The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has revealed what may have been a betrayal of trust within Nigerian governors.
Commission has alleged that the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) who is also the governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari, may have used his position among the governors to pilfer N500million and $500,000 from the account of the group.
According to the anti-graft body, the money was meant to be part of the Paris Club refunds made by the Federal Government to the 36 states.
The commission has also obtained an interim forfeiture order of the sums which were recovered from two firms, First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited, and Gosh Projects Limited.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, of a Federal High Court in Abuja was said to have given the interim forfeiture order of the monies which the commission claims it has linked to Yari.
The application which was jointly filed on June 19, 2017 by the Federal Government of Nigeria (the first applicant) and the EFCC (the second applicant) was said to have been granted on June 30, 2017.
The commission in an affidavit filed in support of its ex parte application for the interim forfeiture of the monies, alleged that the N500m was diverted by Yari from the account of the NGF to offset a personal loan obtained from the First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited.
It also alleged that Gosh Projects Limited, received a major part of the funds which were reportedly used to buy building materials for a 100-room hotel project in Lagos, said to belong to the Zamfara governor.
The company was also said to have used part of the looted funds for the purchase of treasury bills, while it also transferred some of it to offshore accounts.
In his ruling, Justice Dimgba also ordered that any person(s) or body with interest in the funds must, within 14 days of the publication of the interim order of forfeiture in any national daily, show reason why an order of final forfeiture to the Federal Government of the funds should not be made.
Joined as respondents were First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited and Gosh Projects Limited.
In an affidavit filed in support of EFCC’s ex parte motion, one of its operatives, Mr. Osas Azonabor, described the Paris Club refund as a “complex case of money laundering.”
He stated that certain firms were used to divert about N2.2bn from the Paris Club refunds kept in the account of the NGF.
He also alleged that the sum of N500m, recovered from First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited, was part of funds “fraudulently transferred” from the NGF account, to BINA Consults and Integrated Services Limited on December 23, 2016.
The Paris Club refund has been trailed with controversies, as a number of the states have been accused of diverting the bailout funds to purposes not intended for the refund.
While the federal government had intended for the refund to be used in offsetting the backlog of salaries owed civil servants in many of the states, the funds have been allegedly diverted for white elephant projects in some of the states.
Only recently, one state governor was alleged to have lost about $10million diverted from the bailout fund to his America-based mistress in whose account the money was kept.
According to reports, in efforts to avoid detection by security agencies, the governor had commissioned his mistress to help him launder the money to slush accounts he provided. But instead, the lady sent the money into her own account in the United States.