Posted on Thu 3 Oct 2019, 03:32 PM

A civil rights group has delivered a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, demanding the investigation of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for alleged 'embezzlement' of N90bn.

A letter signed by the Executive Director of the group, Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, pointed out that the allegation is worrisome, especially against the background that in the build up to the 2019 elections, President Buhari made it clear that public funds would not be used for political campaigns.  

Past week had seen media debates on the probity or otherwise of an allegation first made by one    Timi Frank. While some felt it was an action prompted by desperation and bitterness after Mr. Frank was neglected by the APC, others see the allegation as a masked attempt by 'the cabal' to unsettle the Vice President who is reported to be having Presidential ambition.
 
The Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education says if Prof. Osinbajo is found culpable, 'he should be made to face the consequence of such culpability'.  
   
Below is the full letter by the group to the EFCC:

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED, is a registered Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) working for the realisation of democratic, accountable and corruption-free governance in Nigeria. CHRICED envisions, and mobilises citizens towards the realisation of a polity in which participation, inclusion and action result in good governance and the entrenchment of the right values in public office. Given the well-documented negative impact of corruption on the security and stability of our dear country, and the avowed commitment of the current administration to fight corruption in all its manifestations, CHRICED deems it critical to draw your attention and action towards addressing recent developments, which we believe have far reaching implications the legitimacy of the current administration and by extension, the confidence of the ordinary citizen in the anti-corruption campaign, which your reputable Commission has been courageously implementing.

There has been a wave of very disturbing allegations making the rounds, and authored by one Comrade Timi Frank, a former Deputy Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the effect that His Excellency, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) caused the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to release to him public funds to the tune of N90billion, without appropriation, and allegedly without following laid down procedures for handling public funds. In a statement widely circulated in the media on September 23, 2019, the said Timi Frank further claimed that the alleged N90 billion was used by the Vice President to prosecute the 2019 Presidential election in some states on behalf of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Subsequently, Timi Frank claimed in his statement and interviews granted to various media houses that he had information to the effect that when the Vice President was called upon to give account of how the money was spent, he could not properly account for it.

Excerpts from Timi Frank’s statement as published in mainstream and online media reads: “The presidency discovered how Osinbajo allegedly mismanaged N90billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). When confronted by the presidency, he confirmed to General Buhari that he indeed allegedly took N90billion from FIRS but it was used for the 2019 presidential election campaign in strategic states of the South-west. Gen Buhari asked for a breakdown of how the money was spent and he said he gave N11 billion to Lagos state APC leader but when the said national leader and one former APC chairman were invited for explanation, it was confirmed that Osinbajo gave only N5billion and not N11billion to Lagos state.The cabal is asking to know how come they beat PDP in the South-west with less than 60,000 votes if the money was actually spent in the strategic states of the South-west as allegedly claimed.”

For us, these allegations are very weighty and worrisome, especially against the background that in the build up to the 2019 elections, President Muhammadu Buhari made it clear that public funds would not be approved for the purpose of political campaigns. Specifically on January 9, 2019, the President in a statement through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Shehu Garba said: “As political parties spread their ideologies and views to every nook and cranny of the country, the issue of cash payment to voters and its corrupting influence in electioneering has once again become a topical issue. Try and use text and multi-media messages to seek votes for the party and government. There is no money from the treasury for use in the campaigns. I will not authorise that.

On the basis of this express declaration from the President to the effect that public funds will not be deployed to fund the electioneering purpose of the ruling party, the Nigerian people, believed and trusted the President’s pledge. However, the claims by Timi Frank are implying that the ruling party did not adhere to the directives of the President on his proclaimed non-use of public funds to prosecute the election in favour of the ruling party.   If these  allegations are proven to be true, it would also mean that the campaign finance legislation governing the electoral process, as enshrined in the Electoral Act 2010 as amended have been flagrantly violated. As a former Deputy Publicity Secretary of the ruling party with the benefit of wide contacts in the seat of power, Timi Frank could as well be privy to information, which the rest of us may not know. As such, only a meticulous investigation of these claims will bring the truth to life.

In the light of these developments and their implications for the legitimacy of the government, and by extension the anti-corruption crusade, CHRICED calls for a robust, painstaking and thorough investigation of these claims with a view to verifying whether they are true or false. This step from your honourable Commission is critical, and will help clear the air, and douse the suspicion, which the allegations have precipitated since they began circulating. If the Vice President is culpable as these allegations claim, then he should be made to face the consequences of such culpability. However, if the claimant making the allegations is found to be deceiving the public, appropriate steps should be taken to hold him to account in line with the rule of law.

 

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