Two months ago, this column wrote on how the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, spent N700 million to buy a residential building in Abuja for the Sultan of Sokoto. It further condemned the action wondering how a state classified among the poorest in our country could afford to spend such a humongous amount of money on a residence for one person or, the Sultan traditional council, as the state government later claimed.
The piece, however, did not include an allegation that the building belonged to the Sultan before the state bought it. It emerged after it was published. But that was two months ago.
Now, the governor is in the news again not for purchasing another house for a traditional ruler but for pardoning a group of former state officials under trial for corruption. Again, this case involved the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which, in one of those rare cases of serious action of the agency under Ibrahim Magu’s headship, it is actually prosecuting government officials. Following the pattern of the house purchase, the state government did not inform the state citizens that a group of people that were supposed to be working for the citizens’ interest but dipped their hands into their commonwealth have been set free.
Most media organisations too missed the story, as it was only a Facebook post by EFCC on June 27 this yearthat informed us that a Sokoto State high court judge, Bello Abass, discharged the five persons because the state government has pardoned them. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) reported last week that the EFCC filed an appeal on September 25 against the judgment. The Facebook post as reported by ICIR – full disclosure: I serve on the ICIR board but not involved in its reporting assignments – says“The EFCC, on September 25, 2017 filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, challenging the judgment delivered by the Sokoto State High in respect of pardon granted by the Governor of Sokoto, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, to five accused persons who were charged alongside former governor Attahiru Bafarawa,”
The EFFC further disclosed that the five pardoned people were charged together with former governor Attahiru Bafarawa and others but those ones were not pardoned. So apart from the illegality by Mr. Tanbuwal, it was also a selective pardon. The people pardoned are Tukur Alkali, Commissioner for Animal Health and Fisheries Development; Isa Achida, Commissioner for Home Affairs; Maigari Dingyadi, Chairman, Governing Board, National Commission for Colleges of Education; Habibu Modachi, member representing Isa constituency in the state House of Assembly; and Isah Bello, a Permanent Secretary.
This action of a governor who is also a lawyer, Tanbuwal was called to the Bar in 1992 and so he is not a neophyte in the legal profession, is an affront on the law and decency. He had also been a speaker of the House of Representatives putting him in good stead to understand and appreciate the fine detail of law. The Sokoto governor is gradually turning out to be a serial abuser of legal processes circumventing the law at the altar of politics at will. It is laughable that this is someone whose name has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, probably justifying the assertion that we are quick in throwing up people as heroes before they ever doen anything heroic.
Thankfully enough, the EFCC had appealed the judgment and all eyes are on the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division for determination of the appeal. But what about Justice Bello Abass who discharged the accused persons in a case that only the attorney general of the federation can enter a nolle prosequi? This is also true of allcases instituted by the federal government or any of its agencies.The ICIR story quoted the chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Itse Sagay, as saying that Tambuwal’s action is illegal and made another fine point that the money allegedly stolen belonged to the Sokoto people and not the governor. The same point made by lawyers I spoke to on the matter, but again, we see another governor acting not on behalf of the people he was elected to serve but for his own political gain. And that’s our lot in Nigeria mostly since 1999.
A more serious point for me though is the fact that till date, there is no record of Sokoto citizens demanding accountability from their governor on this issue. From June to September, there was no shout or protest from the citizens on their governor’s illegal pardon. Too often we pillory the Buhari administration for its halfhearted war on corruption and deservedly so, but some of our judges appear to be in cahoots with the looters of our commonwealth. This is hoping that the National Judicial Commission will beam its searchlight on this judge who forgot conveniently an elementary part of legal procedure.