The attention of Senator Bala Mohammed, CON, Kauran Bauchi, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT has been drawn to some media reports purporting that he has been indicted by anti graft agencies or that some of his property has been confiscated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Senator Mohammed has instructed us to state as follows:
It is true that Senator Bala Mohammed, like many past public office holders, is being investigated by the EFCC and makes no qualms about this in the light of the prominent role he played under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration as minister of the FCT. It is also correct that his son, Samsudeen was invited and interrogated by the EFCC about a month ago and released on administrative bail. However, the investigation is still ongoing. It is a cardinal principle of our jurisprudence that an accused is granted fair hearing and presumed innocent until found guilty. However, in the extant case, neither has the former minister been invited personally nor has he declined any invitation. Yet, even before the EFCC concludes its investigation, some mischievous elements are flooding the media mill with spurious information to besmear his character.
For the avoidance of doubt, his position is that both the ongoing investigation (which he considers legitimate and the trial by media (which he considers mischievous), is the price that has to be to be paid for leadership; that political office holders should not only hold and exercise the powers and privileges of office but be ready to account for their actions and inactions at the appropriate time. That was why he participated in the House investigation of the Land Swap Program notwithstanding his misgivings at what he considered a clearly pre-arranged outcome. Even now, the former minister has averred that he will be ready to honour any invitation from any anti graft agency.
He also takes pride in the fact that substantial progress was made during his tenure. One such progress was the land allocation of land to many Nigerians! In spite of this, Bala accepts the fallibility of the human person and is ready to admit that his actions could not have been perfect since only God is perfect.
Allocation of Land to family members and friends
One of the statutory functions of any minister of the FCT is to allocate land. However, it is a misconception to think that Abuja has inexhaustible buildable land areas waiting for a minister to allocate to whomsoever he likes. Rather, following verifiable precedents, what the former FCT minister did, with his team, was to carve out some new areas which were subsequently allocated to Nigerians and residents. Such new areas include Guzape, Kiyami etc. To make heavy weather of the fact that he allocated land to his friends, family members and staff of the FCT as if these are not Nigerians is patently mischievous, uncharitable and untenable. The former minister broke no law unless his traducers should point to the section of the Nigerian constitution that disenfranchises relations of ministers and other public office holders from privileges and opportunities open to other Nigerians. Our position is that those vilifying the former minister either have very short memories or have chosen to engage in selective amnesia. Otherwise, they cannot forget so soon that, not too long ago, one of Senator Mohammed’s predecessors who now holds an elective office had indignantly asked those who accused him of allocating land to his family members and friends to wait for their turn and favour their enemies. Yet, the heavens did not fall. We wonder when it became the case that what is good for the goose is no longer good for the gander! Again, we cannot forget so soon that not long ago, on his last day in office, a former FCT minister made allocations of about 3000 plots of land to members of the public, an action that was revoked by the Senate but restored by Senator Bala Mohammed who had argued that the action of his predecessor was consistent with his powers. It is instructive to note that although Senator Bala Mohammed holds the record of being the longest serving, he made fewer allocations of land than some of his predecessors. So one wonders why he is being crucified for being less culpable than people who are walking the streets without any molestation.
Nothing can be more spurious and stupid than the aspect of the report that the former minister demanded and received One Billion Naira on every land allocation in FCT. Pray, where are the allocations in question? What is the value of the land? And into which bank account did he deposit the proceeds of the bribery? Discerning members of the public will observe that this report follows exactly the same pattern as an earlier story in which it was claimed that the former minister had refunded the sum of Forty-Two Billion Naira to the federal government. What is the total budget of the FCT that a minister would acquire such a monstrous figure let alone refund same? This again, is a clear evidence of the effort to sentence the minister to public opprobrium even before the anti-graft panels conclude their investigations and to achieve a predetermined end.
The story’s allegation that Senator Bala Mohammed awarded contracts running into billions of Naira to fronts is further evidence of the grand plot to use the media to draw public opprobrium against the former minister. Reminiscent of other false allegations, neither did the story disclose the contracts in question nor did it not give the value of each contract or the names of the beneficiary companies, facts that would have allowed readers to draw their own conclusions. This is as sad as it is unfortunate because the bulk of contracts executed under Senator Mohammed were inherited from previous administrations. A career civil servant who rose to the rank of director in the federal civil service before joining politics, the former minister considered it more in keeping with the principle of continuity in government to complete existing contracts and projects than award new ones, no matter the temptation. Such contracts include the Kubwa Axial Road, the Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua expressway and the Abuja Rail Link.
More fundamentally, the former minister deplores the attempt to hoodwink members of the public into believing that he awarded juicy contracts to fronts and cronies. Nothing can be farther from the truth, given the fact that all projects, from conceptualization to bureau for public procurement and the endorsement of the user department were subjected to rigorous integrity tests and due process. Besides, most contracts relating to the FCT were awarded by the federal executive council. Senator Bala Mohammed must be a superhuman to single-handedly bypass these checks and balances without anybody raising a finger.
Again, Nigerians are being regaled with salacious and bogus figures just as in claiming that the minister is being investigated to account for One Trillion Naira, a projected figure of what would accrue to the government following the successful execution of the project. Senator Bala Mohammed regrets that what was conceived as a beneficial innovation with great multiplier effect for the economy is being turned into a nightmare to both the investors who spent substantial sum of money in the process and other stakeholders who stand to benefit from the spate of economic activity that will be unleashed by the implementation of the project. He does not think that this augurs well for the investment drive of the government. However, again, given that the investigation is ongoing, it beats the imagination that judgement is being passed even before it is concluded.
These are not the best of times for Senator Bala Mohammed and his family given the investigations, the media spotlight on him and the mischief of political opponents. But his attitude is that this will not be the first time that public office holders are being investigated. However, he holds firmly that he served Nigeria with patriotism and utmost dedication and that, no matter how these investigations end, history cannot erase the modest contributions he made to the Goodluck Jonathan Administration during his tenure as FTC minister. These include…
Finally, Senator Bala Mohammed is enjoining his supporters and relations to remain calm and eschew acts that would undermine current efforts at stabilizing the country trusting that, in the fullness of time, all will be well.
Emma Agu, FNGE
Media Consultant to Senator Bala Mohammed, CON