BELLO HALIRU MOHAMMED; IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed was born in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State on 9 October 1945. He started his primary education in Birnin Kebbi. For his secondary school, he attended the famous Government College (now Barewa College), Zaria. In 1966, he proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), also in Zaria, where he studied veterinary medicine. He is a Fellow of the College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria (FCVSN).

Mohammed started work as a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, but he was soon summoned to responsibilities beyond the ivory tower. In 1977, he was appointed Commissioner for Agriculture under the military government in the then Sokoto State (the state was later split into Sokoto and Kebbi States in 1995). He was subsequently redeployed as Commissioner for Education under the same government.

In 1979, when the military was first stepping back to barracks, Mohammed joined the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), contested Deputy Governor of the old Sokoto State, but his party lost to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Thereafter, he remained the GNPP’s Secretary for Sokoto State until 1983 when the army again ousted the civilian government.

As the military government had also banned party politics, Mohammed turned to the private sector, becoming the Managing Director of Alpha & Beta Merchants Ltd, a general merchandise company. From there, he moved on to the post of Assistant General Manager, and later General Manager, of the Rima River Basin and Rural Development Authority, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

In 1988, he was appointed, by the then military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, to head the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) as its Comptroller General. He held that post until 1994, when Gen Sani Abacha as head of state, appointed a Military Sole Administrator (Brig Gen S. O. Ango) to run the Customs Service.

During Gen Abacha’s ill-fated transition programme from 1995 to 1998, Mohammed was a founding member of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN). After Abacha’s death and the disolution of the DPN and other parties, he then became a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), having participated in the landmark meeting at which it was decided that the political association then known as G-38, should transform into a broad-based political party. He was in fact one of the four ‘conveners’ selected to form the PDP in Kebbi State in 1998.

After the PDP’S victory in the 1999 elections, President Olusegun Obasanjo in September of that year, appointed Mohammed as a Commissioner on the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), an agency which monitors accruals into, and disbursements of revenues from, the Federation Account, and also reviews the country’s revenue allocation formula periodically, in order to ensure conformity with changing realities. He was one of 37 commissioners representing each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory on the Commission. Less than two years later, in June 2001, Obasanjo appointed him as Minister of Communications, a post he held till May 2003.

Soon after he left the cabinet, Mohammed again returned to the party bureaucracy. In June 2004, he was elected National Vice Chairman of the PDP for the North West Zone comprising the seven states of Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa and Zamfara.

In March 2008, he was elevated to the office of Deputy National Chairman of the party. In January 2011, he emerged as the PDP’s seventh National Chairman.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its’ erstwhile chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo displayed respect for the rule of law when Nwodo stepped down from the position of chairman of the party, in compliance to the ruling of an  Enugu High Court which suspended him from the position yesterday.

At the PDP primaries of Thursday, January 13, 20-11, Bello Haliru Mohammed, the National Deputy Chairman of the party, announced that he was assuming the position of Acting Chairman because Nwodo had stepped down in compliance and respect for the court order and the rule of law.

The court had ordered Nwodo to vacate the position  pending the determination of the motion on notice for interrogatory  injunction brought before it by Collins Amalu, a chieftain of the party from Enugu State.

Delivering ruling on the motion, shortly after hearing the submissions of counsels to the plaintiff and defendant, Justice Reuben Onuorah restrained Nwodo from exercising the rights, powers and or functions or enjoying the privileges attached to the office of the chairman of the PDP, pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

Meanwhile, he was also the chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), a 20-member body which oversees and supervises the activities of the Corporation and also approves the award of contracts up to certain limits.

Dr. Haliru Mohammed Bello is no stranger to controversies. He was appointed Nigerian minister of Communications in June 2001 in a minor reshuffle of the cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo, replacing Mohammed Arzika. He was appointed at a time when the government was planning to privatise Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

In December 2001, Bello said that the regulator had been mistaken in revalidating the analog mobile licence granted to MTS First Mobile, which could interfere with plans for the nation’s GSM network. He said the government was instead encouraging MTS to go into fixed and rural telephony.

In September 2002 Bello announced that 400,000 lines were being installed to expend NITEL’s GSM network in the North-west zone. In May 2003 Bello approved revised regulations for interconnection between telephone companies designed to foster competition.

In 2007 a German court allegedly named several prominent Nigerians, including Bello Haliru Mohammed, in a bribery scandal involving the communications firm Siemens AG. Bello was alleged to have collected €70,000 in two installments, a charge that he denied.

In total, the court found that Siemens had paid out €12 million in bribes to obtain contracts in Nigeria and other countries, and fined the company €201 million. In November 2007 the German authorities provided fresh information on the Siemens bribery scandal. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) launched an investigation. President Umaru Yar’Adua said of the case “… there will neither be sacred cows nor a cover up for anybody found culpable of breaching the law”.

In August 2008, Bello received the Diamond Nigerian Telecoms Award at a ceremony in Lagos.

In January 2010 another scandal emerged over a N5 billion contract for supply of equipment to (M-tel), a subsidiary of NITEL. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) launched an investigation.

In 2002 Bello had looked into complaints by Ericsson over the conduct of Motorola in trying to win a contract, and on the basis of his findings the contract was awarded to Ericsson. However, he was not accused of wrongdoing in this case.

After he emerged Ag. Chairman of the PDP in 2011, Dr. Haliru Mohammed aggressively championed the re-interpretation of the controversial zoning system in the ruling party to favour President Goodluck Jonathan, and he also worked vigourously and assiduously for and eventually delivered Jonathan with a landslide, as the President of Nigeria, in what was generally adjudged as a free, fair and credible elections.

Many however believe that it was this decision of the PDP to jettison the zoning formular under the watch of Haliru Mohammed as Party Chairman and the failure to re-elect another Northerner in the 2011 general elections,  after the death of Yar’ Adua, following the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as substantive President, that has led to the wide scale violence especially witnessed in the Northern part of the country.

Nobody is quite sure yet as to the reason for sacking Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed as Defense Minister, but many have come to accept the fact that it may not be unconnected with his role in the overwhelming victory of the PDP and President Jonathan, over Mohammadu Buhari and the CPC  particularly in the North.

The North is of  course where the aggrieved opposition Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, headed by its Presidential candidate in the 2011 elections, Major General Mohammadu Buhari holds sway, and the orgy of violence since after the 2011 elections, which Bello Haliru Mohammed led PDP to win massively even in some parts of the North, has been identified as the major catalyst for the resurgence of Boko Haram and the mayhem in Northern Nigeria.

Majority of northerners had seen the retired General and former Head of State as the only Northern candidate who could have defeated Jonathan and the PDP in the April 2011 polls and restored the Northern mandate after Yar’Adua, but the vehement accusations of wide spread rigging of the elections against the PDP by General Buhari and CPC, the feeling of political injustice against the Northern interest and most bitterly, the fact that the beneficiary of the injustice is from a minority tribe in Nigeria has been just too much for the North to bear.

What may have further rubbed salt on the injury of the severely wounded Northern feelings, may have been the fact that it is even one of their own, Bello Haliru Mohammed, who supervised this unforgivable humiliation of his own kinsmen for his own personal political interests and his continued presence in the company of those who won the elections is not just terrible offensive to them, but is enough evidence of his guilt and more than sufficient reason to unleash a reign of mindless violence, which will ultimately make Nigeria un-governable for him and his master, President Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigerians are now waiting to see not just who takes over from Dr. Haliru Mohammed, but indeed if his removal from office will help to assuage the bitter feelings from the North.

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