30 July 2008

Nigeria: How Former Governor Bafarawa Looted Sokoto Treasury -EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday begged a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja not to release, for now, the international passport of former Governor of Sokoto State, Dr. Attahiru Bafarawa, to him.

The commission said he was planning to run away from the country to escape arrest and prosecution for abuse of office and corruption while he held public office between 1999 and 2007.

The anti-graft agency made the disclosure on a day it gave the Abuja division of the Federal high court, a graphic details of how the immediate past Governor of Sokoto state, Dr. Attahiru Bafarawa, looted billions of naira from the state treasury between 2004 and 2006.

The commission which said that the alleged finds followed a painstaking investigation conducted by its operatives claimed that part of the loot was allegedly used by Bafarawa to finance his 2007 presidential ambition campaign.

It said arrangements were in the pipeline to arraign the ex-governor before the court.

Bafarawa was the chief executive of Sokoto State between 1999 and 2007.

While he held sway as the executive governor of the state, five separate petitions alleging abuse of office, money laundering and official corruption were written against him by individuals and corporate institutions.

Less than two months after Bafarawa handed over to his successor, the state attorney-general and commissioner of justice also forwarded another petition to the commission, calling for the investigation of the ex-governor's tenure of office.

The anti-graft agency had recently invited Bafarawa for questioning.

He was detained for two days and allowed home on the third day on bail.

But that was after he had made useful statements to the commission on what he knew on each of the allegations contained in the multiple petitions.

Part of the conditions for allowing him home was unconditional surrender of his international passport to EFCC which he did.

The ex-governor, after the bail, came back to the commission to request for the passport but it was not released to him.

He had to sue the commission before the Federal high court, Abuja, over the seizure of his passport, demanding for N5million damages

He said he wanted to travel abroad for more reasons than one.

He said he was suffering from chronic asthma and glaucoma for which he had an appointment fixed with his personal doctor in London and another opthallmologist for surgery in London

He also said that he needed the passport to travel abroad being currently undergoing a two year course programme at the George Mason University, Virginia USA.

He said he would soon need the passport too to travel abroad for Ummural (lesser hajj)

He said the seizure of the passport had rubbished his integrity and impeccable record.

He urged the court to order the release of the passport to him or in the alternative drop it with the registrar of the high court.

He asked that upon the release of the passport to the court, the EFCC should come and show cause why the passport should not be released to him when he is not under any trial.

His application was granted and the passport was released to the high court.

But the commission prayed the court not to give Bafarawa the passport.

The anti-graft agency said the ex-governor was planning to jet out of the country never to return in order to evade prosecution.

According to EFCC, Bafarawa would be charged with multiple criminal offences ranging from corruption and money-laundering, abuse of office and financial mismanagement.

Said the commission in a copious counter-affidavit filed before the court, "the investigations so far conducted have disclosed among others things as follow

.That from 2004 to 2006, Bafarawa while being the executive governor of Sokoto state approved the withdrawal of the sum of N200million monthly from the joint account of Sokoto state government and the 23 local governments of the state with the United Bank Plc and payment of same into an account known as SSG II account.

The total sum in the region of N2billion was unaccounted for. Instead, it was misappropriated by him and used to fund his presidential ambition campaign.

That Bafarawa also approved the sum of N1billion naira which was used for the opening of letter of credit by the UBA Plc for the importation of iron rod. Upon the importation, he approved 900million for the supply and haulage fees of the iron rods from Lagos to Sokoto by Bedash Nigeria Limited a company owned by his business associate, Abubakar Bida. Bafarawa later collected the total sum of N100million as kick-back for the sordid deal.

The ex-governor while in office as executive governor awarded several contracts singlehanded and without following due process and laid down financial regulations .

An instance is the award of contract for the purchase of bedding materials to Attahiru Bafarawa Institute of Quranic and General Studies, Sokoto to a company known as Manufacturing and Technical Company Limited at the cost of N52million .

The money was paid cash but the items were not supplied to the school, among other allegations.

The commission said that Bafarawa was a liar and that he never told its operatives that he had any serious ailment at the time he was being questioned.

It further said that assuming without conceding that he had health problem, it said the ailment mentioned could be handled by the National Hospital which has a lot of seasoned experts.

Both Bafarawa and the EFCC are to meet in court this morning to canvass argument on whether or not the passport should be released.

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