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Kogi: INEC‘s indictment, Bello and second term delusion

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Kogi: INEC‘s indictment, Bello and second term delusion

The drums will tomorrow be rolled out in Kogi State to celebrate Governor Yahaya Bello’s second year anniversary in the saddle. But Ayo Oluwadare, a lawyer, insists Bello rode to the office on the back of a conspiratorial scheme of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership, aided and abetted by ‘suspicious judiciary’. In this article, the lawyer lists the odds against the governor’s second term bid.

By tomorrow, Alhaji Yahaya Bello will be celebrating his second anniversary as governor of Kogi State. His emergence as governor of the Confluence State was not without events.

On November 21, 2015, the governorship election held throughout Kogi State. The late Prince Abubakar Audu contested the election on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), with House of Representatives member James Abiodun Faleke as his running mate. At the end of the polls, the joint ticket of Audu/Faleke scored majority of 240,867 lawful votes.

Significantly, the results in all the 21 local government areas of the state were collated and announced. Curiously, however, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deliberately delayed the announcement of the final result for a reason that later became obvious: INEC got wind that the winner of the election, the late Prince Audu, had died. Thus, the stage was set for all kinds of political manipulations and manoeuvres.

Ultimately, the process was hijacked by political hawkers and jobbers and the table was unjustly turned against the running mate of the late Prince Audu, who was on ground to continue the election. The process was skewed eventually in favour of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who had earlier lost out in the primaries of the parties.

Bello was made to substitute the late Audu in a questionable supplementary election that was designed to hoodwink the people of Kogi in a well-orchestrated contrivance. At the end of the day, Bello was returned governor upon winning just 6,885 votes! Consequently, it turned out that a man the people of Kogi did not vote for was installed as governor of the state.

The concern of this piece is to x-ray the recent indictment of Governor Bello by INEC for double registration as a voter. It is no longer news that INEC recently came up heavily against the governor, having proved against him the allegation of illegal double registration as a voter. INEC confirmed that Bello registered twice for the Permanent Voter Card (PVC).

According to the electoral umpire, the governor illegally registered as a voter in Abuja and Kogi State. The commission bravely provided details of Bello’s double registration. It stated that his first registration was on January 30, 2011 in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja. It also found out that Bello registered as a voter for the second time on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in the Government House, Lokoja, outside INEC’s designated centres, which, according to the commission, is another act of illegality.

Consequent upon the foregoing, the commission approved the summary dismissal of two of its staff for acts of gross misconduct and compulsorily retired an electoral officer. In respect of Governor Bello, INEC stated that it would have prosecuted him but for the fact that he is currently covered by the immunity clause under Section 308 of the Constitution.

Governor Bello responded to the allegation. In a mendacious manner, characteristic of him, he stated that he was not in the country as at the alleged date of the second registration. The governor’s political aides were his undoing. The governor forgot that when he registered the second time at the Government House in Lokoja, his political aides counted it for him as a big achievement. Gleefully, they went viral, posting the pictures of his registration, which turned out to be his second one, into the social media, with the caption: our digital governor now registered in Kogi. In their ignorance, little did they know that they were advertising the governor’s act of criminality.

The act of the governor, deliberately flouting the electoral law, is simply scandalous. In civilised climes, it is capable of igniting a process of impeachment against him, if he failed to resign honourably. Regrettably, this is a land where honour means nothing to a man, particularly in Kogi State, where anything goes and the political class is reputed for their complacency.

 

What the law says

 

The process of registering as a voter is guided by the provisions of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).  Section 12 (1) (a) – (e) of the Act stipulates the qualifications for registration thus:

12 (1): A person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person

(a)           is a citizen of Nigeria;

(b) has attained the age of 18 years;

(c)  is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the local government  area, council or ward;

(d) presents himself to the registration officers of the commission for registration as a voter;

(e) is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force.

Presumably, it was upon meeting the above qualifications that Bello was registered as a voter in Wuze Zone 4 in 2011.

The Electoral Act envisages the possibility of a voter relocating from his place of primary registration and accordingly, provides for transfer of the PVC to the new constituency of his relocation. Governor Bello would simply have taken advantage of the provisions of the law by applying to transfer his PVC to Kogi State from Abuja. Section 13(1) of the Electoral Act is explicit on this as it provides:  that “a person who before the election is resident in a constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Electoral Commissioner of the state where he is currently resident for his name to be registered on the transferred voters list for the constituency.

