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EFCC probes Zamfara Gov Matawalle over multi-billion naira Abuja property and alleged money laundering ~ Prestige News

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Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State

 

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said it is investigating Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle over alleged money laundering, the Nation reported on Thursday.

 

The EFCC claimed that its decision to investigate the governor emanated from the intelligence it got, which indicated that the governor was allegedly “using state funds to acquire several property worth billions of naira in Abuja”.

 

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The commission said its preliminary investigation revealed that one of the properties the governor allegedly bought is at Plot 729, Cadastral Zone C16, Idu Industrial Estate in Abuja.

 

The EFCC said these in a counter-affidavit it filed in a fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by a firm, Fezel Nigeria Limited.

 

The commission said its preliminary investigation revealed that one of the properties the governor allegedly bought is at Plot 729, Cadastral Zone C16, Idu Industrial Estate in Abuja.

 

 

The EFCC said these in a counter-affidavit it filed in a fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by a firm, Fezel Nigeria Limited.

 

In the suit, the company accused the EFCC of invading its property on February 9, 2022 with armed men, forcefully taking over the premises and sealing it off since then.

 

Fezel claimed ownership of the property, saying it leased it to Beisha Printing Press Limited.

 

The company said construction works were ongoing in the building when the EFCC allegedly invaded and took it over.

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But the EFCC faulted Fezel’s claims, insisting that the property was allegedly acquired by the Zamfara governor through Beisha Printing Press Limited.

 

The commission claimed that Fezel and Beisha “are under discreet investigation, based on intelligence received by the second respondent on the purchase of the property with the proceeds of crime”.

 

It said in the counter-affidavit it got sometime in October 2021, it received intelligence from a patriotic Nigerian who informed it that Matawalle had been using state funds to acquire several properties worth billions of naira in Abuja.

 

“One of such properties listed by the informant is Plot 729, Cadastral Zone C16, Idu Industrial Estate, Abuja, which the informant stated was purchased at N1,200,000,000.00, which sum was paid in cash by Dr. Bello Matawalle on behalf of his company, the first respondent (Beisha Printing Press Limited),” it said.

 

“Upon receipt of the credible intelligence, we conducted a search through our discreet source at Abuja Geographic Information Service (AGIS), which revealed that Plot 729, Industrial Estate, was originally allotted to Edhaanto Nigeria Limited in 1994. There is no evidence at AGIS that Edhaanto Nigeria Limited sold the property to the applicant,” it said.

 

The second respondent (EFCC) said it received intelligence from its source that the first respondent (Beisha) was planning to remove all the heavy equipment and machines worth billions of naira from the property, having received a letter of invitation from the second respondent.

 

“Upon receipt of this intelligence, the second respondent proceeded to the property to arrest persons who were attempting to de-commission the equipment and dismantle the machines for easy removal from the property.

 

“The persons arrested were profiled, interviewed and granted bail by the second respondent and one of the persons arrested, Evelyn Odagundoye, initially denied working for Dr. Bello Matawalle until the second respondent discovered through forensic analysis on her phone that she was running the business on the property for Dr. Bello Matawalle,” the EFCC said.

 

But in a judgment on August 30, 2022, Justice Inyang Ekwo rejected EFCC’s position and faulted the procedure it adopted in sealing off the property.

 

The judge held that Fezel effectively established its ownership of the property and that the manner the EFCC forcefully entered and took over the property violated the applicant’s fundamental human rights.

 

He also held that the EFCC lacked the powers to seal off any citizen’s property or deny him/her access to it without first obtaining a court order.

 

The judge held that the EFCC could conduct its investigation without sealing off the property and disrupting the businesses of the occupants.

 

Justice Ekwo, among others, restrained the EFCC from further interfering with the occupation of the property by the applicant and awarded N1 million in damages against the commission.

 

 

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