Paris Club probe: Governors gripped with fear … Threaten showdown with Magu

Ibrahim Magu

Nigerian governors have concluded plans to report the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to the Federal Government.

The governors also said they would embark on what they described as “a showdown” with Magu over the anti-graft agency’s probe into the recently-released Paris Club loan refunds to the states.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, who is also the Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, stated this while speaking with some journalists in Abuja on Thursday.

He said the leadership of the EFCC was not planning to win the numerous corruption cases in courts, but would prefer to engage in media trials.

Yari, who has been accused by the EFCC of diverting part of the refund, stated that the governors were tired of being intimidated and harassed by the anti-graft agency on how they spent the money.

The governor specifically responded to an order by a Federal High Court that the sums of N500m and $500,000, said to have been diverted from the Paris Club refund in favour of the 36 states of the federation, be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.

The sums of money were said to have been recovered from two companies which were allegedly linked to Yari.

The companies are First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited and Gosh Projects Limited, said to be using the money for a 100-room hotel project in Lagos.

The EFCC alleged that the sums of money were fraudulently diverted from the NGF’s bank account on the instructions of Yari.

The anti-graft agency also alleged in an affidavit, filed in support of its ex parte application before the court, that the N500m was diverted to offset Yari’s personal loan obtained from the First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited.

The governor, who denied the allegations, said neither him nor any of the other governors became governors only to be harassed by the EFCC.

He noted that the problem with the EFCC was because it chose to act on any petition sent to it without conducting its own investigation.

The chairman of the NGF stated, “I believe the EFCC does not have its own engineers to quantify, to know what is exactly on the ground. And a project that is done in Rivers State for N2m, in Zamfara it will be about N150,000.

“You cannot say the price of things in Rivers should be the same in Zamfara or somewhere else. The terrain is entirely different and the cost is different, so the risk as well is entirely different. So, all these are taken into consideration.

”If there is a project, which is suspected to be inflated, there are quantity surveyors. You can’t just, because somebody wrote a petition, then, you say you are working on it without doing your own due diligence.

“Then, why is the EFCC pursuing the governors? Get these people if you are really going to fight it. If you are ready for it, get anybody who did the wrong thing.’’

He alleged that governors were being frustrated by the anti-corruption agency.

Yari added, “To me, I am going to write to the Federal Government that enough is enough; that either the EFCC should do its work or we should ‘do showdown’ with them (EFCC) because nobody became governor to be intimidated, to be harassed, to be abused by a DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police, Magu).

“The problem with the EFCC is that it only wants Nigerians to know it has invited a governor or that one former governor is arrested.

“The commission will not tidy its work before going to court. It goes to court and lose all the cases because of the way it initiates the case; but never do so to achieve success.

“You can’t fight corruption that way and forever, they (EFCC) will not achieve anything.”

According to the Zamfara State governor, he does not know why the commission is after him.

Yari stated, “In the case of my humble self, I have no idea why the EFCC is actually interested in the issue of the London Paris Club refund.

“It has been on this since inception up till now. It has been repeating, contradicting so many things especially about personalities.

“So, if there is anything wrong there, it should approach the person whom it suspects did something wrong, and not to be making noise about it.

“I challenge the chairman of EFCC to open up and say if he has ever come to me and interviewed me about what happened.

“We didn’t commit any fraud. I am not a signatory to that account but I am the head. We have director-general, we have head of finance, we have other officers of finance.’’

Yari added, “So, it is what governors agree that I, as chairman, append my signature on. So now, they are saying $86m fraud, N19bn fraud, $3m hotel; which one do we believe?

“When it came to the issue of hotel, I challenge them that wherever they sighted a hotel in Lekki or anywhere, let them present it to the public and how did $2m get in there, through who, through which account? Who made the payment? Who is the owner of the property initially that took the money.

“Is the EFCC saying that before I became a governor, I didn’t have N150m? In my Code of Conduct papers, I have property and money worth billions.’’

Yari said the anti-graft agency was pursuing the mandate given to it in a wrong way by allegedly going after political enemies.

“Because, to the best of my knowledge, the EFCC was set up for the nation not for the governors.

“But since the establishment of the EFCC in 2004, if I am not mistaken, the EFCC has been pursuing governors,” he said.”Punch

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