Curiously, perhaps due to ignorance, Bello did not follow this simple procedure but chose to follow the path of illegality and criminality.

 

Double registration as an offence

 

Double registration is a criminal offence under the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Section 12 (2) and (3) criminalise the act:

(2) A person shall not register in more than one registration centre or register more than once in the same.

(3) Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (2) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding       N100, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.

From the above provisions, the offence of double registration occurs where a person registers twice, either at same registration centre, or at different registration points. The punishment is specifically spelt out in sub-section (3). INEC has also stated that the Government House, Lokoja, where the governor registered, is not a place designated for registration, which act, according to the commission, constitutes another offence under the Electoral Act. It follows that the governor now has two electoral offences hanging on his neck.

 

Can Bello now transfer his voter card?

 

One pertinent issue that arises here is, can Governor Bello now transfer his voter’s card to Kogi State to qualify him for the next election? Going by the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), he cannot. He has bungled the process. He has shot himself in the foot. He has disqualified himself.

Section 13 of the Electoral Act that provides for transfer of a voter card to a constituency in a new location pre-supposes that such a voter has not registered in the new place of residency at all. Now, having illegally registered in Kogi State, Bello cannot seek to transfer his card to the same state as long as the criminal allegations against him hang on his neck. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. In any event, Section 13(3) places a duty on the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to whom an application for transfer is made, to investigate the registration status of the applicant.

The governor should, therefore, stop amusing himself of the possibility of a second term in Kogi State. He could seek a further term in the constituency where he is a registered voter. He surely does not belong to the electoral community of Kogi State. He remains an unregistered voter in Kogi. He can neither vote nor be voted for. It is no longer going to be a solitary fight of Faleke but a collective fight of all well-meaning Kogites and lovers of democracy who will not allow the altar of democracy to be desecrated again in the state!

The governor should also not imagine that the political and judicial abracadabra that catapulted and transfigured him to Lugard House, Lokoja, on a platter of gold at the expense of the efforts of others will work in 2020. Kogites are all the wiser now. And, it is doubtful if the Judiciary that was battered on his own account would do the biddings of mentors again.

It would be recalled that the Supreme Court delivered reasons for its mysterious judgment on September 30, 2016, and the home of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who curiously chaired all the panels that heard all the cases relating to the governorship seat of Kogi State, was raided seven days later by the Department of State Services (DSS). He is currently being tried at the Federal High Court.

 

Commendation for INEC

 

INEC must be commended for its courage and forthrightness in handling the governor’s double registration saga. The commission could easily have swept the matter under the carpet, given the status and position of the governor. After all, we live in a society where, unfortunately, the law is applied with two weights and measures – one for the rich and powerful individuals and another for the poor.

It is, however, hoped that INEC will keep its words by pursuing the case to its logical conclusions at the expiration of the governor’s tenure so that the full weight of the law can be applied. Governor Bello should not be spared. Time does not run against a crime.

 

How judiciary inflicted injustice on Kogites

 

The electoral status of Yahaya Bello was contested through all the rungs of the judiciary; from the Federal High Court through the Election Petition Tribunal, and the Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court. The fact that Bello registered as a voter in Abuja and not in Kogi State and, therefore, not qualified to vote or be voted for in the state was duly established before the courts. Disappointingly, the courts prevaricated and gave a dubious, questionable and unjust stamp of authority to legitimise an obvious illegitimacy.

At the end of it all, the will of the people of Kogi State was subverted by judicial process. This is the greatest injustice that can be inflicted on a people.

One of the grounds upon which his ‘election’ was challenged was that at the time of that supplementary election that transmuted him to power, Bello was not qualified to contest the election because he was not a registered voter in Kogi State. The voters’ register of his Agassa Okene Ward was tendered. His name was not found there. His sole witness, one Edward Onoja, indeed, confirmed, under cross-examination, that his application to transfer his voter card to Kogi State had not been approved. It was further established, as INEC now confirmed, that he registered at Wuse Zone 4, Abuja. Nigerian judiciary closed it eyes against this fundamental point.

