EFCC’s disclosure of ongoing probe of Mr Matawalle for alleged N70 billion fraud comes barely a day after the Zamfara governor’s call on the chair of the commission to step down from office.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said on Thursday that Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, is being investigated over alleged diversion of N70 billion from the state treasury.
Osita Nwajah, EFCC’s Director of Public Affairs, made the disclosure at a press briefing at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
He said “the real issue with Matawalle is that he is being investigated by the EFCC, over allegations of corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70 billion.”
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the governor’s spokesperson, Zailani Baffa, for his comments on Thursday. He has yet to respond to a text message we sent to him, or answer our repeated calls after the initial call ended just before introduction.
The disclosure comes less than 24 hours after Mr Matawalle asked the EFCC chair,Abdulrasheed Bawa, to step down and allow the anti-graft agency to beam its searchlight on Nigeria’s presidency officials and outgoing ministers.
“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,” Mr Matawalle had said.
The Zamafar governor, who lost his re-election bid in March, will be leaving office when his tenure ends on 29 May.
He will lose constitutional immunity that has shields him from prosecution as soon as he leaves office.
How Matawalle allegedly diverted the funds
Giving snippets of how Mr Matawalle allegedly siphoned the Zamfara’s funds, Mr Nwajah said, “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.”
He revealed that “more than 100 companies have received payments from the funds, with no evidence of service rendered to the state.”
The EFCC official, who said the commission was under attacks from persons under investigations, further said that some of the contractors who had been invited and questioned over Mr Matawalle’s alleged sleazy transactions, “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.”
The commission said the contractors “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.”
During the press briefing, Mr Nwajah referenced a popular Abuja property developer, whom he said “collected N6 billion on a N10 billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara State.”
He said another contractor received 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,” Mr Nwajah said without disclosing the names of the contractors.
The commission said it had recovered “N300 million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited. The funds were traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.”
It said the contract was awarded by Mr Matawalle’s regime “for phantom projects in the local government areas.”