Kogi ‘Criminals’: How Far Can Yahaya Bello Go? by Otori Ozigi

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As we are all already aware, one of the key components of the change agenda of the present federal government under the watchful eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari, is the ongoing total war on corruption and other financial crimes in the country.

It is an incontrovertible fact that the greatest problem of Kogi State since its creation in 1991, is the hydra-headed monster of unbridled corruption and impunity in the land. Arguably, it is safe to say that the full story of corruption and its havoc in the state, would probably take another generation to tell. There is enough evidence on ground to suggest that there is full scale corruption in low and high places in all facets of our lives.

The culture of corruption in all institutions and organizations in both formal and informal sectors in the state has been promoted to become a way of life. No profession is a saint or an exception in this unwholesome phenomenon that had contributed in no small measure to bring Kogi state on her kneels, over the years.

The state civil service system have become a terrible fertile breeding ground and a save sanctuary for all manners of morally depraved and bankrupt common criminals that have found their ways into sensitive and critical revenue generating ministries and parastatals in the state.

This write up is therefore provoked by sordid revelations coming from the ongoing screening exercise by a high powered committee set up by the Alhaji Yahaya Bello led administration in February this year, to put an end to the worrisome problem of ghost workers syndrome in the state civil service system. Even though, the committee is yet to complete its assignment, the snippets of its findings put in public domain so far, point to the fact that a lot of can of worms have already been uncovered in the course of their exercise so far.

The recent statement credited to the state governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello to the effect that his administration would soon shock those he rightly called Kogi criminals, is a valid confirmation that the state had become a cesspool of corruption that we are going to witness the details when the committee finally submits its report to the state government.

From records of available statistics of corruption in the past, I make bold to say that what we are likely to witness soon, is only a tip of the ice bag, since we are already aware that there is large scale corruption in the state.

For example, a recent committee set up by the government of Captain Idris Ichala wada in April, 2012, to review the Sally Tibot staff audit exercise in its report, indicted 8 different government offices for their alleged roles in the ghost workers scam in the state. These ministries and parastatals singled out for constant monitoring include those of Works, Agriculture, Health, Education, Office of the Head of Service, Office of the Accountant General, Health Management Board as well as the Science and Technical Education Board (STEB).

It would be recalled that the chairman of that committee and former commissioner for Budget and Planning Alhaji Sani Adamu, while submitting the report, called on the then government to place a continuous search light on those indicted ministries, and parastatals, to stem the tide of high scale corruption in the civil service.

The immediate past governor, Captain Idris Ichala Wada, while receiving the report had boasted that: “my administration would take a holistic  approach in tackling the challenges of corruption in the sector, just as he said his administration was determined to find lasting solution to the problem of ghost workers syndrome in the interest of sustained development in the state”. He further lamented that “a situation where most individuals out of dishonesty are getting paid for doing no work is bad for Kogi and the country. I can assure you that their days are numbered”, he stressed. That was what he promised in April, 2012, few months after his assumption of office.

However, it has become evidently clear that Captain Idris Ichala Wada did not show enough political will to match his words with action, until he was reportedly voted out of office in the last gubernatorial election in the state.

It is pertinent to note that since the establishment of both EFCC and ICPC, during the regime Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the operatives of these anti-graft agencies have visited Kogi state more than any other state in the country, to investigate copious petitions written against some corrupt civil servants and political office holders. As at today, both EFCC and ICPC are still prosecuting no fewer than fifty former public servants at various competent courts of jurisdiction in Kogi state, according to official records obtained by this writer last week, in the course of an investigation on the status of court cases hanging on the necks of those who allegedly stole our common wealth in their official capacities, in recent time.

Recall that the EFCC last week in Lokoja, successfully obtained the conviction of a former member of the Kogi state house of assembly Mr. Gabriel Daudu, who was sentenced to two years imprisonment for a N1.400 billion fraud committed while he held sway as a former care-taker chairman of one of Nigeria’s smallest local government areas (Ogori Magongo Local Government Area). From available records, there are no fewer than five other former local government chairmen and officials of the state government that are still standing trials at the same Federal High court in Lokoja for similar alleged criminal cases of abuse of office, under this present democratic dispensation.

In the same vein, it is safe to say that if the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello decide in the nearest future to “shock Kogi Criminals”, as being uncovered in the ongoing screening exercise, by seeking their prosecution at the appropriate courts, there is every possibility that such indicted corrupt civil servants may end up at Koton-Karfe Prison and other prisons sooner or later, if diligent convictions can be established against them.

Public analysts and commentators are of the view that the tough-talking governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello should show enough political will to match his words with actions, in his avowed determination to achieve zero corruption in the state.

The days of accountability and transparency in the affairs of our dear state is inevitable. Let it begin with you and me. The struggle continues.

– Otori Ozigi, a veteran journalist and social critic, writes from Lokoja.

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