By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Accountant Generals of both the Imo and Kwara States government are currently helping the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with information on what they know about how huge sums belonging to their various states were divested into personal ventures.
According to information reaching THISDAY, the Acting Accountant General of Imo State, Casmir Uzoho and his Kwara State counterpart, Ishola Sulaiman were both arrested on March 7, following intelligence report.
According to a source at the commission, Uzoho was arrested on allegation of laundering the sum of N1.050bn, through a new generation bank for the governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, while Sulaiman and some senior officials in the Kwara State Government are being quizzed on alleged N1bn cash withdrawal by the Kwara State Government, a week before the last presidential and National Assembly elections.
The source said the arrest of Uzoho was based on credible information that the governor intended to use the money for vote buying in favour of a particular candidate in Saturday’s governorship election in Imo State.
The source disclosed that Uzoho withdrew the amount in three tranches between Tuesday and Thursday this week, adding that while the sum of N200m was withdrawn on Tuesday, N500m and N350m were withdrawn on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Meanwhile, another report said the EFCC has blocked the traced accounts, while the arrested Accountant General has been providing useful information to the Commission. Mr. Casmir was before his appointment, a Director of Finance in Okorocha’s government and was in 2016 fingered in N2bn bailout fund scam, which was then given to the state by the Federal Government for the payment of salary arrears of civil servants.
In Kwara, others arrested alongside the Accountant General, the source said include, Commissioner for Finance, Nurudeen Banu; 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.
He said investigations by the antigraft agency revealed that the said money was withdrawn from the state’s account domiciled with Sterling Bank.
According to him, an official of the State Government, Hafees Yusuf, confirmed to the operatives that he got instructions from his “boss” to withdraw some monies sometimes in February 2019.
“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”, Yusuf was quoted to have said.
Similarly, a senior staff of Sterling Bank, who is currently being interrogated by the commission, was said to have revealed that the Accountant General, Commissioner for Finance and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, are signatories to the account where N720m cash were 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.
Three Relationship Managers of the bank – Rahaman Alimi, Akinleye Ademola and Olarewaju Sarafa, were said to be the ones who parked the said money in bullion van 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.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the officials of the Kwara State Government have been granted administrative bail, while investigations into the matter continue.
They are expected to be arraigned before a Federal High Court in Ilorin next week.
The source noted that the suspicious withdrawals, were uncovered after operators acted on a petition by a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Kwara Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability (KWARA-CGGA) asking for the probe of over N1bn loan that the State Government secured from a bank a few days before the general elections.
Hassan Omoiya, Secretary General of the organization, 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 further urged the EFCC to “determine the appropriateness of utilization of credit facility of N1 bn by Kwara State Government at the twilight of general election.”