By Anthony Ogbonna
The embattled former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has dismissed and described as media trial, the reports alleging the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, last Wednesday, gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the nod to take possession of his 14 choice properties in Abuja.
The ex-FCT minister who equally said that the trial of his son, Shamsudeen is also part of what he described as the desperate efforts by those he called his political detractors to “nail him at all cost”, also noted that “the so-called temporary forfeiture order amounts to unduly sensationalizing a matter that is yet to run its full judicial course,” saying he has not been indicted for stealing any money and that there is no record that the FCT is looking for any missing funds.
“In the past one year, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, has been subjected to the most vicious campaign of calumny characterized by deliberate falsehood, misrepresentations and media harassments, ostensibly on account of allegations against him; allegations that are neither true nor have been confirmed by any court of competent jurisdiction.
“To start with, how many times will the former minister forfeit exactly the same properties? It is a well known fact that between his arraignment which was widely reported and today, the matter is yet to run its full course.”
Therefore, the issue of forfeiture cannot arise in a matter that is being diligently prosecuted and rigorously contested or defended.
In a statement signed by his Media Head, Emma Agu and made available to newsmen on Monday, Senator Mohammed equally described his ordeal as orchestration by his persecutors to dissuade or intimidate him into jettisoning his ambition to run for the Governorship race of Bauchi state, adding that he remains undeterred.
Recall that Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja, was reported to have granted the interim forfeiture order based on a motion ex-parte the anti-graft agency filed through its lawyer, Mr. Ben Ikani.
The reports claimed that aside ordering interim forfeiture of the properties, Justice Dimgba equally ordered EFCC to publish in a national daily and on its website, inviting all persons/bodies who may have interest in the properties to show cause why the said properties should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The reports claimed that the EFCC is prosecuting the former Minister and his son, Shamsudeen, on alleged separate corruption charges bordering on abuse of office and money laundering. It said while the ex-Minister is answering to a six-count criminal charge before an Abuja high court at Gudu, his son on the other hand is facing 15-count money laundering charge before the Federal High Court.
But senator Mohammed said his score-card for having served the country well as FCT minister under the Former President Goodluck Jonathan is there for all to see. He said he is “used to these battles and will never be intimidated by the on-going smear campaign because he “has never demurred from the understanding that a day of reckoning will come for every public office holder, past, present or future and that a clear conscience fears no accusation.”
The statement said, “We do not want to be misunderstood. Our position on this matter has been stated without any equivocation; that Senator Bala Mohammed supports the current anti-graft campaign which is a carry-over of the effort of previous administrations.
“However, this should never be applied as a licence for scurrilous charges against people or for media conviction of the accused.
“In the present case, some of the houses in contention do not belong to Senator Bala Mohammed. Yet, it is misleading to suggest that their owners do not exist. In at least one instance, the property has been returned to the rightful owner while others have initiated steps to recover their properties that were wrongly seized by the EFCC.
“It is in this context that we consider it a gross abuse of professional privilege on the part of the media to deny the public of these facts for the simple reason that it has been hoodwinked into joining desperadoes labouring to salvage a faltering campaign of calumny.”
The statement also said that as Nigerians, while Senator Mohammed has the right to acquire and/or own property anywhere in the country, his son who he said is a 31-year-old Nigerian businessman and an aeronautical engineer has the right to engage in legitimate business of his choice.
“Unfortunately, Bala Mohammed’s adversaries have taken their desperation to the point of subjecting his son, Shamsudeen, to undeserved searchlight as if he is the only person whose father was a minister. For the avoidance of doubt, Shamsudeen, a 31-year-old Nigerian businessman, is an aeronautical engineer, a husband and a father who, like any other Nigerian, has the right to engage in legitimate business of his choice.
“He has not held any public office whether in the FCT or any other place; he never benefitted from any contract in the FCT and never tried to influence the business of the FCT under the tenure of Senator Bala Mohammed. His only crime is that he is the son of Bala Mohammed.
