Ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election in 29 states, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested a dozen of top government officials in Imo and Kwara states for surreptitious withdrawal of over N2 billion for alleged vote-buying to ensure the victory of their preferred candidates. While the Acting Accountant General of Imo State, Mr. Uzoho Cashmier, was the only one arrested yesterday over withdrawal of N1.050 billion between Tuesday and Friday, no fewer than 10 officials of the Kwara State government had been detained and released on bail by the EFCC over cash withdrawal of N1.020 billion.a
A top EFCC official confirmed to Vanguard that Uzoho’s arrest followed intelligence report that a top official in the state had intended to use the huge cash to ensure that his preferred candidate emerges victorious in the contentious poll. The EFCC source said: “Intelligence further revealed that Mr. Casmir withdrew the amount in three tranches between Tuesday and Thursday this week in the following order: N200 million on Tuesday, N500 million on Wednesday and N350 million on Thursday.
“We have in the meanwhile blocked the traced accounts, while the arrested Accountant General has been providing useful information to the Commission,” the anti-graft agency said. The anti-graft agency recalled that the said official was before his appointment, a director of finance in Imo State and was in 2016 fingered in N2 billion bailout fund scam, which was given to the state by the Federal Government for the payment of salary arrears of civil servants. In a similar operation, the EFCC on Thursday, March 7, 2019 uncovered about N1billion cash withdrawal by the Kwara State Government, a week before the last Presidential and National Assembly elections. Those arrested and currently being interrogated in respect of the suspicious withdrawal, include, Commissioner for Finance, Nurudeen 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. Investigations by EFCC operatives revealed that the said money was withdrawn from the state’s account domiciled with Sterling Bank. An official of the State Government, Hafees Yusuf, confirmed to the operatives that he got instructions from his “boss” to withdraw some monies sometimes in February 2019. He said: “My Controller of Finance told me that the sum of N350 millionwas paid into the account of Kwara State Government, and I was instructed by my boss to raise cheques of various sums of monies, which I did and were duly signed by the Controller of Finance; I withdrew the monies as I was instructed by my supervisor.” It was gathered that a senior staff of Sterling Bank, who is currently being interrogated by operatives, revealed that the Accountant General, Commissioner for Finance and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, are signatories to the account where N720 million cash were withdrawn from the Kwara State Government Account domiciled in the branch of the bank near Ilorin Post Office between February 7 and 11, 2019. Based on the revelation, EFCC officials swooped on three Relationship Managers of the bank – Rahaman Alimi, Akinleye Ademola and Olarewaju Sarafa, who were identified as the ones who loaded the cash into a bullion van and personally delivered it to the Chief of Staff to the Kwara State Governor, Abdulwahab Yusuf.
The bank officials confessed to the operatives that they acted on the instruction of their “boss” who was later identified as, Rasaq Abolarin. Vanguard learnt that although all the Kwara State officials had been granted administrative bail, EFCC plans to arraign them in court next week for money laundering. The commission said on Friday that the suspicious withdrawals were uncovered after its operatives acted on a petition by a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Kwara Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability (KWARA-CGGA) asking for the probe of over N1 billion loan that the State Government secured from a bank a few days before the general elections. Hassan Omoiya, Secretary General of the organization, noted that intelligence had it that the state government obtained the loan on February 13, from a bank using the remittance of Kwara State VAT allocation due in February and March 2019 as collateral. He further urged the EFCC to “determine the appropriateness of utilization of credit facility of N1 billion by Kwara State Government at the twilight of general election.”
By Soni Daniel