Concerns over EFCC’s investigation of suspended Kwara council chairmen


Following last week’s arrest of the suspended 16 Local Government
council chairmen in Kwara by operatives of the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission (EFCC), there have been concerns by stakeholders and
opposition on alleged attempt to politicise the issue by the ruling
administration amidst talks of betrayal of trust. HEAD POLITICS,
MUMINI ABDULKAREEM writes on the development.

Last week, the bubble eventually busted for the 16 Local Government
council chairmen in Kwara State as the Ilorin based zonal Head Office
of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested them
for alleged management of council funds while in office.
Their suspension by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq following the
recommendation by the Kwara State House of Assembly based on a
petition has been a subject of disagreement between the state chapter
of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It later saw to the splitting of the
All Local Government Organisation of Nigeria (ALGON) an umbrella body
of the council bosses over moves by some of the council chairmen to
seek political solution to the impasse.
Shortly after the Governor wielded the big stick suspending the
council bosses, ALGON in a statement signed by its chairman and
secretary, Joshua Omokanye and Mallam Abubakar Abdullahi Bata
respectively surprisingly threw its weight in support of the move and
maintained that they willingly withdrew the suit challenging their
suspension by the state government. However, four of them (Ilorin
West, Ilorin East, Irepodun, Ekiti) disagreed with the proposal and
vowed to proceed with the case instituted in court to challenge their
suspension, a position wholly supported by their party, PDP.
Amidst report by the opposition and some stakeholders that the
government is using the issue to play politics, the PDP through its
chairman, Engr Kola Shittu told Pilot Politics that while the party is
not in support of the action that encourages graft, it will not accept
the alleged move to use the development as a form of blackmail to
compel the affected chairman to dump their party for the APC.
In a follow up statement personally signed by him recently, Shittu
noted that the Governor was threatening the embattled chairmen of the
Local Government Areas who had been indicted by the report of the
Kwara State House of Assembly Ad-Hoc investigation committees on
mismanagement of council funds in order to force them to dump the
opposition party, failure upon which EFCC would be unleashed on them.
According to Shittu, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led APC
administration was using instruments of the state, especially the EFCC
to witch-hunt and intimidate political opponents to settle political
scores and force them to join the APC, noting that Kwara could have
been better if such energy was focused on good governance since he was
sworn in.
“We wish he (Governor Abdulrazaq) had spent as much time trying to
govern effectively as he had spent pursuing a vendetta mission. Let it
be noted that our party is not opposed to the war against corruption,
we, however, reject the use of the EFCC and other state apparatus as
political tools to intimidate, harass and persecute opposition
members. We challenge the Commission and the government to release
names of officials whom it said it recovered the loots recently
returned to the state government from.
“We reject the unsuccessful attempt to drag the PDP into this matter,
which we view as a case of ‘giving a dog a bad name and hang it’. We
understand that the monies were recovered from civil servants who have
no dealings with the PDP. There is, therefore, no basis to drag our
party into this.
“Few days ago, on the directive of the Governor Abdulrazaq,
vice-chairmen and councilors of local government councils in the State
were invited to the Government House, where they were addressed by a
former Kwara South senator and chieftain of the APC in the State. At
the meeting, the vice-chairmen and councillors were told to denounce
the PDP and join the APC or else, EFCC will come after them. We will,
therefore, not be surprised if in the coming days, the anti-graft
agency drags the council vice-chairmen and the councillors on cooked
allegations of corruption. One is left to wonder if the Commission has
now become an arm of Kwara APC”, the party noted.
In a follow up to the PDP’s position, a Kwara based civil right group,
Kwara Advancement Initiative (KAI), similarly raised concern over the
alleged politicisation of the issue, warning the EFCC against
politicisation of the arrest, grilling and subsequent release of the
While declaring support for the probe, KAI in a statement signed by
its convener, Sulaiman Rasheed, and sent to Pilot Politics, it alleged
that Governor Abdulrazaq was using the probe to pressurise the
chairmen to join the APC and advised the anti-graft commission to
ensure justice was served at the end of the day.
