Scroll untuk baca artikel
News

EXCLUSIVE! EFCC places outgoing Govs under close watch

×

EXCLUSIVE! EFCC places outgoing Govs under close watch

Share this article

…Matawalle, Yahaya Bello, Tambuwal, Wike, Ortom top list as anti-graft agency deploys Eagle-eyed operatives across states

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission across the country may have extended the anti-graft agency’s dragnet to capture many of the outgoing state governors, as they formally hand over the reins of governance in their different states to their successors today.

The constitutional immunity protecting the outgoing state governors from criminal prosecution will expire by noon of May 29, 2023 (today), paving the way for the EFCC to apprehend many of them having one question or the other to answer over their handling of state funds while in office.

Already, Eagle-eyed operatives of the anti-graft agency have been deployed in the various states to track and apprehend the outgoing governors on the list of the EFCC.

First News learnt that no fewer than 18 of the outgoing state governors and even their deputies have been pencilled down by the EFCC for prosecution over allegations of corruption and money laundering.

Recently, it was learnt EFCC requested and took possession of the asset declaration documents of the affected outgoing governors from the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to facilitate its investigation of the various allegations of corruption and money laundering against each of them. The anti-graft agency, it was gathered, also recently obtained the examination/verification report of the declared assets of the affected governors.

EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had hinted in a recent interview that a lot of the politically exposed persons will be arrested immediately after May 29. But Bawa did not mention their names or the number of corrupt public officials that will be arrested and prosecuted for corruption by the anti-graft agency.

Incumbent state governors are among public officials who enjoy immunity and therefore cannot be arrested or tried for any crime while still in office.

As the tenures of the outgoing state governors wind down today, First News focuses on state chief executives under the watch of the anti-graft agencies for alleged corruption and money laundering.

Top on the list of such outgoing governors on the corruption list of the EFCC is Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle. The Zamfara governor and the EFCC chairman, Abdullah Bawa, have recently been at loggerheads. The anti-graft agency recently publicly accused Matawalle of the diversion of about N70billon from the coffers of the state. The Zamfara governor, who is leaving office after losing his second term bid to the opposition, the EFCC stated, allegedly conspired with some other persons to siphon public funds.

“Corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70 billion,” according to EFCC’s spokesman, Osita Nwajah, were some of the allegations against Governor Matawalle.

The outgoing Zamfara governor, has, however, denied any wrongdoing, asking the anti-graft agency to rather turn its searchlight on officials of the Presidency and members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Matawalle also later turned round to accuse the EFCC chairman, Bawa, of demanding $2 million bribe from him. But the EFCC dared the governor to provide evidence to back his claim.

Matawalle’s Deputy, Hassan Gusau, is also being investigated by the anti-graft agency for alleged corruption.

Also on the list of outgoing governors under the EFCC’s radar are Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello; Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Benedict Ayade (Cross River), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Masari (Katsina) and Simon Lalong (Plateau).

Interestingly, these outgoing state governors, who will be retiring into affluence and luxury due to the generous pension benefits they will be getting, will be leaving behind huge debts for their various successors.

These outgoing state chief executives are also owing several months of unpaid workers’ salaries, pensions and others.

It was further learnt that these outgoing governors will be dumping on their successors a huge debt burden of about N3trillion to settle.

According to data obtained from the Debt Management Office, the states presided over by these 18 outgoing governors are owing a total of N2.27trillion in domestic loans and $1.71billion in foreign borrowings.

If converted to Naira at the N460.53 per dollar prevailing exchange rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the foreign debts incurred by the 18 states will amount to about N787.51billion.

YAHAYA BELLO:

EFCC’s investigations have linked the outgoing Kogi State governor with some fraudulently acquired properties, but Bello has denied the corruption allegations. EFCC and Bello have been engaged in a legal tussle over the 14 properties located in Lagos, Abuja and the United Ara Emirate (UAE) as well as the sum of N400m linked to the outgoing Kogi State governor.

In the court cases brought against him by the anti-graft agency, the Kogi governor argued that section 308 of the constitution grants him immunity from being prosecuted for civil or criminal suits.

Mid-May, the Federal High Court in Abuja adjourned the case involving the forfeiture of properties linked to the Kogi indefinitely. Justice Nicholas Oweibo gave the ruling following a stay of execution application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Now that Bello’s immunity from prosecution expires today, it’s a matter of a little time before the EFCC moves against him.

GOV AMINU WAZIRI TAMBUWAL:

In April 2022, EFCC, in a document allegedly jointly authored by both the anti-graft agency and the Central Bank of Nigeria, Tambuwal was accused of diverting about N189billion from the treasury of the Sokoto State Government to private individuals within his first six years in government.

The document signed by one DCE AS Abubakar and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, revealed the uncovering of ‘unusual transactions’ in the Sokoto State Government’s accounts from January 1, 2015 to August 31, 2021.

The document claimed that state government’s accounts under Tambuwal received a total cumulative inflow of N567,160,024,619.93 within the said period out of which N189,155,043,825.09 was illegally diverted.

But Tambuwal’s media aides have denied their principal’s knowledge of such a document.

GOV NYESOM WIKE:

About one year ago, the outgoing Rivers governor had told the EFCC that it lacked the powers to investigate the financial dealings of any of the states in the country while reacting to the anti-graft agency’s decision to declare the then Rivers State Accountant-General and now his successor as the governor, Fubara Siminalaye, and 58 others wanted for alleged N435billion fraud.

Wike had then said Rivers State had previously taken the EFCC to court on the matter and defeated the commission at the highest level. He therefore berated the anti-graft agency for harassing Fubara, the man who is now his successor in the office of the governor of Rivers State.