The Supreme Court, in the past had tangentially pronounced upon a situation of this nature in Yusuf vs. Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt. 956) 96 at 166 paras: D-E, holding that an unregistered voter cannot be validly nominated and can neither vote nor be voted for. The Supreme Court said: “I do not think the eleventh petitioner’s witness was a witness of truth. He claimed to be the gubernatorial candidate of the second petitioner for Imo State whereas he was not registered in his village in Imo State where he alleged to have voted after evading military road block by passing through footpath to exercise his franchise.

He testified to be registered at Ogudu GRA in Lagos. In that circumstance, could he have been nominated as a governorship candidate for Imo State when it was basic that to be validly nominated, one must be a registered elector within the constituency? I do not think so. Could he have been able to vote in his village, as he claimed, when he was not on the voters’ register there? Certainly not! And if he did, he did so unlawfully or dishonestly”.

Faleke’s case, wherein the issue of non-registration of Bello as a voter in Kogi State was raised and his electoral status challenged, provided the Supreme Court the rare opportunity of advancing the law and tenets of democracy by consolidating on its earlier pronouncement in Yusuf v. Obasanjo (supra). Regrettably, the opportunity was sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, reading of body language, and judicial timidity and timorousness. The Election Tribunal made a finding of fact that Bello registered in Abuja but drew no conclusion therefrom. The Court of Appeal told an outright lie by holding that Bello voted, a fact which the trial tribunal never found and which was never proved. The Supreme Court unjustly avoided the point like a plague, making no pronouncement on it. It behaved as if the point was never made.

All these happened in order to reach a pre-determined end and favour a particular person and party. The effect of that singular injustice is what we have today in Kogi State.

Bello, as governor of Kogi State is a product of a conspiratorial scheme at the top echelon of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), aided and abetted by a timid and corrupt judiciary.

The aftermath of this is the imposition of an incompetent and visionless man who finds himself wearing over-sized shoes of governance. He finds himself doing a job he least prepared for.

Consequently, what we see today in Kogi, is a spectacle of pains, distress, agony, misery, torture, suicides and despair being inflicted on the people, who should have been enjoying dividends of democracy.

Impunity, terror and mendacity have been instituted as guiding principles of governance in Kogi State. Never in the history of the state have Kogites been subjected to hardship and humiliation of the magnitude they are currently experiencing. The cries, anguish, complaints and murmurings in the land are unprecedented. The full story of how Governor Bello succeeded in pauperising and terrorising the people of Kogi State, making destitute of them, is being chronicled. In the fullness of time, it will be told.
Culled from the Nation

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Opinion

SARS and SWAT as a metaphor for a failed government: Thumbs up for our visionary Nigerian Youths!

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SARS and SWAT as a metaphor for a failed government: Thumbs up for our visionary Nigerian Youths!

By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN.

