A long-running legal dispute between the Zamfara state government and immediate past governor Bello Matawalle over possession of official vehicles has reached a conclusion, with a Federal High Court in Sokoto ordering the return of the cars to the state.
The Zamfara government had sought retrieval of over 50 vehicles from Mr Matawalle following his tenure expiration in June 2023. After initial refusal and court wrangles, police recovered the vehicles but the former governor sued to retain ownership.
The Federal High Court in Gusau had surprisingly ordered the vehicles returned to Mr Matawalle, prompting the state government under new Governor Dauda Lawal to request a transfer of jurisdiction.
On Friday, the Federal High Court in Sokoto dismissed Mr Matawalle’s case and rejected his claims of personal ownership over what were deemed official state government vehicles.
In a statement, Governor Lawal’s spokesperson Sulaiman Bala Idris said “The court refused the relief sought by Bello Matawalle and rejected his claim to own the official vehicles. As a result, the vehicles are still considered the property of the Zamfara State government.”
The judgement aligns with the Zamfara government’s vow to recover assets belonging to the people through a “rescue mission” targeting past financial mismanagement. Governor Lawal has pledged to bring all perpetrators of financial banditry to justice.
The long impasse over possession of high-end vehicles from Mr Matawalle’s time in office looks to finally be legally resolved in favor of the new administration seeking to assert control. Governor Lawal will view this court victory as backing his drive to recover pilfered state assets.
For Mr Matawalle, it caps a post-governorship period mired by battles to hold onto the trappings of power, culminating in definitive court judgment forcing him to relinquish the cars bought with taxpayer funds during his tenure.