GOVERNOR Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has accused the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, of demanding $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.
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 is claiming he has evidence on governors, let him show to the world evidence of those at the federal level.
“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.”
Following the accusation, EFCC chairman Bawa asked Matawalle to prove the allegation of corruption against him.
According to DAILY TRUST, Bawa, during an interview with BBC Hausa, said that it would be beneficial for Matawalle to provide supporting evidence for his allegations.
“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.
Meanwhile, a group of civil society organisations are demanding Bawa’s immediate resignation.
They alleged that the EFCC under Bawa was corrupt and inefficient.
The activists, led by Debo Adeniran and representing over 150 organisations, emphasised that the EFCC was founded as a crucial agency to fight corruption, and not a tool to settle political scores.
They claim that it is accepted practice worldwide for officials suspected of serious misbehaviour to resign during investigations.
Adeniran, the chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), demanded a thorough investigation into the actions of the EFCC under Bawa.
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.
“There have been several allegations to the effect that about 80 per cent of cases under EFCC investigation are not taken to court, and that EFCC offices now literally serve as courtrooms.
“There are damning allegations that some of the Commission’s officials simply negotiate with suspects, get assets and cash retrieved and do plea bargains.
“This opens limitless opportunities for corrupt bargaining and self-enrichment by the operatives of EFCC under Bawa’s watch,” the CSOs said.
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 said Bawa had been convicted of contempt over his failure to comply with an earlier order of the court.
The activists also contested Bawa’s assertions about the EFCC’s conviction rates — 98.93% conviction rate in 2022, with only 1.07% lost — claiming that most prosecutions were tied to online fraudsters while politically powerful people went unpunished.
Meanwhile, the EFCC revealed that it is investigating Governor Bello Matawalle over alleged N70 billion theft through fraudulent contracts awarded by his administration.
EFCC Director of Communication Osita Nwajah said this on Thursday, 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 but provided no evidence of service to the state.
The Commission added that several of the contractors it had invited and questioned had made shocking admissions about how the governor allegedly forced them to return the money they had received from the state coffers to him through his aides after converting it to US 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 Dollars 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 N6 billion on a N10 billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara State. Another contractor collected 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,” Nwajah added.
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 a sum of N300 million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited.
It added that funds were traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.
As a result of Matawale’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.