By Dr. Tanko B Musa
The allegations laid before the EFCC against the former ABU VC, Prof Ibrahim Garba, is a case of “big magnitude” that will naturally attract divergent views and responses from the public and even make newspaper headlines, looking at it from the perspective of the personae involved, the goodwill and size of the university – being one of the biggest in the sub-Saharan Africa. Although, this particular case is not the first time that EFCC is hanging a board with names and offence of accused and posting on their website. The former governor of Kaduna state, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero and other senior government officials suffered same humiliation. In as much as some of the allegations might be right with some accused persons, there are also some innocent souls that are being witch-hunted to smear their reputation. The case of Professor Haruna Kaita and many others accused that were tried, acquitted and discharged by court, were among the few innocent people in matter of this nature.
Also, individual views are a personal symbolic motive outside the official box of the anti-graft agency, it is also instructive to state that no any prosecuting agency is above the law. Concerned citizens with good conscience must have the courage to speak the truth to power at all times and call them to order where they derail. In the end, all views expressed are subservient to the law and the body charged with the responsibilities of dispensing justice and truth/court.
In other words, I will not dig deep down into the nitty-gritty of the matter to avoid pre-emptying the “defense arsenal of the accused” being tested in a court of law and most importantly to avoid what is termed in legal parlance “sub-judice”.
It is now 3 years that the EFCC has been on this case, albeit contestable on the simple logically question asked, how can a whole EFCC claimed to have taken three years on this investigation? Investigating who & what exactly? These allegations appear to be a figment of imagination in the social media space. So many questions to be answered, even though some questions about the accused look rhetoric. The EFCC couldn’t have hastily placed any accused persons picture till the matter is concluded in a court of law. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not allow such practice without any of the anti-graft umpire holding onto a solid incriminating evidence established by a court of law. The constitution is clear on the matter of the presumptive “innocence accorded to all accuse person, till otherwise proven guilty”.
Ordinarily, one expects the EFCC to quietly and thoroughly investigate the matter in the first instance in order to determine and build the “prima facie” on the matter for prosecution, before taking the matter to “media trial” to gain cheap recognition.
What the anti-graft umpire did at the moment on this matter is that it has opened a debate on what might be called “perp walk”, which often arose incidentally from the need to transport a defendant from a police station to court after arrest.
Law enforcement agencies often coordinate with the media in scheduling and arranging them. This has been criticized as a form of public humiliation that violates a defendant’s right to privacy and is prejudicial to the presumption of innocence, but is defended as promoting transparency in the criminal justice system.
American courts have permitted it on the grounds that it arises from the limitations and necessity of police procedure, but have also limited it only to those times when it is actually necessary.
Based on the above submission, the hasty exhibition of the picture of the former ABU VC, Prof Ibrahim Garba, on the EFCC website, is unthinkable, obnoxious and repugnant to justice and law. It is obvious that the anti-graft agency just wanted to take a picture of him and make it public in order to embarrass him or even do the bidding of his detractors without exercising the necessary due diligence on the matter.
The Accountant General of the Federation stole above a hundred billion naira, but his picture was not snapped by EFCC, talk more of pasting it on their web-page. Could these few scenarios cited be cases of double standard or face of the anti-graft agency, amidst clamor for reform and justice?
From the foregoing, one is left with no option than to ask the following simple logical questions:
1) Why was the prosecuting agency in a haste to snap their pictures and publicized it in their webpage without waiting for the court processes to take its course?
2) Of what benefit is it to the EFCC to invite and or provoke the public to wade into matter to influence the court trial and therefore make people commit sub-judice?
3) Does that mean that the EFCC is playing the scripts of some mischievous elements bent on smearing the goodwill and name of the VC to score a point on blackmail in order to show that they are working, even with shoddy, unproven allegations, and sham arrangee?
Although, it is not my intention to dabble into the substance of the matter, but for the simple axiomatic fact that concern citizens of Nigeria with conscience and the zeal to stand up for the truth, justice and for whoever and whatever benefits humanity, must wade into the matter in order to call the warring parties to sheath their swords and give peace a chance.
The genesis of the matter was to some extent fairly scratched and published in the Education Monitor Vol. 12 No. 23 of August/September 2021 edition.
