By Adeniyi M. Wale
Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, a serving senator from Taraba Central is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Duties. But the lawmaker did not appear to have been pleased with a committee many would regard as an afterthought, just to accommodate one of the ‘boys.’ Senator Yusuf wanted the Chairmanship of the Senate committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, which is currently headed by the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani.
Although he could not get to be picked as chairman of the committee, Yusuf lobbied desperately to be included in the committee on banking. He did not do so because he wanted to make good laws that would impact the country’s financial system. No! Yusuf was desperate because he had seen an opportunity he could exploit to personal benefit.
His wife Maryam, is one of the top guns at the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), and one of those who could move up to the position of the Managing Director/CEO of NIRSAL when the current holder, Aliyu Abdulhameed ends his tenure by December this year.
Senator Yusuf, who holds a master’s in economics, knew that his wife would be in contention for the top office by end of the year and he wanted to be in a position of influence to tilt things towards his wife.
Yusuf must have known, or his wife must have informed him that the current MD/CEO of NIRSAL, is entitled to a tenure renewal and could be a stumbling block to the aspiration of his wife. Not only had Abdulhameed performed well, but insiders believe he has been able steer NIRSAL towards sustainability over the past four years having pioneered NIRSAL from ground zero to become a household name in not only Nigeria but across Africa.
But the senator is determined to clear the way for his wife, no matter what stands in the path and even if it means bringing down the institution to prove that the current management is incompetent and corrupt.
It is not surprising that some online media reports attacking the integrity of the management of NIRSAL have thus emerged. The reports have accused the management of embezzlement of funds and general mismanagement without any evidence of malfeasance beyond dropping names of their targets. One of such reports alleged that the management misappropriated a whopping N342 million Anchor Borrowers Fund released by the CBN, when the said fund was still in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to insiders, other falsehood sponsored against NIRSAL to give the management an unfavorable public perception includes allegations that children of the MD are the sole contractors of NIRSAL and that the company does not keep proper record of income and expenditure. The attacks went on for too long last year, forcing the management of the institution to write rejoinders to correct the misinformation.
In a statement around October last year, Anne Inugba, Head, Corporate Communications stated: “Over the past few weeks, there has been an intensification of longstanding attacks against NIRSAL and its current management by entrenched interests and other hostile elements who do not mean well for the country.
“The obvious objective of the campaign is to halt the momentum of progress that NIRSAL, working with public and private sector partners, is making in transforming the Nigerian agricultural economy in order to boost productivity, food security and the welfare of the teeming millions of smallholder farmers around the country. …The attacks are also characterized by desperate effort to distort and misrepresent NIRSAL’ mandate, role and achievements.”
Perhaps, not surprising, these reports were celebrated by the senator who, allegedly gleefully shared them among his colleagues in the committee in order to spread disinformation to achieve his aim. Of course, the objective is to sway the committee towards taking a hardline posture against NIRSAL that would culminate into a senate resolution against the management or get the committee to pass vote of no confidence on the management.
Once he can get that done, the first hurdle would have been crossed-Abdulhameed would have no chance to return. Of course, it would then be easier for him to lobby for his darling wife to take over and have family control on NIRSAL!
Yusuf is an economist, having acquired a master’s degree in economics and he would certainly have ideas of his own on how to run NIRSAL. But if the details of his interest in the institution offer any indication, it is that his motives are far from patriotic.
At an interactive session organized for the senate committee on banking and others by NIRSAL in December last year, Yusuf was quite outstanding in his contribution. A source who attended the meeting said out of the nine senators who attended, only Yusuf did not make suggestions for operational improvements. Other senators, including the Chairman of the committee, Uba Sani, made valuable suggestions on how NIRSAL could further grow the nation’s agriculture sector.
But Yusuf used the occasion to ask questions about the operations of the organizations. Interestingly, the questions the senator asked were along the lines of the sponsored publications. He wanted to know whether NIRSAL activities fall under legislative control or under the Company and Allied Matters Act (C.A.M.A). Despite not sure whether the organization was a PLC or not, the senator went on to request information on operational income, profit and terms of its credit guarantees.
“NIRSAL is a plc and all those documents are filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission and they were not things he should be asking,” said a source in the committee who added that the chairman had to caution over his line of enquiry.
Barely a month after responding to sponsored reports against the organization, Inugba had to speak out again following another round of attacks. She wrote:
“It has come to our notice that some persons and groups who claim to be stakeholders or participants in various agricultural projects are currently orchestrating a vicious and well-funded campaign of disinformation and blackmail against NIRSAL.
“In an effort to invest their bogus claims with invented credibility, these elements have been making the rounds of media houses with false claims that NIRSAL-itself a CBN entity-is holding up funds released by CBN under the Anchor Borrowers Programme.”
The ambitious senator would certainly do what he wants do to achieve his family’s objective. It is an opportunity too tempting to let go for a man who suddenly found himself among high society players through politics. Prior to becoming a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he was an ICON Limited Officer, he later worked at the Ministry of Finance where he was a Planning Officer. He thereafter became a Graduate Assistant at the University of Maiduguri and later got promoted to the position of Assistant Lecturer.