I welcome everyone to this occasion.
Kogi State was created on 27th August, 1991 - a little over 25 years ago. 25 years ago, Dubai was a desert settlement in the middle of nowhere. Today, Dubai is a global megalopolis hosting some of the most advanced man-made technology and infrastructure on Planet Earth. Kogi State, on the other hand, still ranks low on the global development map, along with the rest of Nigeria.
In this time and age, it is unbelievable that we are still grappling with lack of every conceivable public infrastructure, unpaid salaries, benefits, pensions, gratuities, unpaid contractors, unfunded projects, inability to meet counterpart funding obligations to Development and other partners, to mention but a few.
When one looks at the list of unmet financial responsibilities above, the temptation is to conclude that Kogi State's problem is the funding gap, and that if more money were injected into the system, our problems would be met and we would be, if not a model society, at least a developed one.
That conclusion would be a total fallacy, for the simple reason that our previous leaders did not account properly for the money that we did get. While I am not saying that our state has made or received all the money she needs, I make bold to insist that our problem is not the LACK of money, but the THEFT of money. If what we did make or receive were used better this past 13 years, we would not have the current socioeconomic disaster on our hands.
Dubai did not start out with significantly more resources than Kogi State, except perhaps the honesty and patriotism of their human resources. While the leaders of Dubai got creative about changing their society for good, ours became exponentially proficient in short-changing their people in the worst ways possible.
They basically engaged in a zero-sum game of Shooting in which Corruption was their Sharp-shooter and the helpless populace their Target. For every kobo they hit, our people lost lives, opportunities, hopes, visions and dreams. The result is that in 25 years of existence, Kogi State is barely starting her journey to development. This is an atrocity and it should infuriate any reasonable person.
We cannot bury the years of accumulated theft by politically exposed persons in the faulty foundations they laid over the years. It is also not to disregard the accumulated hurt by the excluded citizenry, and pretend it did not happen, or that they will forget. That can only earn us a society festering with sublimated anger that will explode sooner than later with disastrous consequences.
“Any loss is a wound, and every wound can close and heal, but on one condition: that the injury becomes first opened. Nothing in the psyche can be closed before getting opened…” -Paul Claude Racier
We want to reverse corruption as a trend in this Administration. There must therefore be an accounting. A genuine effort at reconciliation through Justice is the only route to healing for wounded societies. Corruption has hurt more Nigerians than Apartheid hurt South Africans. It has killed more people in Nigeria than the Rwandans lost in the Genocide 21 years ago.
Anyone who takes a look at those two countries today will realize that by taking account of all parties, they took charge of their individual and national lives again, so that both victim and perpetrators today live together in one prosperous and progressive society.
We too must put our dirty linen out in the public, albeit in a controlled environment like the scrutiny of a Commission such as this one, subject it to cycles of cleansing in the washing machine of truth and bring out the stronger fabrics and brighter colors of a thriving society.
The Late Sage of Islam and founder of the Sokoto Caliphate said that, 'Consience is an open wound; only Truth can heal it'. We see this in the experience of those nations mentioned above. We too must treat Corruption as the Crime Against Humanity that it is and make those who have revelled in it pay the price. That is the only way we can heal. That is also the only reason I promised to set up this Commission of Inquiry in my Independence Day Speech, and why I am empaneling it today.
In that Independence Day Speech, I said as follows, and I still stand by it:
'To resolve the problem of underdevelopment in Kogi State, we need to resolve the problem of corruption…as part of our accountability project, we are empanelling a Judicial Commission of Inquiry…to look into the management of our finances by previous stewards…(dating) back to 2003 upwards…the Panel is not just to find what went wrong and recover what is missing or stolen but to assist us in fashioning institutionalized means of preventing recurrence. We want to inculcate a tradition of preventing theft, not chasing thieves.'
Accordingly, this Commission of Inquiry is set up pursuant to Section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Law Cap 25, Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963 (as applicable to Kogi State) to hold Inquiry into the conduct of officers in the public service, or any department of public service, or any local institution of Kogi State from the 29th day of May, 2003 to the 27th day of January, 2016.
The comprehensive Terms of Reference for this Commission of Inquiry cannot be simpler, or more direct. The lawyers have written it in some fancy grammar in your Letters of Appointment because that is how the Law requires it. Speaking in the lighter mood, I think lawyers are afraid that if they say or write things in straightforward language we will no longer see them as 'learned people' nor be willing to pay their huge bills.
In any case, I thank the Honorable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Kogi State and members of his team. They have captured the legal angles well. In my own understanding of the assignment I have given you, all you are to help us do is find out how our public monies were spent in the last 13 years, recover what is stolen and do justice to everyone and situation.
You must therefore read those Letters very carefully and agree to the terms of your appointment as we do not want any reluctance or hesitancy in execution. We believe we have chosen the Chairman and members of this Commission carefully and that you all collectively represent the right mix of integrity and competence for the job at hand.
This is not a license to witch-hunt or settle scores with anyone. Everyone must be accorded their due respect in line with the Laws of the Land. This is your chance to help this Administration put Kogi State firmly on the part to recovery, please do not allow or do anything to cast a pall of doubt over its impartiality or integrity.
In conclusion, let me say this is the spirit of change promised by APC at work. This is what President Muhammadu Buhari is doing in the Federal Government and it is what we will do in Kogi State. Some of our contemporaries may misunderstand our intents and purposes, but God is the Judge of all. We also trust that posterity will judge us better.
I pray for wisdom, knowledge and understanding from Almighty God to rest on My Lord, Honorable Justice Wada Umar Rano (RTD) and on each member of this Commission of Inquiry and to make them both fearless and forthright in the performance of their duties.
May God Prosper Kogi New Direction Agenda!
May God bless each and every one of us!
Thank you very much.
7th October, 2016