Governor, son in asset scandal

Governor, son in asset scandal

By Taofeek Lawal, Abuja

A serving governor in a North Central state, very close to the nation’s capital, is enmeshed in hidden assets imbroglio as searchlight are being beamed on his activities by the authorities concerned. It was confirmed that the governor and his son are directors in at least two companies linked to him. The governor thus joined the growing list of Nigerian public officer holders who have foreign accounts or investments that are not declared while taking oath of office.

The Federal Government as part of efforts to checkmate the excesses of public officers set up the Code of Conduct Bureau. The CCB is the pioneer anti-corruption agency set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1989 and it has the primary responsibility of checking corrupt practices in the Nigerian Public service.

Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Act states that “a public officer holder shall not, except where he is not employed on full-time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade.”

The governor in question has violated the Act by acquiring properties outside the shores of Nigeria through one of his companies registered in British Virgin Islands in the year 1999. He was reported to have another company in Hitchin, a market town in the North Hertfordshire District in Hertfordshire, England with population of 33,352 (Neighbourhood Statistics 2011 census). He is the sole shareholder of the company with a very senior lawyer as director. As a director, the senior lawyer was responsible for all the offshore dealings of the governor because the duo had been together for years before their relationship went sour.

What substantiated all the actions or inactions of the governor are his frequent trips outside Nigeria apparently to monitor his business interests to ‘put things’ in proper shape. He is said to as the most travelled governor in the history of his state since the return of democratic rule almost two decades ago. His movements are reportedly being monitored and he is likely to be charged by the CCT after handing over as governor for operating outside its acts which set out stringent conditions for public office holders to declare their onshore and offshore assets.

Section 15 of the CCB Act on Declaration of Assets state that (1) Every public officer shall, within fifteen months after the coming into force of this Act or immediately after taking office and thereafter‐   (a) at the end of every four years;   (b) at the end of his term of office; and (c) in the case of a serving officer, within thirty days of the receipt of the form from the Bureau or at such other intervals as the Bureau may specify,   submit to the Bureau a written declaration in the Form prescribed in the First Schedule to this Act or, in such form as the Bureau may, from time to time, specify, of all his properties, assets and liabilities and those of his spouse or unmarried children under the age of twenty‐one years.  (2) Any statement in any declaration that is found to be false by any authority or person authorized in that behalf to verify it, shall be deemed to be a breach of this Act. (3) Any property or assets acquired by a public officer after any declaration required by subsection (1) of this section and which is not fairly attributable to income, gifts or loan approved by this Act, shall be deemed to have been acquired in breach of this Act unless the contrary is proved.

Rather than luring investors to the state through his trips, the people and the state at large have not benefited from the incessant trips. The governor was alleged to be running the state like a personal estate with programs which only benefits members of his family. The main opposition party in the state had alleged that the governor had never stayed in the state for a month at a stretch since assuming power more than two years ago. The other two senatorial zones in the state A and B have are not comfortable with his style of governance as he is alleged to have alienated them from political positions and development to the advantage of his (governor) senatorial zone.

Although, he is known to be a well-established businessman before his election as governor, he has impoverished his state as there are no clear-cut indices on ground that the state has witnessed any headway in terms of infrastructural facelift. While his businesses grow in leaps and bounds, the state suffers retrogressively. Nigerian governors with the large quantity of money at their disposal (excluding the security vote) and the immunity clause they enjoy, use cronies to wire money to accounts abroad.

Also, the poor implementation of the 2016 and 2017 budgets by the governor have not gone unnoticed by the opposition party. Infrastructural facilities such as roads, water supply, healthcare delivery have received little attention from a government that promised to deliver on all fronts. The campaign promises that endeared the governor to the people have gone with the winds.

The main opposition party in the state has not spared the governor for his lack of direction saying the state has not witnessed any meaningful development since the governor took over two years ago. “Two years have gone, and we are yet to see any meaningful development. Every day, it is one excuse or the other, there is no direction, and there is no vision. It has been two years of complain and blame games,” the party said.

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