A former Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Finance, Hon. Adeniyi Fabikun, in this interview with Sunday Aborisade, absolves his colleagues of any wrong doing for clearing the certificate forgery allegations levelled against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 poll, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, when he was the state governor.
Fabikun: Lagos Assembly Cleared Tinubu of Certificate Forgery Based on Evidence Before It
A former Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Finance, Hon. AdeniyiFabikun, in this interview with Sunday Aborisade, absolves his colleagues of any wrong doing for clearing the certificate forgery allegations levelled against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 poll, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, when he was the state governor.
There was an allegation that the Lagos State House of Assembly was complelled to investigate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s alleged certificate forgery when he was governor. As a member of the parliament then, is it true?
We were not compelled by anybody. Nobody coerced us to do so. As a matter of fact, there was no formal petition before the legislature on the matter until we took it upon ourselves when the issue was being discussed on the pages of newspapers. A member, during plenary, drew the attention of the then Speaker to the issue and there was a resolution that the matter must be looked into, dispassionately.
A committee was subsequently set up to look at the whole issue. The panel met, did a thorough job and after some weeks, submitted its report which was considered at the Committee of the Whole House. Having painstakingly considered the report based on the steps taken by the panel to arrive at the conclusion, the Lagos state House of Assembly gave AsiwajuTinubu a clean bill of health and he was exonerated of any wrong doing.
But why did Tinubu refuse to submit his primary and Secondary School certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission if he has nothing to hide?
It will be foolhardy for anybody to think or insinuate that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu did not go to school. Whoever is saying that, knows nothing about the APC candidate.
Were you personally convinced that the Committee set up by the House really did a thorough job in its investigation?
I can categorically confirm that the committee did a thorough job based on the report it submitted and considered by the House. I saw all the certificates he presented. He even had a Second Class Upper Degree Certificate at the Chicago State University. I saw the photocopy of the certificate. He read Bsc.Accounting.
Are you saying that the panel was not teleguided to arrive at the conclusion which exonerated the former governor?
No. Nobody teleguided the Committee. I can confirm to you that we were not coerced. Even after the investigation, some people were insinuating that we had been bribed but there was nothing like that.
How will you defend the allegation that the governor converted your official residences to your personal apartments to compensate you for the job done
There was nothing like that. I can provide the receipt with which I bought my own when we were given the option of first refusal based on a federal government monetisationpolicy which was replicated in the state. The houses we bought was not a bribe from the executive. Due process was followed.
Are you now saying that the report of the House of Assembly which exonerated Tinubu is enough to lay his alleged certificate forgery to rest, once and for all?
As a parliamentarian, I know that the issue of educational requirements or qualifications to contest election in Nigeria is the easiest to comply with. I have the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the 2010 Electoral Act, also as amended and I can tell you that the provisions there adequately enables Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to contest the presidential election. The educational requirement is a school certificate or it’s equivalents, which in fact, includes, ability to read and write. Even, if anybody can come out to testify that the man can read and write, he is already qualified. His certificates is not an issue at all. From what the committee presented to us, he had the requisite certificates to contest any election in Nigeria.
Did the Committee actually travel to the schools that Tinubu claimed that he attended, for proper verification of his claims?
I was not a member of the committee. I can not also confirm that now, whether they actually travelled to carry out physical assessments at the schools.
Are you saying that the committee in its report, did not explain how they arrived at the conclusion? Didn’t they indicate that they travelled to the schools to verify the claims presented to them?
The committee explained in the report, every step they took, in arriving at their conclusion. That of physical assessments of Tinubu’s schools could be part of it. I can’t remember right now it was a long time ago but I’m sure they did everything they were supposed to do as a committee. That was why the Whole House adopted the Panel’s report and passed it.
Another allegation against the Committee on Finance which you chaired at that time, was that you approved the Alpha Beta Company, allegedly owned by Tinubu, to be the sole tax consultant to the Lagos State Government. What is your reaction to this Sir?
