The Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari is hardly out of the headlines. As the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, this is probably expected because he speaks for the entire 36 State governors on issues of collective concern. Last week, he was part of the seven governors that visited ailing President Muhammadu Buhari in London, and was handy to assure Nigerians that it is well with the President.
However, Yari is not often in the news for good reasons. In fact, he is now one of, if not the most accused, most controversial and most allegedly corrupt governor in the country. His latest controversy, observers say, may have possible negative impact on the image of Nigeria.
Few days ago, Mr. Richard Klosa, a German contractor and Managing Director of Connexx Plants Nigeria Limited disclosed that Mr. Yari owes him a sum of N195million in contract debts and has refused to pay. A development he explained had not only plunged his company into financial difficulties as he was being threatened by creditors, but also led to him developing high blood pressure.
Mr. Klosa’s company was in 2013, contracted by the Zamfara State government to install radio studio equipment at the Zamfara Radio and Television Station, Gusau, a contract initially sealed at N193.8million. But because the initial facility built did not have proper electrification system as well as air conditioning and earthing systems, the company had to, in addition procure and install the items upon the approval of the state’s Commissioner for Information.
This, Mr Klosa reportedly explained, was done in a space of two months because the governor wanted to commission the project on May 29, 2013 as part of that year’s democracy day events.
“We had to take loans for that. We had to use the parallel rate for the purchase of forex, complained to FGPC, Gusau, about the foreign exchange rate difference and we finished all assignments in record time, as we got ready in the night of 28 May 2013. A very successful commissioning took place the next day,” he was quoted to have said.
Having completed the project however, payment became a challenge. Mr Yari reportedly insisted that he didn’t have money to pay, and till this day, he hasn’t despite many promises and attempts by the German who has now proceeded to court.
The German embassy would eventually take up the matter. On February 23, the embassy wrote to the governor, but got cold shoulder. Few days ago, the embassy warned that Yari’s action could affect the country’s bilateral agreements with Nigeria, especially in the areas of defence, trade and investment.
Germany has had long standing cordial diplomatic relationship with Nigeria. In 2013, the country donated a whooping €32million (N1.2 billion) to assist Nigeria in its effort to eradicate polio and in December last year, it gave another €3million for the procurement of military hardware for the anti Boko Haram effort in the North East. More recently, the country’s Minister of Defence, Ursula von de Leyen delivered some military hardware and medical equipment to the Nigerian government through his counterpart, Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali.
The concern therefore, is whether the European country would because of Yari’s action, change her attitude towards Nigeria.
Prof. Fred Agwu Aja, a senior Research Fellow at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) offers his perspectives in a chat with Business Hallmark.
“Germany has bilateral relationship with Nigeria, as well as relates with Nigeria through the European Union. So there are many things to consider,” he says.
“In a way, the EU coordinates most of the bilateral relations of these European countries and the countries try to reconcile themselves within the EU framework. I think the German government may not be too reckless as to drive the matter to such a level that it becomes a diplomatic spat between the two countries. The two countries must be able to work round it in such a way that it will not lead to any issues.”
Prof Aja notes that although Nigeria is not a strategic partner of Germany or the EU as it mainly receives largesse from the union, it is unlikely that such matter will be allowed to escalate.
“I don’t see how such a thing will degenerate into a diplomatic row, they must first exhaust whatever instruments that applies to that contract. That’s the way things are done, it cannot just be any little misunderstanding that will dovetail into political crisis. It doesn’t happen.
“This is a business man in Nigeria; there is what we call local remedy. Like I said, there must be an agreement, there must be rules governing the contract. If he actually executed the project and the government was satisfied, then he has discharged his own part of the contract.
“So the option available to him is to go to court. If he goes to court, the Nigerian court will not allow injustice to be done to him. German government can only act if they have exhausted local remedy. When there is a court judgment, the governor must comply.”
He however observes that if the governor deliberately refused to pay, his action could constitute an embarrassment to Nigeria.
“There must be a reason why the Zamfara State governor refused to pay; that he doesn’t have money cannot be enough reason. If for no just cause the governor decides not to pay, that would be an embarrassment to Nigeria, and that’s not good for Nigeria’s image. He cannot just wake up and say he doesn’t want to pay.”
Recently, Yari was accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of stealing $3million from the N19million which accrued to Zamfara as part of the Paris and London Club loan refund to states. The anti graft agency had claimed that the governor was building a 100-room hotel in Lekki with the stolen funds, in addition to diverting N500million from the same source to pay off a loan of N800 million he had taken to buy a property in 2013.
The governor was also accused of pocketing N2.2billion from a sum illegally diverted into the Nigerian Governors’ Forum Account by the Federal Ministry of Finance, as well as diverting N19billion reportedly meant for “consultants” from the Paris club loan refund which was illegally paid into the account of the NGF (NGF) by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He has, however denied these allegations, threatening to sue the EFCC and its Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu.
“I am going to ‎write to the Federal Government that enough is enough; that either the EFCC does its work or we do a showdown with it,” he said in Abuja recently. “You can’t just because somebody wrote a petition, then you say you are working on it without doing your own due diligent investigation.”
Again, at the peak of the meningitis epidemic that killed nearly 300 people in his state between March and April, the governor caused national outrage when he bizarrely claimed that the menace was punishment from God to the people for turning their back on Him.
“What we used to know as far as meningitis is concerned is the type A virus. The World Health Organization, WHO, has carried out vaccinations against this type A virus not just in Zamfara, but many other states,” he had said.
“However, because people refused to stop their nefarious activities, God now decided to send Type C virus, which has no vaccination. People have turned away from God and he has promised that ‘if you do anyhow, you see anyhow’ that is just the cause of this outbreak as far as I am concerned. There is no way fornication will be so rampant and God will not send a disease that cannot be cured.”
The claim elicited condemnations from many, including the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II who took the governor and other consecutive Northern leaders to the cleaners at an event in Kaduna, accusing them of bringing underdevelopment to the region through their worldview.
Referring to Yari specifically, Sanusi had noted: “I’m sorry, but the current issue yesterday, if it is true what I read. Two hundred people die of meningitis in a state, the governor was asked and he said it is God’s curse on us for the sins of fornication, which apparently does not happen in America which is why they don’t have meningitis. What have we done as a people that simple things are mystified… These are medical issues, go and get vaccines.”
Not ready to back down, the governor in a response to the Emir, accused him of not living what he preaches, while insisting that meningitis was indeed a punishment from God.
“I stand by my words that if people do not change, God will not change for them.
Therefore, I will answer the Emir perfectly and give him the Quran content of the Hadith where I belong to and where I have my fact. We are not shifting anything; we are saying that the best way to go is taking medication.
“For instance, I made mention that in the past we have Type A, which vaccines have been brought and they have vaccinated over four million dozens since 2011.
“We are now having Type B and Type C which they don’t even know. At the Centre for Disease Control in Chicago where we get our vaccines from, they only have five million,” he said.

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