The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is probing Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara over alleged N70 billion fraud. The EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, represented by the commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr Osita Nwaja, said this at news conference in Abuja. This development came days after Matawalle accused the EFCC of bias in selecting who to investigate, leaving others as sacred cows. Matawalle had urged the EFCC to probe people working with President Muhammadu Buhari, including cabinet ministers. He accused the anti-graft office of being too timid to go after people loyal to the president. The EFCC boss, however, said that the claim of the governor was just an attempt to cast aspersion on the integrity of the EFCC’s fight against corruption.
He accused Matawalle of making farcical allegations of corruption in assets disposal and plea bargain procedure, among others. “What is at play here is a pure case of corruption fighting back. Matawalle’s outburst is a product of paranoia, an uncomfortable exertion arising from the heat of EFCC’s lawful activities. But the real issue with Matawalle is that he is being investigated by the EFCC, over allegation of monumental corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70 billion. The money which was sourced as loan from an old generation bank purportedly for the execution of projects across the local government areas of the state. It was allegedly diverted by the governor through proxies and contractors who received payment for contracts that were not executed,” he said. Bawa said that the EFCC investigation had become the source of anxiety in Government House, Gusau, with the governor in mortal dread of his fate once he steps down as governor on May 29. He said the governor would have been in the EFCC custody but for the immunity clause.
”In Nigeria, state governors and their deputies enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while in office, a reason the EFCC has yet to arrest Governor Matawalle.” Bawa said that the Commission’s investigations so far, revealed that more than 100 companies had received payments from the funds, with no evidence of service rendered to the state. ”Some of the contractors who had been invited and quizzed by the commission, made startling revelations on how they were allegedly compelled by the governor to return the funds received from the state coffers to him. This was done through his aides after converting the same to United States Dollars. They confirmed that they did not render any service to Zamafara state but were allegedly directed to convert the monies paid to them into United States Dollar. And, return to the State governor through some of his commissioners, notably the Commissioners in charge of Finance and Local Government Affairs, ” he said.
According to the EFCC chairman, one of the contractors, a popular Abuja property developer, collected N6 billion on a N10 billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara. “Another contractor collected over N3 billion for a contract for the supply of medical equipment but the Commission traced a payment of N400million from his account to a Bureau de Change operator. The contractor confessed the payment was to procure the dollar equivalent allegedly for the state governor,” he said. Bawa further said as part of the extensive investigation of contracts awarded by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the commission had recovered N300 million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited. He said that the funds were allegedly traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.
According to him, it is intriguing that Matawalle would want to take on the role of a supervisor, who tells the EFCC whom to investigate. Is this a case of a “’thief’’ saying he must not be touched until other ‘’thieves’’ are caught? “Unfortunately, it is not within Matawalle’s remit to dictate to the EFCC whom to arrest, when and where. Suspects in the custody of the Commission cut across all sectors and social class. The qualification to get a space in the Commission’s detention facility, is to commit a crime. It does not matter whether you are a priest , Imam, Governor or minister. Currently, a former minister of power is in the custody of the EFCC over a N22 billion corruption allegation. That conveniently did not attract Matawalle’s attention,” he said.(NAN)