Governor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara State accused of building a hotel with $3 million of the controversial London-Paris Club loan refund has sneaked into Aso Rock Presidential Villa in search of soft-landing.
It was gathered yesterday that the embattled governor had in the last 48 hours been roaming the corridors of the Presidential Villa in desperate search for help.
He was said to have offered to refund the balance of $2.5 million quietly to the EFCC without being further investigated, given that one of the proxies used to launder the funds had already surrendered $500,000 to the anti-graft agency.
It was learnt that Governor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, who disguised to enter the Villa, avoided the prying eyes of journalists at the seat of power.
A government source said: “The governor was looking visibly disturbed, but it was obvious he was seeking help. The manner he managed his shuttle to the Villa suggested that he had something up his sleeves.
“I think he is ready to refund $2.5 million since one of his proxies has paid back about $500,000.
“The governor had audience with some government officials.
“We learnt he made a commitment to pay back quietly to avoid any political backlash.
“He also does not want to be exposed or his proxies subjected to trial.
“The truth is that this government will not give waiver to anybody or group in its anti-corruption campaign.”
Already, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has recovered about N1.420 billion from some firms and a consultant who benefited from the N19 billion illegally deducted by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).from the loan refund.
Out of the sum, about N1.2 billion was frozen in the account of a consultant alone.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said the EFCC was already on the trail of all those who benefitted from the N19 billion cash.
The source said: “Apart from the N8 billion left in the NGF’s naira account, our detectives have recovered about N1.420 billion from some companies and consultants who were used to launder some of the London-Paris Club refunds.
“While a company refunded N200 million, the other paid back undeserving N20 million. We froze about N1.2 billion in a consultant’s account.
“The cash refunds have clearly shown that some of the London-Paris Club funds were siphoned for private use.
“This is why the EFCC is determined to ensure a comprehensive investigation of the scandal.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The ultimate objective of this commission is to recover the diverted funds and ensure judicious use of the loan refunds by states.
“The law will, however, be applied to those used for the illegal funds. This is not a war against the NGF or any particular governor.”
The presidency had so far released N1. 266.44 trillion to the 36 states in the past one year, including N713.70 billion special intervention funds to states.
Following protests by states against over-deductions for external debt service between 1995 and 2002, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of N522.74 billion (first tranche) to states as refunds, pending reconciliation of records.
Each state was entitled to a cap of N14.5 billion, being 25 per cent of the amounts claimed.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said the payment of the claims will enable states to offset outstanding salaries and pension which had been “causing considerable hardship.”
The governors had sought for the loan refunds to states and local governments at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on May 24, 2016.