Governor Umahi suspends aides’ allowances ‘for leaking classified bank documents to Peoples Gazette’

“He stopped our running expenses two weeks ago because he became angry that we all betrayed him by sending bank documents to the media,” an affected official said.David UmahiGovernor David Umahi

Aparanoid Governor David Umahi has stopped running costs and allowances for all his aides, accusing them of working with opposition media to scuttle his administration.

The Ebonyi governor excoriated his appointees for allegedly providing ‘classified’ bank documents to Peoples Gazette, even though the documents were not classified and he only became one of many public officials that the Gazette has exposed as part of our ongoing reporting on a trove of bank documents recently leaked to our reporters.

The documents, which the Gazette has published regularly since October 2020, contained suspicious transactions carried out by Nigeria’s political office holders, civil servants and businessmen — including Tukur Buratai, Bola Tinubu, Isa Funtua and Aliko Dangote.

Aides said Mr. Umahi has become “dangerously erratic” since January 29 when the Gazette exposed how he wired public funds from state accounts into his own firm, violating a federal law that barred scheduled public officials from running commercial ventures.

“He stopped our running expenses two weeks ago because he became angry that we all betrayed him by sending bank documents to the media,” one of Mr. Umahi’s affected advisers told the Gazette.

“He (Umahi) also said we did not do enough to defend him against the attacks and ridicules that greeted the (Gazette’s) publication on social media and in Ebonyi,” the official stated.

Another source working inside the government house said: “We don’t know when he will reinstate it (the suspended remuneration) but already many of us are tired of coming to the office when we cannot even get money to buy tissue papers or make tea.”

The Gazette learnt that some commissioners were also affected. But it was unclear whether or not officials working directly with the governor or his chief of staff are still receiving running costs. A spokesman for the governor did not return a request seeking comments about the punitive measure.

On January 29, the Gazette exclusively reported how Governor Umahi transferred billions to his private firm, Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Limited from Ebonyi treasury, as payments for unspecified government contracts commandeered for the company.

Financial records of Ebonyi State’s, reviewed by the Gazette, showed a sustained trend of illicit financial flows from the state’s purse to Brass Engineering, in excess of N3.6 billion between 2011 and 2019.

Mr. Umahi’s murky dealings contravened extant code of conduct regulations precluding him and other senior public officers from conducting private businesses while in office.

The Gazette’s reporters had come under intense pressure from Mr. Umahi’s aides to take down the story shortly after the report was published. The governor’s henchmen resorted to death threats when their requests were declined.

Mr. Umahi, who has been rattled since the Gazette beamed a spotlight on his questionable handling of Ebonyi state’s marginal resources, threatened to sue the newspaper for N1 billion.

A letter received from the governor’s counsel, Chukwuma-machukwu Ume, on February 1, had demanded an apology and a retraction of the report within seven days to avoid legal action. The Gazette ignored his threats and stood by its story.

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