Wednesday, February 17, 2010

EFCC Probes Babatunde Fashola

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has launched an investigation into the issues raised in the corruption allegations against the Lagos State governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola. EFCC’s spokesperson, Mr. Femi Babafemi, told the Nigerian Tribune that the petition detailing alleged corrupt practices by the governor in the handling of the state’s finances was receiving the attention of the agency, just like any other petition.

“I am aware that the petition against the governor is being handled by the commission, just like any other petition,” Babafemi said.

Nigerian Tribune further gathered from sources within the commission that the anti-corruption agency boss, Mrs. Farida Waziri, ordered the commencement of the probe last Monday, following the perusal of the petition against the governor. The petition was filed by a group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL).

A five-man probe team was also said to have been raised by Waziri, with members drawn from both Abuja and Lagos offices of the commission. The investigators from Abuja have reportedly arrived in Lagos in readiness for the gathering of evidence on the corruption allegations levelled against the governor.

The Lagos House of Assembly had also set up a six-man panel to investigate the governor of the alleged fraudulent acts in the handling of the state’s finances. The move by the lawmakers is now a subject of litigation in a Lagos high court, which had halted the probe in the interim.

While inaugurating the panel, Speaker of the Lagos Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, had stated that “the committee was charged with the responsibility of looking into the allegations of financial impropriety, abuse of due process and the rule of law, as well as violation of several sections of the 1999 Constitution against the governor.”

Relying on the issues of corrupt practices raised against the governor by another group, the ‘True Face of Lagos,’ the petitioner accused the governor of plundering the state in the name of delivering democracy dividends.

Among other allegations, the governor was accused of giving N250 million to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to organise last year’s NBA conference that was held in the state. He was also accused of spending N420 million in six months to hire private security through the State Security Trust Fund, while N2 billion was allegedly spent on infrastructure, on roads and drainage in Ikorodu General Hospital.

Fashola was equally said to have spent huge sums of money on the planting of trees and flowers in a state where they claimed there was no water, adding that a certain Tunji Olowolafe executed up to 70 per cent of all Lagos government contracts. The governor was alleged to have awarded a 2km portion of Western Avenue for N7.7 billion to Julius Berger, while N135 million was alleged to have been used in fuelling 225 vehicles in the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, True Face of Lagos, on Tuesday, withdrew its allegation against members of the Assembly. The group, in a letter delivered to the state Assembly and signed by Messrs Kasali Martins, Adebayo Adesina and Dr Tunde George, said they had discovered that the money alleged to have been given to members of the House to cover up the allegation of financial mismanagement against the state governor was not correct, and that the money was not given to the lawmakers as alleged.

The group said it had discovered that the money was only collected from the governor to deceive him that the House had been bribed to cover up his financial mismanagement. According to the group, “for the avoidance of doubt, we would like to state categorically that, we are dropping the allegations against Mr Speaker and the Assembly that they collected money. We would like to place it on record that we regret all the inconvenience and discomfort this must have caused individual members, but it is important to stress that the Assembly must now use her position of high moral authority to hold the executive arm of government accountable.”

Speaking with journalists after submitting the letter a member of the group, Mr Adebayo, who claimed to be human rights activist, said his group had decided to exonerate the members of the House because there was no evidence that members of the House received the bribe, but there was evidence that a certain amount of money was released to bribe the lawmakers.

Deliberating on the letter submitted by the group, the lawmakers expressed happiness that they had been vindicated. Speaking on the matter, Honourable Jimoh Adewale (Apapa I), suggested that the group should go back and make another advertorial retracting the allegation against members of the House, so that they could be saved from embarrassment which the group had caused the House through its previous advertorial.

Speaking in the same vein, Honourable Alawiye King (Lagos Island I), urged his colleague to be careful because they were giving the group unnecessary and undue attention, just as he said their publication had distracted the House. In the submission of the Speaker, he urged other groups with similar allegations to feel free and approach the House with their facts.

By Lanre Adewole, Adewale Ajayi and Sarah Ogburogho
As culled from Tribune.

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