I am not aware that there was such request for approval from the executive. I was the Chairman of the Finance Committee then and nothing like that came to my table. The Lagos State House of Assembly did not approve any tax consultant to the state government because we were not meant to carry out the functions of the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Are you saying the executive could take such critical decision without the approval of the Parliament?
I actually don’t know anything about that. But in any case, are you insinuating that the executive should seek that approval of the Assembly before employing consultants to assist it, in its internal revenue drive? If the executive have a policy to improve the revenue of the state, they have the right to hire any consultant, qualified enough to handle it. What matters is to see an improvement in the revenue generation. I doubt if it is the duty of the parliament or any of its Committee to approve tax consultant for the executive arm of government.
As the Chairman of the Finance Committee, did you receive any petition asking your panel to probe the ownership of Alpha Beta Company, why it was hired as a sole consultant and the terms of agreement reached between it and the state government?
I didn’t see anything like that at all. When Asiwaju Bola Tinubu became governor and I was Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, there were lots of innovations and improvements in the state Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The state introduced for instance, the issue of online payments as against the use of cash to remit government levies, taxes and dues which actually blocked a lot of loopholes. This led to a tremendous improvement in the state’s revenue. That is why I believe that if AsiwajuTinubuis given the opportunity to rule Nigeria, he would introduce modern innovations that would turn the nation’s poor financial status around. He has the capacity, experience and political will to make Nigeria to generate 10 times of what the nation is currently achieving.
Administering a state may be easier than the federal government because of certain factors including the National Assembly…..
Are you saying the National Assembly members are enemies of progress? Are you saying they won’t support any innovation that would improve the revenue of the government? I don’t think they would do that because they also want better things recorded during their tenure as Senators and House of Representatives members.
What of the issue around his health? Many people believe that he is not agile enough for the office…..
Asiwaju himself has said that he doesn’t need to carry out manual labour that require deploying physical energy before he could administer the country effectively. Asiwaju possesses tremendous intelligence and could identify the intellectuals like him to appoint in the right places and provide adequate supervision and monitoring of their activities. He would assemble the best brains into strategic positions that require professionals and after the first four years, Nigerians would beg him to run for a second term.
Do you honestly think he could get the mandate of Christians because he picked another Muslim like him as a running mate?
Two major factors drawing Nigeria back as a nation is ethnicity and religion. By the grace of God, the moment Asiwaju becomes president, issues and religion being used by politicians to divide us, would be a thing of the past. I am a Christian and I don’t have any issue employing any qualified person, based on his or her religion or even ethnicity. My concern is to hire someone who has the competence, adequate training and experience to do my job. For instance in the South-West geopolitical zone, there is hardly any house that you won’t find both Christians and Muslims. We don’t have any issue with religion as a people. It is high time we do away with religion and ethnic sentiments in our polity. We needed to start from somewhere and that is what Asiwaju has been bold enough to actualise.
As a chieftain of the APC who also played a major role in the installation of President MuhammaduBuhari in 2015, don’t you think the poor performances of his regime so far would affect the chances of Tinubu and the party in the next year’s presidential election?
The APC met a country which was about to collapse when President MuhammaduBuhari was sworn-in in 2015. The measures he introduced did not go down well with some people who were expecting that the old ways of doing things must continue. Thank God for the level that Buhari has taken it to now. I am sure that by the time AsiwajuTinubu takes over and inject his own ideas and innovations, the country would definitely move forward. There is no doubt that Tinubu and the APC have a lot of projects to campaign with, starting from the federal to what has been happening in Lagos State since 1999 to date. All our people who are currently running abroad would return home when Tinubu takes over government next year. We witnessed the same thing when he became the governor of Lagos State in 1999. Lagosians in the Diaspora were voluntarily and willingly, relocating to Nigeria when they saw the innovations which he introduced into governance.
Why is AsiwajuTinubu, unlike his counterpart in Labour Party, Peter Obi, not travelling abroad to seek the support of Nigerians in the Diaspora ?
