The presidency, yesterday, described the Edo State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, as a mere suspect in a corruption case who was never convicted.
The clarification was made in reaction to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which condemned the endorsement of Ize-Iyamu by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, saying he is standing trial for alleged looting of N700 million..
The presidency, however, maintained that though Buhari saw corruption in his government as well as the previous administrations, he remained steadfast in his determination to fight sleaze.
But PDP said it was a somersault for a government claiming to be fighting corruption to turn around to endorse a corruption suspect. The party said defence of Ize-Iyamu, was an admission of the graft charges.
Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said PDP had no moral right to puncture the anti-graft war of Buhari’s administration. Shehu said PDP was serious with its claim, it should first withdraw the nominations of some of its serving governors and senators, who were standing trial for corruption and yet secured their party’s tickets that brought them to power.
Shehu chronicled corruption allegations against two PDP governors and the statuses of their trials in the courts. He challenged the party to withdraw their nominations before condemning the endorsement of Ize-Iyamu or keep quiet.
He stated, “Let PDP first withdraw the governorship nominations it gave to Ahmadu Fintiri and Bala Mohammed of Adamawa and Bauchi states, respectively, before it opens its mouth and talk on the efforts of this administration in fighting corruption. Or, it should shut its mouth forever and leave us to do what it dares not attempt.
“Both PDP governors were actually on bail from the criminal trial on several counts of fraud and embezzlement. “Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, July 1, 2016, granted bail to the former acting governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri. He was charged on June 30, 2016, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alongside his company, Mayim Construction and Properties Limited on a five-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N2.9 billion.
“In the case of Bala Mohammed, the PDP governor of Bauchi State, the EFCC, on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, arraigned the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, before Justice A. M. Talba of the Federal Capital Territory, High Court sitting in Gudu, Abuja, on a six-count charge bordering on abuse of office, false declaration of assets and fraud to the tune of N864 million.
“Bala, while in office as minister, allegedly received N550 million as bribe from Aso Savings and Loans Limited with respect to some properties in the Asokoro area of Abuja. He is said to have corruptly abused his position as Board Chairman of Aso Savings by allocating four numbers fully detached duplexes and 11 numbers semi-detached duplexes valued at N314 million through the Presidential Taskforce on Sale of Government Houses, to himself.
“The former minister is also accused of making a false declaration of his assets.”
Shehu said Ize-Iyamu was only standing trial for corruption along with some current leaders of the PDP in Edo State. He said as long as the APC candidate had not been convicted by any court of competent jurisdiction on any of the charges, he remained a mere suspect.
The presidential spokesman stressed that if PDP believed Ize-Iyamu was guilty as charged, it should lead by example by first withdrawing the nominations of its elected representatives, including senators standing trial for corruption.
Shehu stated, “Pastor Ize-Iyamu is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside Lucky Imasuen, former deputy governor of Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih, PDP Chairman in Edo State, and other leaders of the party in the state, Tony Aziegbemi and Efe Erimuoghae.
“Under the country‘s laws, only the courts can convict. A suspect remains a suspect until conviction. But, if in the view of the PDP, a suspect is guilty as charged, then they must show examples by withdrawing the nomination of their governors and the party’s numerous senators and other legislators standing trial in various courts of the country.”
He alleged that PDP had destroyed the economy for 16 years and had no moral right to criticise the current government of Buhari.
Shehu said regarding PDP, “A party which, 16 years in office destroyed the country’s economy and infrastructure has no moral authority to criticise the accelerated infrastructure development drive, largely drawing its energy from the Buhari anti-corruption campaign.
“A government that sees corruption in the past administration and sees corruption in its own administration, and fights it with equal gusto, cannot be placed on the same scale with those who, by their words and deeds said corruption is a way of life and Nigerians should learn to live with it.”
He added that the clean-up exercise of the current government would accelerate the on-going trials and investigations, adding that the government would not be distracted from its anti-corruption effort.
Shehu believed, “This clean-up drive by the President Buhari administration will only speed up with the on-going investigations and trials. The current administration’s cleansing exercise of the government, politics and economy in line with the zero tolerance for corruption, will not be distracted.”
But PDP insisted that the president’s response to the corruption charges against Ize-Iyamu was admitting that the APC candidate was corrupt as alleged. It said the response also reinforced allegations by the sacked national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, that the APC candidate was a person of questionable character, who was unfit to hold office as governor of Edo State. National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the president’s defence and endorsement of a person it was prosecuted for corruption had confirmed that it was not fighting corruption, contrary to its promises, but had become a safe haven for corrupt persons.
Criticising the presidency for referring to unrelated cases and struggling to justify its widely condemned endorsement of an individual it was prosecuted for corruption, PDP stated, “By its response, the Buhari Presidency has turned itself into a defender of corruption and advocate for persons charged for corrupt acts in our country.
“Yet, this is the presidency that claimed to have zero tolerance for corruption; pretended that it cannot eat with corrupt people with the longest of spoons, only to be found struggling to justify why it is swimming in an ocean of corruption.”
Beyond the case in court, PDP stressed, “This is an individual that APC’s former national chairman had openly described as a thief, treasury looter, acid bather and who, according to Oshiomhole, is only fit for ‘night meetings’ and not for the position of the governor of Edo state.”
PDP said such stance by the Buhari presidency was an assault on the sensibilities of the people of Edo State, who had openly registered their rejection of Ize-Iyamu.
“Our party notes the absence of President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other top officials of the APC administration at Ize-Iyamu’s campaign flag-off, apparently, to dissociate themselves and the government from his baggage of corruption allegation,” Ologbondiyan stated. “This last-minute stunt has exposed the pretence of Buhari Presidency towards the fight against corruption and further exposed Ize-Iyamu as described by Oshiomhole.”
PDP claimed the people of Edo State had already made up their minds to re-elect Governor Godwin Obaseki, come September 19.