Zamfara multi-billion cargo airport: Govt opens Pandora’s box of rip-off evidence against Matawalle

Pandora’s Box: Evidence of how Ex-Gov Bello Matawalle blew billions of naira on failed cargo airport project – Zamfara Government

The Zamfara State government has released evidence against the immediate past administration in the state led by Bello Matawalle in relation to the Gusau International (cargo) Airport project. Mr Matawalle is the current Minister of State for Defence.

Matawalle, last Friday, denied the allegation of embezzling billions from the Zamfara cargo airport project but that denial seems to have opened the Pandora’s box as the state government at the weekend reeled out documents backing the allegation.

In a statement issued in Gusau Sunday, 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 the past government of Bello Matawalle.

He alleged that the former governor directed the Ministry of Local Government to withdraw N1 billion from the Local Government Joint Account on 25 October, 2021, and to pay N825 million to the contractors therefrom 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 N28 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.

“Matawalle has claimed that the airport project was financed through what he called ‘contract financing.’ The former governor should have asked before embarrassing himself. 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.

“For the record, an initial advance payment was made to the contractors representing 30 per cent of the total contract in the sum of N3,465,569,736.90 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, bills and secure 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 N2,310,379,824.60. 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.

“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 per cent 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.

“Matawalle’s claim that the project was 50-100 per cent completed, while in another paragraph, it was reported as 30 per cent completed, equivalent to M3.47 billion, raises the question of why the contractor was paid the sum of N6.78 billion if the project was only 30 per cent 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, N2.25 billion (19.47%), was based on these measurements.

“Governor Lawal’s administration is not making false claims or creating issues where there are none. The initial statement released to the public is just the tip of the iceberg. The transition committee thoroughly reviewed the assets and liabilities of Zamfara State after Governor Lawal’s victory in the March 2023 polls, uncovering several shocking revelations.

“The public will soon learn about the mass looting under the past administration. Those involved in these inhumane actions will be held accountable, regardless of their societal status. It is a series of revelations following the opening of Pandora’s Box.” The Zamfara State spokesperson added in the statement.
Attached in the body of this story are just a tip of the avalanche of documentary and pictorial evidence released by the state government against the former governor.

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