Immediate past speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, has absolved the eighth state Assembly and himself in N5billion financial allegations levelled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the state revenue service.
“The 8th Kwara State of House of Assembly or I did not conspire with anyone to swindle N5 billion or any other amount “belonging to the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service”, he said.
In a statement in Ilorin on Tuesday, the former lawmaker said that chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation legally collected money from the revenue service, adding that, “without prejudice to his culpability, he has since negotiated to the satisfaction of the commission to refund the amount involved, not because a crime was committed but because he wanted back his peace”.
“Throughout the lifetime of the 8th Assembly, all Committees had full independence regarding their operations and funds management in accordance with the Standing Rules of the House.
“Let me also place on record that as former public officials, my colleagues and I are ready anytime, anywhere and before any lawful person or authority to make ourselves available for scrutiny regarding any matter of public funds or any other matter of public interest.
However, Kwarans doubt if the state government is interested in finance of the State or rather in the old-fashioned bullying and mudslinging against perceived opponents. Otherwise, how would you want to pull down the whole house claiming a phantom N5 billion, where the only little sum was implicated and where just one Honourable member was involved?
Our political history teaches that one of the signs of potential failure of a government is using state agencies to bully the opposition or even potential opponents in the same political party. In other fair and equitable democracies, such tactics have been a solid ground for impeachment.
“A progressive, forward-looking and serious-minded government of a financially-challenged State like Kwara would have discreetly conducted a forensic audit of the past administration, confront those officers with the facts and figures and par force demand repayment, if any.
Such government would have continuously widened its tax net and uncover other latent sources of revenue for the benefit of its people. Regrettably, even law enforcement agencies allegedly marvel at the level of chicanery and intolerance of Kwara State Government against ex-officials.
“It is surprising that the present government in Kwara State did not appear to know that when we worked with the past Executive to create the KWIRS in 2016 because the State IGR was around N500 million a month, we were under no illusion that the move was unpopular and would cause the heavy political deficit. But we knew it was the only way to go to secure the future of the State. Before long, the State became a model for other States in tax administration.
However, in trying to smear ex-officials, the present administration in Kwara State could be causing collateral damage to institutions strenuously nurtured like our Legislative House, and to strengthen agencies like the award-winning Kwara State Internal Revenue Service.
“Payment of tax is built on trust and when that is eroded through the false alarm on embezzlement, real or imagined, it will certainly affect voluntary compliance with tax laws.
“Whoever wants to recover Kwara money should go elsewhere as the 8th House of Assembly did not deal in money matters, contract awards or employment. The present Kwara State Government will do well to concentrate on governance and exit the campaign mode for now. The 8th House of Assembly in the State will resist attempts to get involved in any tactics aimed at creating an unnecessary distraction from governance. When it is time for another campaign, it is then they will know propaganda, media hype and spins are not their exclusive preserve”, he said.