The former VC, Prof Ibrahim Garba, came into office in 2015, while the Bursar Ibrahim Usman left 2 years following the expiration of his tenure after serving the university in juxtaposition with the former VC. Moreover, part of the petition the EFCC is investigating has been there even before the former VC, Prof Ibrahim Garba, came into office.
This whole saga began when Prof Garba refused to reappoint Kabir Bala as the DVC Administration and Chairman of the Board of Congo Conference Hotel for a second time. Since then, various attempts to bring him down were being initiated by various camps loyal to Professor Kabir Bala, who eventually emerged the VC after the expiration of Prof Ibrahim Garba’s tenure in 2020.
While on the VC’s throne, Prof Ibrahim Garba, was approached by the then Managing Director of the Congo Conference Hotel, Dr Bashir Kurfi, under the Chairmanship of Professor Kabir Bala who doubled as the DVC Administration, to release 60 million naira needed to settle for materials he collected on credit service. The former V.C. Prof Ibrahim Garba, requested for the account of stewardship of the initial disbursement of the sum of N400 million for the renovation of Congo Conference Hotel given to them by the previous regime/University Governing Council, before he came on board as the VC in 2015, so as to enable him to determine if the request is worth initiating the process of approving their new/additional fund.
The newly appointed DVC Administration, Prof Sadiq Z. Abubakar, who replaced Prof Kabiru Bala, and who Prof Ibrahim Garba directed to request for the full account of how the money disbursed was utilized, wrote a report back to the former V.C on the 14th of April 2020 entitled: “Refusal by Immediate Past Director of ABU Hotels, Dr Bashir Usman Kurfi, to give account of finances of the hotel despite formal requests”.
The letter demanding for account of finances made was issued out at the time Prof Ibrahim Garba’s tenure came to an end and taken over by present Vice Chancellor, Professor Kabir Bala, who was expected to act on the letter. The letter did not receive any serious attention from the present Vice Chancellor, Professor Kabir Bala. Neither was any investigation done on the matter to expose any misdeeds of the Congo Conference Hotel under the management and direction of the Managing Director, Dr Bashir Usman Kurfi. Rather, the matter was swept under the carpet. The same party have now ganged up to conspire and to frame up the former VC Prof Ibrahim Garba with all sort of antics, ranging from petition to EFCC to even denying him some of his severest entitlements after the expiration of his tenure, etc, aimed at bringing him down.
Sometime in late November 2019, Prof. Ibrahim Garba’s family, were attacked at the VC’s lodge of ABU Zaria by two unknown gunmen while he was away on official duty. Several shots were made with sophisticated riffles in an attempt to gain access into the main compound. But the stiff resistance put up, which led to a serious injury sustained by the police officer on guard in the exchange of fire, the attackers could not gain access to the VC’s Lodge.
The next antics was launched by Prof Kabir Bala when he became VC. His cohorts petitioned EFCC that he, Prof Ibrahim Garba, left with his official vehicle. The matter was escalated to the court and Prof. Ibrahim Garba emerged victorious on the ground of law that he was entitled to payment of severence allowance alongside other benefits such as the vehicle in question and any other benefits extended to him by the University Council.
The former VC could have filed suit for redress but opted to forgive and forge ahead.
The next petition filed again against the former V.C was that he auctioned the university disposable assets such as depreciated, spoilt and unused vehicles. However, when documents were presented for investigation, they now discovered that Prof. Kabir Bala, was the then Committee Chairman of the University Board of Survey/Properties Auction, who signed and authorized the documents irrespective of the properties auction/disposed. Most importantly, this happened while Prof. Kabir Bala, was holding brief for Prof Ibrahim Garba, who was away on an official assignment. Having realized their folly deeds, they quickly withdrew the case and kept mute.
