Plateau: The ding dong over probe

Since Governor Simon Lalong assumed office as the Number One citizen of Plateau State, he has not hidden his intention to investigate the activities of his predecessor, Senator Jonah Jang. He has repeatedly reiterated his desire to ensure that his immediate predecessor gives account for his stewardship.

The governor, within six months in office, filed petitions before the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) against his predecessor. Recently, Lalong forwarded another petition to the commission, urging it to investigate the alleged corrupt practices discovered by the Transition Implementation Committee.

In the petition signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Rufus Bature, the government urged the EFCC to investigates the disappearance of the sum of N2 billion released by the Central Bank of Nigeria for small and medium scale businesses in the state in April, 2015.

On SURE-P Fund, the government wanted to know how much was released, and what it was used for in the period under review. It also alleged double award of computerization of the Ministry of finance for the sum of N97,925,000 by the Ministry of Finance.

Lalong, who wanted the commission, to handle the petition with dispatch, visited the commission’s office to enquire why the petition was not being treated.

He wanted the EFCC to probe the alleged removal of the total sum of N6.1 billion from account of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), micro, small and medium enterprises and the ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs among other allegations of financial misdemeanors.

Apparently dissatisfied with the beaucratic bottleneck surrounding the operations of the EFCC, the governor set up a judicial commission of inquiry under the chairmanship of Justice Stephen Adah, to fast track the investigation. Speaking during the inauguration of the commission, Lalong shed light on the rationale behind the move. He   said his administration could not afford to ignore the magnitude of information at its disposal; submissions of the report of Transition Committee headed by the state deputy governor, Sonny Tyoden, various verifications committees as well as the preliminary verification committee.

According to him, what people called delay was not actually a delay but a deliberate line of action which took cognisance of the fact that investigation by anti graft agencies was process driven and that bureaucratic compilation of government documents and the facts that would be placed before the judicial commission of inquiry must follow the process of law.

However, former Governor Jang is not taking the allegation lying low. He had repeatedly countered all the allegations through statements by his media aide, Comrade Clinton Garuba, saying they were just a ploy to destroy the good work of his administration and  tarnish his image.

While defending his boss, Clinton said Jang had nothing to hide as far as his eight years’ stewardship was concerned and implored Lalong to quit the blame game and use the remaining two and half years of his tenure to bring real development to the people.

“It is unfortunate that instead of the Governor Lalong administration to concentrate on delivering the goods that he was voted for, he is busy expending energy on accusing Jang for his performance and will preparation for governance,”   he said.

Recently, the state chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) further widened the tirade by accusing the APC administration of a spending spree. It accused the administration of wasting billions of naira on exotic cars for personal use and for cabinet appointees.

The state chairman of PDP, Hon Damishi Sango, at a press conference further alleged that the state government received over N97 billion as revenue in the past one year, saying that the sum was not utilised towards alleviating the suffering of the people.

From all indications, there is nothing going on at the commission set up by  Lalong. The governor, during the inauguration debunked the notion that the commission was set up to witchhunt his predecessor saying it was merely administrative procedure.

“When Senator Dariye came in  as the governor in 1999, he set up the Senator Dangin Commission of Inquiry. My predecessor, former Governor Jang, also set up a similar commission of inquiry and we are doing similar thing  it now. Those coming behind me will do a similar thing, so I have warned my cabinet members to be ready to go through this whenever we are out of government,” he said.

However, opinion is divided over the commission. While some people perceived it as a wild goose chase, others see it as a mean of injecting sanity into the system and means of recovering looted fund.

One of the APC stalwarts, who craved anonymity, declared thus: “The outcome of the commission will serve as a warning signal to those in government and those who want to aspire for public office that they need to be disciplined, knowing full well that they would account of their stewardship.”

Another postulation is that the probe might end up being an exercise in futility. The critics  said that similar exercises in the past did not yield positive result. It would be recalled that former Governor Dariye set up the Dangin Commission. Jang came up with Justice Morenikeji Onalaja Judicial Commission of Inquiry. These were likened to exercises in futility, given what happened in the past. Dangin’s report was not implemented, Justice Onalaja commission was sent parking by a court following the suit filed by Dariye who  challenged the sitting of the commission and its inauguration.

A source close to Jang said there is the likelihood that the former governor challenges the legitimacy of the commission in the court of law. The people of Plateau are however watching as the matters play out.