culled from THISDAY, October 20, 2006
No doubt, the tenure of Ayodele Fayose as governor of Ekiti State was doomed from day one. The hand writing was clearly on the wall. Fayose was the only one that could not see it. Every other person did. And so, it came to pass. Following weeks of political crisis in Ekiti, the Federal Government on Wednesday released the expected hammer, by declaring a state of emergency in the state. The two parallel governments operating in Ekiti after Fayose was impeached had turned the state into a battle ground. The parties were claiming legitimacy, until President Olusegun Obasanjo stepped in. For Obasanjo, Ekiti State was heading for anarchy and must be salvaged.
How did Ekiti State get to this stage? How did it all start?
The debacle was an accident waiting to happen. Fayose, whose middle name is obviously 'controversy' assumed office in 2003 amidst high expectations. Just few weeks on, he ran into numerous problems, which also affected the fortune of the state. The incriminating report issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against him was the climax.
The EFCC report...
The report released September 21 did not come as a surprise. Prior to the release, operatives of the anti-graft agency had been holding associates and friends of the governor by the jugular over alleged looting of the state's resources. They include his Personal Assistant Goke Olatunji, and a consultant/contractor, Gbenga James. Two of them were eventually charged to court. The EFCC could not do much about the alleged involvement of the governor because of his immunity. However, on September 21, the EFCC formally reported Fayose, and his deputy, Chief Abiodun Olujinmi, to the House of Assembly, saying they were corrupt, and liable for criminal conversion of state funds as well as money laundering. The commission in a six-page report signed by its Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and addressed to the former Speaker of the House, Mr. Friday Aderemi, provided massive evidence of graft and accused the helmsmen of the state of abuse of office. The commission accused Fayose and Olujimi of conspiracy; illegal diversion of funds and corrupt enrichment; abuse of office and money laundering.
According to the report titled, "A Case of Conspiracy, Abuse of Office, Money Laundering, Corrupt Practices and Stealing of Government Funds," the EFCC explained that a comprehensive investigation indicted the persons and companies mentioned in it. It said that because the state’s chief executive and his deputy had constitutional immunity from criminal prosecution, Fayose would be charged at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Joint Local Government
The EFCC insisted that the governor and his deputy along with some other senior government officials looted Ekiti state’s treasury, contending that some of the funds converted were meant for provision of infrastructure. Other persons named in the report included the former Commissioners for Finance, Works and Agriculture; the Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Local Government; Chairman, Ekiti Roads Maintenance Agency; Mr. Biodun Fari-Arole; a contractor; Mr. Abiola Ayobola; a banker; Biological Concept and Avian Specialties Limited. The EFCC said the state’s Accountant-General and local government chairmen were unable to explain the whereabouts of about N11.8billion out of the N17.8billion paid into the State Joint Local Government Account from the Federation Account as statutory allocations that accrued to the councils between January 2004 to June 2006.
Buttressing its claim on alleged diversion of N11.8billion LG funds, which it alleged the Accountant-General and LG chairmen were unable to account for, the commission sated: "Apart from allocating N2m per month to each LG chairman out of which N500m was paid into account of Ayo Fayose Foundation, it was established that over N100million was being deducted monthly by the state government from the Joint Account and shared among government officials, including members of Ekiti State House of Assembly and the Chairman of PDP in Ekiti State. This was confirmed in some of the vouchers provided by the Ministry for Local Government.
"The balance, which is in excess of N60million monthly, is said to be in respect of town projects, which include road maintenance under Ekroma Water Maintenance and Electricity/Transformers. Also, N265million classified as Ekroma expenses was deducted between July and August 2005 from the records presented by the State Accountant-General, whereas the Project Manager, Engineer Kolade, claimed that he got only between N16million and N17million in the same period."
The Integrated Poultry
The EFCC also alleged that N855million was withdrawn from the state government's account on the pretext of establishing an integrated poultry farm in the state (which landed both Olatunji and James in a Federal High Court). It alleged that between December 2003 and December 2005, Fayose, without due process, engaged Biological Concepts, managed by James, his personal friend, on the pretext of establishing an integrated poultry farm in the state. Through this project, it said, N855million was withdrawn from the account of the state government. It stated: "On April 28, 2004, a sum of N340million was transferred from the Wema Bank account of the state government to the account of Biological Concept in Prudent Bank. The Managing Director of Biological Concept, on the same day, withdrew over N80 million and converted the sum of N17million into British pounds and US dollars, which he sent through former Deputy Governor, Mrs. Olujimi, who acknowledged receipt of the money from one Mrs. Shade Ibiyemi, Secretary to the Managing Director of Biological Concept."
