Ripples as Kwara State strips Saraki of Alimi chalet

[FILES] Senate President Bukola Saraki PHOTO: TWITTER/ NIGERIAN SENATE


• It’s Not Business Of Legislature To Recover Property – Shittu
• We Cannot Continue Doing Things Old Way – APC

Two trending issues recently involving former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Kwara State government are those of the seizure by the government of Saraki’s sprawling house, code-named Alimi chalets at Government Reservation Area (GRA), Ilorin, and the alleged rejection by the state government of some instructional materials he donated to students of some primary and post primary schools in his constituency.

So viral were these reports that they have been generating ripples across the state and even beyond, sending both positive and negative reactions to the public on the stance of the state government and the purported humiliation of Saraki. 

It would be recall that Saraki, who had served the state as Governor for eight years, had through the sanctity of the state House of Assembly, announced some perquisites of offices for former Executive Governors and their Deputies.These emoluments, which were also extended to all his successors in office, especially, those who had spent eight years in office, were then seen as bogus and too exorbitant a luxury for the state to bear. 

Among others, these ex-Governors and their deputies were to be collecting their full salaries as if they were still in office, just as they would also retain all their domestic staff at the expense of the state government.

Although Saraki would later announce the suspension of the implementation of some of these post service allowances, his successor in office, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed was believed to have fully carried out the dictates of the enactments in favour of Saraki. The Alimi chalets was said to be a part of the jumbo packages under the extant laws. 

Besides, the ‘Ile Arugbo’ debacle alleged to have originally been the extensions of the state’s owned Civil Service Hospital, at Iloffa Road, Ilorin has also been in the news in the recent times. 

Ile Arugbo, a Yoruba coinage semantically referring to ‘the house of the aged ones’, was on several occasions used by Saraki as his political rallying point for his supporters. The square, adjoining the house of Saraki, was recently confiscated by the state House of Assembly, citing alleged wrongful acquisition of the land, measuring about two hectares. 

Efforts by The Guardian to make the Senior Officials at the relevant ministries to speak on the developments proved abortive as they cited Civil Service Rules forbidding such comments. The development has added to intriguing atmosphere of delayed confirmation of the list of commissioner nominees by the House.

However, the Chairman of the state’s chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engineer Kola Shittu said the acts are vindictive ones against Saraki and should not have been allowed in the first place. 

According to Shittu,  “it is not one of the duties of the state House of Assembly to begin to recover property. Primarily, the House should make laws for the people. Having said that, I want to say that if there was a policy that offered the house for sale and the former Senate President followed all the required rules on it, then why should he be castigated for it? 

“Then, what is wrong in a private person embossing his name or picture on instructional materials being donated to the students? We had seen this in some Nigerian states without much noise. I think vindictiveness is not necessary, we need to have grown beyond this by now.”

Sources said the school materials were rejected outright by the state Ministry of Education, noting that such ought to have been routed through the Ministry for assessment and their relevance gauged against the current curricular.  

However, interested parents and proprietors of some privately owned schools have been going to the Mandate Campaign House of Saraki, along Hajj Camp Road, Ilorin, to pick the instructional items.

Speaking on the development, the state Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bashiru Bolarinwa Omolaja, believed that the government would not fold its hands watching an individual turning its education ministry into a campaign or political arena. 

Bolarinwa said, “if you want to assist students with instructional materials, why should you put your pictures on such? We are politicians and we know the implications of this on the people. When Saraki was in power, who could have done this to his government without incurring his wrath? 

“Concerning the Alimi chalets, I think the press had acted too early on it. Why should the press be the advocate for Saraki on this?  If he has an issue against the House, he knows what to do now. We should stop this unnecessary distraction, but let us face the substance. We still have a long way to go.”
 
Already, the state Assembly had cautioned against attempts at preventing the need for probity and accountability in the act of governance when there was a need for one. According to Ibrahim Sheriff Special Assistant on Media to the Speaker of the House, Salihu Danladi, it was a well-considered and patriotic decision of the 9th Kwara State House of Assembly to direct the revocation of unlawful allocation of a public property with survey No. KWG. 927 and LAN/G. 1071 situated at Ilofa Road, Ilorin. 

