ABOUT 12 state governors are currently bracing up for life after May 29 when they will vacate their exalted position and face a new set of life challenges; one of which is an investigation of how they have managed the resources put in their care by the anti-graft agencies namely; the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.
Without mincing words, the EFCC has expressed its preparedness to go after outgoing governors who have questions to answer after losing their immunity from May 29. Acting Head, Media & Publicity, Tony Orilade told Saturday Sun yesterday that operatives of the commission will swoop on outgoing governors who are fingered in diverse range of alleged financial offences like misappropriation of Paris Club refund monies paid to them and diversion of state funds among others.
According to him, “we are ready, we will bring to book immediately their immunity ends, governors who are found wanting in anywhere. We know them and the financial offences they are involved in.” Orilade also said the com- mission is probing governors who were involved in vote buying and other financial crimes. We are not leaving anything out, we are probing every financial crime and anybody who is involved in it will face the music”, he further said.
Those who will lose constitutional protection from May 29 include Governors of Adamawa, Jibrilla Bindow; Bauchi, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar; Borno, Kashim Shettima; Gombe, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo; Imo, Rochas Okorocha; Kwara, Abdulfatah Ahmed; Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode; Nasarawa, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura; Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun; Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi; Yobe, Ibrahim Geidam and Zamfara, Abdul-Aziz Yari Abubakar. Of the lot, Saturday Sun gathered, at least five of them already have case files opened for them based on petitions, intelligence and preliminary findings against them. One of the affected governors is from Northwest, two from Northeast, one from Southeast and another one from North central.
Before now, Zamfara State governor, Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari has been having a running battle with the EFCC over alleged diversion of Paris Club refund money by the governor. As Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Fo- rum, the governor had been accused in May 2017, of alleged diversion of $3 million from the Paris Club refund to build a 100-room hotel in Lekki, Lagos and another N500million from the special account of the NGF and deposited same into a Mort- gage Bank account to pay off a loan among others.
Gov Yari had threatened showdown with the EFCC for accusing him of diverting part of Paris Club loan refunds. He had said he would formally write the Federal Government to complain about the “antics” of the commission’s Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, against other governors. “I am going to w rite to the Federal Government that enough is enough; that either the EFCC does its work or we do a showdown with it,’’ he had said then while defending himself in the media.
The NGF Chairman said it was unfortunate that the EFCC, in most instances, acted on petitions sent to it without conducting proper investigation.
“You can’t just because somebody wrote a petition, then, you say you are work- ing on it without doing your own due diligent investigation,” Mr Yari had said.
The EFCC, also beamed its searchlight on the Ro- chas Okorocha administration in Imo State when on Thursday, March 8, 2019 its operatives arrested the Act- ing Accountant General of the state, Mr. Uzoho Casmir on allegation of laundering the sum of N1.050billion, through a new generation bank for the governor.
Uzoho’s arrest followed intelligence report that the governor intended to use the money for vote buying in favour of a particular candidate in the March 9 gubernatorial election in the state.
Intelligence further revealed that Mr Casmir withdrew the amount in three tranches between Tuesday and Thursday of that week in the following order; N200million on Tuesday, N500million on Wednesday and N350million on Thursday. Meanwhile, the EFCC has blocked the traced accounts, while the arrested Accountant General has been providing useful information to the Commis- sion. Mr Casmir was before his appointment, a Director of Finance in Okorocha’s government and was in 2016 fingered in N2billion bailout fund scam, which was paid to the state by the Federal Government for the payment of salary arrears of civil servants. Okorocha has also been accused by the opposition PDP of diverting N17b from the state resources.
Governor Okorocha has however said that, with its meagre federal allocation and a paltry Internally Generated Revenue, Imo State did not have the N17bn said to have been illegally withdrawn by him. He also challenged the PDP’s governor-elect of the state, Emeka Ihedioha, to probe the N17bn allegedly with- drawn from financial institutions in the state recently.
In the same vein, the EFCC on Thursday, March 7, 2019 uncovered about N1billion cash withdrawal by the Kwara State Govern- ment, a week before the last Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Those arrested and currently being interrogated in respect of the suspicious withdrawal, include, Com- missioner for Finance, Nu- rudeen Banu; Accountant General, Sulaiman Ishola; Commissioner for Water Resources, Yusuf Abdulkadir; Head of Service, Susan Modupe Oluwole; Special Adviser, Commissioner for Energy, Eleja Taiwo Banu; Chief of Staff, Abdulwahab Yusuf; officials of the Secretary to the State Government, and those of the Government House.
Though the Kwara officials have been granted ad- ministrative bail, no doubt outgoing Governor Ahmed Abdulfatah may have questions to answer about this transaction and more after he loses immunity on May 29.
Pushing back attempts by the EFCC to direct its focus on their states, two of the governors spoken to said they have nothing to fear from the anti-graft agency after losing their immunity at the end of May. Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara governor on Media and Communication, Dr Muideen Akorede said: “I am unaware of this assertion by EFCC. But I want the public to know that we in Kwara State are not afraid of EFCC because all the government financial transactions are done following due process and mark you the governor is a financial expert who always ensures best practices in all our transactions.”
Similarly, Chief Press Secretary to the Imo State governor, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo said Governor Okorocha has nothing to worry about EFCC probe of the state transactions. “It is not true that Governor Okorocha is on any list of governors who may be ar- rested by the EFCC after May 29, because there is no such list and if there is any, Governor Rochas Okorocha is not among,” Onwuemeodo boasted.