But Bello is not one to fraternise with idleness. While the Screening Committee was going through its various character changing, another committee crept into the stage. On Friday 4th October, Bello inaugurated a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe past administrations in the State from May 29th 2003 to January 27th 2012. The Commission has retired Justice Wada Umar Rano as Chairman with Ajimono Ipemida serving as secretary. Other members of the Commission include Dr Mohammed Aboki, Bar. Ameh Franklin Adejoh, Prof (Mrs) Angela Okatahi, Chief Ajewole J.O., Mrs Fatima Ojochenemi Audu, while Justice Daudu JB is to serve as counsel to the Commission.
Governor Bello while inaugurating the commission emphasized that the measure was not aimed at witch hunting anybody but to ensure that stolen funds are recovered and used for the development of the state. “The Panel is not just to find what went wrong and recover what is missing or stolen but to assist us in fashioning institutionalised means of preventing recurrence. We want to inculcate a tradition of preventing theft, not chasing thieves”, he said.
He lamented that Kogi state still ranks low on the global development map after 25 years of its existence due to corruption and mismanagement of public funds by past leaders, noting that his government is determined to put the state on the path of strong economic footing.
The time frame of the probe, covers the administrations of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris who ruled the state from May 2003 to January 2012 and that of Capt. Idris Wada, January 2012 to January 2016. They were both members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The party has kicked, describing the probe as a persecution of its members. In a statement by its state publicity secretary, Bode Ogunmola, the party described the move as classical shadow boxing and political vindictiveness.
PDP accused Bello of singling out its members for probe even when they were not the only people who have governed the state from inception. “If his motives are pure and in the public interest, why did he not start the probe from 1999, when democracy returned to the country or better still from 1991 when the State was created?”
A social cultural group Igala Vanguard claimed the two exercises are ethnic cleansing against the Igala nation. In a public letter it addressed to the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland HRH Ado Ibrahim on the issue and signed by Engr. Lawrence Akpa, it’s Convener and Pa. Ibrahim Odaudu, it’s secretary, the group argued that “in clear terms, the probe is targeted at the administrations of former Governor Idris Ibrahim who recorded unprecedented achievements during his Nine years tenure in the State and his successor and immediate past Governor, Capt. Idris Ichalla Wada. Incidentally the two men are Igala leaders. We see this as a direct attack on the Igala nation and sensibilities of our race.”.
The group said it is not against the fight against corruption and the need to bring sanity to the conduct of Government business where the motifs are altruistic. “But we have unassailable evidences that the proposed probe is intended to rubbish the hard earned reputation of these statesmen. We have heard on good authority that the script Governor Bello is rehearsing is targeted at rubbishing Igala leaders.” The group called on the respected traditional ruler to prevail on Bello not to go ahead with the probe.
A forrmer Senator and retired General Tunde Ogbeha described the probe as self distraction. He wondered why the government was looking back instead of focusing on its programs for the future. Ogbeha advised the Governor to implement programs that will touch on the grassroots rather than dissipate energy on what happened in the past.
Kingsley Fanwo,the Governor’s Director General on Media and Publicity however accused Ogbeha of being a beneficiary of the wrath of the past. He urged the former senator to join his boss in fashioning initiatives that will bring about development to the State rather than being a arm chair critic.
The panel’s inauguration has witnessed so much arguments. Instructively however, the panel which was given three months to conclude it’s work, has already exhausted the time frame with its terms of reference fresh and largely undone. Although it managed to hold one or two apart from its inaugural seating, it has been unable to attend to memorandum from members of the public and failed to make any of the past public servants it is probing to appear before it.
In fact, there are real fears the screening and the probe excercises nay not achieve the anticipated results. “I am tired of this up and down. Screaming today screening tomorrow without end. For how long shall we continue In this mess?” Pa Ogunmefun a retiree from Ijumu Local Government who came to Lokoja for screening told TheNews.
He is just one among many who condemned the long duration of the exercise and its shoddy outcome.
Others also criticized government decision to retain Okala who chaired the screening committee as head of the review panel. “Asking Okala to head the complaint panel is tantamount to asking him to review his own work. I will be surprised if the review work can achieve good results. This screening may not come to an end soon. Government is just buying time with it.” Edwin Okpanachi told this medium.
In the meantime, workers and pensioners continue to bear the pains of irregular payment of salaries and other social dislocations across the State. The government has succeeded in creating disparities among the workers. Whereas the lucky ones are owed only three months, More of the workers and pensioners have been without payment for upwards of thirteen months. The perilous situation has forced most families to live on the edge. With non payment of salaries, starvation has been on the increase and easily avoidable deaths have become rampant.
Idris Asiru, the State Finance Commissioner however gave assurance that epileptic salary payment will soon be a thing of the past. At a recent event in Mopamuro Local Government he opined that the screening will soon be concluded and timely payment of salaries and other emoluments restored.
Fanwo in a discussion with this magazine also reiterated that the probe and screening exercises are not targeted at anybody, but purely in the public good. He gave assurance that government will see the initiatives to conclusion and not abandon them midway as being feared. “Those who have not stolen or mismanaged public funds have nothing to fear. Genuine civil servants will also not be affected in any way. Contractors who have been faithful in the execution of their contracts can also go to sleep. The initiatives are meant to recover public funds in wrong hands and to block all leakages through which our monies are mismanaged.”
Will the policies achieve their stated objectives? Only time will tell.