For decades, I had strindently beckoned on the Nigerian youths to join some of us patriots in the dangerous Nigerian trenches, to win the heart and soul of Nigeria, and take  their destinies in their own hands. Many of the rulers of today have tenaciously glued themselves to government (like aradite), either directly or indirectly. They stay put in Aso Villa through their proxies, minions, acolytes, agents, servants, friends, school mates, kinsmen and kins women, or even kindred family members. Some of these sit – tight rulers were only in their 20s and early 30s when they were already military Generals, Governors, GOCs, Brigade Commanders, Ministers, Commissioners, etc. They have never had any professional or occupational address. Only political addressses. General Yakubu Gowon, for example, was only 32 years old when he prosecuted the 3 year bloody Nigerian fraticidal civil war as a military General and Head of State . And wait for it: he was a mere  bachelor. He only married his wife, Mrs Victoria Gowon, when he was already Head of State. Late Dr Matthew Mbu was minister of Labour at a mere 24; and High Commissioner to the UK at 25!. Today is an age where the youths are still struggling through tears, sweat, pains, pangs, blood and sorrow, to go through 100 or 200 level; or merely gain ordinary admission into our tertiary institutions.
SARS or SWAT, by whatever name called, are the same 6 and half a dozen; the same moinmoin, akara and beans; the same Hamlet and the Prince of Denmark. For the entire lifespan of this clueless and highly propagandist government, I have been screaming on roof tops about its bad governance style and its irredeemably corrupt posture. I dripped oceans of ink, writing tons of articles, press releases and giving countless lectures. I made dozens of television and radio appearances on possible solutions or panacea to our national malaise . I was ignored, barely tolerated. Some rabidly politically partisan persons were even unleashed on me as raving attack dogs. Their social media cliques, those Prof Wole Siyinka derisiveky described as “crawling but unseen Internet millipedes” (some of them grand mothers and grand fathers), insulted any and every Nigerian that dared criticise their deity, nay, their infallible god, President Buhari. Kakaaki were used to herald his exit from and entry into Nigeria. Aircraft maintained by Nigerian tax payers’ money were packed for months at Heathrow Airport, while their pilots and crew luxuriated idly in 5 star hotels. They all patiently awaited the full recovery from health challenges of their idol and totem of messianic redemption. The government, through its attack dog, the EFCC (where is Magu today? ; the ephemerality of power!!! ), then decided  to intimidate, browbeat and overaw me. I refused to bend to their arbitrariness, whimsicality and capriciousness . I valiantly criticised, critiqued and interrogated the impunity of this government. I challenged raw power and dared the viciousness of the government and its awesome security aparatchic. I knew I was on the right path. Thank God He has kept me safe under His bedspread canopy, from their rampaging goons. Some government apologists and spokespersons came roaring, but defensive. They said the Buhari government was the best thing to have ever happened to Nigeria. They wondered why we couldn’t see what they were seeing. To them, there is no hunger, desease, squalor, depression or melancholy in the land. These were merely simulated by haters of Buhari and his government. These views were merely peddled by corrupt politicians and ‘defenders’ of corruption. Indeed, ‘corruption was fighting back’. They said ‘Sai Baba’ was the messiah Nigerians have been patiently waiting for. I reminded Nigerians of Buhari’s first disastrous outing between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985. It was indeed the locust years. It was 20 months of regrets, gnashing of teeth and mass poverty. It was an era when Nigerians were openly flogged on their bare buttocks in the name of War Against Indiscipline ( WAI). It was a  shameful era when Decrees 2 and 4 reigned supreme; an era of detentions without trial; when truth was punished once it embarrassed the imperious government of the day. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor are still alive to narrate their horrific experiences of their seering gulag days. This was the better – forgotten days of mass scramble for unavailable essential commodities ( “essenso”). Commodities, such as bread, milk, sugar, tea, flour, eggs, rice, beans, palm oil, meat, vegetable oil, pepper, tomatoes, tarodo, tatashe, fuel, kerosene and even garri, simply disappeared from Nigerian homes. The present fawning and bootlicking Buharists and Buharideens would hear none of these historical facts. They argued that the maximum dictator had changed completely from his autocratic and totalitarian nature and had suddenly undergone some form of Saul – to – Paul trasfiguration, to become a born again democrat. To them, Buhari would even teach Abraham Lincoln the true meaning of democracy (not Lincoln’s1863 Gettysburg Declaration). These obsequious sycophants and flatterers readily showed us Buhari’s newly well starched agbadas and babaringas, expensive eye glasses and designer wristwatches and skin shoes, as signs that he had undergone permanent metamorphosis. I told them it was never possible for a leopard to change its spots, just as it was impossible to jump into the river without getting wet. So, the youths were getting agitated and tired. They had been out of school for many months. The Covid-19 lock – down had compounded their problems. Young girls took to prostitution, standing by the kerbs of major hotels on cold lonely nights, looking for paying’ customers’, to eke out a living with their suffering parents. Many of the youths, frustrated, travelled across deserts and seas seeking greener pastures and  perishing in the process. Some took to internet scams, becoming ‘yahoo boys’. Eye-serving anti-graft agencies went after them with the ferocity of a hurricane Katrina. They were happy to display these boys as a diadem of their ‘achievements’ on their so called ‘war against corruption.’ Meanwhile, they were merely pursuing butterflies while their house was on fire. They conveniently turned their eyes away from the real pen robbers, the historical revisionists, the re-looters of recovered loots. They readily forgave any Nigerian politician who decamped from the opposition to their party. Like Naaman  the leper who dipped himself in River Jordan 7 times and became cleansed of his leprosy , such thieves of our common patrimony became deodorised of their lecherous and thieving sins. The despondent youths watched with amazement from the sidelines, how their future was being stolen bare-facedly, by instalments, by shameless fathers, grand fathers and great grand fathers, whose children were idling away in ivy schools abroad. They knew the day was nigh for them to bare their fangs. They had become tired of broken promises, smothered hopes and    serial deceptions. They suddenly remembered Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words:” when governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The federal government is our servant, not our master “. They became convinced about another Abraham Lincoln ‘s famous quote : “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time “.
The youths feel cheated by a government driven by executive lawlessness, legislative thievery and rascality and judicial injustice, where justice is rationed to the highest bidder, especially money – wielding and influence – peddling political bucaneers. They became more convinced that SARS killings, extra judicial murders, accidental discharges, illegal toll – collecting road blocks, extortions and police brutality and bestiality, would never stop except they acted. They knew it was time to take charge as a mass movement that required no leadership that would easily compromise and sell to government nichodemously at night.They couldn’t understand why the NLC would suddenly capitulate after raising hopes of mass action by angry Nigerians against a compassless non – performing government. The youths knew they were already on the ground, and that he who is already on the ground fears no further falling. They knew they would go below ground zero, far far below India, as the poverty capital of the world, except they acted. They were convinced Nigeria does not deserve to be the number 148 out of 180 most corrupt countries in the world, and number 3 in West Africa. They could no longer tolerate the ceaseless banditry ravaging the country ;  the increased boko haram insurgency, heightened kidnappings, murders, armed robberies and suicides. They became tired of joblessbess, stigmatisation as” lazy youths”, when all they desire is fair and equal opportunities to actualize their dreams in a directionless and unsympathetic contraption called Nigeria They knew enough was enough, because their “mumu don do”. So, the Nigerian youths have been on the streets and in the trenches for nearly 2 whole weeks now, and still counting, using “#ENDSARS” as a metaphor and allegory of a failed, wobbling, groggy, fumbling and crumbling government and nation. I commend the Nigerian youths for standing up to their rights, with eternal vigilance as the only price they have to pay for their liberty (Learned Hand). Never again will any government take the civil populace, the people, for granted. The people are the real owners of power. Those in government are their servants. The dog wags the tail. The tail does not wag the dog. Kudos to the Nigerian youths, as they continue their genuine struggle of liberation and emancipation from despotism, fascism, autocracy and absolutism. God bless the Nigerian youths. God bless Nigeria.

