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The battle within Niger State

The crisis followed the White Paper report made public by Niger State Government in which former Governor Abdulkadir Kure was indicted along with other former…

The crisis followed the White Paper report made public by Niger State Government in which former Governor Abdulkadir Kure was indicted along with other former government officials in the state.

The Justice Aliyu Maiyaki-led Commission of Inquiry had investigated the non-execution of contracts and other financially related irregularities alleged to have been committed by Kure’s administration.

First, it was the removal of Honourable Mohammed Alkali, who was replaced with Honourable Saidu Ndako Idris. Idris stepped aside seven days later without attending a single sitting of the House for Honourable Umar Musa Ma’ali who assumed the position of Speaker. Then incredulously, the people of the state again heard that the new Speaker resigned last week Tuesday, June 16th, 2009. It was gathered that all he said was that he was appreciative to the House but didn’t offer any other explanation thereafter.

In the letter that he addressed to the Deputy Speaker, Niger State House of Assembly, Honourable Bashiru Lokogoma titled ‘Stepping aside as Speaker, Niger State House of Assembly,’ Idris said his standing aside was to allow democracy to thrive in the state.

“I remain indebted to all of the members of this honourable House and will solicit the understanding of all members to heed the call to all of us to render inspiring services to the entire people of our dear state in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.”

He further said, “It is our collective duty to uphold our mandates and to allow dialogue and understanding to guide our roles in fulfilling our promises to the electorate”, he said. Weekly Trust gathered that many, including members of the House, were not in agreement with the content of the letter that Idris wrote to the leadership of the House as they concluded that he must have written it under political pressure.

Isah Kawu, member representing Bida 1 and Chairman, House Committee on Information, expressed reservation over what he described as jumping a process by ignoring the deliberations of the letter of resignation, adding that it was best to dissect the content of the letter first before going into electing another Speaker.

“My dear colleagues, we realise that we are from outside and we will go out later to meet those who brought us in, so we have to be mindful of our integrity and the honour of the House.

“In the interest of the politics of the state, I believe the letter should be debated because of the pressure we have been under. The going has been tough and the resignation is not unconnected to politics”, he said.

The emergence of the former Speaker was shrouded in mystery so much so that it eluded the watchful eyes of the executive and he went back into oblivion just as fast as he shot into the leadership of the Niger State House of Assembly. Nobody saw it coming, either the impeachment of the former Speaker who until his impeachment seldom spoke or was seen at public functions or the emergence of Idris who was on the wanted list of a white paper report on the implementation of the Justice Aliyu Mayaki-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) investigation into contracts and spending of the immediate past administration of Engineer Abdulkadir Kure.

The ripples generated by what seems to be a palace coup in the House later degenerated into a game of hide-and-seek where the then newly-elected Speaker had to take to his heels, running from public places including the House that he was supposed to preside over for fear of possible arrest. The sudden disappearance of Idris soon after his election was blamed on some factors. While some believe he was hunted by the executive since his becoming Speaker did not have the blessings of the government, others say he was simply scared of the wrath that awaited him from the white paper reports which recommended that he should refund of N89m.

Absolving the executive from the predicament of the former Speaker, the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Niger State, Barrister Adamu Usman earlier denied government’s complicity in the matter, saying it is not the duty of the executive to dictate who becomes Speaker. While laying bare the political variables in the state, the Attorney-General maintained that the executive under the leadership of Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu operates a system where the three arms of government operate independently, and, therefore, will not wish to interfere in the other arms of government.

“The Niger State government has nothing to do with the predicament of the Speaker. His problems would have been over if he had earlier agreed to oblige the white paper when he was summoned.

“The executive believes in the principles of separation of power and has no interest in what the other arms of government do if it’s their wish as it is in the case of the House as we are ready to work in partnership with all arms of government toward giving the people of the state the best of democratic dividends”, he said.

Weekly Trust spoke with the Director-General on Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Bala Abdulkadir, over the position of the Executive. He toed the line of the Attorney-General when he maintained that instead of people criticising the executive for its ignorance on the matter, they should demand applause.

“There is something that people should learn from the whole thing, which is that there was smooth transition and no issue of running off with the Mace or fighting in the House as it is usually the case in many states where similar changes occur.

