Weathering The Kwara Ministry of Finance Burglary Controversy
Until the state government confirmed it, the story came as a rumour that Kwara State Ministry of Finance was burgled and valuables carted away by unidentified gang.
In fact, an on-line news medium had reported the incident and had among others, alleged that documents relating to financial transactions during the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Bukola Saraki, were among the items stolen during the raid.
The medium, which explained that the burgled ministry was located opposite the state police headquarters, disclosed that the operation was carried out on two separate occasions.
It was shortly after the on-line report that the government confirmed the incidence, stating vaguely that "certain items" were stolen.
However, before the confirmation by the government the incidence had attracted reactions with many particularly concerned that the documents stolen related to financial transaction of the immediate past administration.
Critics, in fact, sniggered that the burglary was stage managed to frustrate any investigation into what they alleged might be shady financial deals of the administration.
The state chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which commented on the report, said the raid was suspicious because of the timing and the place where it happened and "the fact that sensitive documents were carted away."
The party, in a statement signed by its chairman, Kayode Olawepo, raised some questions on the development including the alleged failure to strengthen security at the ministry after the first attack on it and the refusal of the government to speak on the matter immediately.
The statement read: "Quite a number of disturbing news have been emanating from Kwara State in the past few months, all bordering on corruption, mismanagement, deceits and grand conspiracies to keep the people perpetually groping in the dark for a brighter future.
"On September 17, 2012, the CBN issued a circular banning all commercial banks from lending further credits to Kwara State Government, among other debtors said to be owing the AMCON. That incident confirmed the fears of our people about the profligacy and corruption of the PDP-led government in the state. Many patriotic citizens have called for probe of the embarrassing blacklisting.
"But the PDP government does not seem to be tired of its shameful conducts, as the story in saharareporterts on the burglary at the State's Ministry of Finance indicated.
"As scary as this incident was, most scary indeed is the fact that the Kwara State Government has carried on as if nothing ever happened! We understand the civil servants have been directed not to mention it to anyone. Clearly many things are not right here and many questions are begging for answers.
Was the September 21's failed attempt at breaking into the Ministry reported to the security agencies? If yes, why was there no security beef up at the place in view of the sensitive nature of the Ministry?
"Why has the State Government kept a sealed lip about this terrible incident, given the dangerous signals it sends to the public? These signals include that nobody is safe, if burglars could, at will, break into guarded properties of the government.
"This burglary came at a time anti-graft agencies are vetting the books of the immediate past administration as regard its handling of the controversial local government allocations/joint accounts/SUBEB funds.
"This incident adds to the long list of suspicious actions of the PDP administration, which ultimately explain why it would do everything to remain in power so that the people will never know the truth."
However, the state government while confirming the incidents in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Olatunji Moronfoye, explained that the matter was not made public because it had been reported to the police who were making investigations on it.
The statement reads: "We can confirm that unidentified persons broke into the offices of the state Ministry of Finance, located on Ahmadu Bello Way, Ilorin, on September 21, 2012, and on Sunday, September 22, 2012, and removed certain items.
"Both incidents were reported to state police command but the public was not informed as the incidents were and remain subjects of on-going police investigations."
Saraki has also spoken on the burglary describing insinuations linking him to it as callous and calling on the security agencies to carry out a thorough investigation into the crime.
A statement on behalf of the former governor by his media aide, Akintoba Fatigun, described the burglary as "a serious crime against the state and the people of Kwara."
It said: "The incident is a dastardly act that must be condemned in its entirety and the distinguished Senator representing Kwara Central in the red chamber of the National Assembly totally rebukes the act.
"It is more worrisome that a group of people with vested interest yet undefined can attach such act to the person of Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki. This attempt is mischievous, callous, and inhuman. We see the comment trying to link this unfortunate situation to Senator Saraki as an attempt to derail the general public from seeking the truth to get to the bottom of the matter.
"Categorically, we refute as an entity and in a personal capacity any suggestion that Senator Saraki could ever be involved in such an act. It's also surprising that the opposition in the state knew the exact years of file that were taken away or has the police doing the investigation come up with the outcome of their investigation?
Definitely those who know what was stolen should help the police in their investigation.
"As a cursory examination of these allegations, there is a need to put the record straight. For the avoidance of doubt, His Excellency has no interest in either the documents or the hard currencies carted away.
