$2 Million Bribe And N70 Billion Diversion Funds: Abdulrasheed Bawa Vs Governor Bello Matawalle – The Hunter and The Hunted by Sam Olorunfemi Jr
The drama of allegations and counter-allegations between the outgoing Governor of Zamfara state, Bello Matawalle, and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrashed Bawa has subjugated the media space both conventional and unconventional over the ongoing media war between the duo on corruption charges against each other.
Governor Bello Matawalle will be among the outgoing Governors, as a result of his lost reelection bid in Zamafara for the second term in office, after the completion of his first term in office from 2019-2023 under PDP and APC.
Recall that in 2019, Governor Bello Matawalle contested the Zamfara state governorship election but lost to the APC candidate as a result of the internal party crisis in the state. The Apex Court nullified the election and ordered the political party that came second in the state to assume office which made Governor Matawalle become the governor along the line, Governor Matawalle defected to the ruling APC but his deputy failed to defect along with him, which led to party crisis between Governor Matawalle and the PDP over the defection.
Governor Bello Matawalle during his first administration faced serious security challenges in the state, particularly banditry that led to the kidnapping of a high number of school pupils in the state.
In the buildup to the just conducted 2023 Governorship and state houses of Assembly election, Governor Matawalle was among the APC Governors that got the party ticket to seek reelection for the second term in office, but unfortunately for him, he lost the election to the opposition party in the state.
Nigerians will recall that change of naira policy introduced by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele before the general elections, which led to cash fixation among Nigerians, made some sitting Governors from the North take the Federal Government to court over the excruciating pain the policy caused on election preparation, businesses, and Nigeria. The three Governors are El-Rufai of Kaduna, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, and Bello Matawlle of Zamfara state, and the three Governors enjoyed the overwhelming support of Nigerians.
Governor Bello Matawalle is known as a controversial Governor, especially when he lost his reelection bid and attributed it to a fight against the new naira design policy by President Buhari administration through the CBN Governor, which he said some people used that fight to work against him at the poll.
The Hunter And The Hunted:
After the election, the CBN Governor was the first person that Governor Bello Matawalle knocked, after news emanated from the Presidency that Mr Godwin Emefiele has written a letter to the President for approval to get a study leave to go outside the country to acquire more education and to leave before the May 29 inauguration of the incoming administration of Bola Tinubu, which majority of Nigerians and APC proponents have accused the CBN Governor that he deliberately came up with the new naira redesigning notes with the intention to prevent Bola Tinubu from monetization the election to his advantage.
Governor Bello Matawalle who was among the Governors that challenged and defeated the Federal Government in court over the new note policy came heavily on the CBN Governor with an open letter to Mr. President, that request the CBN Governor for study leave outside the country must not be granted, with the insinuation that the CBN Governor wanted to abscond in order not to face the administration of Bola Tinubu as Nigerians are been saying the incoming administration will not spare the CBN Governor from facing the consequences of his action over naira redesigning policy before the election.
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Barely less than a week after Governor Bello Matawalle’s open letter to the CBN Governor, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), disclosed that it had commenced an investigation into the alleged diversion of N70 billion by the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle. Speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, Director of Public Affairs, EFCC, Osita Nwajah, said Matawalle was under investigation by the anti-graft agency over “allegation of monumental corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70 billion” from the coffers of the state.
EFCC said the money, which was sourced as a 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 never executed. He said the commission’s investigations so far revealed that more than 100 companies 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 Zamfara 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 an 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 (BDC) operator. The contractor confessed the payment was to procure the dollar equivalent, allegedly, for the state governor. – EFCC
The Commission through the Director of Public Affairs, Nwajah, disclosed 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.
But in his reaction, Governor Bello Matawalle accused the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, of demanding a $2 million bribe from him.
“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 the office, I am telling you within 10 seconds probably more than 200 people will bring evidence of bribes 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.” – Governor Bello Matawalle
In the history of the EFCC since its inception under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCRF, Abdulrasheed Bawa is the Fifth Chairman of the Commission, the youngest, and the only one with no police experience background like Nuhu Ribadu, Farida Waziri, Ibrahim Lamode and Ibrahim Magu, the immediate past chairman of the commission, who was ousted from office as a result of corruption charges against him by the outgoing Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, before Abdulrasheed Bawa was brought into office by the same AGF.
The allegations of Governor Matawalle are a big dent in the image of the EFCC, under Abdulrasheed Bawa and Nigerians will be waiting for more revelations and evidence against the EFCC chair, to know if the hunter will eventually become hunted at the end of this drama.
As enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under section 308, the immunity for the President, Vice President, Governors, and Deputy Governors which Governor Matawalle will enjoy till May 29, when he will handover the seat of power to the incoming Governor of the state and the big question is: would Governor Matawalle be arrested by the EFCC after May 29 or would he act like former Governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose that made himself available at the EFCC office in Abuja after leaving the office or would the EFCC chair be the hunted at the end?
Nigerians can not wait to see what will end this drama between the duo of the hunter and hunted.
Sam Olorunfemi Jr