by Samuel Ogundipe,
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has declared a former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, wanted.
Mr. Shema is accused of gross financial misconduct, officials told this newspaper.
The ex-governor is being sought for allegedly mismanaging about N68 billion of state funds while he was governor between 2007 and 2015.
In 2012 alone, sources said Mr. Shema allegedly diverted about N18 billion from government coffers into his private accounts for undisclosed reasons.
The officials said Mr. Shema further raided local governments monthly allocation accounts which were being jointly run with the state government, leaving little for developmental projects and clearance of local government employees’ wages and salaries. A sum of N50 billion is believed to have been mismanaged this way.
The EFCC sources said Mr. Shema had been evading the anti-graft office for close to a year; and narrowly escaped being arrested on Wednesday.
When he was invited for a meeting at the agency’s headquarters in December 2015, Mr. Shema responded that he was not in the country, a source at the anti-graft agency said.
“He wrote back to us that he would visit as soon as he returned, but he never did,” an EFCC source said. “Another two subsequent invitations were sent to him which he failed to honour.”
Against this backdrop, the EFCC has launched a nationwide manhunt for Mr. Shema beginning with his being declared wanted.
In his response, Mr. Shema denied the allegations, telling PREMIUM TIMES that he acknowledged the EFCC’s letters through his lawyers.SHEMA RESPONDS, BLAMES MASARI
Mr. Shema, who spoke through his spokesperson, Oluwabusola Olawale, said he couldn’t have ignored the summons of a legally-constituted authority like the EFCC.
Mr. Olawale said it was true that the EFCC wrote Mr. Shema while he was away. He added that subsequent correspondences were duly acknowledged.
“The EFCC sent another invitation and Mr. Shema agreed to honour the invitation with his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun,” Mr. Olawale said. “But the meeting with the EFCC could not hold because the officials were engaged elsewhere.”
The spokesperson said Mr. Shema had requested for an appointment with the EFCC through his lawyer, but was yet to get confirmation for a date.
“Subsequently, Mr. Olanipekun wrote EFCC in July this year requesting for a date to be given and up till date, no date has been fixed by EFCC for the meeting.”
Mr. Olawale alleged that his principal is being victimised by his successor, Bello Masari.
“From all indications, it appears like the same issue which Governor Bello Masari had petitioned EFCC about,,” Mr. Olawale said. “He has equally set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate which is underway in Katsina and there’s also a pending court case on the matter.
“The allegations made by Mr. Masari are false, malicious and targeted to tarnish the image of Mr. Shema who served creditably well under the platform of PDP.”
Mr. Masari’s spokesperson, Abdu Labaran, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comment for this story.