By Gideon Njoku
The in-coming Governor of Imo state, The Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, should cry no more. A breather is coming his way. And there is the proverbial light in the tunnel. Agonising over how he would run the state when sworn-in on May 29, 2019 considering tales of an empty treasury, and alleged massive looting against the outgoing Governor Rochas Okorocha’s regime, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, had just assured him that there is the sum of over N5bn it has blocked, and so stopped Okorocha from frittering away.
It should have been more but for pressures over Workers’ salaries which forced the EFCC to release some money to him.
The startling revelation was made by the Commission’s South-east Zonal head, Usman Imam. He spoke on Friday, May 17, while giving an account of the activities of the EFCC in the zone.
Imam said one of the reasons for which Okorocha is under investigation is the sum of N8bn Paris Club refund given to him for workers’ salaries. But according to Imam, Okorocha warehoused the money instead of paying workers. He was intercepted on a tip-off while withdrawing money from it on the eve of the governorship election. Unfortunately, he had already, before the interception, withdrawn the sum of N700 million in two installments of N500 million and N200 million.
He was stopped, and the money blocked, leaving the sum of over N7bn which might have been used for vote buying. But Imam says only about N5bn remain as the Commission came under pressure to release the sum of N2.5bn to him for salaries.
Imam: “About N7.9bn is what had been blocked, although with pressure, subsequently, about N2.5bn was released for salaries. On the whole, we have over N5bn of those funds blocked. We are following up to see what actually happened.
Honestly, what we discovered was that within two days, N700m was withdrawn in cash – N200m on the first day, and N500m on the second day, and all these monies were disbursed in a manner that was honestly unpalatable.
Distribution to school teachers. I don’t know, schools that you were not funding, and you wake up on the eve of the election, and withdrew N500m cash, and start distributing N1,000 each, or so to teachers. Whatever that means, I don’t know.
“When we came in, we were able to save about seventy something million Naira we discovered were not disbursed, we also blocked it. People are still answering questions as to who asked them to move those monies.
“The sad thing about this is that these monies were intervention funds, the bail out funds that the Federal Government released to States to pay salaries when they were having problems paying salaries. They didn’t utilize that money to pay salaries; they warehoused it, and kept it until election period when they started attempting to draw down the money.
“Whatever happens, we have saved over N5bn of that money, as we talk, two weeks to handover. Probably, the next governor would have that money to use it better.”
Imam also disclosed that there are some more investigations going on in the state. Indeed, there are several petitions against the Governor and some members of his family before the EFCC over their alleged raping of the state.
Imam’s disclosure may have been in response to Okorocha’s public outrage over being harrassed by the EFCC. He has also instituted legal processes to stop anti-graft agencies, the Police and the DSS from arresting him or any member of his family, whose names he listed, insisting that they plan to do so as soon as he hands over to the incoming governor. Many Imolites are of the opinion that it is a case of the guilty being afraid. But Okorocha accuses his party, the APC, and its Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, of being responsible for his ordeal.
The Imo story, under Okorocha, is just unfolding.