"During his administration as the state governor, he was attacked similarly on different grounds of covering up local government fund, SUBEB, and handling of contracts in the state. The allegation was thoroughly investigated by the then EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu's team, and when he, Mallam Ribadu, was admitted on the floor of the Senate on September 28, 2006. He gave Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and five other governors a clean bill of health.
"It is also noteworthy that since this burglary occurred last month, the state government and police have commenced rigorous investigation on the matter and have promised to keep the public abreast of development in the case."
The state chapter of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which Saraki is a member, would not fold its arms on this matter as it took up the ACN, the major opposition party in the state, alleging that it was the brain behind the insinuations against Saraki.
The party, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mas'ud Adebimpe, alleged that the ACN posted the burglary story on social media and also circulated forged documents to misinform the people on the incident.
The ruling party, which alleged that the ACN might have had fore-knowledge of the theft, said it suspected foul play and called on police and state security service to arrest leadership of the opposition party and investigate them on the development.
The party stated: "The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kwara State chapter's, attention has been drawn to the circulation of forged documents by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to discredit the ruling government, having failed in their mischievous attempt to incite the public against government's land policy currently under review. ACN has circulated inciting rumours, while it had also posted on the social media the reported burglary at state Ministry of Finance.
"The party wonders when the ACN became a security outfit that now reports incidences of burglary and robbery. Therefore, we strongly believed that the ACN might have had foreknowledge of the alleged burglary case. Otherwise how come they knew that the bandits were searching for documents of government transaction dated back to 2003?
"As a party, we wish to call on the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the State Security Service, to as a matter of urgency, apprehend the leadership of ACN in the state as we suspect foul play on the alleged robbery case at the state Ministry of Finance, currently being investigated by security agencies in the state.
"The fake documents which the opposition party had allegedly been circulating in the state contain various information about government's transaction, aimed at deceiving the people ahead of forthcoming local government elections in the State.
"The said documents, authored by the state chapter of ACN using pseudo names, were to give semblance of alleged robbery case in the State Ministry of Finance. Therefore, this development requires thorough investigation of ACN by the security agencies.
"As a party, we consider it necessary to alert the general public that the ACN is desperate to paint the state government in bad light following the loss being recorded on daily basis by the party both in membership and at the election tribunals.
"Contributing to this was the recent setback the party suffered in Offa local government where the dubious victory was thrown out as well as the Eti Osa Development Council, Lagos State, where Obanikoro of PDP equally defeated the so-called National Leader of their party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in his ward and local government area.
"These developments have not only devastated them but further diminished the ACN. Therefore, the opposition party is prepared to go to any length to misinform the general public about the happenings in the state using forged documents.
"The party wishes to reiterate our call to the security agencies investigating the alleged robbery to continue in their good work."
Notwithstanding the position expressed by the PDP against ACN on the development, the opposition party still insists on the reported insinuations that the burglary was stage managed by the camp of Saraki and government.
The party has refused to stop at calling on the police for the investigation of the incident, as Saraki and PDP did, threatening court action to compel the law enforcement agency to carry out the investigation.
The party made this threat in a petition to the authorities of the police where it complained that the security agency had allegedly been keeping silent on the incident.
The petition dated October 11 signed by the party's chairman read in parts: "Given the sensitivity of the Ministry of Finance and the manner in which these incidents occurred, we are astonished that the Nigerian Police Force remains mute. This is a matter of public interest and we believe that it is the duty of the Police Force to investigate crime and charge whoever is found culpable to court.
"We are not asking the Police Force to delve into political issues; rather as responsible members of this society we are fortified in the belief that it is proper that crimes are thoroughly investigated and should be investigated in a progressive society such as ours.
"We are particularly concerned that these incidents occurred right opposite the Police Headquarters Command in Ilorin. Even more irksome is the fact that a complaint was reportedly made to the Police Force as the burglary was ongoing on September 22, 2012, however, the Police redirected the complainant to the Division C (Oja Oba) Police Station, Ilorin, thereby giving the burglars the opportunity to complete their dastardly act and escape.
"As this is a matter of public interest, we demand that the Police Force conduct a thorough investigation and make the outcome public. Failure to do so severely erodes the people's confidence in the Police Force.
"In the event that there is no action taken by the Police Force as demanded, we reserve our right to take the matter to court and urge the court to compel the Police to carry out its statutory duty to people of the state. We trust that you will do the appropriate thing and not let things get to that point."
While the perpetrators and reasons behind the burglary are yet to be uncovered, concerned Kwara citizens insist on thorough investigation of the incident to unmask the culprits and their motive.
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