By Dipo Olowookere
The Kwara State Government has denied social media claims purportedly attributed to the former Managing Director of Harmony Holdings Limited, (HHL), Dr Shehu Kuranga Mohammed, alleging corrupt practices concerning state government properties managed by the company.
In a statement, the state government said the claims of corruption at HHL involving management of state-owned property are creations of the fertile imagination of its authors.
It also absolved Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki of any involvement in the planned lease of a prime state-owned property located in Lagos or in any illegal transaction involving other state-owned assets.
Rather, the government maintained that transactions relating to the proposed lease followed due process and involved relevant state agencies.
The statement also denied the claim that Dr Mohammed resigned due to pressures from Government House to engage a particular company to manage the Victoria Island, Lagos property and to financially disadvantage the state in favour of a private company or individuals.
Instead, the government said Dr Mohammed was asked to review the companies shortlisted for managing the property, recommend one or come up with an alternative company but resigned before the process was completed.
The government stressed that Dr Mohammed was personally head-hunted by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed based on the former incumbent’s corporate finance experience and capacity and not at the request of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) as wrongly claimed.
It, therefore, urged the public to ignore the lies about HHL and warned those bent on playing politics with government-owned entities to have a rethink and be mindful of the long-term impact on the image of Kwara State as investors may be reluctant to partner the state if the negative atmosphere of needless controversy is allowed to persist.
The full statement reads thus:
“We have become aware of a social media post alleging corrupt practices at Harmony Holdings Limited, a company fully-owned by the Kwara State Government. For the avoidance of doubt and in the interest of the people of Kwara State who are the ultimate owners of HHL and the assets it is managing, we wish to state clearly that the allegations in the said post are lies concocted in a futile bid to embarrass the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.
To restate, Harmony Holdings Limited is a product of the administration’s quest to innovate new funding sources for government programs in the light of a fragile global economy and unstable federal allocation.
To insulate the state from these uncertainties and keep it on a firm pedestal for the benefit of its people, reforms were necessary. One of them was HHL, especially given the existence of state assets which were constituting a drain on state resources rather than augmenting them.
In the light of the vast investment and revenue potentials of these state-owned assets, it was decided to recruit for HHL only those with the capacity and pedigree to successfully attract private partners to invest funds in the dormant assets, and significantly boost the state government’s revenue.
An essential skill in this regard was previous Corporate Finance and related management experience which was deemed necessary for the task of making HHL achieve its target of N50b in annual revenues and ranking as one of the top holding companies in the country. It is also reflected in the capacity, experience and pedigree of the previous board which was headed by a Professor of Public Finance and included credentialed individuals with a strong finance, business and academic backgrounds.
It remains the government’s understanding and resolve that the task of turning these state-owned assets to revenue generating ventures can only be achieved by management manned by technocrats with the necessary capacities.
This need for a Chief Executive with relevant requisite capacity for HHL was the spirit behind Dr Mohammed’s recruitment by the state government when the previous board’s tenure expired.
His mandate was to focus not on HHL’s ongoing concerns that were already contributing revenue but on turning high value but dormant assets into income generating ventures for the government. One of the assets was a state government-owned commercial property located at Victoria Island, Lagos. Before Dr Mohammed’s appointment, the said property was the subject of litigation.
Subsequently, the property was tied up for the duration of the court case which the state government eventually won. HHL was then instructed to review a shortlist of companies bidding for the lease, to recommend one or make new recommendations. Dr Mohammed resigned before the ongoing process to choose a preferred bidder with the required competence and capacity to manage the property, which followed necessary processes and involved other state agencies, was completed.
It is therefore untrue that Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is involved in any corrupt deals at HHL or any effort to influence the selection of any company to manage government assets.
The state government also exonerates the former state governor and Senate President, His Excellency, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki of any involvement in any aspect of HHL’s operations, including the management and sale of any state government asset assigned to the company or indeed any other government property.
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