“One thing I expect people to realise by now is the fact that this administration is too busy to be witch-hunting anyone. The governor was not a member of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry neither was he a member of the white paper committee, so he would not have been the one who indicted Ndako. Meanwhile, there are documents to back the claims of the report and his indictment.

“The government has no hand in the impeachment, replacement and Ndako being trailed by the police, because these are purely legislative matters and the House is made up of responsible and highly intelligent people who know their responsibilities as legislators and the law as it applies to the House, because they have been there for two years. The executive has no business with the issues of decision-making for the House”, Abdulkadir said.

Mohammed Nma Kolo, the former chairman of Chanchaga Local Government Area and confidant of the former governor, explained that he had nothing to do with the House, adding that he was out of the country at the time former Speaker Alkali was removed. He further explained that Kure has been away from the scene of Niger State politics for too long to still have loyalists in its House of Assembly, describing the allegation that he orchestrated the plot to remove the Speaker as a figment of the imagination of those peddling the rumour.

In an exclusive telephone interview with our reporter yesterday, the immediate past Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Saidu Ndako Idris, disclosed that he had to take to his heels following an invasion into his home by security agents barely 20 hours after he was made Speaker. Describing himself as a peace-loving person, he said the decision to step aside was to prevent the crises that may erupt from his clinging to the position of Speaker since it had started to create many dissenting opinions in the state’s political circles.

“My resignation was just to give peace a chance. Imagine that less than 24 hours after becoming Speaker, my apartment was invaded by security men who ransacked it in search of what, I don’t know.

“As a peace-loving person, I had to sacrifice myself to allow peace to reign in the state since my being a Speaker was causing much problem. If anybody says my resignation was a sign of weakness, well, I don’t have anything to tell such a person but to say I did resign to give peace a chance”, he said.

The swinging pendulum and its resultant commotion in the Niger State House of Assembly is rumoured by some as the aftermath of the battle of wit between the present governor, Dr Mu’azu Aliyu and his predecessor, Engineer Abdulkadir Kure. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) set up by the administration of Dr Aliyu and headed by Justice Aliyu Mayaki, which is mandated to probe malpractices relating to the awards and execution of contracts under the administration of Kure may have led to the shuffling of persons from the seat of power in the state’s House of Assembly.

The JCI is viewed by loyalists of Kure as a tool used to witch-hunt the former governor, while those in government feel it is the best way out of the alleged huge craters of debt that were left by the immediate past government.

The Commission at the completion of its assignment recommended that Kure and a host of others should payback monies to the Niger State government and went further to recommend that they should be barred from holding public offices for the next ten years.

The commotion experienced in the House has been linked to the white paper recommendation of the JCI as those loyal to Kure felt that by shaking off the former leadership of the House, which was widely believed to be pro-government, an in-road to unseat the governor could be achieved. Hence, the removal of Honourable Mohammed Alkali last week Tuesday was to pave way for the removal of the leadership of the executive by the camp in the House loyal to Kure.

Oblivious to the masterminds behind the palace coup was the fact that the man to execute what seemed to be a well-orchestrated plan had a case to answer by the same white paper that had in the first place poked the political rumble in the House. As the pendulum of uncertainty continues to swing in between the executive and the legislative arms in Niger State, no one is certain of the side the new Speaker, Alhaji Ma’ali, belongs to.

His acceptance speech calling for a partnership between the executive and the legislative arms may mean that he’s throwing the olive branch of peace or a total submission of dependence to the executive. Any guess would suffice as the state is currently experiencing a silence louder than noise in the eye of the House commotion.

Just as the crisis rages on in the State House of Assembly, the camp of former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida had to issue a public statement denying AB’s involvement in the whole saga. This is owing to speculation in some quarters that IBB is working towards blocking the incumbent governor’s second term.

The former chairman of Chanchago local government, Alhaji Mohammed Nma Kolo who made the denial on behalf of IBB said “the former military president does not meddle in the state’s politics, let alone engineer the removal of its speaker, Mohammed Alkali.”

According to Kolo, Babangida had no idea of the wrangling in the state House of Assembly, saying those accessing IB of involvement in the plot were doing so based on their imaginations.