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Matawalle allegedly embezzled billions via failed airport project – Zamfara Govt shows receipts



The Zamfara State Government has released some documents indicting the administration of the immediate past Governor of the State, Bello Matawalle, in relation to the Gusau International Airport project.


Matawalle who is now the Minister of State for Defence under the Bola Tinubu administration, recently denied the allegations of embezzling billions from the Zamfara cargo airport project.


In a statement issued in Gusau on Sunday, October 21, 2023, the Spokesperson to Zamfara Governor, Sulaiman Bala Idris, said that the response by Matawalle exposed a “blatant violation of trust, opening a pandora’s box.”


According to him, the bad financial situation the current administration met in Zamfara State was caused by Matawalle.


Idris alleged that Matawalle directed the Ministry of Local Government to withdraw ₦1 billion from the Local Government Joint Account on October 25, 2021, and pay ₦825 million to the contractors without any valuation. He said this was in complete disregard of due process.


The statement read in parts, “The Zamfara State Government would ordinarily not respond to an accused, but as a responsible government, we feel compelled to provide the facts following his denial of the alleged embezzlement.


“To avoid doubt, the embezzlement of resources from the people of Zamfara through the airport was just a tiny part of many other acts of theft and financial banditry committed against the people in various incomplete projects.


“It is doubtful that the project’s cost was reduced from ₦28 billion to N11 billion in round figures. No reputable bidder would agree to a drastic reduction of 61% in cost without a corresponding reduction in the scope of work. This raises questions about the integrity of the bidding process. Matawalle is seemingly trying to cast doubt on the credibility of their contractor.”


The State Government said the former governor embarrassed himself by claiming that the airport project was financed through ‘contract financing.’


“It is known as the ‘Contract Financing Facility (CFF)’, which happens between the bank and the contractor. The government isn’t involved at all. All available documents indicate that the contractors were paid using funds from the state government and not through the Contract Financing Facility (CFF).


“We must emphasise that the claim that payments were made to the contractor solely based on certificates issued by the supervising ministry or agency is FALSE. Our records clearly show that the three payments made to the contractor were not based on an accurate assessment of the work done and certified by the supervising ministry,” the state government maintained.


The statement reads further, “For the record, an initial advance payment was made to the contractors representing 30% of the total contract in the sum of ₦3,465,569,736.90 without the approval of the designs and bills of quantities of the project by relevant government departments on the 19th of June 2020 almost 11 months after the award. Throughout the period, nothing was done to certify the drawings, and bills and secure the necessary approvals of relevant airport regulatory authorities.


“Only a few days after the initial payment, the government came up with new terminology in the contract and approved what it called ‘loan’ to the contractors in the sum of ₦2,310,379,824.60. This payment was referred to as a loan to the contractors when very little work had been done on-site. The relevant government institutions did not certify the payment, weren’t correctly vouched and were therefore irregular in the government’s finance management.”


Highlighting some of the aspects of the projects that remain uncompleted, the Zamfara State Government said a visit to the site of the airport would reveal that the former Governor was lying in his recent claims about the project.


“Furthermore, a dual carriageway from the roundabout to the airport, drainage and gate have not been completed, contrary to the claim by Matawalle’s response. Also, the link road from the main road to the airport roundabout was an additional work the contractor was verbally and arbitrarily directed to execute. The Matawalle administration did not regularise this.


“The claim that the runway, taxi, Apron, terminal building, ‘water pool’ water reservoir, boreholes, cargo hall and fire service buildings are between 50–100% completion is laughable. Matawalle should know that percentage progress is computed based on work done and subsisting contract drawings and bills of quantities and no other. A cursory look at the subsisting contract documents and site visits would reveal the lies and deception in the claims.


“Available records show that Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) were only involved in the project after it had already begun, which goes against the standard practice in the aviation industry. Usually, they must be involved in all project stages, including planning, design, and implementation,” the state government said.


The Zamfara State Government further raised questions on the claim that the project was almost completed and the amount the Matawalle-led administration paid to the contractor.


“Matawalle’s claim that the project was 50–100% completed, while in another paragraph, it was reported as 30 per cent completed, equivalent to ₦3.47 billion, raises the question of why the contractor was paid the sum of ₦6.78 billion if the project was only 30% completed.


“It is essential to remind the former governor that the contractor and the supervising ministry measured all on-site works together during his administration. The measurements were taken during the execution of the project, and the records are available. Therefore, the total value of the work done to date, ₦2.25 billion (19.47%), was based on these measurements.


The State Government maintained that its decision to release the documents was not aimed at making false claims against Matawalle.


It added that the public would soon learn about the mass looting under the past administration, vowing that those involved in the “inhumane actions” would be held accountable, regardless of their societal status.

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