By Ibrahim Salihu
The latest revelation by a forensic audit report of SSAC and Professionals on the looting of Kwara treasury to the tune of at least N11.9bn between 2011 and 2019 is mind-boggling. However, it only strengthens what we have always known that Bukola Saraki and his handpicked successor AbdulFatah Ahmed ran some of the most corrupt governments in Nigeria and even on the continent.
More disturbing in the whole of the report which the auditors also pointed out to was the N2bn cash withdrawals that were not tied to any project or official expenditure made in February 2019, barely a month to the last general election. That’s shocking. What manner of compulsive looting is this?
The auditors while presenting the report to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Thursday, September 1, 2022, said they placed spotlight on Internally Generated Revenue, Capital Receipts, Internal and External Loans, Recurrent/Overhead Expenditure, Personnel Cost, Kwara State Internal Revenue Service, Infrastructural Fund Kwara, Harmony Holdings Limited, amongst others.
For me, the report didn’t really come as a surprise. Like I pointed out, it only confirmed what I, and majority of Kwarans, have always known the Sarakis for: compulsive looting. It was a similar compulsive looting and impunity that ran the Societe Generale Bank aground in the past. Same compulsive looting made Bukola Saraki’s name appear in the Panama Papers where certain Nigerian officials were fingered as having undisclosed properties offshores. But like some people do argue, the law could always be an ass. This perhaps is why we still have elements like Bukola Saraki, AbdulFatah Ahmed and their cronies, with a soiled reputation and mind-boggling acts of corruption and impunity tied to their names still appearing in the political scene of the country. It’s even the height of shamelessness that the image maker of the Kwara Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a man still standing trial in court on abuse of office, diversion of public funds, misappropriation, among other financial crimes.
I must however commend the efforts put into this investigation and audit by SSAC and Professionals. It’s a whole lot. The Sarakis are almost perfect when we talk about corruption and looting. They create unnecessary ambiguities, tuck away documents, engage fronters, and package all their dubious and shady dealings. On the other hand however, there are always one or two avenues for exposure. This is perhaps why the audit firm is able to track them down on all they’ve highlighted in the report. Many others may exist. Theirs were a government of compulsive looting.
Despite their claims to no wrongdoing, a series of events have proven that the Sarakis were an unconscionable and corruption-infested elements. Do you know how much recoveries the EFCC had made from the compulsive looting by past administrators in Kwara? Yet they come out to say they did no wrong. The EFCC had made hundreds of millions naira of recovery in funds. If assets are added to it, the recovery from the mind-boggling looting of the Sarakis would value billions of naira. In December 2019, N70 million was refunded to the Kwara State Government being looted funds recovered by the EFCC. Yet, no looting. Fast forward to March 2020, the huge sum of N263 million was again recovered by EFCC as part of monies looted by previous officials. And they say they didn’t steal from Kwara treasury. In August 2020, another N130 million naira was recovered. Where are all these monies coming from? Most of these monies were siphoned through KWIRS and the local governments.
There are enough instances to authenticate the audit report. For instance, Wahab Oba, the self-impossd media spokesperson to Yaman Abdullahi, PDP guber candidate, was running his mouth on Harmony Holdings in one of his last outings. Harmony Holdings Limited was also one of the organisations investigated by the auditors. The current MD of Harmony Holdings has always said on radio that the previous government borrowed N4bn from bank to set up the organisation, but only a meagre N400 million or thereabouts was handed over to the previous directors of the company. Who accounts for the balance? Did it develop wings? That betrayal of public trust also encouraged the directors to mismanage the little amount given to them. After all, what moral authority does the government that was silent on over N3bn have? Look at what Bukola Saraki also did with Shonga Farms. After investing a chunk of public funds in it, he turned back to dash it out to private persons from Zimbabwe who made no financial contributions to the project. What have Kwara people benefitted from the project other than the mounting of debts? The same case it was for Kwara Mall where public funds were sunk into it, only for Sarakis to dash it out to a private player. Despite voting billions of naira for the establishment of a trailer park in the bond he got, Saraki failed to deliver the project. The Metropolitan Square which is part of the projects they make noise about was not completed. Ahmed voted billions of naira to fix water; yet tankers were used to distribute water in Ilorin metropolis and most of our waterworks were ineffective. What happened to all these monies? Where is Yomi Ogunshola, the KP3 man? He has been running away from justice. There are mind-blowing allegations of corruption and abuse of office against him.
That Saraki and his co-travellers have not been convicted does not necessarily mean they did not commit these wrongs. Our judicial process is still a growing one. In fact, some times, it takes years before guilt is established and conviction is made. These people have also been emboldened because Governor AbdulRazaq doesn’t play bitter politics. If he was a bitter man, Saraki and his people will not have the effrontery to come in and out of Ilorin as they do, with these damning allegations of looting against them. But then the Bukola Sarakis and AbdulFatah Ahmeds of this world should not think the arm of the law could not catch up with them one day. N11.9 billion naira between 2011 and 2019 shows meanness against state. They made deliberate efforts to sink the state, and it is evident in how Kwara in their days hugged the headlines of negative things. They failed across sectors (education, health, civil service, water, etc). They were stealing the future of Kwara. The state was collapsing while they were living large. This among other reason is why Kwarans in a loud voice and popular decision sent them packing in 2019. They must never return to power. As the current government files various criminal charges against them, we hope the arm of the law will catch up with them soonest.
Ibrahim writes from Tsonga.