“As an organisation that promotes transparency and accountability in
governance, we fully support the ongoing probe of the suspended 16
Local Government chairmen in Kwara State by the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission (EFCC). We, however, warn against the politicisation
of the investigation, as it is being rumoured. Information available
to us revealed that the State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is
using the ongoing probe to threaten the affected chairmen to join the
All Progressives Congress, APC and publicly declare their support for
“We were told that the chairmen who decide to take up the Governor’s
offer will be let off the hook while those who refuse, will be
prosecuted by the EFCC. This is wrong and absurd. We totally condemn
this and ask the EFCC not to allow it to be used as a political tool
by the Governor. KAI called on the EFCC to go ahead with its
investigation and ensure that justice is served. All the chairmen
should be given equal treatment irrespective of their political
affiliation – whether they choose to defect to the APC or not. We hold
that all the LG chairmen should be properly investigated and whoever
is found guilty should be made to face the music. No one among them
should be given a preferential treatment. The EFCC, as an independent
body, should not be compromised or turned to an arm of the ruling APC.
The Commission is urged to exert its independence, impartiality and
refuse to be used by the State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to
play politics”, it added.
Now, just like the PDP noted that the embattled chairmen or some of
them have the liberty to decide whether they want to join the ruling
party or not, there are already talks in the polity that has
highlighted such moves, the veracity of which is still subject to
unfolding events in the coming days. Already, some observers are
pointing to the move by the chairmen, including the four that earlier
disagreed with the position of the rest of their colleagues to join
the wagon in apologising to the ruling government through the House of
Assembly on why it failed to honour the legislators’ invitation in the
first instance regarding the issue.
The chairman of the PDP, Shittu throwing more light on the issue said
the hands of the party appeared tied in the present circumstance to
intervene in the issue.
“We had taken a position before for the chairmen to approach the court
on the issue, but now they said they are no more interested in the
court case. So now, our hands are tied as a party to intervene in
whatever is happening. They have taken their destiny in their own
hands and we are just watching despite the party’s efforts to ensure
that they do well”, he added.
Now, curiously and unlike how it had handled past investigations, the
EFCC appeared to be keeping sealed lips on whether the chairmen would
be charge to court or not, giving some adrenalin to the narrative of
seeking for a political solution to the issue backed by the ruling
government. This is coming amidst talks that the Governor might be
working on having a Plan B to use the embattled chairmen to fortify
his arsenal to get some leverage particularly in the leadership crisis
rocking the APC.
Questioned on the next line of action, one of the chairmen who
confided in Pilot Politics exonerated the government in the whole
affair adding that their suspension in the first place was based on a
petition and the invitation of the EFCC might also be based on another
petition. He said what is happening to their colleagues in other parts
of the country where state government and local government structures
are from different political party is far worse than the situation in
Kwara. Some party insiders believed such statement is pregnant with
lot of meaning.
So, will the local government chairmen jump the cart and embraced the
ruling APC in this scenario as it is being rumoured in some quarters
or continue to hold on and keep faith with opposition party under
which banner they rode to power? Did their arrest and subsequent
investigation by the EFCC amount to a betrayal of trust on the part of
the government or rather a political strategy by the Governor
Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq led administration and a political tool in the
ongoing leadership crisis in the party? These and other puzzles will
become clearer in the coming days.
However, according to party insiders, the National Leader of the PDP
and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki in one of his visits to
the state after the election had advised that nobody should stop
anybody that wants to leave the PDP for any other party for that
matter and nobody should also be compelled to stay so as to understand
those who are in the party because of the belief and conviction they
have in the programmes and policies of the dynasty. There is no doubt
that there are interesting scenarios ahead in the politics and
governance of the state.

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