Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Muhammed Adamu Aliero, may have stirred the hornet?s nest when he shunned entreaties to ?tread softly? over the discovery of a N">

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N3billion naira fraud tears Kebbi State apart

Posted by By James Ojo on 2005/04/25 | Views: 981 |

N3billion naira fraud tears Kebbi State apart

Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Muhammed Adamu Aliero, may have stirred the hornet’s nest when he shunned entreaties to “tread softly” over the discovery of a N3 billion fraud in the state’s Ministry of Finance.

Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Muhammed Adamu Aliero, may have stirred the hornet’s nest when he shunned entreaties to “tread softly” over the discovery of a N3 billion fraud in the state’s Ministry of Finance.

Already, the discovery has opened a can of worms with two commissioners regarded as the governor’s “core disciples” and his chief of staff, cooling their heels in detention over the theft. Now, the detainees are threatening to squeal on the “dirty deals” the governor himself allegedly did since he assumed office on May 29, 1999.

The stake was apparently raised Wednesday when the six accused were arraigned before a Kebbi Magistrate Court headed by Tukur Abba Zagga who ruled that they be kept in custody until May 11 when the case comes up for further hearing.

They include Alhaji Garba Muhammad Dandiga who until he was sacked on 12th April 2005, was the Commissioner for Agriculture. Between 1999 and 2004, he was in charge of the Ministry of Finance. Interestingly, he doubled as the governor’s campaign manager in 1999 and 2003 and is reported to have records of “how we spent money for the elections and where we got it from.”

Alhaji Muhammed Sani Ango equally sacked by Governor Aliero was the Permanent Secretary in the Finance Ministry before he was named as the Commissioner for Finance last year following Dandiga’s redeployment.

Also arraigned was the governor’s ex-chief of staff, Alhaji Abubakar C. Ladan, who was also a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance. Others are Alhaji Sani Ibrahim Gwandu, the Accountant General of Finance and his deputy, Alhaji Idris Ibrahim Augie.
They were alleged to have siphoned money from the coffers of the state government without approval by Governor Adamu Aliero.
Predictably, the involvement of Dandiga and the chief of staff caused the biggest ripples in government circles.

Sunday Sun investigations revealed that the alleged theft was leaked by a junior staff in the Ministry of Finance when he was forced to make a refund of N20,000 from an inflated contract.
When Governor Aliero allegedly learnt of the development, he sent the state Auditor- General to carry out a comprehensive auditing of the Ministry of Finance from 2000 to September 2004.
When the audit report landed on the governor’s table, he was said to have expressed shock that such huge amount of public money had been taken away by people he trusted.

Aliero’s failed ‘diplomacy’
To be double sure, Sunday Sun was told that the governor contacted a retired top accountant in the state to carry out a private investigation into the alleged fraud. The report confirmed what the auditors saw in the ministry.
The governor, it was learnt, went a step further to meet the indicted officials personally and impressed it upon them to return the “loot.”
He subsequently went ahead to constitute a recovery committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Suleiman Muhammad Argungu.
The committee was unable to make a head way as the officials indicted refused to accept the allegations levied against them.

Alhaji Dandiga and Alhaji Ango were said to have insisted they were obeying the instructions of the governor on the issue of finance during their tenure as commissioners in the state.
The last ditch effort by the governor to settle the matter in-house was the enlistment of a five-star royal father who was once an ADC to a military head of state. But at the end of the day, the Emir could not sway the governor’s former disciples who reportedly dared the governor to cast the first stone “if you know you are clean yourself.”

Prior to their being arraigned before a magistrate court Wednesday, Dandiga and his co-accused had gone to the High Court to enforce their “rights to fair hearing as guaranteed under Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution.”

They complained that they had been pronounced guilty of "fraudulent withdrawal of monies from the government’s account," without anyone hearing their own story.
Also in the claims, Dandiga and others said that the alleged financial breaches unearthed by the audit report were mostly occasioned by the governor.
They said they had been "acting on verbal instructions to withdraw money for official and sundry expenses."