Many Nigerians in the Diaspora would relocate to Nigeria when AsiwajuTinubu becomes president. When he was elected governor of Lagos in 1999, people like Olayemi Cardoso, OlawaleEdun who were global players in the economic sector, qualified enough to be Wold Bank President, had to relocate to Nigeria to work with Tinubu. If they agreed to work in Lagos then, and the strategy they put in place then, shot the Internally Generated Revenue of the state from N600m to it’s present N50bn. Give him another opportunity, Nigerian economy would improve tremendously.
Some people are saying Tinubu would impose multiple taxation on Nigerians just the way he did in Lagos. What’s your reaction to this?
Taxes collectable by the federal, states and local governments have been clearly stated in the laws guiding tax collection in Nigeria. Tinubu was not the one that introduced taxes to Lagos, he didn’t go beyond what the tax law stipulated. The Federal Inland Revenue Act which was recently amended had been approved by the Joint Tax Board.
What is your opinion about the issue of Value Added Tax? Should it’s collection be decentralized as being advocated by the Lagos and Rivers State governments?
Our major problem in Nigeria is that we allow sentiments to becloud our sense of reasoning. The reason the VAT law had not been amended in the National Assembly is purely based on sentiment that Southern states would earn more than northern states if VAT collection is decentralized. Why should the Federal Government be collecting VAT in a federation? We still held on to the draconian decrees imposed on Nigeria by the military. Why are we spending the tax collected in Lagos on the entire country? States should collect VAT while remitting part to the federal government.
Is the Obidient movement not a threat to the Asiwaju’s 2023 presidential bid?
I am a practical politician. I know how things work in the grassroots. I can tell you that Obidient movement will soon fizzle away. I am not taking them seriously. People are already used to political party structures and ways of doing things. The Obidient movement is meant to waste the votes of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 general elections. Obi’s vote won’t affect the APC. If it is the Students Union elections we are holding, I can assure you that Obi will win.
Are you saying supporters of Obi are not voters?
Many of them are not geniiuine voters. They are sympathisers. Many of them are not even in the country but shouting on the social media. Most of them would end up voting for the candidate of another party.
Will you say Tinubu would win the South West with a landslide?
The South West geopolitical zone on its own is a nation. An average South West people will look at the issue objectively and make up their minds on the best person for the job. The Late Chief ObafemiAwolowo won the hearts of the Yoruba because of the legacy projects and policies executed when he was premier of Western region. The same thing the Yoruba are doing to Asiwaju because they have seen what he has done in Lagos State. The fact that Tinubu got successors who carried on with the Masterplan he developed for Lagos State. The Masterplan was developed by Tinubu from when he was elected to the time he was sworn-in.
Are you not worried that Afenifere, the authentic voice of the Yoruba is supporting the candidate of the Labour Party who is an Igbo?
I have tremendous respect for elders. The Afenifere of the days of the Late Chief ObafemiAwolowo is different from the ones we have today because of timing. Chief Ayo Adebanjo at over 90 is only airing his views and they are personal to him. A governor from the South East has said the Igbo man would emerge president only when their people have been able to make peace with the other regions of the country. I am sure that the Yoruba are not in agreement with the views of Baba Adebanjo on the 2023 presidential election. Nevertheless, we respect him as our leader.
What are the chances of the candidate of the PDP, AlhajiAtikuAbubakar, in next year’s presidential election?
Atiku will be the first runner up to Tinubu in the next year’s election. Tinubu is far ahead of Atiku.
There are fears that some northern APC governors currently supporting Tinubu would soon defect to PDP and work with Atiku…
There are changes in the perception of our people across the country. We believe that the round peg should be put in the round hole. We are looking for the person who will solve Nigeria’s problems. The northern governors want power shift to the South, they can’t go back to support injustice being perpetrated in the PDP. They had already made up their minds.
Culled from THISDAY