The EFCC alleged that ten days later, James converted the sum of N156million to US dollars and transferred same to India, in favour of his other company, Avian Specialties via Statement of Account of both Biological Concept and Avian Specialties in Union Bank and Prudent Bank. "Mr. James transferred over N100million from the account of Biological Concept to account of Avian Specialties as if the money was proceed from his legitimate earnings. At the Afao-Ekiti Headquarters of the poultry project, it was established that out of N855million collected for the project, N350million was meant for construction of the headquarters, but only N73million was used to build and install equipment."
The EFCC alleged that the contractor for the poultry project spent over N150 million to acquire property for himself and the governor in both Ibadan and environs. It stated further that the contractor acquired eight cars for himself and the governor's mother, and also built a house for the governor through an architect, Mr. Lawal Adeyinka, who collected over N40m from the accounts in Union Bank and Prudent Bank. The EFCC also claimed that Fayose sometimes in 2004, transferred $100,000 to Tonee Orubuloye, the son of the current Vice-Chancellor, Ado Ekiti University through a banker, Abiola Ayobola while he was working at the Standard Trust Bank (STB). The EFCC however, said it was yet to ascertain the exact amount that had been diverted in the course of awarding and executing road construction and supply of cars contracts.
The Federal Government had in July charged both Olatunji and James before a Federal High Court over the criminal conversion of the poultry project’s N1.3billion. James was granted N25m bail with two sureties while trial in the matter was adjourned till October 6. Also on September 4, the Federal Government, in a 10-page charge with No. FHC/L/179C/2006 filed by Mr. Seidu Atteh of the EFCC filed an amended 26-count charge involving a sum of N419,023,310.75k against Olatunji, James, Biological Concepts Nig. Ltd, and Avian Specialties Nig. Ltd, who were accused of converting and transferring the money belonging to the Ekiti State Government between April to September 2004, allegedly into private pockets.
Fayose's bank foreign
It claimed that its investigation had revealed that Fayose operated several foreign accounts allegedly opened after he became governor in 2003. The commission backed its claim with Fayose’ accounts details and credit cards, which were allegedly found in possession of his personal assistant, Olatunji.
Bribe to Ekiti
The commission stated that members of the Ekiti House of Assembly visited James in Ibadan twice, where they were allegedly given the N2million, and hosted to a party on the second visit during which Fayose facilitated the disbursement of unspecified amount of money to them. Fayose allegedly gave N2million to each of the 19 members of the House in May and June 2005 to facilitate the impeachment of the Deputy-Governor, Mr. Biodun Aluko.
The move against Fayose...
Initially, Members of the state House of Assembly resisted pressure to impeach him, despite the huge evidence provided by the EFCC. But when EFCC tightened the noose on them, with a threat to prosecute them, based on their own atrocities, they moved against Fayose, albeit controversially. Two parallel investigation panels emerged. The suspended Ekiti State Chief Judge, Justice Kayode Bamisile first constituted a seven-man panel, but the leadership of the state House of Assembly under former Speaker, Hon. Friday Aderemi dismissed the panel, accusing the judge of picking Fayose's cronies. It suspended the Chief Judge and appointed Justice Jide Aladejana as acting Chief Judge. While the Bamisile's panel was making pronouncements, clearing the governor and his deputy of all the allegations, the new panel went into action and found Fayose guilty.
His history of
No doubt, the corruption case against Fayose was the climax. But prior to this, he was involved in many other controversies that left the state in tatters. Just few months into his tenure, Fayose clashed with Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos State. Tinubu along with former Ogun State Governor, Olusegun Osoba and others had gone to Iyin Ekiti for the burial of the mother of Opeyemi Bamidele, Tinubu’s Commissioner for Youths and Sports. The trip was on the eve of a local government bye-election in the area. Fayose saw the visit as a tactics to drum up support for an AD candidate. In a commando-like style, Fayose deployed soldiers and policemen to cordon-off areas occupied by the unsolicited guests. It was a distressing moment for the "unwanted" visitors. The conflict was later settled harmoniously. But before then, Fayose got a dose of “Eko for show” from Tinubu. Fayose was attacked by some thugs who prevented him from registering his presence at an occasion at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos. The fence and gate of Fayose’s house at Ikosi, Lagos were also pulled down by the state Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning for standing on the way of road construction.
