The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has announced that it is investigating the outgoing governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, for an alleged N70billion fraud.
This follows the governor’s Wednesday accusation of EFCC chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa of corruption and harsh practises.
The governor made allegations against Bawa and dared the commission to investigate members of the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But, speaking at a press briefing on Thursday in Abuja, the director of public affairs of the commission, Osita Nwajah, stated that Matawalle’s accusations were a case of corruption fighting back, as the embattled governor is aware that he will be arrested for questioning on May 29, 2023, when his term expires.
According to him, “the real issue with Matawalle is that he is under investigation by the EFCC for massive corruption, awarding of phantom contracts, and diversion of over N70 billion.”
“Money obtained as a loan from an old-generation bank, ostensibly for the execution of projects across the local government areas of the state, was allegedly misappropriated by the governor through proxies and contractors who received payment for unexecuted contracts.”
“According to the findings of the Commission’s investigations to date, more than a hundred companies have received compensation from the funds without providing evidence of service rendered to the state. Some of the contractors who had been invited and questioned by the Commission made shocking revelations about how they were allegedly compelled by the governor to return the funds they had received from the state coffers to him via his advisers after converting them to United States Dollars.
“They confirmed that they did not perform any services for the state of Zamafara, but were allegedly directed to convert the funds paid to them into U.S. dollars and return them to the governor of the state through a number of his commissioners, most notably the Commissioners in charge of Finance and Local Government Affairs.
“One of the contractors, a well-known Abuja real estate developer, collected N6 billion on a N10 billion contract without performing any work for Zamfara state.” The Commission traced a payment of N400 million from another contractor’s account to a Bureau de Change operator. The contractor admitted that the payment was made ostensibly to acquire the dollar equivalent for the state governor.”
As Nigeria transitions to a new government, the EFCC predicted that more allegations of this nature will be made in the coming days.
Regarding the allegations against Bawa, Nwajah stated, “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been made aware of a statement attributed to the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Muhamad Matawalle, in which he attempted to cast doubt on the integrity of the EFCC’s fight against corruption by making ludicrous allegations of corruption in the disposal of assets and plea bargain procedure, among others.
“These claims should not be given the courtesy of a response. This situation is an instance of corruption battling back. Matawalle’s outburst is the result of paranoia, a distressing response to the EFCC’s lawful activities.
“However, for the sake of gullible citizens who may be swayed by the governor’s unexpected burst of crusading zeal, a measured response has become necessary to expose Matawalle’s outburst for what it is: a ploy to divert attention from the real issue.
“The issue has nothing to do with the EFCC’s asset recovery and disposal process’s transparency. Contrary to Matawalle’s assertions, the Commission oversaw the most transparent asset disposal in the nation’s history. Since then, the open and transparent exercise’s proceeds have been deposited into the Federal Government’s treasuries and are being utilised for the provision of infrastructure for Nigerians.
“Plea bargain is also not the issue. In fact, it is hypocritical for Matawalle to criticise a procedure from which he has benefited. The practise of plea bargaining is established by law, and the Commission has never violated the law when applying this principle. Matawalle is at liberty to disclose any evidence of plea bargaining abuse in his possession.