senate to probe how bailouts granted the state to settle salary arrears by the Federal Government were spent.
The Ekiti government had cited the sections of the constitution that said Nigeria’s federal system does not give the Senate the constitutional power to exercise oversight over finances of the states.
The state government’s stance was in reaction to a letter sent by the Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration, led by Gumel Abubakar.
But Ekiti State, in a November 11, 2016 letter, signed by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Owoseni Ajayi, faulted the plan by the Senate to probe how the funds were spent.
But in its reaction on Thursday, the Ekiti State Government described the arrest of Ojo and Owolabi by the EFCC as an irresponsible action.
A statement by the Special Assistant to Fayose on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, said it was obvious that “the hawks around President Muhammadu Buhari” were afraid of the governor’s declaration for the 2019 presidential election.
“The EFCC is obviously living up to its status as the attack dog of the All Progressives Congress government, but the Ekiti State Government, under Governor Ayodele Fayose, cannot be intimidated.”
Olayinka said the arrest was carried out with a view to embarking on another round of media trial against the governor and his government.
“It is funny that the EFCC, in the bid to carry out its usual hatchet job against Governor Fayose, failed to take into cognisance the subsisting court order, which forbids any official of the Ekiti State Government from being arrested by the EFCC. Up till today, the court order has not been appealed and it subsists.”
The government challenged the EFCC to tell Nigerians what had been done to the loads of petitions written against the immediate past APC government in the state.
Fayose declares for 2019 Presidency, vows to fight graft
Meanwhile, Fayose had, earlier on Thursday, in Abuja, formally declared his intention to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The governor vowed to defeat Buhari, the incumbent President, in a free and fair contest if he (the President) was picked by the ruling APC.
While saying God had told him that he would lead the country, Fayose promised to fight corruption if elected President.
Describing himself as a rock, he said God had destined him to lead country.
“My party leaders, standing before you is Peter (The Rock) Ayodele Fayose, the man already destined by God to take Nigeria out of the present political and economic stagnation,” he said.
He dismissed the zoning formula of his party, which has zoned its presidential candidate to the North.
Sounding confident, he said he was like the biblical Joseph, stressing that he would become what God had ordained him to be.
He said the days of packaging governors and individuals as president were over, warning against the imposition of unwilling politicians on Nigerians.
“We don’t want packaged governors or president again. This time round, we need a very agile and experienced fellow like me,” he added.
Fayose, who is also the Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, said, “My inviting you today, distinguished leaders of our party, is to inform you formally that I will be seeking the ticket of our great party, the PDP, to contest the 2019 presidential election. This is without prejudice to our party’s position.
“However, I’m a supporter of competence and capacity, especially now that this country needs young and able leaders that can take our country out of this present state of hopelessness.”
Admitting that the PDP had zoned the 2019 presidential ticket to the North, the governor stated, “It may interest you that no one has come out in this manner to show interest and our party should not wait or beg anyone to fly its flag. Do we now say that if no one comes out from the North, the party won’t have a candidate?”
He told the leadership of the party that he would not be the first person to defy its zoning arrangements.
Fayose added, “Going down memory lane; in 1999 and 2003, despite that our party zoned the presidency to the South, the likes of Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of blessed memory and Chief Banabas Gemade contested the ticket.
“Also in 2007, some party members from the South did not only declare their intention to contest, they also showed interest and obtained nomination forms. Those from the South were Chief Victor Attah, Dr. Peter Odili, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Donald Duke, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and Owelle Rochas Okorocha among others.”
Fayose reminded his audience how he defeated two incumbents in his state, saying nobody should doubt his desire to become the President.
He said, “Twice, I defeated incumbents to become the governor of Ekiti State and I am confident that with your support as my party leaders and supporters, I will defeat the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a free and fair election.
“Let me state that in Ekiti, God has used me twice for our party to regain power from the opposition and I believe the same feat will be repeated at the national level.
“I do not stand before Nigerians today to present myself as one with the answers to all our national questions. Rather, I present myself as one with the required knowledge, understanding, competence and, above all, the political will to coordinate the human and material resources that we have in abundance to achieve national greatness.
