By Abdulmumin Murtala, Kano
The videos showing Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State allegedly receiving bribein dollars from contractors have continued to generate controversy.
The twist to the story is the argument on whether the seven-man ad hoc committee set up by the state House of Assembly (KNHA) to investigate the authenticity of the videos is legal or not.
The committee had invited the journalist that showed the videos online, Jaafar Jaafar, to a public hearing where he was grilled.
He vowed never to reveal the identity of the person who produced the videos, saying he was ready to swear by the holy Quran that it was Ganduje in the videos receiving bribe from contractors.
During its second sitting, the governor was invited but he didn’t appear before the committee.
He was represented by his Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, who read a statement on his behalf.
Ganduje unequivocally denied taking bribe. He said he had never and will never take bribe in his life.
The committee had set November 6 for experts to watch the videos when, on November 5, a group called Lawyers for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria secured an interim injunction from the court restraining the committee from further sitting.
Led by one Muhammad Zubair, the group got the court to order a status quo ante, thereby declaring the committee and its activities null and void. The court adjourned the matter to November 12 for hearing.
But in a reaction, the House stated that it will continue its probe as the court injunction had not stopped it from investigating the alleged bribe.
Hon. Baffa Dan-Aguundi, who spoke on behalf of the committee, explained that they will approach the court to present documents that give them power to probe the bribe allegations.
He revealed that the next assignment of the committee was the forensic examination of the videos for which a new date would be fixed due to the court order.
Meanwhile, the contractor, who was said to have recorded the videos, declared, through his lawyer, that he was ready to testify before the committee but under some conditions.
The lawyer, Saidu Tudun Wada, listed the conditions to include the appearance of Ganduje before the committee and not by proxy as the issue concerns him personally.
The other conditions are the guaranteeing of his safety and inviting cinematographers and video imaging experts, including an expatriate and a DSS officer, for the forensic examination of the videos.
He also wants the expenses of the forensic examination to be picked by the state government while the Certified True Copy of the report be given to him before he appears before the committee.
He undertook to surrender the device used in capturing the clips to the experts.
The whistle blower wants all questions that he will be asked by the committee when he appears not to be more than ten in number, all of which shall be forwarded to him in advance.
Upon satisfying the conditions, he said he wants not only him and Ganduje to be present at a session that the panel will convene but also that Jaafar, who first made the matter public, and a religious scholar, Sheikh Aminu Daurawa, to attend the hearing.
This letter was copied to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Amnesty International, Transparency International, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
As the alleged bribe rages, the argument many commentators have raised is that the committee is not investigating the governor as a person but the authenticity of the videos in which he is shown allegedly collecting money from contractors.
A private legal practitioner and social commentator based in Kano, Haruna Magashi,explained that the state Assembly is wise by raising the committee to investigate the videos and not the governor because, if the lawmakers had brought any issue about the governor inside, the issue of immunity will arise.
He added that the videos that emerged showed the image of Ganduje receiving wraps of dollars and stashing them in his pockets and it was concluded that what he was collecting was bribe without evidence and investigation. What he was receiving, Magashi said, could be anything like gift, message or remuneration for something unofficial.
The lawyer called on the House to respect the court injunction in the meantime as there is a motion on notice that would be heard by the court that is binding on the committee.
“If at the end the court is convinced that the KNHA can investigate the matter, then it will continue”, he added.
Another commentator, who is a businessman but did not want his name in print, raised the question as to whether the group that sought the court injunction to stop the KNHA from conducting its job, has the right to do that.