EFCC chairman, Matawalle fight dirty over corruption allegations

ECONOMIC and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa and outgoing governor of Zamfara State Bello Matawalle are currently engaged in a dirty fight over corruption allegations.

While Bawa accused Matawalle of involvement in ‘monumental corruption’, the governor accused the EFCC chairman of demanding a $2 million bribe from him.

The governor made the accusation in an interview with BBC Hausa Service.

The development is coming amid claims by the EFCC that it is investigating Matawalle over alleged monumental corruption involving the theft of about N70 billion.

The allegation

Speaking in the interview with BBC Hausa Service, Matawalle said, “It is not just to always blame governors. It is not only governors who have treasury; the Federal Government also has. What does the EFCC boss do to them? As he claims he has evidence on governors, let him show the world evidence of those at the federal level.

Zamfara State governor Bello Matawalle. File Copy.

“If he exits office, people will surely know he is not an honest person. I have evidence against him. Let him vacate office.

“I am telling you, within 10 seconds, probably more than 200 people will bring evidence of the bribe he collected from them. He knows what he requested from me, but I declined.

“He requested a bribe of $2 million from me, and I have evidence of this. He knows the house we met, he invited me and told me the conditions. He told me governors were going to his office, but I did not. If I don’t have evidence, I won’t say this.”

Bawa’s response

Reacting to the accusation, Bawa asked Matawalle to prove the allegation of corruption against him.

According to Daily Trust, Bawa, in an interview with BBC Hausa, said it would be beneficial for Matawalle to provide supporting evidence for his allegations.

EFCC Chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa
EFCC Chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa

“There is no human being who is 100% clean; I read somewhere he (Matawalle) asked us to extend our investigation to ministers.

“We carry out our investigations thoroughly, and if Governor Matawalle has knowledge of any minister or governor involved in corrupt practices, he should report it to the appropriate authorities.

“If he has records of my purported corrupt practices, the appropriate channels for redress would be through reporting to the police, ICPC, and the Code of Conduct. Subsequently, investigations into such complaints would ensue,” Bawa said.

The EFCC chairman added that he has nothing to hide and asked Matawalle to petition appropriate authorities if he had any evidence against him.

CSOs demand Bawa’s resignation

Meanwhile, a group of civil society organisations have been demanding Bawa’s resignation.

They alleged that the EFCC under Bawa was corrupt and inefficient.

The activists, led by the  Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, and representing over 150 organisations, emphasised that the EFCC was founded as a crucial agency to fight corruption but has become a tool for settling political scores.

Demanding Bawa’s exit from the office, they argued that it is accepted practice worldwide for officials suspected of serious misbehaviour to resign during investigations.

Adeniran demanded a thorough investigation into the actions of the EFCC under Bawa.

Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Debo Adeniran
Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Debo Adeniran

He also referred to the treatment of Bawa’s predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, who was forced to resign before the investigation against him had produced a conclusive result.

The group called for a thorough investigation into the activities of the EFCC in the last three years, analysing records of arrests, investigations, outcomes and final closure of each incident and individual suspects and how the matters were eventually dispensed with.

“Allegations of sharp practices with confiscated assets by this anti-graft agency have refused to go away.

“To this end, all seized assets need to be forensically audited with a view to recovering all assets re-looted or auctioned in suspicious circumstances,” Olufemi Lawson, CACOL’s spokesperson, added.

The group also accused Bawa of contempt over his failure to comply with an earlier court order.

The activists also contested Bawa’s assertions about the EFCC’s conviction rates — 98.93 per cent conviction rate in 2022, with only 1.07 per cent lost — claiming that most prosecutions were tied to online fraudsters while politically powerful people went unpunished.

Why we are investigating Matawalle — EFCC 

Meanwhile, the EFCC revealed that it is investigating Matawalle over alleged N70 billion theft through fraudulent contracts awarded by his administration.

EFCC Director of Communication Osita Nwajah disclosed this on May 18, while addressing journalists at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.

“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 allegations of monumental corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70 billion,” Nwajah said.

