Adelani Adepegba, Abuja and Alexander Okere
There are strong indications that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is monitoring the bank accounts of various states to prevent outgoing governors from looting their state coffers.
It was gathered that the bank accounts of many states, including that of Imo, Kano, Kwara, Lagos and others, might have been placed under special watch.
Saturday Punch learnt that the monitoring of the states’ bank accounts was meant to prevent them from being depleted by governors.
Sources informed our correspondent on Friday that the commission was particularly focusing on outgoing governors who might want to siphon public funds before leaving office.
The action was sequel to intelligence report about suspicious financial activities by top officials of the concerned states.
This is happening barely one week after the arrest of the Imo State acting Accountant-General, Mr Uzoho Casmir, on allegations of withdrawing N1.050bn from the state coffers for vote-buying on the instruction of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Uzoho’s arrest on Thursday last week followed intelligence report that the governor allegedly intended to use the money for vote-buying in favour of his preferred candidate in the March 16 governorship elections.
The anti-graft agency was also said to have uncovered about N1bn cash withdrawal by the Kwara State Government, a week before the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Investigations by the EFCC operatives revealed that the money was withdrawn from the state’s account domiciled with Sterling Bank.
Confiding in Saturday Punch, a source said, “Following intelligence reports that some state governments were looting public funds to induce voters during the elections, the EFCC set up a special team which has successfully tracked the financial improprieties by Imo, Kano and Kwara states.
“The agency is also monitoring the accounts of many other states to prevent suspicious withdrawals and transactions.”
The acting EFCC spokesman, Tony Orilade, did not deny or confirm the surveillance on the bank accounts of state governments as he simply said that part of the responsibility of the Commission was to prevent corruption.
He said, “Whether somebody is leaving office or not is not the reason we are investigating, we have the mandate and by virtue of a Supreme Court pronouncement, anyone can be investigated.
“Immunity precludes some people from being prosecuted and these are the President, Vice President, the governors and their deputies. So, whether you are leaving office after a second term or not, it does not stop ongoing investigation activities.”
The Coalition of United Political Parties had also raised the alarm over alleged looting of the Kano State treasury following the reported withdrawal of N223m from the state coffers.
A purported voucher from Unity Bank dated March 12, 2019, gave the breakdown of the cash transfer to 13 local government areas.
It showed that N14m was paid into Bichi LGA account number 0019700508; Doguwa, N17m; Nasarawa, N18m; Rimi Gado, N16m; Gwarzo, N13m; Sumaila, N19m and Wudil, N18.5m.
Others are Dawakin Kudu, N15m; Kabo, N24m; Dawakin Tofa, N22m; Tsamyawa, N17.5m; Kumbotso, N12m; and Kura, N17.5m.
But the state government denied that the money was meant for vote-buying during the forthcoming supplementary elections in the council areas, stating that it was their statutory allocation.
CUPP spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, had similarly accused Bauchi and Adamawa states of withdrawing millions of naira for use during the supplementary polls.
Oyo State governor-elect, Mr Seyi Makinde, had on Tuesday raised the alarm that the state government had been moving money from the state coffers few days after the governorship poll which the ruling All Progressives Congress lost.
Makinde, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, alleged that credible sources informed him that contracts were being used to move the money in connivance with a few civil servants and warned that he might be forced to launch a probe, if the aim of the contracts was to deplete the state’s treasury.
In Ogun State, the National Association of Nigerian Students, advised the Governor-Elect, Dapo Abiodun, to monitor the state treasury to avoid its depletion before the expiration of the outgoing government by setting up a committee “to monitor every transaction of the incumbent governor.”
Similarly, the winner of the Imo State governorship poll, Emeka Ihedioha, advised financial institutions to halt new transactions with the state government or do so at their own peril.
Speaking with journalists in Owerri on Thursday, Ihedioha said new transactions could promote illegal activities and put the state’s financial stability in jeopardy.