Reports on Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State, and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum making the rounds in some online media which claimed that the “governor is building a $3m hotel from monies stolen from the Paris-London Club refunds to states” give cause for worry.
The reports contain harmful, damaging and libelous insinuations which remain largely unsubstantiated despite the fact that it attributes the leaks to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), officials in Lagos.
Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar has said emphatically that he does not even own a plot of land in Lagos not to talk of a hotel. But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission officials in Lagos claimed as follows: that “they have found a hotel being constructed by Governor Yari of Zamfara state with $3m he stole from London-Paris Club loan refund to Nigerian states.”
That “apart from the $3million, Governor Yari also diverted N500 million from the Paris Club refund to pay off a loan”, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) source revealed to an online medium.
The medium also added that EFCC officials in Lagos revealed that “overall the governor embezzled the sum of N2.2 billion from the N19billion set aside illegally to pay “consultants”, all of which are wrong, harmful, libelous and misleading disclosures.
Governor Abdulaziz Yari is not building any hotel in Lagos nor were any monies stolen or embezzled from the Paris-London Club refunds to states or from any other source.
The online medium quoted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) extensively as its source and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is alarmed that the EFCC continues to feed the media fibs at the expense of its hard-earned reputation as the anti- graft agency that Nigerians used to respect.
This is perhaps why the EFCC has lost most of the high-profile corruption cases at the law courts after it had unfairly stage-managed media trials and caused their victims personal pain and public umbrage.
This report, typical of most of the exclusive leaks that are becoming characteristic of the sources that court some sections of the media, lacks detail and compelling evidence to be fit to print.
The sources were courageous enough to mentioned a hotel in Lekki area of Lagos but gave neither a street name nor any specific information on the property to give credibility to the allegations. This does no service to any investigation nor does it help the development of our country Nigeria.
The media, we all know, is entitled to perform its duties as watchdog of society, which is enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is not, however, entitled to make unfair attacks, based on unfounded, false and unsubstantiated allegations against responsible public office holders.
The media should support the EFCC in ensuring that convicting people on the pages of newspapers shouldn’t be the focus of the EFCC in its war against corruption. Instead, EFCC should channel its energies to comprehensive, thorough and credible investigation that can stand the scrutiny of legal examination in court.
There can be no claim to any semblance of due process when individuals are convicted on the pages of newspapers before they are arraigned only to be declared innocent at the end, all at the expense of their reputation and that of their immediate family, through such media hype.
The newspaper is not an alternative court, as far as our constitution is concerned, and all responsible journalists are obliged by the ethics of their profession to ensure that whatever goes into publication is verified and adjudged to be accurate.
I therefore urge, in the spirit of responsible journalism, balance and fairness, that journalists desist from absorbing hook, line and sinker scoops from fifth columnists whose actions are tantamount to dragging the reputation of the EFCC in the mud
Abulrazque B. barkindo
Head, media & public affairs
Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat
1, DENG Xiaoping Street, Off AIT Junction, Asokoro Extension, Abuja.