Clash with Taye Fasubaa...
The former governor also ran into another clash with a local government chairman in the state. In September 2004, the Chairman of Ado-Ekiti Local Government, Mr. Taye Fasubaa, was attacked by people suspected to be assassins. Though the local government boss managed to escape, one of his assailants died in the process.
Accusing fingers were pointed at the governor. He was alleged to be the mastermind of the attempted murder. But he showered curses on the assailants, saying "anybody involved in the assassination attempt would not know peace, I am convinced this is an external aggression by my political opponents who are bent on destabilising the state because of 2007 ambition. I have since last week noticed that some people are hell bent on destroying the good image of my administration." Fayose's name has not been cleared till date.
Brouhaha over academic
The governor also fought some workers in the state for divulging vital state information to the public.
After which attention shifted to his academic qualifications. The governor defended his credentials and struggled to protect his name. His father, Pastor John Olorunfemi Oluwayose also joined his son to put the record straight. The father at the state Election Petition Tribunal gave evidences to explain the governor's academic background. Indeed, the pillars of the court's judgment at the appeal rested on his father's evidences which the court accepted in totality.
Brothers at war...
Fayose's life of controversy shifted to his immediate family. In October 2004, one of the governor's brothers, Emmanuel granted an interview castigating Fayose. Emmanuel publicly chided the governor, threatening to destroy him. But the governor condemned his brother's venom, saying he fell apart with his siblings because of his refusal to share with them the state money. "I cannot compromise with him because I am not in Ekiti to serve the interest of my siblings but that of Ekiti people who voted for me," he said. And the naked dance by the Fayoses went on. The governor's father polarised the matter the more when he said he had warned the governor to be wary of his brother because of his (Emmanuel) destructive tendencies. "I warned my son to be wary of the insatiable economic desires of some of his siblings before he took oath of office. Emmanuel has been doing that. Even though he has benefited immensely from his brother's administration against my warning."
The murder of Mr. Tunji Omojola, assassination attempts on Chief Afe Babalola among others and the killing of Dr. Ayo Daramola were the other issues that created crisis in Ekiti State. In May 2005, Omojola was killed in Ifako Ekiti. Omojola, based in Holland, was visiting home to prepare for his wedding scheduled to hold in November. He was strangled to death. Fayose was accused of being behind the murder. In fact, it was said that the governor supervised the event. Babalola also wrote a petition alleging that Fayose had sent his hit squad after him. In the petition dated June 4, 2005, Babalola said: "I'm afraid that unless I cry out now, I may be guilty of carelessness, negligence or complacency," saying "please note that should anything happen to me, any member of my family or staff, Fayose would be held solely and wholly responsible."
Babalola described the former governor as an enemy. "I have helped in building bridges across the country and I am loved and admired by all people I have had dealings with. Fayose is the only exception and only enemy that I know," he said. But Fayose described the legal luminary's petition as spurious. The former governor said: "I know that Chief Babalola will one day come and apologise for accusing Fayose wrongly in the way others had done in the past." Fayose linked Babalola’s allegation to his running battle with Ado Ekiti indigenes particularly the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti. He said "you know that Chief Afe Babalola is from Ado-Ekiti and all the problems, all the unfortunate situations that have happened in Ekiti State have all taken place in Ado-Ekiti in terms of criticisms and differences between the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti and myself, the Ado-Ekiti Council Chairman and myself. So, Afe Babalola’s allegation is in the same line."
Babalola was not the only person from Ekiti State that raised alarm over an attempt to eliminate them by the governor. A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana once said the killer squad masterminded by the governor was after him.
His alleged killer
The murder of Dr. Daramola in August 2006 changed the long list of controversies trailing Fayose . It was alleged that he used his killer squad to carry out this dastardly act. The face-off between Fayose and his former deputy, Surveyor Abiodun Aluko led to the controversial removal of the latter. Aluko was accused of anti-party activities by the governor. Words were traded. Aluko fought hard to retain his position but lost out.
No doubt, it has all along been a harvest of crisis for Fayose. His activities and inactivities have negatively affected the state as a whole. How long will it take this young state to recover? Only time will tell.