LAGOS, Nigeria — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has launched an investigation into the outgoing Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, over allegations of a staggering N70 billion fraud.
In a statement issued on Thursday, May 18, 2023, the EFCC alleges that Matawalle, an influential powerbroker in the All Progressives Congress, APC, engaged in monumental corruption, including the award of phantom contracts and the diversion of funds.
The EFCC’s statement partly reads, “The money, 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 not executed.”
Matawalle is accused of diverting these substantial funds through over 100 companies, none of which have shown evidence of services rendered to the state.
In a startling twist, the EFCC reports that some contractors allegedly confessed to being compelled to return the funds—after converting them to US dollars—to the governor via his aides.
“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 Dollar and return to the State governor through some of his commissioners, notably the Commissioners in charge of Finance and Local Government Affairs,” the EFCC revealed.
The commission’s probe has already unearthed approximately N300 million ($750,000) from Fezel Nigeria Limited, a sum linked to the Zamafara Investment Company.
Despite these serious allegations, the EFCC has yet to arrest Governor Matawalle due to legal immunity provided to Nigerian state governors and their deputies while in office.
“In Nigeria, state governors and their deputies enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while in office,” the EFCC clarified in its statement.
Matawalle, having lost his re-election bid in the 2023 governorship election, is set to complete his single four-year term on May 29, 2023.
With the end of his tenure and consequent expiration of his immunity looming, the governor now faces an uncertain future as the EFCC’s investigation intensifies.
The accusations against Matawalle represent a high-profile example of Nigeria’s ongoing struggle against corruption at all levels of government.
Whether these charges will lead to successful prosecution remains to be seen, but the investigation undeniably sends a powerful message about the nation’s continued fight for accountability and transparency.