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Monday, July 15, 2024

Former El-Rufai commissioners reply Kaduna lawmakers over alleged N423 billion loan fraud

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Some former commissioners who served under former Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, have dismissed a probe of their administration by the state House of Assembly as an hatchet job.

The commissioners described the report of the probe as the outcome of a process motivated by malice and conducted with patent unfairness.

They said the document is “irredeemably riddled with falsehood, predetermined conclusions, and misrepresentation.”

The former officials spoke at a press conference in Abuja on Friday where they read a statement jointly signed by Jafaru Sani, former commissioner of Environment; Hafsat Baba, former commissioner of Human Services and Social Development; Umma Aboki, former commissioner of Planning and Budget Commission; and Bashir Sa’idu former commissioner of Finance; and former Chief of Staff.

They affirmed the integrity of their administration which they said impacted with innovations that accelerated the modernisation of Kaduna State.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the state House of Assembly adopted the report of its ad-hoc committee that indicted Mr El-Rufai and requested his prosecution.

The lawmakers accused the ex-governor of mismanaging about N423 billion from loans obtained for the state by his administration.

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The report alleged that the loans were not used for their intended purposes, and in some cases, due process was not followed in securing the loans.

Mr El-Rufai served as governor for two terms between 2015 and 2023.

Below is the statement by the former commissioners

This statement is issued as a preliminary response to the sensation-driven and fact-challenged claims made by the Kaduna State House of Assembly during its sitting on Wednesday, 5th June 2024 when it adopted a document titled “Report of Ad-hoc Committee on Loans, Financial Transactions, Contractual Liabilities and Other Related Matters of the Government of Kaduna State from 29th May 2015 to 29th May 2023”.

In spite of repeated requests and inquiries from us and various colleagues of ours, no certified true copy of this Report has been released to any persons who were mentioned in the report or who testified before the Ad-hoc Committee in response to its summons or who were indicted (some without ever being summoned or heard by the Ad Hoc Committee).

In the light of non-release to us of the certified copy of the Report, this statement relies on the documentreferred to above that began circulating on social media shortly after the Kaduna State House of Assembly adopted the said document on Wednesday, 5th June 2024.

We affirm the integrity of the Administration in which we served the people of Kaduna State between May 2015 and May 2023 under the leadership of Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai. In eight years, this Administration in which we were greatly privileged to serve impacted Kaduna State with innovations that accelerated the modernisation of the State, prioritised human capital development, expanded its infrastructure, improved its business standing, promoted equality of opportunity. During Malam El-Rufai’s tenure, his Administration, in spite of our State’s public safety challenges, was undoubtedly established as one of the best in Nigeria.

We dismiss this Report and the processes associated with it in their entirety. The Report is the outcome of a process motivated by malice and conducted with patent unfairness. It is irredeemably riddled with falsehood, predetermined conclusions, and misrepresentation.

The Report is bereft of rigour and accuracy and fails to demonstrate any understanding of the various matters it purported to investigate. The authors of this Report and their sponsors seem to have calculated that rigour is not required in a document whose purpose is to splash mud and smear reputations.

We shall exercise our right to defend our hard-earned reputations, but without prejudice to that day, we wish to rebut and refute the avalanche of dirty lies dressed up as a clean official report.

4The Ad-Hoc Committee concocted several claims, intended to grab headlines, which we challenge below:

a. Contrary to the allegations, we affirm that there is no basis for the wild claims about money laundering. This baseless allegation is the peak of the defamatory agenda to which the Ad-hoc Committee and the Kaduna State House of Assembly willingly lent themselves as spineless accomplices. It is crafted to sound weighty, but it is just hot air pushed out to excite passions and stoke outrage. Not a shred of evidence was produced by anyone before the Committee to justify this malicious claim that was plucked out of the air. Not a kobo, speak less of N423bn, was ever siphoned out of Kaduna State Government coffers during our tenure.