At the weekend, speculations were rife in Birnin Kebbi, the state capital, that the accused could be considering the Samson option: that is, pulling the roof down on all the latter-day anti-corruption “crusaders” in the corridor of power in Kebbi. Part of the jokers they may table is a request for a public inquisition into the true identities of those officially listed as “contractors” by Kebbi State government under Aliero since 1999 to find out whether they don’t indeed have one link or the other to the powers that be in Birnin Kebbi. Their contention is that most of the “juicy” government contracts are executed by individuals or companies who front for the powers that be.

For instance, during the 2004 Argungu Fishing Festival, they claimed that a sum of N2 million was withdrawn from one of the first generation banks on the instruction of the governor as " contigency fund."
Sunday Sun, however, gathered independently that the money was eventually returned to the coffers of the government because it was not “utilized” through a bank teller No 006953 on 25th March, 2005.
"These are the type of expenses incurred on the instructions of the governor but which the audit report claimed was not authorized," one of the aides of Dandiga said.

Audit report
The 256-page audit report made available to Sunday Sun gave a tabulation of payment vouchers that did not carry the approval of the governor.
Also, according to the government report, most of the expenditure carried out by the commissioner for finance, permanent secretary and the Accountant General had to do with official trips for Federal
Allocation Accounts Committee, withdrawal of money from CBN at Sokoto, and sundry expenses such as purchase of tyres, diesel, oil and so on.
But Dandiga and co. frowned at the steps taken by the governor after the audit report was submitted to him.

They claimed that there was no audit query issued them before they were made to face the Recovery Panel, leading to their arrest and detention.

This claim was, however, dismissed by the state commissioner for information, Alhaji Audi Ambusa who told Sunday Sun that government had taken the right steps to get to the root of the fraud.
According to him, the Auditor-General was instructed by the governor to look at all payment vouchers from 2000 to 2004 that did not carry his [the governor’s] signature.
He said all the officers concerned were given adequate notice to sort themselves out but that they declined, which made the authorities refer the case to the police.

"There were enough evidences against them. Some of them have agreed to pay back. When there is payment vouchers without the signatures of the appropriate authorities, it is nothing but fraud."
Alhaji Ambusa said no stone would be left unturned to get to the bottom of the case. He assured that nobody linked with the fraud would be spared the rod.
He had addressed the people of the state on the matter in the absence of Governor Aliero who traveled to China and Dubai.
The governors return is expected to open a new chapter as the indicted people are expected to open up when the matter comes up for mention on May 11, 2005.

Before then, opposition parties in the state led by the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are jubilating over the discovery already.
Alhaji Sani Dododo, UNPP state organising secretary said there was no way Governor Aliero would wash his hands clean from this mess.

"Yes we are happy that the lid had been blown open. This is what we have been saying concerning the finances of the state. How will the governor say he does not know that the people who surrounds him are stealing public money? No he can’t say that because we all know their relationship before now."
Alhaji Dododo said he left the governor’s party for UNPP because of the “quality of people ruling the party and government in Kebbi.

"We have problems in Nigeria, but that of Kebbi State is peculiar. If not because of the immunity clause, we would have sued the governor. The most unfortunate thing is that the governor is playing on the ignorance of the people to cheat them."

Alhaji Abubakar Khani, PDP stalwart, blamed Governor Aliero for the scandal saying that the real perpetrators would be known when the case commences in court.
According to him, the discovery only confirmed PDP’s earlier stance that the government had long abdicated its duty to the people in the areas of provision of social services.

However, the Commissioner of Information insists that investigations into the fraud have not been concluded, and that it would be extended to other ministries and agencies of government.
Police investigators in Kebbi confirmed to Sunday Sun that they have extended their dragnet beyond the audit reports and that several staff in the ministry of finance have been quizzed.
For now, the long-suffering residents of Kebbi await with bated breath to see the outcome of the scandal rippling through the land of giant fishes!

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Comments (22)

Valarie(Nairobi, Kenya)says...

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robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

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robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

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HonchoKanji(Angus, UK)says...

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