EXCLUSIVE: ICPC begins probe of Buhari’s ministers, other officials involved in railway scholarship scandal

Applicants for the CCECC scholarship.
Applicants for the CCECC scholarship.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has commenced investigations into the railway scholarship scandal involving top government officials, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

Investigations by this newspaper showed how some ministers and other top public officials cornered scholarships meant for young Nigerians.

The scholarship was offered by a Chinese firm, Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), for young Nigerians to study an undergraduate degree course in railway engineering in China.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the scholarship scheme was cornered for ministers and other top public officials.

The top officials who benefitted were identified in a document used by the construction firm, CCECC, to permit selected candidates to participate in the scholarship interview. Some of the officials shown to have sponsored candidates include the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; the Minster of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu; and the Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru.

Only candidates whose names were on the document were allowed for the interview at the CCECC office in Abuja. Each of the names was typed close to that of the top official who nominated them as seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

Several other candidates who showed up for the interview without being on the ‘special’ list from the officials were stopped at the gate and were asked to get letters from a minister or permanent secretary of any ministry to participate. Most could not and were thus barred from the interview and the scholarship opportunity.

Following the reports, Nigerians demanded independent investigation and prosecution of the officials involved in the scandal.

THE INVESTIGATION

Reliable sources at the anti-graft agency told this paper that the investigation commenced on the matter last week.

The CCECC, which is providing the scholarship, was invited on Thursday, July 5. It sent its representatives.

They (the CCECC officials that came) “cooperated with the investigators,” a source at the agency said.

Another person summoned to answer questions on his roles in the scandal is Sabiu Zakari, the permanent secretary in the transportation ministry who wrote the letters asking top government officials to nominate candidates for the scholarship.

“The permanent secretary is expected on Monday or Tuesday,” our source said.

The various ministers and public officials who sponsored candidates are expected to be questioned at a later date.

The ICPC also on Tuesday, July 3, sent a letter to PREMIUM TIMES requesting the paper’s cooperation to enable it to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter.

In the letter signed by the Head, Chairman’s Special Unit, Agha-Ibe GO, the agency confirmed it was investigating the scandal and said the action of the officials appeared a violation of some provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.

In its response to the anti-graft agency on July 4, PREMIUM TIMES said it was “committed to working with” the ICPC to ensure the matter was well investigated and persons found culpable prosecuted.


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