A Nigerian senator has explained that some of the items stolen from his house were bought with public funds by a government agency which handed it over to him for distribution.
Teslim Folarin, who represents Oyo Central in the Senate, said he had just ‘formally taken receipt’ of the items from the agency, which he did not name.
“For the sake of clarification, I have just formally taken receipt of the empowerment materials from a federal agency coordinating constituency projects for federal lawmakers,” the lawmaker said in his reaction to the looting of the property which he said included hundreds of generators, motorcycles and deep freezers.
Mr Folarin’s admittance brings to fore the discussion around constituency projects which many Nigerians including an anti-corruption agency, ICPC, believe is sometimes used for fraud.
Lawmakers insert the constituency projects in a federal budget proposed by the Nigerian president. They also ensure the projects are inserted in the budgets of cooperating federal agencies. Often times, the lawmakers are also believed to nominate contractors who execute these projects.
PREMIUM TIMES has extensively reported on how many of such constituency projects are not executed or partially executed despite the release of funds for them. ‘Empowerment projects’, such as that being underken by Mr Folarin are even more difficult to track as the exact number of beneficiaries and who they are are diffucult to trace. The ICPC called for the cancellation of such empowerment projects from the constituency projects and the budget.
Despite the criticisms, however, constituency projects are still the norm as lawmakers refuse to back down on them.
On Saturday, however, yet to be identified hoodlums stormed Mr Folarin’s house to steal the items.
The looting of Mr Folarin’s house is among several others across the country where hoodlums have taken advantage of the #EndSARS protest for police reform, to invade private and public property. Similar incidents have occured in Lagos, Osun, Kwara, Adamawa, Plateau and other states.
In his statement on Sunday, Mr Folarin, who chairs the senate committe on local content, said those who invaded his house were not #EndSARS protesters but ‘coordinated hoodlums.’
PREMIUM TIMES reported how some hoodlums in the early hours of Saturday stormed the residence of the former senate leader.
Mr Folarin, who is serving his third term in the senate, represented Oyo Central district between 2003 and 2011 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He was the Senate Leader between 2007 and 2011 but was re-elected a senator in 2019 on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Though Mr Folarin is believed to have many houses in Ibadan, his house where he used as his political headquarters at Oluyole area was the one burgled by the hoodlums.
A video seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed how some of the items were looted on Saturday.
The senator, in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yekeen Olaniyi, described the attack as “evil, barbaric and unfortunate.”
He commended the security agencies for their prompt response to the incident.
He added that he was surprised that some people are using #EndSARS protests to loot people’s property.
“The perpetrators of the invasion and looting were not #EndSARS protesters but coordinated hoodlums. They even broke down doors to rooms in the house to steal valuable assets. It was a pure daylight robbery.
“The actions of the hoodlums are condemnable and it is very disheartening that some bad elements in our society are hiding under the guise of #EndSARS protests to loot and disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in Nigeria.
“I thank God we did not record any fatality, despite the violent invasion of my Oluyole house, looted materials and vandalisation therein.”
The lawmaker then explained the source of the looted materials.
“For the sake of clarification, I have just formally taken receipt of the empowerment materials from a federal agency coordinating constituency projects for federal lawmakers. Also, I used my personal money to procure additional materials. I took stock of the materials ahead of a mega empowerment programme scheduled to hold in November 2020.
“Apart from the mega empowerment programme, I plan to commission projects spread across Oyo Central Senatorial District. Looted materials included over 350 motorcycles, 400 deep freezers, 350 generators, grinding machines, sewing machines, hairdressing and barbing salon materials, vulcanising machines and many more.
“As a leader and people’s representative, I have never and will never take our people for granted. Let it be noted that at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, I was the first political officer holder in Oyo State to support war against the deadly novel virus. On four occasions and on personal expenses, I did not only sponsor enlightenment programmes but also distributed palliatives to my constituents in Oyo Central Senatorial District.
“In fact, I extended my widow’s mite to thousands of our vulnerable citizens in Oyo South Senatorial district. Some weeks ago, I reached out to a few private school teachers who were affected by economic hardships, occasioned by the pandemic.
“I sincerely commend the civil and professional conducts of security personnel drafted to my house. They were tactical in their operations as no harm was done to the few people that were arrested with looted materials.
“For whatever that happened, I shall not be discouraged to continue to give excellent service delivery to the people of my district, Oyo State and Nigeria at large.
“I solemnly appreciate the support and sympathies of media houses, prominent Nigerians in Oyo State and across Nigeria, traditional rulers, religious leaders, groups and chieftains of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”