He may have left office, but the forces arrayed against him are not letting down going for his jugular and using him for a proxy war against the nation’s nu.ber two man, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
Immediate past Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, is still been fingered in a N40 billion Campaign Fund expenditure which his office says remain a phantom fund since no records show such an amount was disbursed from the prime revenue agency for the 20q9 national elections.
When the story first broke shortly after the elections, a renegade and former All Progressives Congress (APC) publicist, Mr. Timi Frank, said N90 billion was taken from FIRS to prosecute the elections. He named Osinbajo but provided no cpncrete evidence.
Late last week, public relations website, PRNigeria.com, affinated to security and defence sector, and reporting such matters ran an exclusive report on misappropriated FIRS funds used for elect6, but this time with a reduced figure of N40 billion, again quoting presidency sources, just like Frank did.
PRNigeria reports that top officials in the Presidency are said to be angry and unsatisfied with the explanations on how the fund was ‘shared,’ and vowed to punish other collaborators including a powerful figure within the same presidency.
It adds, “Also connected to the N40 billion sharing bazaar was the influential and powerful political gladiator in the Southwest who was said to have received a ‘paltry’ N3 billion which is less than 10 percent of the ‘campaign fund.’
“Already, some top management staff of FIRS have been arrested and are being interrogated on corruption allegations by anti-graft agencies.
“Some senior FIRS staff, about nine of them who were arrested in connection with the money are being interrogated by an anti-corruption agency.”
What the report did not say in black and white is that President Muhammadu Buhari’s man-Friday, Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are in a quiet battle of supremacy leading to the whittling down of the power and influence of the professor.
The battle reached a head over the manner of the removal of former Department of State Services (DSS) boss when President Buhari was in London for treatment.
The story goes that following the decision of the Vice President as Acting President to have Daura detained for sending state security operatives into the hallowed precincts of the National Assembly, Kyari was so flustered that he ran on foot after the vehicle driving Daura out of the fore-court of the seat of power.
Many knowledgeable in the matter insist that the acting presidential infraction has not been forgotten. Neither has it been or will it be forgiven.
Also, the strongman of South-west politics, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, was equally alluded to in the PRNigeria story.
It is believed that because of the interest of Tinubu in seeking to be President in 2023, he is watching the travails of Osinbajo from a distance unconcerned, more so when he perceives that his protège is himself showing interest in the number one office. One source said that the Yoruba elder may have heard how adversarial intelligence is been compiled against him by “his own boys for use against him”
So, the war against the number two citizen is multi-pronged, even from his own backyard.
It was gathered that it was only fitting, for now, for the FIRS alleged fraud to be used, and for Fowler to be the weapon.
But at the FIRS, with the departure of Fowler, a new drama is playing out with beneficiaries from him turning around to remove their toga of humility and prancing around knowing that someone from their geographical region is coming to take over. These beneficiaries are believed to be behind the rash of criticisms over Fowlers decisions, especially the appointment of Aina to act on til Mohammed Nami is cleared to take over.
Many are beginning to wonder if these men are not the ones false-feeding Fowler’s persecutors with information.
However, the FIRS, reacting to media reports of N40 billion leaving its purse for elections and its senior officials facing questions at an anti-graft agency denied that any of its Director was arrested.
It said in an information it sent out: “A so called national newspaper regurgitated the same untruth last week. Mr. Mohammed Auta, the Director of Finance attended the meeting of FIRS Management with union on Wednesday. He was in the office up till 5pm on Friday.
“Our entire receipt from FAAC for 2018 is about N100 billion.
“So its not plausible nor does it make sense to claim that he donated 40billion to a phantom campaign.
“Just how. What are the payments details like vouchers for this phantom claim.
“The story makes no sense at all.”
But an insider offers a dimension in his explanation: “On the face of it, it is just not possible for N40 billion to leave FIRS. How, from where? It can only be from contracts, but the capital expenditure of the Service is not up to half of that figure. The only other way is to ask a huge tax payer to offload its remittances somewhere and a maze of transactions is used to cover up. But even that could not have been done without detection by other agencies of government.”
The FIRS explanations, notwithstanding, there are those who continue to wonder whether all the smoke is artificial and not coming from a real fire. Time, ambitions, and circumstances will tell.
For now, with some of its chieftains facing trial over campaign funds in 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not want the story to go away. It is insisting on a probe, and its spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, has been shouting himself hoarse on it.
According to Ologbondiyan; “The PDP holds that in a nation battling the scourge of corruption, misrule, huge unemployment, unprecedented infrastructural decay, insecurity, hunger and untold hardship, such a humongous allegation must not be allowed to go under the usual APC carpet
“Our party submits that since the APC has been overtly indicted, it should come clean by refunding the N40 billion to the public coffers from where it should be channeled to job creation projects without further delay.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note how the APC and its Federal Government have failed to account for various pillaging of public funds under the Buhari administration, including the N14 trillion stolen through various phony contracts in the NNPC as well as direct drawings from other government agencies such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
“The PDP notes that if the trillions of naira stolen and stashed away in private purses of APC leaders are recovered and directed to development projects, our nation will not be in its present sorry state under the Buhari administration,” Ologbondiyan insists.
But Ologbondiyan’s opposite number in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, thinks all the hullabaloo is a waste of energy and hogwash.
Evidently not wanting his party also tarred with the brush of dipping its hands into the public till for elections, like its predecessor, Issa-Onilu said the “baseless allegations…is an unintelligent and crude attempt at a smear campaign. Only the sponsors of the report believe their tales.”
He adds, “The matter of dipping hands into public coffers as a matter of official policy ended with PDP. We recall that leaders of the PDP had contemplated changing the name of their party at a time because they were ashamed of their own record of sleaze.
“We however refer the PDP and co-peddlers of falsehood to the records of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) in terms of Cost of Collection accruing to FIRS and indeed the FIRS statement on the subject matter.”