The man who until a few months ago was the leader of Nigeria’s 36 state governors now says ‘powerful forces’ are out to destroy him.
Abdulaziz Yari is not only a member of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, but was until May, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
As NGF chairman, part of Mr Yari’s role was to liaise directly with President Muhammadu Buhari on issues of controversy between states and the federal government. He was thus, arguably, Nigeria’s most powerful governor.
As Zamfara governor, Mr Yari challenged other powerful forces within his party to handpick his successor and other candidates of the party in the general elections in the state.
He thought he had succeeded when INEC declared his favoured candidates the winners of the governorship and legislative elections in Zamfara.
However, the Supreme Court thwarted his efforts and ruled that opposition candidates, separate from those of APC, be declared winners of the elections in Zamfara.
Three months after the Supreme Court judgment, Mr Yari now accuses ‘powerful forces’ of victimising him.
Mr Yari made the claim in a motion ‘ex-parte’ filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja demanding an end to the invasion of his residence by the EFCC.
As governor, Mr Yari enjoyed constitutional immunity from prosecution. Although governors can be investigated while in office, some anti-corruption activists have argued that there is a limit to which such investigations can go based on the immunity from arrest and prosecution granted by Section 308 of the Nigerian constitution.
Nigeria’s main anti-graft agency, EFCC, therefore, waited till Mr Yari left office, before carrying out a raid on his residence as part of a corruption investigation.
Mr Yari, whose residence was raided on August 5 by the EFCC, has now told the court that the raid was conducted without valid court orders. He wants the court to stop the EFCC’s ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud against him.
According to the motion filed by Mr Yari’s lawyer, Mahmud Magaji, and published by the News Agency of Nigeria, Mr Yari is accusing the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the EFCC of being tools for “vendetta and revenge” against him.
A 17-paragraph affidavit, deposed to by one Affis Matanmi, was attached to Mr Yari’s motion filed in court.
In the affidavit, the ex-governor alleged that “some aggrieved individuals who are very powerful” were using the AGF and the EFCC against him.
“These individuals thus decided to carry out a vendetta and revenge against the applicant including instigating the respondents against the applicant upon their spurious conclusion without evidence that he was guilty of corrupt practices as former governor of Zamfara and was in breach of the Code of Conduct Act.
He linked his travails to the Zamfara APC crisis and the Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court Ruling
The Supreme Court on May 24 nullified the candidacy of all APC members in Zamfara State after the court decided that the party failed to conduct valid primaries ahead of the 2019 election.
The court ruling resulted from a dispute between two factions of the party. One was led by Mr Yari and the other by a former senator from the state, Kabiru Marafa.
Following the conduct of a controversial primary election in which Mr Marafa lost his chance of becoming the state’s governorship candidate, the senator formed a parallel faction of the APC which approached the court with a complaint suggesting that the APC did not conduct valid primaries.
While the APC faction loyal to Governor Yari claimed it held congresses and had candidates, the faction loyal to Mr Marafa, insisted no primaries held.
The APC headquarters, which initially opposed Mr Yari’s stance, later said consensus candidates were adopted within the stipulated time and submitted the names of Mr Yari’s candidates to the electoral commission, INEC.
INEC initially refused to recognise the candidates but had to do so based on a court order.
The Marafa faction, including the senator and 139 others, filed a suit against the party.
That suit resulted in the Supreme Court judgment against the APC on May 24.
The court ruled that the APC did not conduct valid primaries in the build-up to the elections. It also decided that a party that had no valid candidate cannot be said to have emerged winner of the general elections.
The court also ordered that the candidate with the second-highest number of votes be declared the winner of all the elections.
The order resulted in Bello Matawalle of the Peoples Democratic Party emerging as the governor.
Mr Yari has now told the court that “after the decision of the Supreme Court, some aggrieved individuals who are very powerful decided to use agents of the 1st and 2nd respondents (AGF and EFCC) against the applicant.”
“This witch-hunt, is clearly politically motivated, baseless, and has been designed only to discredit and humiliate the applicant in a bid to decimate him politically,” the affidavit stated.
Mr Yari then asked the court to grant him some reliefs including:
“an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents from seizing, impounding, taking over, confiscating or otherwise forfeiting his assets and property wherever they may be located within Nigeria or anywhere in the world pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
“An order of interim injunction restraining the respondents from unlawfully interfering with his rights to sections 34, 35, 41 and 43 of the 1999 constitution until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An order of interim injunction restraining the agents of the respondents from freezing his bank accounts in Nigeria and or confiscating his immovable property anywhere in Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
The court presided over by Nkeonye Maha, adjourned the matter till August 30 after deciding that the respondents deserved to be heard in the matter.