Accusing the governor of “monumental” corruption, the EFCC stated that it tracked down more than 100 companies that received payments from the claimed funds while there was no evidence of service to the state.

The EFCC said that as part of the extensive investigation of contracts awarded by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the Commission recovered N300 million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited.

It added that funds were traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.

As a result of Matawalle’s immunity from prosecution as a state governor, the EFCC said that he has not yet been detained and charged with any crimes related to his alleged criminal behaviour.

Also, in another statement on May 19, the EFCC described Matawalle’s $2m bribe accusation as a means to divert attention from the alleged fraud perpetrated by the Zamfara governor.

In the statement signed by spokesperson of the Commission Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC said Matawalle’s recourse to mudslinging is symptomatic of a drowning man clutching at straws. 

Wilson Uwajuren, EFCC spokesman

The EFCC added that if Matawalle should be taken seriously, he should go beyond “sabre-rattling by spilling the beans – provide concrete evidence as proof of his allegations.”

The Commission warned the public about plans by some of the alleged corrupt, politically exposed persons to flee the country before May 29. The EFCC, however, said it is working with its international partners to frustrate the escape plans of such politicians and bring those involved to justice.

Reactions trail allegations 

Reacting to the matter, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Citizens Advocacy For Social and Economic Rights (CASER), said the Zamfara governor’s ‘accusatory tactics’ will not help him.

CASER, in a press release signed by its Programme Officer (Socio-Legal) Collins Abia, said it is concerned with the adoption of accusatory tactics by some politically exposed persons (PEPs) to intimidate public officials, particularly those working in law enforcement, anti-corruption and the judiciary.

“Nigerians have suffered dramatically from the consequences of deliberate misgovernance in the hands of politicians, particularly state governors, many of whom have failed to deliver on the provision of essential government services because they have diverted allocated state resources for their private use and the security of their future and that of their immediate family.

“Undoubtedly, many State Governors are jittery and apprehensive as their tenures end and the days of reckoning with their use of state resources are fast drawing near. 

“These fearful governors, including their appointees, have abused the trust of public office by corruptly enriching themselves instead of using the resources of their states to improve the security and welfare of the people,” CASER stated.

The group said it is not surprising that Matawalle chose to stretch the expiring fortunes of his immunity as a sitting governor to make allegations against the EFCC chairman, knowing that investigations on the misconduct of his administration are nearly concluded and that he would be indeed arrested immediately he leaves office.

CASER, therefore, urges the EFCC and the Nigerian Public not to be deceived by the antics of the Zamfara State governor but insist that he immediately makes public the details of his allegations against Bawa

“The expected public sympathy he had hoped to get by his sensational accusation would not help him escape the thorough investigations that the EFCC had begun against him. Anyone can make wild allegations against any other person, but such a person peddling damaging statements against the reputation of another must be prepared to substantiate such allegations or face the consequences of such a misadventure,” the group added.

CASER asked the in-coming administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to allow Matawalle’s new accusatory tactics to stand as it can be adopted by other governors facing investigation.

Also commenting on the issue in an interview with The ICIR, a newspaper columnist Mojeed Dahiru described the saga as “a needless war of words between a governor and Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption agency”.

According to Dahiru, the EFCC is doing well in the war against corruption but will do better if it acts more ‘institutionally’ and be less ‘individualistic’ in discharging its responsibilities.

“And by this, I mean for the EFCC to engage less in media trials of individuals and focus more on the bigger picture of the much-needed institutional war on corruption in Nigeria. 

“For example, when the governor accused the EFCC of bias in the anti-corruption war, the best response from the Agency would have been simply to set the records straight to the contrary rather counter accusing their accuser of corruption as though it was resorting to providing a “corruption equivalence” in its defence.”

Dahiru added that if indeed the governor has established corruption cases as alleged by the EFCC, the best thing would have been to proceed with prosecution without resorting to a media trial?

In a chat with The ICIR, a human rights lawyer, Frank Tietie, said Matawalle should provide material evidence of the allegation.

He added that any accusation without evidence should be jettisoned.

A reporter with the ICIR
A Journalist with a niche for quality and a promoter of good governance

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