EFCC had then published Fubara’s name on a wanted list for N117bn, but Wike said the commission needed to know that the era of impunity and flagrant disobedience to the rule of law had gone and his administration would not accept that.

He, however, threatened to charge the EFCC for contempt, stating that before now, the Rivers State Government had obtained a subsisting court judgment against the commission barring it from investigating the state’s finances or its officers.

But in March, Wike said he won’t run away from the EFCC at the end of his tenure, adding that he would gladly honour their invitation after May 29.

He was reacting to a statement by the EFCC Chairman, Bawa, that the agency would arrest corrupt governors whose tenures end on May 29.

Wike said he’s not bothered by the threat to arrest governors at the end of their tenure on May 29, vowing not to run away from Nigeria days before the inauguration of his successor as some ex-governors had done in the past.

“I’m not going to run away because of EFCC. Why should they invite me? If they invite me, I will honour their invitation. I will not run away,” Wike said.

But three years earlier, the EFCC under its former Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had vowed to ensure the prosecution of Wike and his two predecessors, Rotimi Amaechi and Peter Odili for corruption and money laundering.

GOV SAMUEL ORTOM

Just like his Rivers State counterpart, the outgoing Benue State Governor has boasted that he had nothing to fear about the EFCC after the expiration his tenure today.

Ortom spoke on Friday during his cabinet’s valedictory session at the Government House, Makurdi, the state capital, saying he’s not a coward that would run away whenever invited by the EFCC.

He urged his cabinet members not to entertain any fear whenever the anti-graft agency invites them for questioning after May 29.

The outgoing governor had told his cabinet members, “Anytime you are invited by EFCC, don’t be afraid to go. As for me, I’m not a coward to run away from EFCC. If they come for me, I will follow them.

“I don’t have any investment in Europe. All I have are in this state. If I have committed any crime, let the person come and show me.”

But there are indications that the EFCC may soon reopen investigations into some earlier cases of fraud against the outgoing Benue governor, especially following the expiration of the immunity clause precluding him from both civil and criminal prosecution today.

In July 2018, the EFCC linked Ortom to an alleged N22billion fraud. This allegations is contained in a report of an investigation by the Agency in 2016.

The outgoing governor, according to the report, between June 30, 2015 and March 2018, ordered the withdrawal of N21.3bn from four government accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank of Nigeria and the United Bank for Africa.

About N19bn out of the money, on paper, was said to be meant for the payment of six security agencies that had been deployed in the state to tackle the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

But the EFCC claimed that less than N3bn of the money was paid to the security agencies while the remainder could not be accounted for.

According to the EFCC report, “We investigated four bank accounts belonging to two Benue State Government’s agencies. The first agency is the Benue State Government House which has an account in UBA with number 1017348051 and another account in GTB with number 0027952907. These accounts received N1, 916, 635, 206 from the state’s allocation between June 30, 2015 and March 2018.

“The second government agency is the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services. The agency has an account with UBA with number 1007540119 and a First Bank account with number 2023788057. Between the same period, the accounts were credited with N19, 468, 951, 590 from the Benue State allocation.”

The anti-graft agency also said in the report that one person identified as Oliver Ntom, withdrew over N19bn from the account of the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services on the instructions of the Permanent Secretary, Boniface Nyaakor.

The N19billion, which was allegedly withdrawn under the pretext of security votes, was said to have been diverted and the memos written in respect of the withdrawal destroyed.

The report further stated, “Investigations revealed that N19bn was withdrawn by one Oliver Ntom, a cashier. Sometimes, in a day, he would withdraw as high as N500m by cashing several cheques worth N10m each.

“The permanent secretary upon interrogation said anytime security agencies requested funds, he would approach Governor Ortom who would ask him to write a memo to that effect. The permanent secretary would write and the governor would approve the money.

“The permanent secretary said the funds are usually given to six security agencies. He said the highest that any security agency gets is N10m a month while the least any of the agencies gets is N5m a month.

“He said after the money has been released, the governor usually orders that the memo be torn to pieces. It is important to note that if a total of N60m is given to all the security agencies collectively every month as claimed by the permanent secretary, it cannot amount to half of N19bn in three years.”

The commission said the funds being spent were not in the budget of the Benue State Government, accusing Ortom of failing to pay salaries despite withdrawing N1.328bn from the Joint State Local Government Account in Fidelity Bank with number 5030058730.

The report added, “Investigations revealed that one John Bako, a member of one of the security outfits in Benue, withdrew N28m while one Andooi Festus, believed to be a cashier from the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs withdrew N1.3bn. They have been invited.”

With Ortom losing immunity as he bows out today as governor of Benue State, it is believed that the anti-graft agency now has the leeway to beam its searchlight on him once again.

DARIUS ISHAKU

The outgoing governor of Taraba State certainly has some questions to answer with the EFCC now that he’ll be out of power later today. In May 2021, the anti-graft agency arrested and detained some officials of the state government over alleged N21billion fraud. They were held in custody at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja over their alleged roles in the questionable withdrawal of N21 billion naira from the coffers of the state.

There are however allegations that within five years, officials of the outgoing governor Ishaku-led administration looted about N39billion from the treasury of the state. There are series of petitions by different groups and individuals from the state before the EFCC asking the anti-graft agency to probe the finances of the state under outgoing Governor Ishaku. The allegations against the outgoing governor include his alleged use of his younger sister and fake contract awards to launder about N39billion of the state’s funds. Ishaku certainly will have a lot of questions to answer from the EFCC if the myriad of allegations of fraud against him and the petitions with the anti-graft agency are anything to go by, now that he’s completing his eight-year tenure today.

There is no doubt that other outgoing state governors, too, will have no less a tough time answering questions from EFCC investigators on how they handled funds from their states’ treasuries their tenure lasted.