Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta
The Ogun State Government on Sunday said US jailed Bidemi Rufai, a sacked aide of Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, did not bring any business concern to the state during his short stint as a Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun.
The State Government also debunked a news report that Rufai was being paid $2,000 as an aide to the Governor.
An online news medium, People’s Gazette had reported that Governor Abiodun was paying $50,000 to Rufai each time he introduced people to him, along with monthly salary of $2,000.
The District Court in Western Tacoma, Washington, United States, had in September sentenced Rufai to five years imprisonment for wire fraud of over $350,000 and aggravated identity theft.
A statement by the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, had said Rufai, “A 45-year-old resident of Lekki, Nigeria, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to five years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for his attempt to steal nearly $2.4m from the United States government, including approximately $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.”
However, in a statement released on Sunday by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abiodun, Kunle Somorin, Rufai, who was appointed by the Governor as his Senior Special Assistant on Housing, never had any close relationship with the Governor, prior to his appointment.
According to Somorin, Rufai, like other aides of the Governor, was recommended from his ward for the appointment, and not because of any special favour he offered to the Governor during his gubernatorial campaigns in 2019.
The statement further faulted and denied the claims by the online medium that Rufai was being paid $2,000 salary, which according to it is ‘outrageous and baseless.’
According to Somorin, salaries and wages of political office holders are fixed by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, adding that no member of the government is permitted to any other allowances not known to law.
Somorin added that records in the state never showed that Rufai, while serving in the state, brought a single investor or facilitated any investment from the United States of America, wondering how the former political aide would then be paid $50,000 for a deal that never took place.
“Bidemi Rufai was appointed as a Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Housing, and was nominated for appointment barely three months before he was arrested.
“He had not resumed formerly and had no official office to transact business. He wasn’t part of the Ogun State Economic Management Team and have got no input into the state government activities.
“His appointment was based on his activities in his ward. He didn’t sit in the State Executive Council meetings and couldn’t have had inputs in policies of the state government.
“The Governor had no deal with Rufai on any transaction. He brought not a single one. They can check with the US embassy,” the statement added.
Somorin noted further that Governor Abiodun being a law abiding person and respecter of the rule of law, immediately suspended Rufai after his arrest for fraud in the United States and later terminated his appointment, even before his conviction for the crime by the US court.
He noted that the current political season in the country is an auspicious time for unscrupulous politicians to attack or sponsor attacks against their opponents, hence, the timing of the concocted story.
He said that the political enemies of the Governor, who are perhaps not happy with his rising profile, particularly in terms of the huge foreign investment drive and infrastructural development in Ogun State, might want to play up the issue of Rufai to tarnish his image.
Somorin, while calling on the people of the state to disregard the report as a mere ‘attention seeking’ gambit, said that Governor Abiodun would rather not be perturbed by the report, but remain focussed on his mission to position Ogun as number one investors’ preferred destination in the country.
He added that Prince Abiodun would not be distracted by the antics of political traducers in and outside Ogun, submitting that the governor will continue to be just, fair, accountable and equitable in the distribution of amenities across the state.
He also warned journalists, especially online to beware of their eminent roles in the society and guide against succumbing to bread and butter journalism.