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North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

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North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

By Yusuf Abubakar

It’s not all gloomy after all for the North. Away from the dark cloud of insecurity fostered by the insurgents and banditry activities, comes the rays of light across the horizon. First came the cheering news of the discovery of oil, gas and condensates in Gombe State and the stretch of Gongola basin by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and its sister agency, the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR), which threw the doubting thomases who believe nothing positive could come from the region off balance in 2019.

The landmark uncovering of the treasure specifically along Kolmani River region at the border community between Bauchi and Gombe States, ought to have ordinarily silence the anti-north elements, but some still questioned the effort, describing the breakthrough as political. However, the planned exploration of the oil and gas from the basin for commercial purpose would clear all misconceptions, even as it would no doubt put the affected state on the list of oil producing states with consequent fallout.

As the region basked in the euphoria of the oil discovery comes another silver lining from Zamfara through its rich gold deposits which has hitherto fuelled bandit activities in that state. The bandits, as it was widely reported, were taking advantage of the situation by acquiring gold at cheap rate and use same to acquire arms and ammunitions for their nefarious activities.

But as it were, Governor Bello Matawalle is turning the tide against these agents of darkness and their sponsors. The governor had approached the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and by extension the Federal Government for the possibility of boosting the mining sector in the state under the anchor-borrower scheme. The bank will invest the sum of N5 billion for the state to supply it with gold as a proceeds of the investment over time, while under the arrangement, the state government is to purchase the gold from the miners and supply it to the bank.

Already, the federal government has commenced the process of licensing the companies that have indicated interest in mining in the area. What this means for the state is that the gold will no longer be used to fuel the activities of the bandits with the governor stylishly cutting their hold on the supply chain. The second fundamental advantage Matawalle’s gesture throws up is that the state government would have more fund to embark on more projects as he works relentlessly to build a new Zamfara State.