Besides, it is also important to challenge and debunk the unsustainable impression being created that Senator Bala Mohammed does not have the right to acquire and/or own property anywhere in Nigeria. To make heavy weather of his ownership of some houses is mischievous and completely untenable….That being so, the persecutors of the former FCT minister should explain the desperate effort to “nail” him at all cost.
The statement equally said that Senator Mohammed “avows solemnly that he never stole any money while he was minister and therefore has not returned or refunded any monies to the Federal Government. He challenges anybody with evidence of such a refund to come forward with it or let his adversaries shut their mouths henceforth.”
“What even makes the demonization of the minister particularly untenable is that, so far, there is no record of any loss of funds at the FCT under his tenure.
“He has not been indicted for stealing any money; and there is also no record that the FCT is looking for any missing funds. The spurious claim that he siphoned N1.7 trillion under the land swap program has long been abandoned; the idiotic claim that he was collecting N2 billion per plot of land allocated has blown in the face of the purveyors; what is left is to rehash stages in a court process that is yet to run its course simply to embarrass the former minister and his family.
“This one will fail just as the rumour that he had refunded some money to the Federal Government is as fallacious as it is condemnable.
He said It is a fact that no other minister that served in the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan has been so exposed to the searchlight of anti-graft agencies like him.
“The former minister has been vilified in the media without success; he has been detained and severally interrogated by the EFCC to no end; he has faced three public hearings at the National Assembly, a body he served with distinction and even spearheaded the motion to stave off a looming political disaster in 2010, culminating in the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President.
“Throughout the entire legislative enquiry, some say inquisition, by the grace of God, he emerged unscathed; in some cases, the hunters have become the hunted and those who pretended to hold the moral high ground over others collapsed at the slighted test of probity. For those who are interested in details, the Supreme Court records are there to show. (Hon Herman Hembe will know better)
“The former minister of the FCT is not under any illusion that his detractors are going to desist from promoting false news against him. We have three reasons to believe this:
“First, his traducers are disappointed that his legacy remains intimidating and threatened that his profile has not been diminished by the malevolent campaign against him; if anything, his popularity continues to soar especially in his home state of Bauchi, a state that he considers to be in dire need of urgent redemption;
“Second, some elements in the nation’s anti-graft architecture see Bala Mohammed as a vulnerable target to use in hoodwinking the public and the Presidency away from scandalous failings such as have recently been exposed;
“Third, by orchestrating a media trial of disproportionate proportions, Bala Mohammed’s traducers believe that they can intimidate and force the judiciary into a premeditated outcome, a scenario that he considers far-fetched given the fiery reputation for independence that the Nigerian judiciary has acquired.”
He therefore noted that “One thing remains clear: No amount of persecution, blackmail or witch-hunt can erase the indelible landmarks that Bala Mohammed left in the areas of infrastructure, community relations, equitable distribution of resources and peace and stability.
“In spite of orchestrated efforts to deny the obvious, the road networks constructed by the Bala Mohammed FCT Administration are there for everybody to see. No one will deny that the Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua Expressway, the Kubwa Expressway and the Goodluck Jonathan Expressway are legacy achievements of the Jonathan Administration under the stewardship of Senator Bala Mohammed.
“During the same period, the administration completed the Lower Usuma Water treatment Plant, reputed to be the biggest in Africa with a capacity to treat 720 million liters of water a day and guarantee regular water supply for the next fifty years, no matter the rate of expansion of the FCT.
“Not to be left out are the World Trade Centre, the Centenary City and the innovative land swap model of development, bold initiatives that attracted investment inflows of over 28 billion dollars and won the endorsement of Nigeria’s foremost entrepreneurs and land developers, the international community and the World Bank.
“Furthermore, under Bala Mohammed, the FCT Revenue Board, an agency that will transform the revenue generating capacity of the FCT and guarantee a projected revenue of N300 billion per annum was established.
Innovative approaches in the areas of property tax, outdoor advertising and other innovative revenue generating strategies will confer on the FCT the financial autonomy required to exit the monthly Federation Account and even give operating surplus to the Federal Government. These are indelible achievements that cannot be swept under the carpet.
