Nigeria: Kwara govt, EFCC disagree on N1b strange cash withdrawal days before presidential election
London, March 9, 2019 (AltAfrica)-The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Kwara state government have given a contradictory explanation concerning N1bn cash withdrawn by the Kwara government a week before the National Assembly and presidential elections held on February 23.
The strange withdrawal has led to the arrest and subsequent release of six top government officials including some commissioners in the state. The information is contained in an EFCC situation report obtained by AlternativeAfrica.com on Friday.
Arrested commissioners those for Finance, Nurudeen Banu; Accountant General, Sulaiman Ishola; Commissioner for Water Resources, Yusuf Abdulkadir; Head of Service, Susan 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.
Also arrested and questioned in connection with the huge cash withdrawal were some bank officials who EFCC said had made relevant statements.
The suspicious withdrawals according to EFCC were uncovered after operators acted on a petition by a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Kwara Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability, asking for the probe of over N1bn loan that the State Government secured from a bank a few days before the general elections
In the petition, Hassan Omoiya, Secretary General of the organisation, 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 urged the EFCC to “determine the appropriateness of utilisation of credit facility of N1bn by Kwara State Government in the twilight of the general election.
The report reads in part, “Ilorin zonal office, on Thursday, March 7, 2019 uncovered about N1bn 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.”
The report adds that an official of the State Government, Hafees Yusuf, confirmed to the operatives that he got instructions from his boss to withdraw some monies sometime in February 2019.
He said, “My Controller of Finance told me that the sum of N350m was 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.
“An employee of Sterling Bank, who is currently being interrogated by EFCC operatives, revealed that the Accountant General, Commissioner for Finance and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, are signatories to the account where N720m cash was withdrawn from the Kwara State Government Account domiciled in the branch of the bank located at Post Office in Ilorin, between February 7 and 11, 2019.”
The report adds, “Three Relationship Managers of the bank – Rahaman Alimi, Akinleye Ademola and Olarewaju Sarafa, were said to be the ones who packed the said money in bullion vans and personally delivered it to the Chief of Staff to the Kwara State Governor, Abdulwahab Yusuf.
“The bank officials further told operatives that they acted on the instruction of their ‘boss’ which was identified as, Rasaq Abolarin.
But in a telephone interview with Alternativeafrica.com, the Chief Press Secretary to Kwara governor, Alhaji Abdul Wahab Oba said there was nothing strange or suspicious about the withdrawal
Oba said that the money was duly appropriated for in the budget and thus could not have been illegal to withdraw.
“As far as I am aware, the money was appropriated in the budget. It was not for elections.”