Sheriff noted that the land,  “originally meant for the expansion of the Kwara State Civil Service Clinic and Phase 2 of the State Government Secretariat at GRA, Ilorin”, was wrongfully given to one Asa Investments Limited, “a company with no traceable registration document, on the 9th of May, 1991.”

He added that, “another earlier resolution of the House was to direct the state government to repossess the exquisite Alimi Chalet, which had been built with public funds for a different purpose but was unlawfully gifted to former Governor Bukola Saraki in violent violation of the Kwara State former Governors’ Pension Law 2010, as amended.

“For the purpose of setting the record straight and disabusing the minds of Kwarans and non-Kwarans alike, the Kwara State House of Assembly wishes to make the following points:

“We dare say that allowing impunity to stand, no matter who is affected and how long ago it had taken place, is a disservice to the state and its people. It would be a signal to those coming that impunity pays and would be allowed to stand.

“Now, apart from the fact that the sale of the Alimi Chalet did not conform to the Kwara State former Governors’ Pension Law 2010, as amended, which incidentally was the brainchild of Senator Bukola Saraki, we contend that there is no record anywhere that Senator Bukola Saraki paid a dime to have the property transferred to him. The transfer only fits into what the late Fela Anikulapo called ‘paddy-paddy’ arrangement.  The House Committee on Land Housing and Urban Development made its findings about the illegal acquisition of the Alimi Chalets and that, the Pension Law took adequate care of the former Governor. The pension law allows ex-governors a five bedroom duplex, as opposed to the Alimi Chalet, which consists of three (3) separate Chalets with 3 boys’ quarters of 3 rooms each, and therefore does not fit into the recommendation of the Pension Law of 2010. Also, aside from the 3 houses on over one hectare of land on Alimi Road that was supposedly given to Saraki under the State Pension Law, Senator Saraki also got N250 million under the same Pension Law to build another retirement home for himself.

“The said Alimi Chalet, which was gifted to him, is the property of the people of Kwara State and was never contemplated as a gift to former Governors. Should we allow such transfer of public property, built with taxpayers’ money for the use of serving officials, to individuals in the name of peace or a non-existent promise? There can never be peace without justice and fairness?”  

He continued: “On ‘Ile Arugbo. The said property was erected on a land earmarked in the State Government Gazette for the expansion of the Kwara State Civil Service Clinic and construction of Phase 2 of the Kwara State Government Secretariat. There is no record anywhere that a kobo was paid on the land by the Asa Investments Limited, the firm to which the land was transferred on May 9, 1991. 

“There is also no record that the owners of the said Ile Arugbo ever paid a dime to the government coffers. It was just a case of whimsical transfer of public property to individuals without any documentation or financial payment justifying such. We want to place it on record that this is only a part of efforts to return sanity to the state. We will be bequeathing a bad legacy to generations unborn if we ever close our eyes to such impunity in the name of politics.” 

Speaking on the instructional materials, an aide of the state Governor under anonymity said, “should the Ministry accept books not recommended too? I see that nobody is addressing this salient issue. It seems to me we are explaining away a decision by some persons to flout rules because that had been the trend in this part of the world. This won’t take us anywhere, I’m afraid.

“The Governor didn’t direct the withdrawal of the said books/purported lab equipment. I used ‘purported’ because I’m not aware science lab equipment were part of the package. The Edu Ministry/SUBEB did (direct the withdrawal).  Unknown to many people, the Governor is trying to let institutions perform their roles as expected of them. 

“He has given direction where necessary such as with cases affecting him personally. We are not saying it is perfect yet; but we are moving away from the past of rule of men. When the Ministry brought the idea of producing notebooks with his picture emblazoned on them, he told them he would take no such things because it is wrong as it gives the wrong impression that it had been paid for by him. 

“I think your conclusion about the government rejecting the materials wasn’t exactly correct or fair, sir. What the Ministry said (per their statement on the issue) was that the materials would be accepted only if the Mandate Office of Senator Saraki take those materials to the Ministry of Education/SUBEB in line with established protocols and take off the ‘political’ pictures where applicable. 

“There’s nothing extra ordinary about this. When, contrary to Governor’s position, the AMCOPPSS printed school registers with the Governor’s pictures, he ordered that the books be withdrawn from the schools and be rebranded properly.”Even though the next election year is still far away, the recent heated policies and reactions in Kwara State mat well be harbingers of what 2023 portend. 

In this article:
Alimi chaletsBukola Saraki
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