The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has commenced an investigation on the Kogi State government and Governor Yahaya Bello over allegations of fraud.
In a letter signed by the EFCC’s Director of Operations, Mr Abdulkarim Chukkol, and seen by Peoples Gazette, the anti-graft agency said it received a petition filed against Mr Bello and certain officials of his government.
A non-governmental organisation, Anti-Corruption Network, on March 1, filed the petition against the governor, on claims that it uncovered huge financial fraud carried out in the state.
In a copy of the petition shared on Twitter by former Kogi senator, Dino Melaye, the organisation detailed the allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption by Mr Bello, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The governor was said to have awarded contracts to non-legal persons, even so without due process.
According to Mr Melaye, the petition was also submitted to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), U.S. Embassy, British High Commission and Transparency International.
A part of the petition read: “We have meticulously investigated and uncovered huge financial fraud carried out by Kogi State Government, the Governor of Kogi State and his Cohorts from 2016 – 2019, ranging from the award of contracts to non-legal persons, award of contracts without due process, circumvention of procurement procedures, suspicious payments made without specific breakdown, money laundering, borrowing from the non-capital market, fraudulent loan, and many others.”
The organisation further urged the new EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to use his “good office and cause a further investigation on this matter and bring the perpetrators to book.”
The EFCC, in the letter dated March 26, summoned the group for an interview on March 31 at its headquarters in Abuja.
However, the spokesperson for the anti-graft agency, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to a call seeking his comment on the investigation.
On March 4, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, asked the governor to “answer to revelations by the Anti-Corruption Network that he laundered over N3.7 billion in addition to billions of naira allegedly laundered through other individuals.
“Governor Yahaya Bello should answer to allegations by the Anti-Corruption Network that he siphoned billions of naira through the award of contracts, without due process, to Southbridge Integrated Services Limited to the tune of N624 million, in addition to five other companies which allegedly got between N22 million N129 million, respectively,” the PDP said in a statement.
“Against this background, our party calls on the EFCC, under its new leadership, to immediately commence investigation by inviting all those mentioned in the report as well as prosecute any individual or company indicted in the matter.”
Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a letter dated March 27, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the governor over mismanagement of COVID-19 donations and support from the federal government.
The governor stirred controversy in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, joining issues with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to declare that the “state is not testing at all and is an absolute high risk for Nigerians to go there because there is no testing facility and even if you fall sick, there is no isolation centre, and they don’t even acknowledge that the disease exists.”
SERAP, in a letter signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, urged Mr Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, SAN and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate alleged misuse of the N4.5 billion donations, loans and support the Kogi State government obtained from the federal government, including N90,720,000 reportedly spent on software to track COVID-19 cases in the state.”
Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami [Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria]
The organisation stated that “if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, anyone suspected to be involved should face prosecution, as appropriate.”
The group reminded Mr Buhari of the promise he made at his inaugural speech in 2015, where he said his administration “will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others to abuse theirs under my watch.”
SERAP stated: “As you have correctly stated, the obligations of your government to combat corruption in Nigeria extend to all the three tiers of government, namely, the federal, state and local governments.”