Zamfara State is a landlocked state located in northwestern Nigeria. It shares borders with Kaduna State to the west, Niger State to the south, Sokoto State to the east, and Katsina State to the north. With a population of over 3 million people, it is the 12th most populous state in Nigeria. Zamfara State is known for its abundant mineral resources, including gold, iron ore, and limestone. However, the state also faces significant challenges such as corruption, insecurity, and poverty.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the poverty rate in Zamfara State is reported to be 73.98%. This means that over 7 out of every 10 people in the state live below the poverty line. The high poverty rate can be attributed to various factors, including limited economic opportunities, inadequate infrastructure, and a high rate of unemployment.
In recent years, Zamfara State has experienced significant insecurity, particularly related to banditry and kidnapping. These security challenges have made it difficult for people to live and work in the state. The presence of corruption, insecurity, and poverty has created a challenging environment for residents of Zamfara State.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has initiated an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of N70 billion by the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle. The EFCC revealed that the governor is being investigated for “the allegation of monumental corruption, the award of phantom contracts, and the diversion of over N70 billion” from the state’s treasury. It is alleged that the governor diverted the funds through proxies and contractors who received payments for contracts that were never executed. The EFCC’s investigation discovered that over 100 companies received payments without providing any evidence of services rendered to the state.
Investigations by EFCC revealed that more than 100 companies received payments from the funds with no evidence of service rendered to the state.
Mr Nwajah, a spokesman of the nation’s anti-graft agency said, “Some of the contractors, who had been invited and quizzed by the commission, made startling revelations on how they were, allegedly, compelled by the governor to return the funds received from the state coffers back to him through his aides after converting the same to United States dollars.
“They confirmed that they did not render any service to Zamfara State but were, allegedly, directed to convert the monies paid to them into United States Dollars and return to the state governor through some of his commissioners, notably the commissioners in charge of finance and local government affairs.
“One of the contractors, a popular Abuja property developer, collected N6 billion on a N10 billion contract without rendering any service to Zamfara State.
” Another contractor collected over N3 billion for a contract for the supply of medical equipment, but the commission traced a payment of N400 million from his account to a Bureau De Change (BDC) operator. The contractor confessed the payment was to procure the dollar equivalent, allegedly, for the state governor.”
Nwajah further disclosed that, as part of the extensive investigation of contracts awarded by the Matawalle administration, especially for phantom projects in the local government areas, the commission recovered N300 million from a company, Fezel Nigeria Limited.
The negative state of development in Zamfara is concerning, with high poverty, insecurity, unemployment, and corruption prevailing. Despite being rich in mineral resources such as iron ore, gold, chromate, and limestone, the state faces numerous challenges in harnessing its potential. Additionally, Zamfara has substantial agricultural prospects, including rice, wheat, tomatoes, corn, groundnuts, cotton, tobacco, beans, and livestock farming.
According to Statista, Zamfara State has a poverty rate of 73.98%, which means that for every 100 people, 74 live below the poverty line. The state also has a high out-of-school attendance rate, particularly among children, with 61.4% not attending school. These issues persist despite efforts by organizations like UNICEF. The governor’s alleged mismanagement of funds raises questions about his commitment to addressing these critical issues.
Zamfara State has also been affected by significant insecurity, resulting in numerous deaths. In the first quarter of 2022, it recorded the second-highest number of reported deaths, with 327 fatalities. The governor’s utilisation of security votes has come under scrutiny, and the Zamfara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that Governor Bello Matawalle squandered N31 billion in security votes received. The PDP has called on the state House of Assembly to investigate the governor’s use of these funds.
The misappropriation of N70 billion is a significant amount of money that could have been allocated to various critical areas. For instance, it could have been used to build 500 classrooms at a cost of N5 million each, amounting to N2.5 billion. Additionally, it could have funded the construction of 50 primary health centres in underserved villages at the cost of N50 million each, totalling N2.5 billion. Allocating an additional N20 billion to empower small businesses with N1 million each could have created an estimated 40,000 jobs if these businesses expanded and employed at least two people each. Lastly, utilizing N10 billion for security measures could have contributed to improving the security situation in the state. These investments could have significantly improved the Human Development Index (HDI) in Zamfara State. However, the alleged embezzlement raises concerns about the governor’s priorities.
The issue of embezzlement and misappropriation of state resources is not limited to Zamfara State alone but is prevalent in many states across Nigeria. In some cases, governors are able to legitimize their actions through inflated budgets and contracts approved by state houses of assembly. Governor Matawalle’s case is particularly intriguing due to the lack of physical execution of projects on the ground despite funds being allocated and spent. Nigerians are keenly observing how cases like Governor Matawalle’s will be handled by relevant agencies empowered to prosecute corruption. The outcome will determine if justice will be served or if individuals involved in corruption will be rewarded with future appointments in the incoming government.