The recent arrest of two sons of the Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido, on allegations of money laundering to the tune of N10 billion has been dominating the news for sometime now. Some Nigerians say it raises fundamental questions on the propriety of the older Lamido’s anti-corruption posture, writes SHAKA MOMODU
For the first time in many months, Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State would have another thing occupying his mind apart from the intrigues associated with the G7 governors to which he is a prominent member. This new challenge may also make it impossible for him to attend some of the meetings of the group. He may also no longer be playing host to leaders of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, who might be coming to woo him to dump his party, the PDP and join them. Right now, Lamido is fighting another battle of his political life and if all variables are to be considered, the odds may be against him. Such is how things change so fast in the public arena.
Lamido’s sons, Suleiman and Mustapha, are helping financial crimes police, EFCC, to unravel the circumstances surrounding N10 billion of Jigawa State money suspected to have been laundered by the Lamido brothers. They are not alone. Some senior staff of thirteen banks are currently being held by the Department of State Security, SSS, for their alleged roles in the money laundering saga and allegation of financing terrorism.
The travails of the Lamidos did not start today. About a year ago, Suleiman was arrested at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport for failing to declare all the $50,000 in his possession. But that pales into insignificance if the present charges and allegations are anything to go by. About N10 billion of state funds was alleged to have been transferred into companies in which the Lamidos have interest between 2007 and now. The EFCC is said to have traced and uncovered ten of such companies. These are Bamaina Aluminum Limited, Bamaina Holdings Limited, Bamaina Company Nigeria Limited, Rawda Integrated Services Limited, Speeds International Limited and Saby Nigeria Limited.
As usual and as expected, there have been insinuations by some people that the allegations came because the father of the accused, Sule Lamido, is one of the arrowheads of the new PDP and the G7 governors. To this school of thought, it is nothing but political vendetta on the part of the presidency to rein in one of those considered to be a prominent member of those opposed to the second term ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan. Lamido has been one of the most vocal of the lot and is seen as nursing a strong presidential ambition.
Some Nigerians think news of the alleged money laundering, suspicious transactions and corruption involving the sons of the governor is a further proof that the current agitation by the G7 governors and their public romance with the opposition party APC is all driven by self interest and self-preservation. Many have been saying that the reason for the agitation to control the ruling party might not have anything to do with the need to further the cause of common good.
While Lamido is stumping around with his fellow travelers purportedly on a mission to rescue PDP, his sons Suleiman and Mustapha Lamido were allegedly helping themselves with public funds. For many Nigerians, their arrest allegedly in connection with money laundering is symptomatic of what is going on in virtually all the thirty-six states of the federation. Many state governors are believed to be using their relatives and associates to defraud the public of billions of naira, while posturing to be reformers and serving public interest.
As earlier reported, Suleiman Lamido was recently convicted on false declaration of forty thousand dollars to immigration officers when he was actually in possession of 50,000 dollars. If there is substance in this new charge of N10 billion, then Nigerians must look for heroes somewhere else. Many believe that though, Governor Lamido is at logger heads with the presidency, the case must not be allowed to be fouled by accusations of political persecution. It must be well investigated. N10 billion is no small money in a state like Jigawa. It can make a lot of difference in the lives of the people. Imagine the number of boreholes, roads to link communities, health centers, and schools that huge sum can provide.
There are pertinent questions to be asked as the governor’s sons try to prove their innocence while their father tries to save his political career. And all these even go beyond whatever the senior Lamido is doing at the G7 conclave. Some of the questions to ask are: Was N10 billion Jigawa taxpayers money laundered using those companies as conduit? If yes, by who and for what purpose? From here other questions will then follow such as: Was Governor Lamido aware of the transactions that led to funds being transferred to these companies’ accounts? Or did the sons simply use the name of the father to force the hands of government agencies and departments to award them spurious contracts? Was the purpose for which these funds were originally meant for in the budget met? Or was it just a simple case of direct stealing of public funds? What were the roles of those bankers who allegedly laundered these monies?
These are questions that go beyond claim of political persecution. They touch on the core of corruption, good governance, accountability and transparency. These are the very features and character that define democracy.
Beyond this, the onus of proof is on the accusers of the Lamidos, but the greater moral burden is on a father that superintends over a state where his sons have been alleged to have unfettered access to public till. If however at the end of it all, no substance was found in the allegation, then the EFCC and SSS would have succeeded in damaging their image as unbiased agencies and give credence to the claim that they are tools in the hands of the presidency.