A former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, is currently being interrogated at the zonal command office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in Ilorin, Kwara State, over an alleged laundering of N4billion, The PUNCH has gathered.
Impeccable sources privy to the development told our correspondent that Fayemi arrived at the EFCC facility at about 9:40 am on Thursday.
In May 2023, it was reported how Fayemi, through his lawyer, Adeola Omotunde, SAN, pleaded with the EFCC to allow him to present a book in honour of the former President, Muhammadu Buhari, on May 19, before honouring the agency’s invitation for questioning over money laundering allegations.
Confirming the development on Thursday, a source said, “Fayemi arrived at our Kwara command office at about 9:40 am today. Our operatives are currently grilling him over alleged misappropriation of N4bn.”
“I’m not sure whether he’d be released today or detained. However, he’s not the only former governor that’s currently being probed by the commission,” another source noted.
When contacted by our correspondent, the spokesperson for the anti-graft agency, Wilson Uwujaren, said he couldn’t speak concerning the development.
“I can’t speak concerning that, please,” Uwujaren said.
Meanwhile, The PUNCH reports that in a letter dated May 12, which was obtained by our correspondent, the EFCC had asked the ex-Ekiti governor to appear before the head of its zonal command office in Kwara, Nigeria’s North-Central, to answer questions bordering on money laundering activities.
According to the letter issued by its zonal commander Micheal Nzekwe, the EFCC requested that Mr Fayemi appears before it on May 18.
The letter reads, “The commission is investigating a case of money laundering in which the need to seek certain clarifications from you has become imperative.
In view of this, you’re kindly requested to come for an interview with the undersigned through the Head, Economic Governance section. Thursday, May 18, 2023. No. 10 Oko close, off station road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State. Time: 10: 00 hours.”
But in a follow-up letter through his legal counsel, Adeola Omotunde, SAN, dated May 15, which was sighted by our correspondent, Fayemi said he was one of the organisers and reviewer of one of the books published in Buhari’s honour.
“Our client is in receipt of your letter of invitation dated 12th May 2023 for an appointment on Thursday, 18th of May, 2023,” Mr Fayemi’s lawyer noted.
The letter reads, “Our client is engaged on the 18th day of May 2023 as he is preparing for a public presentation and launching of two new books in honour of President Muhammadu Buhari, titled: ‘State of Repair: How President Muhammad Buhari Tried to Change Nigeria For Good’ by Anthony Goldman and ‘The Legacy of Muhammadu Buhari’ by Abu Ibrahim slated for 19th May 2023 at the Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja by 10:00 a.m.
Our client is one of the organisers of the programme and will review one of the books. Our client has also committed himself to other programs between May 19, 2023, and May 24, 2023, before he received your invitation. We regret to inform you that our client will not be able to honour your invitation on the 18th May 2023 against the backdrop of the foregoing information.”
Fayemi’s lawyer could not be reached by our correspondent on Thursday, as the phone number obtained from his letter was unavailable.
Meanwhile, asides from Fáyẹmí, the EFCC has said it was also investigating the former governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, on allegations of corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70bn.
The EFCC said it was compelled to make the development public following the recent attempt by the outgoing governor to cast aspersions on the integrity of the agency’s fight against corruption.
The Director, Media and Public Affairs, EFCC, Osita Nwajah, who spoke on behalf of the Chairman of the agency, Abdulrasheed Bawa, made this disclosure in May while addressing journalists at the commission’s headquarters in Jabi, Abuja.
Nwajah said, “It is intriguing that Matawalle would want to take on the role of a supervisor, who tells the EFCC whom to investigate. Is this a case of a ‘thief’ saying he must not be touched until other ‘thieves’ are caught?
The real issue with Matawalle is that he is being investigated by the EFCC, over allegations of monumental corruption, award of phantom contracts and diversion of over N70bn.
The money, which was sourced as a loan from an old generation bank purportedly for the execution of projects across the local government areas of the state, was allegedly diverted by the governor through proxies and contractors who received payment for contracts that were not executed.
The commission’s investigations so far revealed that more than 100 companies had received payments from the funds, with no evidence of service rendered to the state. Some of the contractors who have been invited and quizzed by the commission made startling revelations on how they were allegedly compelled by the governor to return the funds received from the state coffers back to him through his aides after converting the same to United States dollars.
They confirmed that they did not render any service to Zamafara State but were allegedly directed to convert the money paid to them into United States dollars and return to the state governor through some of his commissioners, notably the commissioners in charge of Finance and Local Government Affairs.”
According to Nwajah, one of the contractors involved, a popular Abuja property developer, collected N6bn on an N10bn contract without rendering any service to Zamfara State.
He noted that another contractor collected over N3bn for a contract for the supply of medical equipment, but the commission traced a payment of N400m from his account to a Bureau de Change operator. The contractor confessed the payment was to procure the dollar equivalent allegedly for the state governor.
“As part of the extensive investigation of contracts awarded by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the commission has recovered a sum of N300m from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited. The funds were traced to the Zamafara Investment Company.
The EFCC investigation is the source of anxiety in Government House, Gusau, with the governor in mortal dread of his fate once he steps down as governor on May 29.
In Nigeria, state governors and their deputies enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while in office, a reason the EFCC has yet to arrest Governor Matawalle,” he added.
The EFCC is also probing a former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, for alleged corruption over 14 properties both in Nigeria and abroad, and N400 million, among other allegations.
“The properties, including Hotel Apartment Community, Burj Khalifa lying, being and situate at, Plot 160 Municipality NO 345-7562, Sky View Building No 1, Property No 401, Floor 4, Dubai U.A.E., were reasonably suspected to have been derived from unlawful activity,” the anti-graft agency said in a statement obtained by our correspondent in May.