Kano Probe Begins on New Education Minister Shekarau Over N7 Billion Contract Scams

July 15, 2014

by Ismail Mudashir

Members of the Kano House of Assembly have invited commissioners that served under Ibrahim Shekarau’s administration to answer for an alleged N7 billion contract scam, our correspondent explores the motive behind it and how far it can go.

A mild drama played out at the Kano House of Assembly penultimate Monday when the legislators grilled aides of the former governor of the state, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau over N7bn contract scandal while giving a thumbs up to Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso for turning the state around.

At the days’ sitting of the Assembly, two issues topped the notice of motion read by the speaker, Isyaku Ali Danja.
The first issue was the recommendation of the naming of five of the gigantic projects ongoing in the state after Governor Kwankwaso and the second was the quizzing of the aides of Shekarau over alleged contract scam amounting to N7bn.
Skekarau and Kwankwaso have been political foes since 2003, but their rivalry reached a crescendo late last year when Kwankwaso defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party Shekarau played a key role in its formation.

The defection of Kwankwaso forced Shekarau out of the APC as he moved to PDP. The political realignment of the duo affected the leadership pattern of the state as Gambo Salau,  then speaker of the House lost his seat when his party lost grip of the House.
PDP currently has only six out of the 40 legislators in the Kano Assembly. The rest of 34 members are of the APC, a development that gave the state governor upper-hand at the state Assembly.

Basking in the euphoria of majority, the legislators recommended the naming of five of the eight gigantic projects in the state after Kwankwaso.

Deputy Majority Leader Alhaji Yusuf Babangida Sulaiman who represents Gwale state constituency, moved the motion for the naming of the projects after the governor.

The speaker of the House, listed the projects to include Kano University of Technology, Wudil; Silver Jubilee road; the flyover on state road; Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) and the Kano state entrepreneurship and vocational studies centre as Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso centre.

The House also recommended that the Paediatric Hospital on Zoo road be named after late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero and that three of the newly constructed roads should be named after, Sheikh Aliyu Harazumi, Sheikh Abubakar Dangogo and Alhaji Muhammadu Gote respectively.

Soon after the recommendation, the Speaker summoned the aides of former governor Shekarau that were invited to the House over the alleged contract scam.

The legislators listed the road contracts that were awarded in 2008 to include;  Tattarawa-Jalli N1.5bn, Konar Kira, Ungogo to Fanisau N3.5bn and Takai, Rimi to Magami N2.5 bn.

Setting the ball rolling, the Deputy Majority Leader, Yusuf Babangida Sulaiman said they are probing the tenure of Shekarau in view of the power conferred on them by section 128 of the 1999 constitution of the country.

He said the former aides of Shekarau were invited following the 2008 audit of the state account that discovered shoddy practices in the awards of the three roads contracts.

Shekarau was governor of Kano State between 2003 and 2011. He took over the mantle of leadership in the state when he defeated Kwankwaso in the 2003 governorship election in the state.

After the deputy majority leader’s remark, the Speaker invited five of the former aides of Shekarau one-after-the-other into the chamber of the Assembly. First to appear was the former permanent secretary of Works, Sabo Abdurahaman but was let go when he told the lawmakers that he was redeployed from the ministry to water resources in 2007.

As Abdurahaman stepped out of the chamber, Alhaji Isa Ahmed who took over from him as the permanent secretary of the state ministry of works was invited. Ahmed who was grilled for over 30 minutes told the lawmakers that due process was followed in the award of the contracts.

“Projects implementation and execution is not exclusive responsibility of a permanent secretary as I’m the head of administration. The details of the contracts are in the project files in the ministry and Government House including the payment and duration,” he said.

Contrary to the claims that the contracts were awarded following verbal approval by Shekarau, the retired permanent secretary said the contracts were awarded following the State Executive Council’s (SEC) approval.

It was after the departure of the permanent secretary that the former commissioner of works, housing and transport, Engineer Sarki Labaran was invited into the chamber. Responding to questions from the legislators, Labaran said the projects were executed following the approval of the SEC and that there was no duplication of contracts.

Not satisfied with the answer of the former commissioner, a member representing Tudun Wada constituency, Abdullahi Yaryasa described the three projects as “scams that were used to corner state funds.”

“The contracts were awarded in 2008 and the contractors were fully paid their money amounting to over N7bn but the projects are not completed up till now,” he said. But the then commissioner stood his ground saying due process was followed and he was let go.

The dramatic aspect of the sitting was when the commissioner for rural and community development, Alhaji Musa Iliyasu Kwankwaso was invited.

Kwankwaso after reading his terse profile urged the legislators to allow him to read from a prepared speech but they declined.  The legislators told him to respond to their questions on the alleged scam saying his ministry lacks the capacity to carry out a project amounting to billions of naira but he insisted that based on exigencies of time, the SEC allowed his ministry to carry out the projects.

He also denied the report that Konar Kira, Ungogo to Fanisau road was duplicated by his ministry as he said the contract was first awarded under the ministry of works.

He told the legislators that his ministry only did the asphalt overly while the ministry of works did the initial construction works.
After responding to the questions he was allowed to read his speech. But he incurred the wrath of the legislators when he said only those who are ignorant of the workings of government would said there was shoddy practice in the contract and the lawmakers asked the Speaker to call him to order.

He was asked to apologise and withdraw the word ‘ignorant’. He apologised and replaced the word ‘ignorant’ with communication gap and he was allowed to leave the chamber.

Alhaji Dahiru Bichi who served during Shekarau’s tenure as Permanent Secretary ministry of Rural and Community development was also interrogated over the contracts.

After the sitting, the speaker expressed dissatisfaction of the House over the clarification given by the invitees, saying they may be re-invited in the nearest future.

Our correspondent gathered that the target of the legislators is former governor Shekarau who recently became the minister of education. Would they have the audacity to invite Shekarau? This is the question that is reverberating on the minds of people in the state.

At the sitting all six legislators who are members of PDP were conspicuously absents at the sitting while almost all the 34 legislators who are of the APC attended.

In an interview immediately after the sitting, Kwankwaso who is now the spokesperson of PDP in Kano state described their invitation as politics.

“This is politics and it is normal. We honoured them because of our respect for constituted authority. They are not happy that Shekarau is getting ministerial post, but they cannot do otherwise.

“We are fully ready for them, they should come with concrete evidence then we know they are serious, we followed due process in all the jobs we did and we did them with the due sense of humility and law.

“You can see they are not even comprehensive in their actions because they were just trying to tarnish the image of Shekarau, but they have failed and the greatest failure will come in 2015 when we will chase away the red cap people in Kano,” he said.