The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) urged former governor of Lagos State Ahmed Bola Tinubu to go beyond obtaining injunction restraining African Independent Television (AIT) from airing documentary on him and make public pronouncement on his stake in a company Aloha Beta Consulting (ABC), allegedly owned by him.
Detailing its frustration in getting the Lagos State government led by Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) to account for the state’s resources at a press briefing Tuesday, the Chairman of the coalition, Debo Adeniran, insisted that any governorship candidate in the state who take a stand on the company gets its support ahead of April 11 governorship election in the state.
According to him, “Facts have it that the ABC is contracted to deduct from source a regular 15 per cent of all monies collected as taxes in the state at any given time or period. As a matter of verifiable fact, a total sum of N27,743,310,520.93 was paid to ABC between 25th January, 2012 and 26th October, 2014 through Skye Bank PLC account.”
The text of the briefing titled “LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT AND THE CHALLENGE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE VIA ACCOUNTABILITY” read:
I have the honour and pleasure of welcoming you all to this media briefing.
I do believe that, having known the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL for what we are, what we believe in and of course our mode of operations, many of you gentlemen of the media would, most likely, have conjectured what the agenda of this meeting is all about.
You probably know that we never shied away from crying out against any form of perceived acts of corruption under any guise or posture. This occasion, I should say, is no different. What is however unique about this briefing is that, it is packaged to bring to the fore a catalogued details of events and CACOL’s interactions with various institutions, governmental and non-governmental, on issues of accountability by the Lagos State Government, over the years, pertaining to its revenues and manners of expenditure.
Since democratic governance anywhere is all about the people whose sovereignty remains the very platform on which the governance is premised and since government and those in charge derive their authorities from the same people, the inalienable right of the people to demand accountability and rendering of stewardship, at any point in time, therefore remains incontestable. CACOL, which I represent as I stand before you this morning, is here speaking on behalf of the good people of Lagos State, to exercise that right to know and to be informed.
Please permit me to inform you that this session is essentially aimed at presenting before the public a chronicled account of series of efforts made by our Coalition since 2010 at making the Lagos State Government provide answers to various questions raised by concerned persons, organisations and groups, over the detailed budgetary reports of income and expenditure for the period of 2007 to 2011. So far, as at the time of this brief, the state government is yet to accede to this demand, as it had kept hiding under one legal technicality or another since 2010.
As you will see from a package of photocopied documents made available to you, CACOL had, in reaction to an advertorial placed on Pages 44 and 45 of The PUNCH edition of Thursday, January 28, 2010 under the title: The True Face of Lagos – the publication which contained several allegations bordering of financial recklessness and misappropriation against the state government, petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) vide its letter dated 3rd February, 2010, requesting its thorough investigation and necessary actions, to which the EFCC invited us to adopt the petition. We also learnt that some officials of the Lagos State Government were quizzed by the Commission and a report was done by the investigating team which we do not have access to till today. The said newspaper advertorial bore the signatures of Mr. Kasali Martins and Dr. Tunde George.
It is on record that the aforementioned signatories to the said advertorial also followed up with a letter dated 15th February, 2010 and addressed to the Honourable Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly in which the House’s attention was drawn to the said advertorials in both The PUNCH and PM News, requesting it to apply its constitutional powers of oversight in investigating the allegations and take appropriate actions.
When EFCC was not forthcoming, CACOL followed with another petition dated 20th February, 2011, addressed to the Lagos State House of Assembly, demanding that ‘the House investigate itself and perform its oversight functions’ on the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against the state Governor. The House however replied vide its letter dated 24th February, 2011 stating its inability to accede to CACOL’s demand, citing an earlier court injunction which stopped further deliberation on the matter until the case was disposed of.
Not done yet, precisely, on the 29th August, 2012, CACOL, relying on the constitutional strength of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) forwarded a letter dated 29th August, 2012 in which it applied for the Lagos State Budgetary Reports Detailing Income and Expenditure for the period of 2009 till 2011, directly to the State Governor Babatunde Fashola, SAN.
Similar applications were also made on the 3rd June, 2013 and 17th July, 2013, to Mr. Rahman Adeola Ipaye, the State Commissioner for Justice and the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget respectively. Whilst the Office of the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice replied on July 2, 2013 stating the inapplicability of the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, to the State Government as, according to him, citing relevant provisions of the law, the said law was not binding on the state government, its counterpart in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget simply directed us to obtain a series of publications from the ministry which would provide us the needed information.
Unrelenting, CACOL again forwarded a reminder to its earlier petition to the EFCC, dated 6th August, 2013, expressing the organisation’s displeasure at the commission’s utter neglect and the slow pace with which it had handled the matter so far and requested that actions be expedited so as to justify the commission’s relevance at investigating and acting decisively on allegations of financial crimes.
