During his tenure as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu once published a scathing corruption report against 31 Governors. The then Governor of Kebbi State under the umbrella of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Senator Muhammad Adamu Aliero, was among the five Governors not named in Ribadu’s report. Irked by this reality, Senator Aliero’s (then) People’s Democratic Party (PDP) opponents in Kebbi State petitioned the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), alleging that Aliero awarded phantom contracts to the tune of N10 bn.
On the eve of the 2007 General Elections, the ICPC struck, practically shutting down Government business in Kebbi State. The ICPC officials ransacked offices and carted off to Abuja all documents relating to contracts in Kebbi State between 1999 and 2007 – after detaining all the Commissioners, Local Government Chairmen, Permanent Secretaries and officials of the state whose offices and functions were related to procurement and contracts in the offices of the State Security Services (SSS) in Kebbi State.
The Head office of the SSS in Birnin Kebbi was in total chaos when I visited it. The “invited” state officials were expressing frustrations and objections to what they believed was harassment and political witch hunting. The ICPC officials considered the behavior of their “guests” an affront to their authority and an indication that they had something to hide. It took the high-end diplomacy from me to get both parties to listen to me. Thankfully too, the then head of the SSS in Kebbi State was a brilliant mediator. With his assistance, I got the Kebbi State officials to know that the ICPC officials were doing their job and that it was of no moment whether they believed that the petitions were frivolous or the timing was wrong. What was demanded of them was to cooperate with the ICPC officials. That worked. They thereafter pledged their cooperation. For days they were severally interviewed, their statements taken and released on bail.
On the side of the ICPC, my advice was simple: since the petitions were about contracts, they could get their lead if monies were disbursed and certificates of completion of jobs issued but no commensurate job could be seen or verified. I emphasized the point that contract papers remained mere expression of intentions until monies were disbursed for the purposes expressed in them. The ICPC investigations into allegations leveled against Senator Aliero lasted for over two years. In the end, they were found to be frivolous.
The EFCC also investigated those allegations and equally found them to be frivolous. Soon after he became Governor, my friend, Usman Saidu Nasamu Dakingari, who inherited Kebbi State from Senator Aliero, severed relationship with Senator Aliero, his godfather. Some politicians in the state, who could not forgive Senator Aliero for what they believed to be a wrongful imposition of Dakingari on them, cashed in on the sour relationship between the two. Senator Aliero was thereby fought on two fronts. At the national level, Sani Dododo revisited and revved on their N10bn petition by suing the EFCC. Their attempt to procure court orders forcing the EFCC to prosecute Senator Aliero failed both at the trial court and on appeal. At the state level, the then State House of Assembly invited Senator Aliero to answer questions over the same petition, but had to drop their threats after my meeting with its leaders, many of whose election petitions I had handled. Apparently, when he could not get the State Assembly to get at Senator Aliero, Dakingari attempted to use the State Ministry of Justice to prosecute him. He failed because both his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and Director of Public Prosecution told him that there was no sufficient evidence to sustain any charge against him. Even Abubakar Malami, SAN, whose services he had procured to prepare charges against the Senator told him that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain the charges.
When Senator Aliero was relieved of his position as Minister of the FCTA and his relationship with the then Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became strained, further failed attempts were made by the Senator’s opponents in Kebbi to reopen the same petition. There was even the ridiculous, scandalous attempt to prosecute him on the allegation that a contractor of the state bought chickens in the value of N6M (six million naira) from the Senator’s farm.
The fact that the EFCC and ICPC have since got convictions against certain individuals in Kebbi State and are still prosecuting many others on account of petitions from the state suggests that if they ever have a serious, provable petition or allegation against the Senator, the EFCC and ICPC will act on them. It is on record that the Senator – who was the first Governor to personally invite the EFCC to investigate his Ministry of Finance – is one of the most investigated individuals in Nigeria. That he has not been found wanting is, indeed, an expression of his character and personality.
It is therefore no longer funny for the story of that same petition to resurface in the Daily Trust of Friday, January 19, 2018, with the slant that the ICPC and EFCC did nothing about the said petition. The questions that readily come to mind are: (1) Who is behind this story this time around? (2) Does the story have anything to do with 2019? (3) Is the Senator a threat to anybody’s 2019 ambition? (4) Is the Senator’s political profile and stature diminishing the standing of any person(s) in Kebbi State? (5) Why are those after the Senator taking the cowardly, ungodly path of wanting to use public institutions to get at the Senator?
This is certainly not the way to pay a man who has brought sustained national attention and respectability to Kebbi State through his revolutionary efforts in rice farming and milling. If for anything, Senator Aliero should be commended for what he has been to Kebbi State.