Most unfortunately, as humanity strives to halt the proliferating hazards of fake news, there are elements within the same humanity who, knowingly or unknowingly, engage in the promotion and sustenance of the fake news industry. Those who indulge in it knowingly are certainly motivated by desperation for mischief or to cause some chaos of which they would become the ultimate beneficiary.
Of recent, the Katsina state government has been at the receiving end of a string of vicious fake news through forged state government documents dripping with abominable falsehood. There is no doubt that the intent of the originators of the documents is to paint the state and its leadership with the tar brush of orchestrated embezzlement, mismanagement and corruption. Of course, the goal is to give the impression that the leadership of Governor Aminu Bello Masari is self-serving and in no way working to improve the lives of the people.
Alongside these spurious documents is a petition forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by Mahdi Shehu, a business man, alleging mismanagement of a whopping N52.6billion as security votes in five years in the face of mounting security challenge in the state. Shehu says the state government squandered the funds without achieving any meaningful outcome. This allegation, as well as sundry others, is false in its entirety.
But thankfully, the state has responded responsibly by rightly describing the N52.6b security expenditure as absolute falsehood, initiated and promoted by the petitioner for reasons best known to him. Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, the secretary to the Katsina state government, pointed out at a press conference in July that contrary to the petitioner’s claims the escrow account, which was initiated by the late former governor Umar Yar’Adua’s administration, had received only N6.4b since the Masari administration took office in May 2015. In fact, from records in the government’s financial profile, the total amount spent on security from May 29, 2015 to September 2020 is N5,085,714,929. So, we ask the petitioner: where did the N52.6b come from?
There are different verifiable documents on the security fund and its disbursement to the appropriate security personnel and agencies. In making sure it maintains the escrow account, a commendable decision by all standards, the Masari administration considered the meagre funds at their disposal and slashed quarterly contribution of state and local governments to N150m and N170m. Until June this year when a new account was opened with N4m, the state government had no transaction. All of this easily points to the fact that the petitioner’s claims are a figment of his imagination.
As a way of further straightening the records, it must be stated that in the list of the government’s alleged spending the expenditure referenced in the escrow account from January to April 2015 were made before Governor Masari assumed office. For instance, there are available documents to show that under his able leadership there has been a significant reduction in the amount disbursed as allowances of the 10 security operatives guarding Lambar Rimi windmill project since taking office in May 2015. And in any case, the allowances were stopped completely in August, contrary to claims by detractors that government resources have continuously been misappropriated through bogus disbursement of allowances to security operatives.
A careful study of Shehu’s petition shows that it is loaded with repetitions of entries that put a huge question mark on the total amount said to have been squandered by the current administration. For example, the petition claimed that the administration spent N780m on military operation during COVID-19 lockdown in August 2018. This a most ridiculous allegation because, as everyone knows, the COVID-19 pandemic only began to rear its ugly head in Nigeria in March 2020. This, again, is the best illustration of the petitioner’s utterly mischievous intent.
As earlier hinted in this piece, there are so many fake documents circulating in the public alleging one form of financial malfeasance or the other on the part of some Katsina state government officials. One such document went as far as alleging that N500m was released to the senior special assistant on political matters to sponsor APC Convention in Abuja. But the truth, going by available documents, is that such amount was never approved for that purpose and no such fund was approved for that office, whether in one fell swoop or in instalments. And to confirm that this allegation is false, the date on the document (May 29) is a public holiday and the charge vote 461218 belongs to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and not office of the political adviser.
Another fake document alleged that personal accounts were used to siphon money from state government accounts. How can this possibly be the case, when everybody knows that government does not pay money into accounts of individuals for services or procurement. Yet another wild claim alleged that N49b hotel bills was paid into the account of a political appointee. False. Truth is, no money was paid into the personal account of any appointee. The person in question has tendered his account statements and challenged anybody with contrary evidence to present it. The bills were cleared directly with the respective hotels.
The documents flying around alleging all kinds of fraud are all politically motivated and so do not deserve to be given the smallest atom of attention for no other reason than the fact that they are what they are: fake. All are concocted by desperadoes who are hell-bent on rubbishing the good work the Masari administration has been doing to uplift the state and its people.
Good thing is that the state is also not folding its arms and allowing these mischief makers have their way. Following in the footsteps of the robust, eye-opening clarification by the SSG, the state’s commissioner for information, culture and home affairs, Alhaji Abdulkarim Sirika, has alerted the public on the circulation of these documents which obviously the sponsors disingenuously presented as belonging to the state government. Only an unwary Katsina indigene would fall for the sponsors’ gimmicks.
Alhaji Sirika has also taken pains to counter the fake documents and put out a clearer picture of Masari’s government as one driven by not just the values of competence, but also of utmost integrity. It is just too obvious to any discerning observer of events in that state that these doctored documents turned facts on its head by referring to the expenditure of funds that the government doesn’t even have.
In their desperation to embarrass the government, they went as far as forging the signatures of key government officials, including that of Governor Masari. This is a horrific crime that the government cannot afford to ignore. Those who are behind this dangerous pastime of sowing the seed of discord and trying to cause disaffection in the state should be made to face justice just so the message can be sent to potential agents of destabilization, especially the purveyors of fake news, that there is no space for them in the Home of Hospitality.
Sadiq Abdulrahman, a financial analyst, writes from Katsina.
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