Most recently, acting on facts at our disposal, CACOL had placed a set of newspaper advertorials titled ALPHA BETA CONSULTING (ABC) DEDUCTIONS: TAKE A STAND NOW.
The adverts which appeared on Page 7 of the NIGERIAN TRIBUNE edition of Wednesday, 11th March, 2015 and page 56 of the DAILY SUN edition of same date as well as the Yoruba version of it on page 7 of the ALAROYE’s edition of same date, had unveiled the facts surrounding the process of tax collection, remittance and deductions to the aforementioned consulting firm which is rumoured to belong to a former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu.
We must emphasize for the records that we have no personal grouse against Senator Bola Tinubu as he is presumed innocent until various anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies find enough reasons to apprehend him (since he is not known to be hiding) and prosecute him(since he has no immunity) and he’s found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, his unwarranted silence on the Alpha Beta issue is worrisome.
Besides, we believe Bola Tinubu, being Gov. Fashola’s immediate predecessor, has not done enough to guide the incumbent on how to productively implement budgets in Lagos State or come out in public to disown him if he is recalcitrant. His silence only shows that Bola Tinubu is either complicit, approved or tolerate the budgetary malfeasance. We are equally flabbergasted that Tinubu went to court to obtain an injunction to stop the airing of the documentary about him on Africa Independent Televison (AIT).
That he sought protection under the law that gives him respite that can be sustained for a very long time, is escapist and smacks of cowardice. It is our belief that this should give any well-meaning person utter concern since he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
Facts have it that the ABC is contracted to deduct from source a regular 15 per cent of all monies collected as taxes in the state at any given time or period. As a matter of verifiable fact, a total sum of N27,743,310,520.93 was paid to ABC between 25th January, 2012 and 26th October, 2014 through Skye Bank PLC account.
The open letter, which was addressed to the incumbent Governor and the 2015 governorship candidates, had demanded from each of them to come out with a categorical stance on this development.
As I round up, let me recall, for the benefit of those who were not part of it then, that a forum tagged Lagos Open Parliament which was organised by CACOL in partnership with People’s Action Democracy (PAD), was held on Saturday,18th December, 2010, at the Federal Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos.
The interactive forum which attracted participants from all the twenty local governments in the state, civil society organisations and other concerned Lagosians, had, at the end of the event threw up many questions on the state of the state’s budgets and implementations.
It was against this backdrop that CACOL and other concerned parties have been demanding from the state government, detailed facts on the state’s budget since 2007; a demand that is yet to be responded to, many years after.
It must also be noted that the frustration we encountered from getting the facts from the Lagos State Government led to the publishing of our findings in our books called “Lagos Open Parliament: The True State of Lagos by Lagosians” and “Lagos Open Parliament 2: Governance by False Pretences” which I’m sure many of you are familiar with.
We, in CACOL, see it as a responsibility bestowed on us as patriots and watchdogs over the activities of those placed in the saddle of governance, with the main objective of ensuring transparency and accountability and above all, to play the whistle-blower against any act of corruption in any form shape.
We are committed to naming, nailing, shaming and shunning corrupt leaders anywhere, everywhere, regardless of whose ox is gored and this is why I am urging you fellow compatriots to join voices in prevailing on the Lagos State Government to come out and present the true position of the state of finances in the state to the tax payers of the state.
Consequently, we demand that the Lagos State House of Assembly, within the little time remaining for it under the present legislative regime, should proceed with their probe of Fashola/Tinubu deals especially on the issues raised by the True Face of Lagos in their petitions and the ones we raised on Alpha-Beta Consultancy and come up with satisfactory report.
Ø Likewise, we call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to make public their findings on the allegations of the True Face of Lagos as contained in our petitions.
Ø Beyond getting an injuction to stop the airing of his alleged misdemeanour, as a statesman that Senator Tinubu is expected to be, he should please come out to the open to defend the allegations against him. After all, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
Ø We also demand that former Governor Bola Tinubu should make public statement on Alpha-Beta Consulting and his other properties in Lagos.
Ø We insist that every governorship candidate should make public commitment on how they will do things differently especially on Alpha Beta Consultancy and be more transparent and accountable as well as allow participatory governance.
In conclusion, as a Coalition of several pressure groups, I must reiterate as contained in our advertorial that we shall mobilize our affiliates, network with other allied groups to blacklist and mobilise votes against any Governorship Candidate that ignores this demand.
In the case of the incumbent governor, we shall mobilise over Seven Million Lagosians across all walks of life to occupy strategic areas of the state.
I welcome you once again and hope that you will use your instrument of information dissemination to reach out to all concerned. It is a collective responsibility. Thank you.