The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose to probe the management of finances during the administration of his predecessor and Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has submitted its report. The report is already causing ripples among political gladiators in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the state marches towards the governorship election. ODUNAYO OGUNMOLA reports.
THE Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose to probe the management of finances under his immediate predecessor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has submitted its report. The panel, which had the former Acting Chief Judge, Justice Silas Bamidele Oyewole (retd.), as Chairman recommended that the former governor should account for the N2.75 billion allocated from the N25 billion bond obtained by the government for the execution of the contract for the construction of an ultra-modern market in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
The panel also recommended that the contractor who handled the furnishing of the Government House built by the Fayemi administration should refund N324.8 million, because the contract should not have been more than N280 million. The panel said that Kitwood Nigeria Limited to which the furnishing contract of over N600 million was awarded had no traceable address and that “the address on the Letter of Award is a virgin land opposite the new Central Bank on new Iyin Road, Ado-Ekiti.
On the purchase of vehicles, the panel said the claim by Coscharis Motors that it supplied 235 and/or 250 vehicles was fraudulent. The report added: “That Coscharis Motors supplied some vehicles outside Ekiti State, especially at Ibadan liaison office when Ekiti State Government does not have a liaison office in Ibadan. In respect of this, seven vehicles were supplied outside the state and signed for by unknown persons.
Coscharis Motors only supplied 219 vehicles to the Ekiti State Government and that 1 7 Joylong Buses were supplied to the Ekiti State Government as gift, but later carted away.”
On the controversial N852.9 State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) fund, the panel accused the Fayemi administration of hoodwinking the Federal Government into paying its own matching grant by obtaining N852, 936,783.12 loan from Access Bank on November 25, 2013 without perfecting documentation in respect of the loan, thereby flouting the provisions of Section 11(2) of the UBEC Act, 2004.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) rose in stout defence of Fayemi, alleging that the probe was premeditated and programmed to arrive at an answer to indict Fayemi for political reasons. The party said the report cannot pass integrity test when taken before a proper court of law. In a statement in Ado-Ekiti, the APC Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, scoffed at the report, dismissing it “as a product of a premeditated script by a panel of Fayemi’s haters who were acting the script of the governor bent on ruining the reputation of his predecessor.”
Olatunbosun said the report was nothing but a direct opposite of what the former governor represented in government. He said: “Fayemi ran a transparent administration and his programmes were people-oriented and targeted at making Ekiti greater with strong economic base.
“The panel of inquiry set up to implement a scripted blackmail cannot stand a judicial scrutiny. Fayose’s government is a failure and therefore, always looking for a distraction to deceive the public and particularly the people of Ekiti State. Fayose has impoverished Ekiti people by his refusal to pay Ekiti workers and pensioners several months of salaries and pensions.”
The probe has raised some questions begging for answers: was it raised with the patriotic zeal to recover the state’s assets or to nail a political opponent? Why did it take Fayose three years to set up the probe? Would Fayose have taken the action, if Fayemi is a member of PDP like Fayose?
If the White Paper on the report is eventually released, will it stop Fayemi from contesting for a political office in the future, if he so wishes?
The panel was handed six terms of reference. These are: to ascertain how much was received as statutory allocations between October 2010 and October 2014; to look into the financial transactions of Ekiti State between the period under review; to ascertain the amount received on behalf of the state from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); to ascertain the amount Ekiti State took as loan during the period under review and how they were utilized. It also includes all other issues relating to the state finances and to make appropriate recommendations.
Other members of the panel are: Mrs. Bola Wale-Awe, a lawyer; Mr. Idowu Ayenimo, a retired Chief Magistrate; Mr. Vincent Omodara, a senior civil servant; Mr. Oladele Blessing, a labour leader; Mrs. Oluremi Adesoba, a senior civil servant; Mr. Gbemiga Adaramola, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), who served as Secretary; and Mr. Sunday Bamise, who served as counsel to the commission.
The panel was inaugurated on May 22, last year and it was constituted in compliance with Section 2(1) of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap. C10, Laws of Ekiti State, 2012. That would be the first time in the history of the state that an administration would probe its predecessor.
The inauguration of the panel came under the haze of controversies and brickbats between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC. While the PDP administration alleged that the immediate past APC government looted the state, hence, the need to launch a probe to recover whatever that might have been stolen, the opposition maintained that the alleged looting only existed in the imagination of Fayose and his henchmen.
Fayose had on his assumption of office on October 16, 2014 alleged that the Fayemi administration plunged the state into debts, which made it difficult for his administration to deliver on its promises to the people. The governor was believed to be taking after his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, who set up a similar panel to probe his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi, who now serves as Minister of Transport.
Fayemi is in a similar situation with Amaechi; their two home states (Ekiti and Rivers) are now ruled by the PDP, while they are in the APC where they are leaders of their respective states. Fayemi and Amaechi are expected to play pivotal roles in future elections coming up in their states.
The report of the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry, led by Justice George Omeregi, indicted Amaechi. He was accused of looting the state to the tune of N53 billion. The commission sat for 30 days and turned in its report on October 9, 2015.
Earlier in the year, Fayose alleged that Fayemi, now Minister of Mines and Steel Development, and his party, were working with a section of the judiciary to remove him (Fayose) from office. Later Fayose paid a visit to Wike in Port Harcourt and he was believed to have bought into the idea of probing Fayemi on his return from Rivers.
When he returned, Fayose tightened the screw on the move to whip his predecessor into line, which came at a time rumour was rife on a possible governorship ambition of Fayemi in 2018, even though he (Fayemi) had kept silent on the issue.
Fayemi tried to stop the probe. Before the panel started work, he filed separate suits at Ekiti State High Court and the Federal High Court, Ado-Ekiti to challenge the composition of the panel and sought for the nullification of the warrant of arrest issued against him by the state lawmakers.
Before the constitution of the panel, the former governor also filed a libel suit at a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja against a member of the House of Assembly, Dr. Samuel Omotoso, and Fayose’s media aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka, on some issues before the panel.
The former governor did not appear before the panel on account of the suits he filed to stop the probe. He also alleged that members of the panel are cronies, associates and sympathisers of Fayose, who will not do justice. Fayemi also claimed that they have been handed a hatchet job to pass a guilty verdict on him to please their paymasters who empanelled them.
One of the cases filed by Fayemi at Ekiti State High Court 6, presided over by Justice Adekanye Ogunmoye, challenging the House of Assembly’s resolution to empower Fayose to raise the panel, was dismissed.
Justice Ogunmoye held that Fayose has powers to set up the panel of inquiry without the prompting of the House of Assembly and that he acted properly. The judge held that Fayose acted pursuant to Section 2 (1) of the Commission of Inquiry Law Cap C10 Laws of Ekiti State.
The trial judge said the governor does not need to consult the House of Assembly or anyone before setting up the Commission of Inquiry. Justice Ogunmoye, however, agreed with Fayemi that the House of Assembly had no rights to direct the governor to set up the inquiry.
Fayose emphasised while receiving the panel’s report that the panel was instituted to give the people of Ekiti the opportunity to see how their commonwealth was being used. He said asking his predecessor to account for his stewardship does not amount to witch-hunting, as being insinuated by members of the opposition party.
The governor has inaugurated a four-man administrative panel to study the report and come out with a White Paper. The panel is headed by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Kolapo Kolade.