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Unease in Sokoto over removal of district heads

Alhaji Mamuda Shehu Yabo, a district head, is the Sarkin Gabas of Dandin Mahe in Sokoto Caliphate until he was recently suspended by the Sokoto…

Alhaji Mamuda Shehu Yabo, a district head, is the Sarkin Gabas of Dandin Mahe in Sokoto Caliphate until he was recently suspended by the Sokoto State Government. His suspension was communicated to him by the local government council some months ago and all property attached to his office that included a vehicle were immediately confiscated and his salary halved.

His offence, according to the letter of suspension, ranged from confiscating local peasant farmlands, misappropriation of tax revenues and illegal appointment of village chiefs. The embattled traditional ruler said he was never given any opportunity before or after his suspension to say his own side of the story as required by law.      

Irked by this development, the Sultanate Council waded into the matter and issued the suspended district head a letter instructing him to disregard the letter of suspension earlier delivered to him by the local government council. The Sultanate declared in the letter that it was never consulted by either the state government or the local government before the decision of suspending him was reached.

Subsequently, the Sultanate Council took the matter up with the state government, objecting to the way and manner the district head was suspended, citing procedural error. It demanded the government to return the official vehicle and other paraphernalia it earlier confiscated to him and also refer the case to it formally for investigation and await its recommendations.

The government at both the state and local levels never heeded to the Sultanate’s demands, as it neither resumed payment of the district head’s full salary nor returned his official vehicle. Instead, the Sultanate Council sent Alhaji Mamuda Yabo a second letter, informing him that a committee would be set up to investigate the allegations levelled against him.

As at yesterday when he spoke to Sunday Trust, the Sarkin Gabas of Dandin Mahe said he didn’t know his fate since he was never contacted again either by the government or the apex traditional body in the state. But he was aware that the investigation committee will be formed by members of the state government and the Sultanate Council.

Alhaji Mamuda Yabo is not the only traditional ruler that was affected by the recent Governor Alu Magatakarda Wamakko’s Peoples Democratic Party led-administration’s sledge hammer. Other key figures in the state’s traditional institution that shared similar fate alongside Sarkin Gabas of Dandin Mahe are Baraden Wamakko, Alhaji Abubakar Jabbi, a kingmaker and Sultanate Council’s member and district head of Governor Wamakko’s hometown. Two other district heads are the Dikkon Gande, Alhaji Aminu Garba and Sarkin Gindi, Engineer Muhammed Sambo.

The Sultanate Council was officially brought into the picture belatedly when the Commissioner for Local Governments, Alhaji Tsalha Sidi Mamman recently wrote a letter informing the Sultanate Council of the suspension of the four district heads and the indictment of 12 others, including senior members of the Sultanate Council.     

Galadiman Gari, Alhaji Isa Bajini, Sunday Trust gathered was among the 12 traditional title holders indicted by the Sokoto state government. Bajini was a former Secretary of the Sokoto State Pilgrims’ Welfare Board during the administration of Governor Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa while Alhaji Ummarun Kwabo served as the board’s chairman. A panel of inquiry set up by the state government has since been probing the duo’s stewardship in the board.  

Findings revealed that over 60 village heads and over 130 Imams of mosques across several towns and villages in the state were either removed or suspended by their respective local government authorities in the state. One of such cases was the removal of Malam Muhammad Mainasara as the Chief Imam of Minannata Jumu’at Mosque, Rijiyar Shehu, Sokoto.  

It was gathered also that the state government has already empanel a committee with the mandate of investigating the embattled district heads. Magajin Rafi is said to be the chairman of the panel while the state government drafted its Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government Affairs, Director, Public Prosecution,  Ministry of Justice and Director Security, Office of the Secretary to the State Government as members. The police and the State Security Service (SSS) also nominated one member each.

Most of the affected traditional rulers have fingered politics as the factor behind their present ordeal, an allegation the state government has severally described as the figment of embattled persons’ imagination. Baraden Wamakko, for instance, has been at loggerheads with the incumbent state governor over their town chieftaincy stool.

Other prominent district heads indicted by the government report include the Sarkin Yakin Binji, the Ardon Shuni, the Danmalikin Achida, the Sarkin Kabin Yabo, the Sarkin Adar of Dundaye, the Waziri of Sokoto and the Magajin Rafin Sokoto, who was the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during Bafarawa’s administration.  

A source told Sunday Trust that what was unfolding in the state was the “incumbent state government’s attempt to deal with those traditional title holders perceived to be associates of the former governor of the state, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa since its inception.”

But the state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Dahiru Maishanu had described those allegations as the “cowardly act of those who had lost control of power in the state because of their high- handedness and self-centredness.” The Sultanate had in the vein, denied any rift with the state government in press conference addressed by Magajin Garin Sokoto, Alhaji Hassan Ahmed Danbaba.

“To be honest with you, the kind of respect and cooperation we have [now], we have not had in a long time. This is the time all powers that were siphoned from the Sultanate Council were returned to us”, Danbaba declared at the press conference.

But not all people even within the Sultanate Council agree with the Magajin Gari’s submission as indications emerged that the same state government may have already started auditing the financial books of the Sultanate Council. The auditing, according to a source, will cover ascension of incumbent Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar to date.

The state government had allegedly consulted some chartered auditors, alongside some selected officials in the office of the state Auditor General to carry out the job. Unofficial sources have also mentioned Alhaji Yusuf Nawawi, the same auditor general that investigated former Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki as the appointed head of the team investigating all financial transactions of the Sultanate Council.  The auditors are said to have been collating relevant data from the relevant staff of the Sultanate Council in the last past one month.

Youth restiveness and the menace of area boys that enveloped the state in the last two years, particularly in Sokoto metropolis and environs and resulting in scores of deaths and wanton destruction of property, Sunday Trust learnt, is another major issue that led the state government and Sultanate Council into collision course.

“It was the Sultanate Council’s insistence that youth restiveness and menace of area boys in Sokoto metropolis must be checked; as it makes no sense while the Sultan is shuttling nationwide preaching peace and respect for human lives and back home, the Seat of the Caliphate is being taken over by hooligans unleashing terror on innocent citizens.

Not only that, the state government was allegedly upset by the Sultan’s presence at the funeral of the former Governor‘s father, the late Alhaji Dalhatu Bafarawa, who was, until his death, a district head. Sultan’s presence was said to have been viewed by government officials as indication of his cordial relationship with the former governor.

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