Former governor of Adamawa State, Bala Ngilari, convicted and jailed for corruption recently, is now facing allegation of forgery.
Nigerian Prison authorities said Mr. Ngilari tabled a fake letter purportedly from the Prisons Service, alleging ill health, in order to regain freedom after being sentenced without option of fine, to five years in prison, by a Yola High Court.
Justice Nathan Musa convicted Mr. Ngilari on March 6 for failing to adhere to the procurement laws of the state when he served as governor.
He found the former governor guilty of four charges, and discharged him on one, which bordered on conspiracy.
Anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had charged Mr. Ngilari and two others for awarding N167 million contract without due process.
The judgment is the first since 1999 in which a former civilian governor is sent to prison without an option of fine.
However, Justice Musa on Monday granted bail to the convicted governor on health grounds, but an official in the prison services in the state said the letter used by Mr. Ngilari, to secure bail was forged.
Grace to grass
Mr. Ngilari, a lawyer, was not much known in Adamawa politics until he was elected to represent Michika/Madagali//Maiha Federal Constituency in 2003.
Before then, he was based in neighbouring Borno State, where he had his law chamber.
Before his election into the House of Representatives, Mr. Ngilari also served as a member of the Constitutional Conference between 1994 and 1995, and was a member of the Human Rights Violation Investigation Committee, popularly known as Oputa Panel, created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Ngilari won re-election into the House of Representatives in 2007, but former Governor Murtala Nyako picked him as his running mate in the 2007 governorship election in the state.
The Nyako/Ngilari team won the election and Mr. Ngilari became the deputy governor of Adamawa State.
They won re-election in 2011,/but Mr. Nyako got into trouble with the State Assembly, leading to his impeachment in 2014.
The speaker of the State Assembly, Ahmadu Fintiri, later took over as governor, claiming Mr. Ngilari had resigned to avoid being impeached alongside his principal.
When the lawmakers declared his office vacant on July 15, 2014, Mr. Ngilari approached a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja challenging the legality of his “resignation”. He asked the court to declare him governor because his resignation did not follow due process.
Mr. Ngilari argued that the law required him to resign by submitting his letter of resignation to the governor, not to the speaker of the state Assembly, as was the case.
The High Court ruled in his favour and declared that his resignation was not in line with the Nigerian constitution.
The court declared that the speaker, Mr. Fintiri, should vacate office, while Mr. Ngilari be sworn in to continue Mr. Nyako’s tenure.
Mr. Ngilari therefore competed the tenure of Mr. Nyako and led the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to lose the governorship election in 2015 to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Trouble started for Mr. Ngilari when he was first picked by the EFCC on June 16, 2016 for his alleged role in the distribution of N450 million for the re-election of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Ngillari was subsequently detained at the Gombe zonal office of the EFCC.
His detention followed information provided by a former Nigerian ambassador to the U.S., Hassan Adamu, who told the EFCC that when the chairman of PDP in Adamawa, Joel Madaki, and himself took custody of the money from Fidelity Bank, it was taken to the government House in bullion vans by officials of the bank.
Mr. Adamu also told investigators that the chief of staff to Mr. Ngilari, Alhaji Hamman, and the accountant to the government house, Aisha Waziri, counted the money and confirmed the figure.
“The duo became custodians of the fund based on the directive of their boss, the governor,” Mr. Adamu said.
The EFCC arraigned Mr. Ngilari on September 21, 2016 before Justice Nathan and charged him for violation of procurement laws in the award of contract of N167 million to El-Yadi Motors Limited for supply of 25 units of operational vehicles (Toyota Corolla).
The Commission had instituted a 19-count charge against Mr. Ngilari, his former Secretary to the State Government, Ibrahim Welye, and his former Commissioner of Finance and Budget, Sanda Lamurde.
The EFCC also accused them of conspiracy, lack of “No Objection Certificate”, no competitive bidding and others in procurement process.
The Court, the following day, granted the former governor bail along with his administration’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Lamurde.
Mr. Musa granted Mr. Ngilari bail in the sum of N100 million.
While in EFCC custody in Gombe, Mr. Ngilari reportedly fell ill and was hospitalised.
He told PREMIUM TIMES in June 2016 that EFCC operatives “rushed him to the hospital” where he spent one day on admission.
Mr. Ngilari also said although he was treated well by the EFCC, the commission’s detention facilities needed to be upgraded.
“I should have had my pictures snapped when I was in that cell because it would have been a good memoir, that I would anchor in my life for my children yet unborn, for my grandchildren yet unborn to see and juxtapose the picture against the fact of what truly happened.
“All I’m saying is that, a lot can be done to make the place more habitable, I don’t blame the EFCC for that, it could be as a result of paucity of funds but I believe the place can be made more habitable,” Mr. Ngilari said.
The former governor also said external forces were responsible for his ordeal with the EFCC.
“Well, whatever it is, whoever might have been responsible, I don’t put the blame on the EFCC, but I do know that there are other forces, I have forces in Adamawa, who never wished me well, they are there, it is a notorious fact that they are there, who would do anything to bring me down, even to the point of threatening to kill me,” he said.