The next attack ignited was another petition that he stole and laundered money when he was V.C in 2013, forgetting or unknown to them that Professor Ibrahim Garba came into office as VC in May 2015. In the year 2013, Professor Ibrahim Garba was serving as an advisor to the President of Guinea on mineral resources and almost at the same time serving in a World Bank committee. They went further and stated that he diverted money worth above N172 million to a company account named USIG NIGERIA LIMITED, even though on the press release EFCC Kaduna made, claimed that the money was diverted to their personal account. After search, they discovered that the company was registered in 1996 with account based in Kaduna and has three directors namely:
1. Usman Hadiza Lamir
2. Usman Muhammadu Lamir
3. Usman Ibrahim Shehu (The Bursar Prof Ibrahim Garba meet in office).
Other entitlements of his that were denied after expiration of his tenure as VC include, his right to go on sabbatical leave ,untill decently. The court had to intervene by giving order to the V.C to sign his papers and allow him proceed on sabbatical recently.
Having laid the background to the ongoing crisis in order to provide a clearer picture of the unwarranted and avoidable witch-hunt being meted to the former VC, it is however instructive to let the public know that, Prof Ibrahim Garba provided Prof Kabir Bala with the major appointments that qualified him to contest for the V.C, among which included the Dean of Post Graduate School and DVC Administration i.e. the second in command of the University during his time. Ever since, Prof Kabir Bala, became the VC in the year 2020 to date, he has done nothing to improve the lives of students, workers and learning in general, other than being busy dissipating his energy on frivolities and witch-hunting the former VC.
A Yoruba adage says “All lizards lie flat on their stomach and it is difficult to determine which has a stomach ache”. Hausa adage says “the needle shall eventually dig out the hoe”. Another Igbo adage says “If the yam used in sacrifice does not die prematurely, it will eventually germinate”. The perpetrators must be finding a way to beg the accused to withdraw the case or else they will have to rip what they sowed and pay for damages after the determination of the suit already in court.
For those who think Professor Ibrahim Garba is locked up somewhere in Guantanamo Bay, the erudite Professor had since returned home. He remains resilient, more confident and optimistic than ever in the face of all these persecutions. Professor Ibrahim Garba is a world renowned professional and consultant geologist who has made his fortunes in his field of academic endeavor a long time ago, offering consultancy services to multilateral institutions such as World Bank and countries across Africa and the World. He remains one of the most resourceful, productive, hardworking and accountable V.C the institution has ever produced, had a smooth running of the in-house labour and student union of the university, infrastructural and educational development.
In conclusion, the EFCC needs to investigate properly and get the right people to answer questions regarding this particular case instead of subjectively or blindly jumping into conclusions. The hasty pictorial publicization of the matter in the EFCC website and trending in the social media has once again exposed the anti-graft agency flagrant abuse of rule of law, shoddy and unprofessional ways of doing things without regard to exhausting due process enshrined in constitution of the FRN and the universities extant laws. Furthermore, it has clearly exposed and confirm the EFCC’s lack of capacity for exhaustive investigations and due diligence for whatever reasons they might be holding in their chests. Nonetheless, that the publicization of the matter is tantamount to invitation for a “media
trial” ahead of “court trial” and negation of the supposedly “neutrality” that the anti-graft agency is supposed to not only maintain, but to exercise due diligence in its gathering of evidences to prosecute a case.
Thus, for choosing not to do the right thing or toil the path of law and justice, the anti-graft umpire has shown its vulnerability to be accused rightly or wrongly of bowing to the antics of mischief makers, propensity to biasness and perhaps playing the scripts of the petitioners and their sponsors. That is why, the anti-graft agency, often than not, losses cases in court trials on the ground of their poor handling of matters, overzealousness, shabby and hasty act to prosecute without exhausting due diligence.
Arising from this, one cannot therefore rule out the possibility of the public accusing the anti-graft agency of harassment and violation of the accused fundamental right in this respect and even to proceed further to allege that the possibility of antics and ploy to extort money from the accused for their selfish and primordial considerations, and nothing else.
In any case, as we passionately wait for the court process to unravel the truth in course of the trial and time, the allegations remain ‘allegations’ and will be biting hard in the figment of imaginations of the minds and hearts of blackmailers and the pull-down syndrome of some envious persons. To the Government, it must be told that it cannot use this drama to smear the good name of the entire University system through blackmail, unsubstantiated and frivolous charges that have not been tested within the confine of our university extant laws and statutory autonomy granted to it by the constitution.