The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has said that it is currently investigating the outgoing Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle, for alleged N70billion fraud.
This is coming after the governor accused the EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, of corruption and sharp practices on Wednesday.
The governor had levelled allegations against Bawa and dared the commission to go after members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.
But, speaking at a press briefing on Thursday in Abuja, director of public affairs of the commission, Osita Nwajah, said Matawalle’s accusations was a case of corruption fighting back because the embattled governor has seen that he would be arrested for questioning when his tenure expires on May 29, 2023.
According to him, “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 reveal that more than 100 companies have 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 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 Dollar 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 N6billion on a N10billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara state. Another contractor collected over N3billion 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.”
The EFCC, however, noted that more of such accusations will come in the coming days as Nigeria transition to a new government.
On the accusations against Bawa, Nwajah said: “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to a statement credited to the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Muhammed Matawalle, in which he attempted to cast aspersion on the integrity of the EFCC’s fight against corruption by making farcical allegations of corruption in assets disposal and plea bargain procedure, among others.
“These claims ought not to be dignified with a response. What is at play here is a pure case of corruption fighting back. Matawalle’s outburst is product of paranoia- an uncomfortable exertion arising from the heat of EFCC’s lawful activities.
“However, for the sake of some gullible citizens who might be swayed by the governor’s sudden burst of crusading zest, a measured response has become imperative to expose Matawalle’ outburst for what it is, a hollow gambit to deflect attention from the real issue.
“The issue has nothing to do with the transparency of EFCC’s asset recovery and disposal process. Contrary to the claims by Matawalle, the Commission 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 plea bargain. Indeed, it is hypocritical for Matawalle to rile a process for which he has been a beneficiary. 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.”