Matawalle’s outburst signals heat of corruption probe, says EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has attributed Governor Bello Matawalle’s recent outburst to the mounting pressure of an ongoing investigation into allegations of monumental corruption, award of phantom contracts, and diversion of over N70 billion.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja on Thursday, Mr. Osita Nwajah, the Director of Public Affairs for the EFCC, shed light on the governor’s response to the investigation

.He characterized the outburst as an uncomfortable exertion arising from the commission’s lawful activities, dismissing it as a pure case of corruption fighting back.

Despite the governor’s protestations, the EFCC says it remains resolute and undeterred in its mission to ensure that corrupt individuals, regardless of their stature, are brought to justice.

It added that the investigation into Governor Matawalle’s alleged involvement in the diversion of funds and the dubious awarding of contracts is being conducted diligently and in accordance with the law.

He said: “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 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,” Nwajah said. He disclosed that as part of the extensive investigation of contracts award by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the Commission recovered a sum of N300million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited, stressing that the funds were traced to the Zamfara Investment Company.

“According to him, 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. Nwajah noted that state governors and their deputies enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while in office, a reason the EFCC was yet to arrest Governor Matawalle.

“He reiterated that the issue with Matawalle had nothing to do with plea bargain or the transparency of EFCC’s asset recovery and disposal process. The EFCC Director of Public Affairs stressed, “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.

“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.”

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