Yari: The tension over impeachment threat

MUHAMMADU SABIU brings the undercurrents in the impeachment moves by members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly against Governor Abdulazziz Yari.

Two major events that have elicited a lot of public curiousity in the last few days are the military coup in far away Turkey and the attempt by members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Abdulazeez Yari. Indeed, the incidents share a number of similarities. While, the Turkey coup did not succeed, the plot to remove the governor also suffered a sort of setback. Whereas the Turkey putsch was resisted by the people, who stood behind their president, Tayyip Erdogan, the plan to impeach Yari was foiled by youths. Not much was also known about the reason detre for the two ugly scenarios, though a series of allegations soon trailed the move by the Zamfara lawmakers against the governor.

One of the allegations against him was perceived nonchalant attitude to security, especially against the background of the activities of cattle rustlers in the state. Many alleged the suspected criminals were on the loose wreaking havoc in the state. In fact, the cattle rustlers are believed to have sacked many communities spreading across seven local government of the state.  They are said to have not only taken over most of the villages and towns in the communities but also acted like Boko Haram members by appointing their cronies to over the affairs of the ‘conquered’ territories.

Indeed, the situation was so serious that recently, a Senator, Saidu  Mohammed Dansadau, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the state because of  alleged wanton killings and destruction of properties by the criminals almost on a daily basis. He claimed that most of the villagers had been turned to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Apart from the security issue, it was gathered that the lawmakers alleged that the governor disbursed more than N4 billion  even before he appointed his commissioners, apparently eithout appropriation. Thus, they were of the view that the action of the governor constituted a serious impeacheable offence.  They equally raised issues over the manner the N10.8 billion bailout fund from the Federal Government. The lawmakers alleged that the government flouted the guidelines on how it should be spent, resulting in the alleged serious embarrassment to both the government and people of the state when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) listed the state as one of the defaulting states. The legislators also alleged that the names of more than 1,000 civil servants were removed from payroll by the government in the name of a verification exercise.

It was gathered that to perfect their plot, a total of 24 lawmakers converged at the residence of the Speaker, Honourable Sanusi Garba Rikiji, instead of the Assembly complex. But, one of them was said to have leaked the plot, hence hundreds of youths stormed the residence of the Speaker, calling for the head of the lawmakers. But they managed to escape from the mob before the youths could cause further havoc.

Addressing newsmen thereafter, the  leader of the protesters, Sufyanu Shehu said they got wind of the plot of the lawmakers, he and other youths quickly mobilised and stormed the residence of the speaker, where they found the vehicles of the lawmakers parked outside the premises.  He described the action of the lawmakers as unpatriotic as it was antithetical to their pre-election promise. He declared: “The people of Zamfara did not elect them to impeach anybody but to work with the executive towards moving the state forward.” He accused the lawmakers of pursuing their personal interest without recourse to the welfare of the people of the state. Shehu also alleged that they collect a sum of N75 million subvention from the governor every month, adding that the time had come for the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to probe the lawmakers. He accused the lawmakers of mounting pressure on the governor to buy new vehicles for them. “Where is the money to buy these vehicles? After all, most of them have been given one vehicle during their first tenure,” he alleged. Shehu further alleged that the lawmakers decided to move against the governor because he refused to yield to their demand for N15 million each.”

The protest, according to Nigerian Tribune investigations, led to the destruction of 10 vehicles, as the lawmakers had to jump over the fence at the Speaker’s residence to save their lives. It took the intervention of the police and other security agencies to bring the situation under control.

Though, there was no official statement from the government over the rift, the governor was said to be in Abuja to see the president at the time of the incident. It was gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari had, during his recent visit to the state, promised to repay the sum of N58 billion spent by Zamfara to rehabilitate and reconstruct federal roads in Zamfara.

However, the state House of Assembly has reacted to the development. The chairman House Committee on  Local government and Chieftaincy  Affairs, Alhaji Dayyyabu Rijiya, denied any crisis between the legislative arm and the governor. He categorically said the Assembly did not meet to plot the impeachment of the governor. Instead, he said the lawmakers met at the Speaker’s residence to identify ways of addressing the issue of bailout funds released to the state by the Federal Government. “For instance, we want to make our own input on how the money that will be spent by the state government,” he stated. He also said the problem of massive deduction of civil servants salary, fate of  1, 400 youths employed  by the government about three years ago and were yet were yet to be paid and the sacking of local government workers in the name of ghost workers were some of the things to be discussed.

Rijiya, who is also the chairman the House Committee on Information, described the action by the youths as politically motivated. He said the youths acted based on an outright rumour, affirming that the Assembly would continue to support government programmes that have direct bearings to the common man. The spokesman called on the people to desist from emgaging in activities capable of jeopardising peace in the state.

Reacting to the purported impeachment saga, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC)  in the state, condemned the move.  Speaking through the state publicity secretary, Alhaji Sani Gwamna, the party reaffirmed its support for the governor, stating: “We will resist any attempt to impeach the him.”

On his part, APC Youth leader in the state, Abdullahi Sani Dan Azumi, said the problem between the governor started during the recent visit of  Buhari to launch operation HARBA KUNAMA, as all the lawmakers stayed away. He promised to mobilise 10,000 youths in support of the governor.

Meanwhile, investigation has revealed that a stakeholders’ meeting will soon hold to settle the rift between the governor and the lawmakers. It is expected to be chaired by the APC leader in the state, Senator Ahmed Sani. In another development, operatives from the Department of State Security (DSS) arrested the speaker of the, Alhaji Sanusi Garba Rikiji, his deputy, Muhammad Abubakar Gumi, the majority leader, Isah Abdulmumini and the chief whip, Abdullahi Dansadau. It was gathered that the remaining 20 members of the.Assembly fled to Kaduna, where they issued a statement, calling on President Buhari to intervene in what they described as alleged abuse of office by Governor Yari.

The statement, which was signed by the House Committee Chairman on Information, Mannir Aliyu Gidan Jaja, also accused the governor of “corrupt usage of local government funds for state purposes.” Other charges  against the governors by the legislators include “inadequate explanation of N1 billion commercial agriculture (CBN) loan, non-remittance of pension funds to pension administrators,  non-remittance of 5 percent emirate councils funds, the gross misappropriation of bailout funds to the state by the federal government to settle workers’ salaries, including N10b for 2014 and N1.46b in 2016.”

The lawmakers also accused Governor Yari of crippling governance in the state through his constant travelling abroad and his refusal to address the issues raised by them.

“Rather he resorted to political intimidation, arrest and detention of principal officers of the House and other supporting staff.”  The statement, therefore, called on President Buhari to give directive for unconditional release of the affected officers.

Meanwhile, the Zamfara State Police Commissioner, Mr Istifanus Shattima, has deployed additional operatives to stop miscreants from disrupting normal activities at the House of Assembly. He said that  the deployment of policemen to the Assembly was in response to the action of a mob which attacked the private residence of the speaker.