An Abuja-based civil society group, Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission asking it to investigate the source of about N15 billion allegedly dished out by Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki to secure the governorship ticket of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. In a petition dated Monday June 29, 2020 and made available to TELL magazine, the director of communications of the group, Steve Adepoju alleged that “This sum was expended on his outright purchase of a PDP Edo gubernatorial ticket” adding “Further expenditure of this money, which satisfies your respectable agency’s Establishment Act as “living above a person’s means”, includes a largesse to some PDP leaders, sponsorship and influencing of the primaries, negotiation with co-aspirants to secure their withdrawal, hotel fee payments for delegates in Benin City, and 350,000 Naira cash distribution to over 2500 delegates of the PDP”.
Addressed to the Chairman, EFCC, and titled “Petition on Financial Malpractice and Allegations of Fraud totaling N15 billion against Edo State Government” Adepoju said
“I write to you with my whole confidence reposed in your official responsibility and well-published achievements in the prosecution of crimes, especially those of economic and financial natures in our dear country, Nigeria. My hope, riding on the strength of your renowned efficacy on these fronts, as well as the powers vested in your office by virtue of Sections 6 and 7 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act of 2004, is that the matter I am about to bring to you will be pursued with utmost restlessness and utter forthrightness.
“In recent days, I have received compelling reports from trusted sources that the dismal lack of qualification occasioned by his inability to clarify discrepancies in his academic records has forced Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the current governor of Edo State, into dumping his party and joining the People’s Democratic Party. In the course of this expensive political manoeuvre, occurring at such an eleventh hour, my reports and humble inquiry into the matter have unearthed actions that clearly incriminate the governor on grounds of collusion, misappropriation of public funds, and a series of doubtlessly untoward behaviours.
“To perfect his decamping from the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has allegedly spent 15 Billion Naira on different political means and purposes. This sum was expended on his outright purchase of a PDP Edo gubernatorial ticket. Further expenditure of this money, which satisfies your respectable agency’s Establishment Act as “living above a person’s means”, includes a largesse to some PDP leaders, sponsorship and influencing of the primaries, negotiation with co-aspirants to secure their withdrawal, hotel fee payments for delegates in Benin City, and 350,000 Naira cash distribution to over 2500 delegates of the PDP.
“The above-mentioned channels of expenditure are not the only practices which involve the embezzlement of such humongous public funds by the governor, but they are compelling, fresh, recent and easily traceable, for the governor could not cover his tracks in his desperation to secure the candidature of the PDP in Edo State”.
The petitioner asserted that he had compelling reasons to believe that “the money was not drawn from his personal wealth. To think such is to undermine logic, given that in his asset declaration, Godwin Obaseki did not define himself to be thus wealthy”. Accoding to Adepoju, “Such expenditure asks the question; how did a sitting governor, estranged by his initial party where he could have easily gotten such level of financial support, derive such amount of money? If we must follow the instruction of common sense, our curiosity directs us towards the public fund. It is instructive to recall now that this same governor announced that he had spent over 1 billion naira in fighting coronavirus in his state. Days later, a collection of videos emerged from his state’s citizens, boldly lamenting insufficient and inexistent palliative support”.
President Muhammad Buhari,Apart from the governor, Adepoju would also want the anti-graft agency to also beam its searchlight on other officials of government whom he claimed were also involved in “manoeuvring this money heist”. He alleged that the looting and ambition-oiling “was aided by his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, the Secretary to the State Government, Commissioner for Finance, Accountant General and Executive Assistant, Tijani Nwadae to mention but a few among the network, which participated in the approval, release, and disbursements of this whooping sum”.
In view of the immunity by sitting governors and their deputies, the group noted that “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has been, especially under the uncompromising leadership of President Muhammad Buhari, indiscriminate in the prosecution of crimes of this nature” and recalled that “the landmark decision in FAWEHINMI v. IGP (2002) 8 SCM 77 permits the EFCC to exercise the discretionary powers imbued in it by virtue of its Establishment Act and investigate a sitting governor without violating Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), wherein the immunity clause of serving governors is enshrined”.
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