“To be sure, the Bala Mohammed FCT Administration was proactive in processing and signing over one million certificates of occupancy as well as allocating over 500, 000 plots of land to Nigerians across every social strata, location, gender or philosophical persuasion, the guiding philosophy being that ownership of land in the federal capital territory should be a right of every adult Nigerian.
“Unfortunately, it is this statutory power that has been turned into an object of inquisition and trial in the media, in spite of the fact that the matter is before the court and that the media, as a matter of legitimate fact, was not left out in the equitable distribution of this national patrimony.
The statement further reads thus:
“That notwithstanding, he has no regrets for conducting himself in the tradition of a statesman, for giving every Nigerian a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project, a reputation that has won him friendship and respect in the various geo-political zones of the country where everybody identified with his tenure.
“Whatever the case, let it be known that Bala Mohammed is grateful for the privilege and opportunity to serve the country as minister of the FCT. He is proud of the legacy achievements highlighted above, achievements that his detractors are so desperate to destroy through this media trial.
“Of even greater importance is the fact that in keeping with his pact with the people, Bala Mohammed is offering himself to serve the people of Bauchi State as governor, come 2019.
“We are not oblivious that much of the mischievous and capricious publications are intended to portray him in bad light, create unfavourable public image for him, confuse the electorate and derail his ambition. Perhaps more irksome to his detractors is the groundswell of opinion that he should, in fact, throw his hat into the ring to run for President.
“He appreciates the confidence reposed in him by a cross section of the vibrant and concerned patriotic Nigerians, especially the leadership of the 42 Arewa youth movements under the leadership of Comrade Elliot Afiyo that has consistently championed the campaign.
“However, while leaving his future in the hands of the Almighty God, the former minister is strongly motivated to join hands with compatriots in the overdue task of giving Bauchi State a leadership that will re-ignite the developmental strides of the Tatari Ali and Ahmed Muazu eras.
“Furthermore, to his detractors and blackmailers, the senator wants it be known that he is used to these battles and will never be intimidated by the on-going smear campaign. If the purpose of the campaign is to force him out of the governorship race in Bauchi State, then his adversaries have failed; if it is the extreme case of frightening him away from the country, such a motive cannot succeed.
“Bala Mohammed has never demurred from the understanding that a day of reckoning will come for every public office holder, past, present or future and that a clear conscience fears no accusation.
“Emboldened by that lofty ideal, he has faced undeserved inquisition, insults and blackmail at legislative hearings, at times under the headship of people whose moral standing has since been impeached by the highest court of the land. For the sake of emphasis, it needs be placed on record that he emerged unscathed to the chagrin and disappointment of his traducers.
“We state emphatically that the former minister bears no grudges against the Buhari Administration for embarking on a house cleaning exercise. His concern, if any, is that the EFCC appears to be beaming its searchlight in a discriminatory manner, given that he is the only former minister of the FCT that is being so scrutinized.
“The former minister is convinced that he has not deviated from the precedents set by his predecessors some of whom are still playing prominent roles under the present political administration. If, therefore, his predecessors have not been indicted for any crime, he does not see why the system should continue to subject him to this thinly disguised persecution, blackmail and trial by media.
“In spite of his travails, in line with the timeless statement of Muhammadu Buhari in 1983, to the effect that Nigerians have no other country that they could call their own, Senator Mohammed has vowed to remain in Nigeria, to join forces with compatriots, in and out of government, in the task of deepening democracy and creating the environment for the emergence of a truly great economy that every Nigerian would be proud of.
“Finally, Senator Bala Mohammed deeply appreciates the steadfastness of his compatriots from Bauchi State, political allies all over the country, volunteers working for his political comeback and, in particular, the leadership of the Arewa Youths groups who have all stood by him during this period of trial and, in some cases, persecution.
“It is his firm belief that, with the passage of time, equity and justice will reign in the land and all will be free.”