Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle is under probe for mismanaging N70 billion, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said yesterday.
It said the N70 billion was sourced as a loan from an old-generation bank purportedly for the execution of projects which were never done.
The EFCC stated this at a news conference by its Director of Media and Publicity, Osita Nwajah in Abuja.
Matawalle had in a response on Wednesday to a letter by the EFCC on its probe of some governors wondered why the exercise should be selective.
He asked the anti-graft agency to also invite “officers of the Presidency and members of the Federal Executive Council.”
Besides, the outgoing governor demanded that Bawa should “surrender” himself for investigation.
“He (Bawa) needs to explain among others, how seized assets by the EFCC are being sold without adherence to due process,” the governor added.
lso yesterday, the Coalition of Anti-corruption Organisations requested that the EFCC chairman should step aside to allow for investigation into alleged corruption against him.
But at the news conference by Nwajah, the anti-graft agency claimed that it found out that more than 100 companies received part of the N70 billion loan with no evidence of service rendered to the Zamfara State.
It added that an Abuja property developer collected N6 billion on an N10 billion contract without rendering any verifiable service.
The agency also said that an investigation revealed that another contractor collected over N3 billion for the supply of medical equipment. Payment of N400 million out of the N3 billion was traced to a Bureau de Change operator.
According to the EFCC, one of the beneficiary firms refunded N300 million.
It said Matawalle’s attack on the agency was a case of corruption fighting back.
The EFCC asked Nigerians to expect more of such wild allegations as Matawalle’s from others facing investigations..
The commission said Matawalle had not been arrested because he still enjoys immunity provided by the 1999 Constitution as a governor.
It said: “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 classes.
“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 an N22 billion corruption allegation. That conveniently did not attract Matawalle’s attention.
“Of course, these shenanigans are not strange. They appear to play out in cycles, particularly when the nation is in political transition.
“Virtually all the predecessors of the incumbent EFCC chairman suffered similar indignity in the hands of politically-exposed persons under investigation for corruption. Who among the former chairmen of the commission was not accused of pilfering recovered assets?
“The commission would like to put the nation on notice to expect more of the kind of wild allegations made by Matawalle as those at the receiving end of EFCC’s investigations, fight viciously back.
“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 N70billion.
“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, was allegedly diverted by the governor through proxies and contractors who received payment for contracts that were not executed.
“The commission’s investigations so far revealed that more than 100 companies have received payments from the funds, with no evidence of service rendered to the state.”
Revealing that it that had interrogated some contractors, the commission also provided insights into a few preliminary findings.
It said: “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 back to him 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 Dollars and return to the state governor through some of his commissioners, notably the commissioners in charge of Finance and Local Government Affairs.
“One of the contractors, a popular Abuja property developer, collected N6 billion on an N10 billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara State.
“Another contractor collected over N3 billion for a contract for the supply of medical equipment but the Commission traced a payment of N400 million 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.
“As part of the extensive investigation of contracts awarded by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the commission has recovered a sum of N300 million from a company. The funds were traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.
“The EFCC investigation is 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.
“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.”
It stated that contrary to Matawalle’s claims, the EFCC supervised an asset disposal exercise that was widely acclaimed as the most transparent in the country’s history.
“Proceeds of the open and transparent exercise have since been remitted into the coffers of the Federal Government, and are being deployed in the provision of infrastructure for Nigerians.
“The issue is also not about a plea bargain. Indeed, it is hypocritical for Matawalle to rile a process for which he has been a beneficiary. A plea bargain is a practice established by law, and the commission has never gone outside of the law in the application of this principle.
“If Matawalle has any evidence of abuse of plea bargain process, he is at liberty to make the disclosure,” the anti-graft agency said.
Coalition wants Buhari to sack Bawa
The Coalition of Anti-corruption Organisations (COACOS) has called for the removal of Bawa by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The group also urged the President to commission an enquiry into the activities of the anti-graft body under Bawa.
CAO called for an immediate overhauling of the agency, adding that the National Assembly should also be lobbied to amend the EFCC Act to make the structure less prone to high-handedness and make its chairman answerable to the law of the land.
According to the coalition, Bawa should not be re-appointed for another term.
An official of the coalition, Olufemi Lawson, told reporters in Lagos that the EFCC has not lived up to expectations.
He said the anti-graft agency has on some occasions violated court orders, adding that it is contrary to the principles of democracy.
Lawson also alleged that EFCC was partial, saying that it only selectively invited targeted outgoing governors for investigation. (Nation)