Our attention has been drawn to a false and mischievous statement, by the headline: “ICPC Seizes Multi-Million Naira Landed Property from Bauchi State Governor”. Given the prevailing climate of FAKE NEWS hoisted on the world by idle minds and people of questionable character, our initial attitude was to ignore the story and face assiduously, the pursuit and realisation of Senator Bala Mohammed’s avowed commitment to rescuing Bauchi State from the shameful legacy of failed infrastructure, economic collapse and benumbing poverty that his Administration inherited. However, the story emanated from a release on the official website of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), an agency of the Federal Government charged with the responsibility of ensuring that public officers do not take advantage of their official positions, to short-change the system. In the circumstance, we are compelled to state our own position, given that the Commission’s narrative is not only false and misleading but raises fundamental issues of Constitutionalism bothering on of human rights and rule of law.
We refute the Commission’s story in its entirety and state that Senator Bala Mohammed did not flout any policy or break any law, known to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria nor did he, in any way, breach his oath of office to warrant perniciously scandalizing his name or subjecting members of his family to mindless persecution as the ICPC is wilfully pushing. For the records, we wish to state as follows:
- Zinaria International School was established and had been long operational, offering quality education, in a cost-effective manner, to all and sundry, long before Senator Bala Mohammed became Minister of the FCT.
- Like any other corporate entity, due to planned expansion, the School applied for land, a legitimate right it would have exercised, irrespective of whomsoever was the Minister of the FCT, at the time.
- The shareholders and directors of the School are Nigerians who, by their respective ages, were qualified to apply for and be allocated land if they met the conditions precedent. And we make bold to say that all the names listed in the MEMAT of the School are eminently qualified to be allocated land.
- It is patently preposterous and mischievous to make heavy weather of the fact that Senator Bala Mohammed has something to do with the School. As official records will clearly show, he had resigned from the School as soon as he was appointed a Minister. So, the issue of conflict of interest could not have arisen.
From the above, it is crystal clear that the ICPC is on a voyage of discovery, aimed at discrediting Governor Bala Mohammed, at all cost. We can understand that the Governor’s sterling accomplishments, under one year, is causing sleepless nights to his traducers, people who, in spite of the oil windfall of the past, squandered the collective patrimony of the state on the altar of self-aggrandizement thereby placing the state on the lowest rungs of the developmental ladder. But we are hard put to understand the ICPC’s paranoid obsession with demonising Governor Bala Mohammed in breach of the Constitutional protection from prosecution. Otherwise, how on earth would the ICPC approbate and reprobate at the same time. Consider the following:
- The Commission rightly acknowledges that being a Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, like all other Governors, is immune from prosecution. That being the case, why is the ICPC disobeying the Constitution? Why is the Constitutional watchdog chewing the bones of the Constitution through this flagrant disregard for one of the pillars of constitutional stability?
- The Commission admits that the property was allocated to a school, meaning, for educational purposes. To wit, the school is in place. Why is the ICPC in a hurry to disrupt the smooth functioning of a public trust that is devoted to learning, if not for the singular purpose of ingratiating itself to its paymasters by causing maximum damage to the family’s investment?
- In one breath, the Commission states that it had charged the matter to Court. In another breath, it claims that it has seized the property because it is the “PROCEEDS OF CRIME”. Pray, from where does the Commission derive its powers to label the Governor a criminal? Or has the Commission turned itself into a Court? Even if we assume that it is now a Court, can the Commission be a judge in its own case? It is this kind of institutional IMPUNITY that ridicules our judiciary; when public servants, playing God, usurp the powers of our Courts and the judges and arrogate to themselves the powers of life and death.
Given the campaign to discredit politicians as mindless plunderers who shamelessly misappropriate the public patrimony, it is important that members of the public do not lose sight of the fundamental universal implication of this needless controversy. Is it fair, right or just to deny members of the family of a public office holder their right to the public good, for the simple reason that their benefactor or relation is holding public office?
Those who have embarked on this witch-hunt and character assassination know too well that under Bala Mohammed’s watch as Minister, the FCT made land allocations to over 100 educational institutions. These include institutions sponsored by religious groups, individuals and sundry interests. Not to talk of the many secondary schools that also got land allocation under the seal of Bala Mohammed. Why is that of Zinaria International School different? Why are Senator Bala Mohammed’s persecutors silent on institutions?
We state, with all the emphasis at our command, that the approach of the ICPC, in this matter, is totally wronged-headed, capricious and obnoxious. It does little or no credit to the anti-corruption campaign of the Federal Government. Whether the Commission likes it or not, it goes without saying that it cannot stamp out corruption by being a willing tool in the hands of Bala Mohammed’s denigrators. It cannot fight the legal battle of recovering public property when its anti-graft crusade is anchored on manifest illegality; the ICPC cannot enthrone a society hallmarked by honour and integrity when its strategy is premised on bare-faced double standards, favouritism, dishonourable tactics and impunity.
Finally, we want to assure the public that Senator Bala Mohammed did not misuse his position as FCT Minister to confer any undeserved privileges or advantages on his family. That he allocated thousands of hectares of land to schools, individuals and business organisations is a matter of public record. That his activities in this regard were consistent with the activities of his predecessors is also a matter of public record. Sadly, that the ICPC is maliciously and unjustifiably persecuting an innocent Nigerian who, the Commission, has pronounced guilty and labelled a Criminal, even before trial in a Court of competent jurisdiction, is also an incontrovertible fact. Without prejudice to his right to seek legal redress, His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed earnestly implores all people of goodwill and conscience, no matter their political leanings, to rise and condemn the brazen high-handedness and unconstitutional behaviour of the ICPC. It is Bala Mohammed today; it could be any other person tomorrow.
Senior Special Assistant Media to Governor Bala Mohammed.
19th June , 2020