Friday, July 25, 2008

Akala and the EFCC

About two years after he presided over the affairs of the Oyo state government, for eleven months, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which has been investigating charges of corruption, stealing and abuse of office leveled against Gov Christopher Alao-Akala has released an interim report which has found the sitting governor wanting for allegedly stealing the sum of N1 billion of tax payers’ money.
Long before the EFCC released its report, some individuals had advertised the misdeeds of the governor in the newspapers detailing how he inflated the contract for the supply of text books to pupils in Oyo State government schools. Some three book publishing firms ---Macmillan Publishers Ltd, Evans Brothers Publishers and Longman Nigeria Plc. - were awarded contracts for the supply of the said books. The costs of the books were grossly inflated by the first two companies to the tune of N488,114,073.50 and N396,151,185 respectively. As a proof of their complicity, they have been forced by the EFCC to refund parts of the inflated sum to the state’s treasury.
The Rasheed Ladoja administration when it regained its seat in Year 2007, had set up a panel of enquiry to look into how Akala, within the eleven months that he governed plundered the state treasury. The panel had returned a verdict of guilt against Akala, prompting the issuance of a white paper on the fraud, which was also gazetted by the state government.
But in the face of the gross political malfeasance that characterised Oyo state at the time and which seems to persist both the allegations by individuals and the panel’s indictment were promptly thrown out and disregarded. Not done, Gov Alao-akala, on assumption of office as elected governor on May 29, 2007, got the state’s lawmakers to quash the white paper which indicted him.
This is the sort of action that portrays Nigerian political leaders as a self-seeking lot.
Were it not so, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform Akala contested, should have cared to verify the allegation against its candidate, before giving him the party’s ticket. But in a party like PDP where the likes of the late Lamidi Adedibu loomed large it was nearly impossible to stop Akala.
But now, all is coming to light. If in eleven months a billion Naira was siphoned from a treasury, the state of health of such treasury will be better imagined at the end of a four year or more rule. Although Gov Alao-Akala has denied the reports, the EFCC maintains that “it is clear that OtunbaAlao-akala has abused his office to enrich himself contrary to his oath of office. He has acted contrary to the provisions of the constitution and betrayed public trust. In the light of the above therefore, it is pertinent that he has a case to answer.”
The commission must therefore keep an eye on Akala given that the immunity clause will, for now, shield him from prosecution. He must be arraigned at the end of his tenure. The conniving companies which have also been indicted must, however, be made to face the law.