EFCC probes Zamfara governor Matawalle over alleged N70bn fraud

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said the outgoing Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle is under investigation for alleged N70bn fraud.

The Commission made this known in a statement issued on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

According to the EFCC, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor is being investigated over allegation of monumental corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70billion.

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“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 statement partly read in part.

“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.”

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The EFCC said some of the contractors had been invited and quizzed, adding that they 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 Zamfara 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.”

“As part of the extensive investigation of contracts award by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the Commission has recovered a sum of N300million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited. The funds were traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.

“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.”

Matawalle, who lost his re-election bid in the 2023 governorship election in the state in March, would complete his single term tenure of four years on May 29, 2023.

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This is coming hours after the governor had asked the EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to step aside and be probed, while the Commission extends its investigation to the Presidency and members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Governor Matawalle, in a statement, urged the EFCC boss to ensure the Commission’s investigation is wholistic and not selective by harrassing governors alone.

According to him, “investigation must be wholistic and not selective. It is in this respect that the recent invitations (to governors) and pronouncement by the EFCC Chair is imbalance, incomplete, hypocritical and unnecessarily skewed.

“This is counterproductive to the anti-corruption crusade itself, that is if Malam Bawa is actually committed to one.

“In a bid to help the obvious knowledge-gap and inertia exhibited by the EFCC Chair, the probe should be all embracing and cover all officers.

“I demand that the EFCC chair extend similar invitations to officers of the Presidency and members of the Federal Executive Council, which is the highest tier of government in the country.

“In furtherance of my desire to engender a broad based investigation and an enlargement of the fight against corruption, I will also demand that Abdulrasheed Bawa excuse himself and surrender himself for investigation, as I and some eminent Nigerians have evidence of corrupt practices, breach of public trust and abuse of office against him and the commission led by him.

“Importantly, he needs to come clean with Nigerians on the way and manner he has prosecuted the anti-corruption fight.

“He needs to explain among others how seized assets by the EFCC are being sold without adherence to due process.

“He should explain, for instance, how he has assumed the role of the plaintiff, prosecutor and jury and how he has executed his brand of plea bargaining with suspected criminals and saboteurs of the Nigerian economy and agenda who instead of being put on trial, are walking freely all over Nigeria.

“It is when the EFCC Chair does this and becomes open, non-selective and all-embracing with his invitation, that will we take him seriously.

“It is only then will serious-minded officers who have served the people selflessly and meritoriously, and are not opposed to an examination of their books, and indeed Nigerians generally, take him seriously.

“Without this, it is just a case of another person in government who has some explaining to do himself over allegations of corruption, high-handedness and abuse of office now asking others to account, by so doing, merely giving Nigerians a comic relief from the present challenging times they are experiencing.”

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