Sunday, 2 March 2014
Edo State: Oshiomole stumbles again, and again: appoints dubious ex-convict Tax Collector-General
Governor Oshiomole of Edo state seems to be making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In addition to his involvement is the now infamous Harvard University "MOU" scandal, the Governor recently appointed an ex-convict, Austin Atakpu-Jima, to head the collection of taxes in the state.
The labor leader turned politician rode into office on a tidal wave of popular voters support. For the voters of Edo state who endured eight brutal years of Lucky Igbinedion’s shenanigans ridden government, they saw Adams Oshiomole emergence as divine intervention and they heaped all their hopes and aspirations on him. They believed that as a former labor leader who was familiar with the common people, he knew their pains.
Few months into his administration, the only noticeable constant in Adams Oshiomole’s administration may be his penchant for serious error. Although there has been no public exposé of his rumored insatiable appetite for the opposite sex, two scandalous events within the space of a few days have now left many wondering if he is any different from Lucky Igbinedion, who is believed by many to have bankrolled Oshiomole’s electoral victory. Oshiomole continues to have a very close relationship with Lucky Igbinedion and other reviled PDP chieftains such as Tony Anenih, who held Edo state hostage for eight years.
Recently, Oshiomole shocked many Nigerians by joining three other well known profligate governors on a trip to Harvard University, a trip that has now turned into a scandal. The subsequent announcement of an MOU between the "Governors Forum" and Harvard University has now been repudiated by the University, leaving Oshiomole exposed, and igniting a firestorm of acerbic comments by Nigerians at home and abroad. Many Nigerians were shocked because they expected wiser judgment from the governor who rode into power on the promise of good governance, commonsense, and fiscal responsibility. Even as Oshiomole offered a tepid explanation of his Harvard University fiasco, people are not impressed as he has ignited another firestorm by appointing Austin Atakpu-Jima to be the "Tax-Collector General" for Edo State. By this appointment, the governor is basically handing over the purse strings of Edo state to a man who once spent 18 months in England’s notorious Canterbury jail and was described by a British court as “dishonest” and “incompetent.” It has emerged that Austin Atakpu-Jima practiced law in England without the requisite license.
Along the way, he threw into trouble and embarrassment, almost everyone who associated with him through an English law firm, Austin Sheik and Co. Among those who ended up before the Disciplinary Committee of the British Law Society on account of their innocent association with Austin Atakpu-Jima were Ned Nwoko, formerly of Nigeria’s House of Representatives and Isabella Iyama Onibudo, an England based duly licensed lawyer of Nigerian descent.
While Ned Nwoko escaped severe sanctions from the British Law Society, Isabella, who found herself manipulated into a relationship with the married ex-convict, found her law licence to practice suspended for two years by the British regulatory authorities. Even when she got it back, it was stringent supervisory conditions established on her practice. It is not known if Austin Atakpu-Jima has repaid the 8,000.00 pounds he borrowed from Isabella while their extra-marital relationship lasted. But perhaps Governor Oshiomole was unaware of Austin Atakpu-Jima’s criminal past. If so, that is even worse, because it unveils a Chief Executive who promised the highest standards but who is not even conducting a comprehensive background check before making key appointments, including one to whom he is handing the reins of an entire state’s tax administration. This is the least taxpayers expect from Oshiomole, who must now work harder to rebuild the trust the Edo State people reposed in him.
But now that Oshiomole has made the grievous error of appointing Atakpu-Jima, it remains to be seen if the former labour leader is courageous enough to correct it by immediately relieving the crooked lawyer of the post, particularly if he wants to persuade the people of Edo State that it is not only legal, but wise, to pay their taxes—and to believe “Comrade Governor.”