The Ad Hoc Committee indulged in voodoo accounting merely to concoct a scandal. We note that this same Kaduna State House of Assembly received and accepted the Audited Accounts of the State for each year from 2015 to 2022, but now wants the public to disregard the formal, legally and constitutionally recognised public accounts of the State in favour of its wishy-washy, malicious but incompetent and poorly calculated attempt at legislative character assassination.

The government of Malam Nasir El-Rufai inherited external debts of USD234m in 2015. It followed due process in securing its loans and the testimony of Aminu Shagali, who was the Speaker between June 2015 and early 2020 confirms this! To enhance the delivery of its progressive governance agenda for Kaduna State, the El-Rufai Administration approached the World Bank for credit.

The Board of the World Bank approved the credit in June 2017 as a Performance for Result (P4R) credit of USD350m. The conditions for the grant of this credit were entirely performance-driven. Kaduna State is so farthe only subnational in Nigeria that has received this kind of credit. ii) Like other loans raised by the El-Rufai administration, the USD 350m World Bank Performance-for-Result (P4R) loan was properly utilised in furtherance of the development of Kaduna State.

The documentation submitted in support of the loan application was subjected to the due scrutiny of the fiscal authorities of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the board of the World Bank. At theconclusion of the P4R programme which ran from 2017 to 2021, the World Bank rated its implementation as satisfactory. Among the most visible fruits of this loan are the massive infrastructure projects under the Urban Renewal Programme.

The Report put the foreign loan exposure of the State at USD578.14m but went on to attribute foreign loans amounting to over USD2bn to the El-Rufai Administration. It cited an XDR (World Bank Special Drawing Rights) 494.6m loan for the Agro-Climatic Resilience Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) programme, of which only USD2m was disbursed before 29 May 2023, and all of which was left intact for the incoming government; thereby simultaneously demonstrating ignorance of the nature of Special Drawing Rights and grossly exaggerating amounts disbursed to the State.

The report also listed the following loans totalling over USD600m that were secured, but with NOT A CENT DISBURSED June 2015 and early 2020 confirms this! To enhance the delivery of its progressive governance agenda for Kaduna State, the El-Rufai Administration approached the World Bank for credit.

The Board of the World Bank approved the credit in June 2017 as a Performance for Result (P4R) credit of USD350m. The conditions for the grant of this credit were entirely performance-driven. Kaduna State is so far the only subnational in Nigeria that has received this kind of credit.

Like other loans raised by the El-Rufai administration, the USD 350m World Bank Performance-for-Result (P4R) loan was properly utilised in furtherance of the development of Kaduna State. The documentation submitted in support of the loan application was subjected to the due scrutiny of the fiscal authorities of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the board of the World Bank.

At the conclusion of the P4R programme which ran from 2017 to 2021, the World Bank rated its implementation as satisfactory. Among the most visible fruits of this loan are the massive infrastructure projects under the Urban Renewal Programme.

iThe Report put the foreign loan exposure of the State at USD578.14m but went on to attribute foreign loans amounting to over USD2bn to the El-Rufai Administration. It cited an XDR (World Bank Special Drawing Rights) 494.6m loan for the Agro-Climatic Resilience Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) programme, of which only USD2m was disbursed before 29 May 2023, and all of which was left intact for the incoming government; thereby simultaneously demonstrating ignorance of the nature of Special Drawing Rights and grossly exaggerating amounts disbursed to the State.

The report also listed the following loans totalling over USD600m that were secured, but with NOT A CENT DISBURSED to the State before the exit of the El-Rufai Administration in May 2023:

  • USD280m for the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP)
  • USD150m for the Special Agro-Processing Zone (SAPZ)
  • USD130.7m for the Bus Rapid Transport System
  • USD62.8m for the Reaching out of School Children (ROOSC) Project
  • USD20m for the Livestock Productivity and Resilience Project (LPRES)

It is not too late for the current administration in Kaduna State to contract out of these loans since it has such aversion to borrowing. Other States in Nigeria may then be able to benefit from the same.

