Katsina governor calls Niger Delta Avengers 'criminals'

The Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu
Masari yesterday faulted the agitation of the
Niger Delta Avengers and rated them as
criminals.
He said he suspected that the Avengers
might have been part of a threat by some
Nigerians to make the country ungovernable,
if a particular candidate did not win the
2015 presidential election.
He said it was possible for the nation to
survive without oil.
He also said about N73billion was missing
from the state coffers between 2007 and
2015 without anyone accepting
responsibility.
He said the state had handed over some
documents to the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission (EFCC) as part of the
ongoing probe of the looting of the state.
He said he was not investigating his
predecessor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, contrary
to insinuations in some quarters.
He said out of all the contracts awarded by
his predecessor in eight years, only one
bordering on a N1.7billion drainage for
Katsina metropolis was being looked into.
Masari, who spoke with newsmen in Abuja,
at a point soliloquized, "what are they
avenging?
He said: "As people, we must survive and
live. With the crisis in the Niger Delta, we
can wake up and see that not a dollar is
coming from oil. Are we going to die? It is
impossible. Let us start looking inward. We
did it before, we can do it now.
"I believe, I still believe and I'm still
convinced that when we do the right thing,
not only in Katsina State, but across the 36
states, we will survive the storm and there
will be no more dependence on any one
commodity.
"Any single commodity you depend on, when
the price crashes, you will feel the impact. I
think your friends outside Nigeria should be
very lucky. If you go to Angola, you can't
see effect of the low price because they
don't totally depend on oil.
"For those of us who are able to go to Saudi
Arabia, we see these things. Almost 80 per
cent of the capital projects have stopped. It
is not only in Nigeria.
"But in our own case, coupled with when the
prices start to pick up to about $40, then we
have the criminals calling themselves
Avengers. Avenging what?
"They said before election that if a particular
candidate did not win, they would make
Nigeria ungovernable. So what is coming
now is not new, but Nigeria will survive it.
There are countries without oil. Has Japan
oil? Do Malaysia, Singapore, India have oil?
Are they not surviving or thriving?
"If there is determined leadership, these
things are doable. Most of the problems
confronting us as a state are beyond
politics."
Masari disclosed that about N73billion was
missing from the state coffers between 2007
and 2015 without anyone accepting
responsibility.
He clarified that the state was not
investigating his predecessor, Alhaji Shema,
contrary to insinuations in some quarters.
He said the state was only tracing the
N73billion withdrawn mostly in cash from
the treasury by some government officials
without any project done.
He said: "About N73billion was missing
from the state treasury. The way it
happened in Katsina, I won't say it was
criminal, it was too clever. They withdrew
this money in cash and sometimes they
went to dump part of it in empty houses
without knowing those who came to clear
the funds.
"None of the government officials involved
has officially accepted that the money was
missing. We have empanelled a commission
of inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry
Act to ascertain who were the recipients of
these looted funds.
"The EFCC also came, we gave them some
documents. So, there is an allegation of
missing N73billion and we have created an
opportunity for state officers involved to
clarify. We cannot be fairer than that."
Responding to a question, Masari said he
was not probing his predecessor, Alhaji
Shema.
He added: "We are not really investigating
our predecessor. What happened is that they
handed over their handover notes; we also
helped them in the transition committee. The
transition committee made some findings.
Some money that came into government
coffers went out of government coffers.
These funds didn't go into any project or
any service of the government. We are
asking where is the money (N73b)?
"If you are investigating government,
certainly contractors will be involved? Is
there any contractor that has been invited in
Katsina State to explain what he has done
on a particular project over the pricing of a
particular project but we did not do that.
"What we are saying is this amount of
money left government coffers and ended
with some people. All we are saying is these
people who collected this money should
come and tell the people where the money
is.
"I think all the money we are asking about is
over N73 billion. So they have the right to
interpret anything, but the fact of the matter
is that we are not probing the work they did.
"What we are asking for is we have seen the
money (N73billion) that came in and went
out, where is that money? If there is any
project they did with the money, let us see
it. If there are certain percentages of work
they did with the money, let us see. That's
all we are saying."
The governor said out of all the contracts
awarded by Shema, only one bordering on a
N1.9billion drainage for Katsina Metropolis
that was being looked into.
He said the contract was about the
management of ecological funds from the
Federal Government.
He said: "The only contract that we asked of
was the one given for drainage in Katsina
State. The contract was given at N1.99
billion and the contractor collected 90 per
cent of the payment. He has collected over
N1.7 billion.
"He said he had done the job with the best
material. We got an independent person to
do an assessment of the job. We said he
should be as generous as possible but he
valued the contractor's maximum work at
N700 million
"The contractor has abandoned the site. The
money given to him was not covered by any
bank guarantee or insurance guarantee. It
was just given to him. We said, if you
cannot complete the work as designed, this
money was collected from the Ecological
Fund account in Abuja, return it.
"There are so many petitions from
concerned individuals in Katsina even before
we assumed office about that particular
contract.
"This is the only contract during Shema's
administration that we are looking at,
nothing else. Why? There was a design
produced and presented here which formed
the basis for the Federal Government to give
money to the state from the Ecological Fund
and the same amount was given to a
different contractor. He did not do the job.
He collected the money and disappeared. If
you cannot complete the job, send the
money that was given to you".e

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