“Therefore, I can say expressly that I am well equipped in terms of knowledge, experience as well as physical and mental capacities to hit the ground running as soon as I assume office as President of Nigeria in 2019.”
He rolled out what he said his government had been able to perform in his state.
He said, “In Ekiti State, our success story in education is there for all to see. Ekiti State was number 29 in 2014 NECO examinations but within two years, we were able to move the state to number one in 2016 and again in 2017.
“Also in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations, Ekiti State’s performance, which was 25 per cent in 2014, moved to 74.86 per cent in 2017.
“We were able to revive this sector because we placed our teachers in the driving seat of our policies. We will do the same at the national level because we are mindful of the fact that education is the bedrock of the development of any nation.
“As a governor, I encouraged my children to attend schools here in Nigeria and I have never travelled abroad for medicare. This, I hope to sustain as president of Nigeria by making sure that our schools and health facilities are of international standard.”
Fayose also criticised the Buhari government for alleged poor performance since 2015, when the ruling APC defeated the PDP.
He said, “Today, our country is faced with myriad of problems. Our economy, which was the fastest growing in Africa when our party was in power, has gone comatose with the present managers, who are completely clueless.
“In the area of security, which they leveraged to come to power, despite claims by the government that Boko Haram was technically defeated, Nigerians are being killed by the insurgents while villages are being attacked in the North-East.
“Also, herdsmen are killing Nigerians and destroying farmlands with reckless abandon while kidnapping is now on the rise.
“Most worrisome is the fact that our country is now more divided than ever before with the unity of the country being threatened due to nepotism, religious bigotry and favouritism of the present government.”
Among those in attendance were a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore; and the Secretary to the Ekiti State Government, Dr. Modupe Alade.
Kashamu, Nwodo tackle Ekiti governor’s presidential bid
But the lawmaker, representing Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Buruji Kashamu, on Thursday, condemned Fayose for inaugurating his presidential campaign ahead of the 2019 elections.
Describing Fayose as a joker and a major destroyer of the PDP, Kashamu called the Ekiti State governor as an ‘alawada’ (Yoruba word for comedian) like Baba Sala.
“Baba Sala is the stage name of veteran Yoruba comic actor, Moses Olaiya.
“He looks like Baba Sala, alawada kerikeri. He is not reliable,” Kashamu said.
The PDP financier said this while speaking to The PUNCH on the telephone on Thursday in reaction to the official declaration of Fayose’s presidential campaign in Abuja.
The lawmaker decried that Fayose, being the Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, who could be likened to the ‘president’ of the party, had failed to obey the zoning agreement in the PDP.
Kashamu recalled that Fayose had once proposed to seek another term as
Governor of Ekiti State, but later announced his vice-presidential ambition.
The senator said, “He is a ‘confusionist’ and number one destroyer of the party. How on earth would somebody, who agreed with other party chieftains, that the presidential ticket of the party for 2019 should be zoned to the North, would now turn around to start campaigning for the same ticket as a southerner, and particularly as a south-westerner to the detriment of the national chairmanship ticket of the party already zoned to the area.
“Lovers of our great party and politically-minded Nigerians generally should, by this action of Fayose, see him as the number one destroyer of the party and the most cantankerous politician in the polity who can, at anytime, abuse anybody and go against agreed plans at anytime.”
Also, a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, said Fayose could not contest in the party’s primary poll for the 2019 presidential election.
Nwodo told the News Agency of Nigeria that PDP’s ideology forbade Fayose and other members from the South from contesting the presidential race in 2019.
He added, “Fayose cannot run and I will tell you my reason. When we formed the PDP, the first battle we fought and won as a party was to zone the presidency to the South.
“Those of us from the South made a case because in the First Republic, the prime minister was from the North; in the Second Republic, the President was from the North, and in the Third Republic, a southerner won and the election was annulled.
“There was no way we could go back to the South and say let’s elect a northerner again without giving the south a slot.
“A decision was taken that the President should come from the South and the chairman of the party to come from the North.
“That was how Solomon Lar became the chairman of the PDP and secretary was zoned to the south; that was how I became the first secretary of the party.”
Nwodo, a former National Chairman of the PDP, said the party would take a decision to ensure that its constitution and ordinances were respected.
He explained that those who tried it in the past failed to achieve their aim.