GISTSMATE MEDIA reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said Zamfara Governor Bello Muhammed Matawalle is under investigation over alleged award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70 billion.
It said the cash was sourced as a loan from an old-generation bank purportedly for the execution of projects which were never done.
The anti-graft agency claimed that more than 100 companies have received payments from the funds, with no evidence of service rendered to the State.
It said an Abuja property developer, collected N6billion on a N10billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara state.
It also said investigation has revealed that another contractor collected over N3billion for a contract for the supply of medical equipment.
But the commission traced a payment of N400million from medical supply contractor’s account to a Bureau de Change operator.
It said one of the beneficiary firms of the suspicious contracts, Fezel Nigeria Limited, has refunded N300million.
It said Matawalle decided to attack EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa because his tenure was coming to an end and he was becoming dreadful of his fate.
It said Matawalle’s outbursts against EFCC were about a case of corruption fighting back.
It asked Nigerians to expect more wild allegations made by Matawalle as those at the receiving end of EFCC’s investigations, fight viciously back.
The EFCC made the clarifications at a briefing in Abuja by its Director of Media and Publicity, Barrister Osita Nwajah.
The commission said it was yet to arrest Governor Matawalle because he still enjoying immunity provided by 1999 Constitution.
But EFCC said from May 29, the Governor has a case to answer.
Nwajah 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 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 N22billion 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 at 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.”
The EFCC spokesman, who claimed that the commission has interrogated some contractors, also provided insights into a few preliminary findings.
Nwajah added: “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.
“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”
He insisted that Matawalle has a case to answer.
“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,” he said.
Nwajah, however, asked Nigerians not to be carried away by the sentiments of Matawalle because it was a matter of corruption fighting back.
He said successive EFCC chairmen had always been victims of the antics of those under investigation.
He said ideally, Matawalle “claims ought not to be dignified with a response.”
He 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.”