But as usual, those who were profiteering from the seeming lucrative “banditry business” were uncomfortable with the turn of event and have resorted to campaign of calumny against the governor. The sworn anti-north elements are fuelling the misconception that the state government is taking over the minerals within its domain, even as it is public knowledge that mining is exclusive right of the federal government. Their charade has needlessly attracted resources control agitators who are already shouting themselves hoarse in response to the mischief.

But they are bound to fail because the governor’s action is within the ambit of the law as due process was followed in the purchase of gold from artisanal miners. “Individuals, corporate bodies, including states and local governments, are free to buy any mineral product, as long as you go through the normal process. We have what we call private mineral buying centres. We issue licensees so that anyone that is interested will come to us, and once you meet the criteria, we give you a license to purchase these minerals.

“And that is the angle that Zamfara State is exploiting. From their own funds, they are buying gold from their people.” This clarification by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite in the face of the uproar by the elements over the matter should suffice.

It is sad that senior lawyers who should be abreast of the stipulation of the constitution have joined the misconception foray by creating discontents across the land.

They claimed that the governor’s gesture may trigger other minerals endowed states to deny federal government access to same, while urging the FG to shut down the initiate entirely. This is totally absurd and tended to give credence to the already entrenched speculations that powerful forces who were aiding illegal mining of gold deposits in the state were using bandits as alibi to shield their nefarious activities.

It is public knowledge that some highly influential and prominent personalities, including top politicians, security agents are fully involved in gold mining business in the state, thereby denying governments revenue that would have accrued from the proceed for a very long time.

More disturbing is the fact that these activities have been going on illegally without the federal government’s backing through licenses from the federal government. The situation also denied the state government any commission as its source of generating revenue directly or indirectly. A mining survey report indicated that the federal government lost about N3.23 trillion equivalent to $9billion in revenue accruable from gold exports due to the activities of illegal miners across the country, including Zamfara in 2017.

This is the anomaly Matawalle met on ground and is working hard to correct through collaboration with the federal government, and expectedly, those who have been benefiting from the situation are fighting back. it is therefore the responsibility of all well-meaning Nigerians especially pressure groups in the north to rally round the governor in the ongoing effort to make the state uncomfortable for the bandits and their sponsors who are using our commonwealth to fight us.

Abubakar is of No1, Jama’a Street, U/Rimi, Kaduna, Kaduna state.

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Opinion

BudgIT: When Apologies Are Not Enough

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BudgIT: When Apologies Are Not Enough