Projects Commissioned by the Present Administration We state categorically that practically every project initiated or commissioned by the current Administration in Kaduna State is based on programmes begun under the El-Rufai government, or whose funding was secured by that government.

This includes the Forensic Lab and some projects funded by development loans, like the construction of six Science Secondary Schools (Islamic Development Bank), reconstruction and expansion of secondary schools under the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment(AGILE)of the World Bank, revamping and equipping of 290 Primary Health Centres (World Bank P4R),or loans secured by the El-Rufai administration but disbursed to the State after its exit, like the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP).

How can the Kaduna State House of Assembly claim that the loans were not properly utilised when the projects for which they were obtained are the only things the current Administration has been able to show to the citizenry in the past year? Is it logical or credible to disclaim and ridicule loan-taking while basking in the projects paid for by these same loans?

Due Process in the Award of Contracts

Contract awards under the El-Rufai Administration followed due process in every case, in compliance with the Kaduna State Public Procurement Authority (KADPPA) Law. In the first term, the State Government spent heavily on publishing tenders in national newspapers. Single sourcing is part of the contracting options provided for in Section 59 of the KADPPA Law, 2016, as follows: a.Two-stage tendering b.Limited source tendering, c. Single source contracting d.Repeat orders e, Shopping; and, f. Negotiated ProcurementsThe Law also permits the award of multiple construction projects to a single company/contractor.

The El-Rufai Administration adopted the framework contracting model as an effective way of accelerating delivery by proven contractors and for the provision of continuous services, which method was repeatedly vindicated by the rapid pace at which projects were executed and commissioned.

6.The Deloitte Audit

In its quest for accountability and transparency, the El-Rufai Administration commissioned Deloitte to conduct a forensic audit of State Government accounts from 1999 to 2019, the end of its own first term that it had just completed at the time of commissioning Deloitte. The Deloitte forensic report was intended as an objective basis for internal corrective measures and to identify perpetrators within the government.

The report of the Deloitte audits, as standard practise requires, was subject to substantiation and validation by a committee set up by Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai to produce a White Paper on its findings. The Ad-hoc Committee did not undertake an in-depth and logical review of the administration’s financial records.Instead, it plagiarised the Deloitte audit without any even noting that its findings had not been validated.

The initial Deloitte audit also did not cover 2020 to 2023, so the assignment was extended to cover the period. We left office without receiving the updated Report and responses to the queries raised during its validation.The Committee’s shameless use of unvalidated Deloitte findings that were clearly still a work-in-progress introduces bias and undermines the credibility of their Report.

We note the Ad Hoc Committee’s Report’s silence about certain individuals mentioned in the Deloitte report, particularly those in positions such as the Commissioner of Finance, Accountant General, and Executive Chairman of the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) for the period 2015 to 2019. Some of these officials are still serving the current State Government in other roles. While it included the tenure of the Commissioner of Finance between 2015 and 2019 among their recommendations for further investigation, there is no evidence that the Ad-hoc Committee extended any invitation to him.

7. Observed conflicts of interest

While recruiting accomplices from the legislature, the authors of this plot failed to properly scrutinise willing candidates to avoid bias and conflicts of interest. They gleefully partook in “investigating” government agencies with which they are having or have had business dealings or tax-related issues. In certain cases, even after a potential conflict of interest had been pointed out, they did not bother to recuse themselves! We will be providing detailed information about the various conflicts of interest among the committee members but one of the most glaring is the fact that an active member of the Ad-hoc Committee, Barrister Mahmud Lawal Ismaila,is also a biological brother of Governor Uba Sani.

We reiterated that this statement remains a first response to the obtuse report issued by the members of the Kaduna State House of Assembly. At the appropriate time , every single allegation made in the report will be shown for what it truly is – a planned, greasy, and poorly hatched and incompetently executed efforts to manage our individual records and reputations along with that of one of the most capable and dedicated public servants in Nigeria.

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