By Adam Adedimeji

Tracka is a kind of feedback mechanism on governmental projects in Nigeria. It is meant to facilitate citizens’ access to respond to projects and programmes carried out by government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in their communities.
Tracka is one of the schemes used by BudgIT, a Civil-Society Organization, with a selftasked role to engage citizens on budgetary responsibilities from the government with a view to ensuring institutional improvement. Set up in 2014, it is said to be functional in twenty (20 ) States in Nigeria.
The activities of BudgIT, especially with reference to Tracka, showcase the beauty of democracy by enhancing open society and citizens’ participation in governmental projects. In other words, it is a manifestation of the common meaning of democracy, which entails a government with premium on the people in all manner of actions.
Provided it carries out its functions as outlined, which include monitoring government projects with a view to assessing their standards and completion as spelt out in budgetary allocations and, in turn, reaching out to relevant public offices and the concerned communities, BudgIT could be an eloquent testimony that the people in our respective communities are not puppets that have to accept whatever is dished out to them without questions or right of reply.
Recently, Tracka through its Twitter handle, @trackNG, brought its (un)doings to the public when the group alleged that Senator Adelere Oriolowo of Osun West Senatorial District got N40 million for a training programme for select persons in his constituency but ended up spending N2.5 million.
The tweet stated: “N40m was allocated in the 2020 FG ZIP (Federal Government Zonal Intervention Programme) for practical skill development and training of youths and women in fishing in selected areas in Osun West Senatorial District, Osun State. We confirmed (that) 50 participants selected across 10 LGAs (Local Government Areas) attended the training and received N50,000 (each) as start-up grant.”
Tracka’s rush-to-the-social-media comment was further amplified by The PUNCH rush-tothe-press report of September 24, 2020. Typical of how any job done in unnecessary hurry always ends up, both the social media post and the mainstream media report turn out to be a hatchet job that could misinform the undiscerning members of the public due to their deficiency in truth.
Since it is elementary knowledge that the legislature and the executives do not fuse functions especially in a presidential system of government as ours, it amounts to gross ignorance, to say the least, that Tracka appears not to know the glaring distinction between the constitutional roles of the two arms of government. While legislators enjoy the liberty of nominating or sponsoring projects through budgetary provisions, the responsibility for implementation of projects is strictly that of the executive arm.In fact, projects, whether emanating from the legislature or the executives, are domiciled in
the relevant Ministry or Agency of government responsible for the implementation of such.
In clearer terms, notwithstanding being the facilitator of the project through his legislative
input, there is no way Senator Oriolowo can be involved in the implementation of Zonal
Intervention Programme for practical skills development and training of youths and women
in fishing recently conducted in selected areas of the Senatorial District.
It follows therefore that enquiries regarding projects implementation ought to
be channelled to such relevant Ministry or Agency, except the mission of the enquirer
revolves around mischief or anything other than overall public interest.
Had Tracka not rushed to make defamatory insinuations that Senator Oriolowo had pocketed
N37.5 million, the group would have found out the actual number of persons targeted to
benefit from the programme and it would have realized that the beneficiaries are more than
fifty persons that took part at the first batch of the training programme.
Tracka would have further known the exact percentage of the budgeted amount that was
eventually released by the Ministry to the Agency in charge of its implementation.
Also, while it is true that N50,000 was disbursed to each of the fifty participants as starter-
pack after the training, it is far from the truth that only N50,000 was spent on each of the
participant.
Is it that Tracka’s network was not available or fluctuating, hence its inability to compute
logistics needs of the trainees and their trainers, such as accommodation, transportation,
feeding, workshop facilities, among other necessities? What of renting a hall for the training
and equipment provided for the participants as part of the start-up incentives?
Tracka also failed to put into its consideration that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it
is unwise, if not hazardous, to gather all the selected beneficiaries of the fish farming training
at one place at a time.
Obviously, it is not hard to find out that the project is slated to be done in phases and not a
one-off thing. With this, no one needs rocket science to understand that Tracka’s post that
only N2.5 million out of the earmarked N40 million was spent is nothing but a fallacy.
Was Tracka in a trance? Was Tracka just out to twist facts in order to impugn
Senator Oriolowo’s hard earned integrity and mislead the general public? The whole scenario
is antithetical to the values of creativity, insight, accuracy, excellence and accountability
enunciated to be the hallmarks of BudgIT, the parent body of Tracka.
In the course of writing this piece, precisely on Sunday, September 26,
BudgIT had apologised to the Lagos State Government for another misrepresentation in its
latest release of States Report.
In tweets after tweets, the organisation said it has retracted its graphic that listed the Lagos
State government some days ago among states with inability to meet their recurrent
expenditure.
Given that ours is a clime where those who own up to their wrongdoings are in short supply,
BudgIT ordinarily ought to be commended for acknowledging its fault and apologizing in
that regard. But then, that apology is too insignificant to have any meaningful impact on
healing the wounds caused by the organisation.Through Tracka’s spurious allegation, it is hard for one to believe that BudgIT is on a mission (as it claimed) of using “creative technology to simplify public information, stimulating a community of active citizens and enabling their right to demand accountability, institutional reforms, efficient service delivery and equitable society.”
Except the civic society advocacy group takes urgent steps to do the needful by correcting itself on this issue of 2020 FG ZIP, it is doubtful whether BudgIT would ever realize its noble vision to “see a community of active citizens that relentlessly make effective use of public information to demand accountability, geared for institutional improvement, efficient services delivery, and an equitable society.”
Indeed, with what misinformation could do to humans, BudgIT’s false information on 2020 FG ZIP is extremely dangerous not only to the constituents of Osun West Senatorial District and Senator Oriolowo but also to the FG and the Nigerian people in general. This is quite disappointing in view of the role expected of BudgIT.
This matter goes beyond Lagos State government and the 2020 FG ZIP. It transcends tendering apology in a series of tweets to only the Lagos State government. BudgIT needs to be evaluated psychiatrically.
If nothing mentally is wrong with the organization, BudgIT should apologise to Nigerians and pay appropriately for the inestimable damage its avalanche of misinformation has caused Nigeria and Nigerians.

# Adedimeji is an Abuja-based legal practitioner and can be reached through: ilovedisjob@yahoo.com

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