•Defends freezing of N5bn state’s account
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that it is investigating the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha.
The anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.
The Acting Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Ibrahim Magu confirmed the investigation of the governor by the EFCC in an interview with Channels Television
Asked if an investigation is ongoing regarding the governor, he responded, “definitely”.
“Of course, we are doing a couple of checks and investigations here and there. We are investigating almost everybody,” he said.
He said the commission has to get to a certain level before it can disclose any information about an ongoing investigation.
Magu explained that this was necessary to prevent any action that can jeopardise or interfere with the process of the inquiry.
He said though he was aware of reports of the investigation on the social media, the details the anti-graft agency has is different from what is in the public space.
The anti-graft czar granted the interview in the United Kingdom where he travelled to meet with investigators assisting the federal government in solving cases of money laundering and financial crimes.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft commission has also explained that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the state government because Okorocha was spending too much money in a suspicious manner during the general election.
The EFCC further stated that N8 billion Paris Club loan refunded to the state for the payment of salaries was mismanaged by Okorocha.
The EFCC’s Zonal Head for South-east, Usman Imam, said this during a chat with journalists.
Imam said their timely intervention saved the state over N5 billion that would have been deployed in vote-buying by the Okorocha’s administration during the last elections.
The EFCC director said about N8 billion from the Paris Club Refund bailout meant for payment of workers’ salaries was kept by the government, only to begin spending it frivolously on the eve of the elections.
He said, “About N7.9 billion is what had been blocked, although with pressure, subsequently, about N2.5bn was released for salaries. On the whole, we have over N5 billion of those funds blocked; we are following up to see what actually happened.
“Honestly, what we discovered was that within two days, N700 million was withdrawn in cash; N200 million on the first day and N500 million 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 woke up on the eve of the election and withdrew N500 million 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 of the funds that we discovered were not disbursed, we also blocked it. People are still answering questions as to who asked them to move those monies, monies that were blocked at the banks.”
Imam said it was unfortunate the funds in question were meant for the payment of salaries and pensions which remained unpaid.
He said hopefully when Emeka Ihedioha resumes office, the funds would be put to better use.
Imam added, “The sad story about this was that these monies were the intervention funds; the bailout funds that the federal government released to states to pay salaries when they were having problems paying salaries.
“They didn’t utilise that money to pay the salaries; they warehoused it and kept it until the election period, they started attempting to draw down the money. Whatever happens, we have saved over N5 billion of that money, as we talk, two weeks to handover. Probably, the next government would have that money to use it better. There are a lot of other general investigations going on in Imo right now.”
Okorocha had accused the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, and other leaders of the party of instigating the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain him.
Okorocha stated this in two separate fundamental rights enforcement suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/474/19 and FHC/ABJ/CS/475/19 and filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, adding that the anti-corruption agencies had been directed to arrest and keep him in detention as soon as he handed over as governor on May 29.
He said he had received no fewer than 25 invitations from the anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies “in purported investigation of projects executed by the state government in a bid to find some materials to justify their conclusion that he is guilty of corrupt practices.”
He added that the plan of the APC leaders had been “expanded to include a reign of terror against the applicant’s political, business associates and family members including his wife and children.”
He urged the court to restrain the EFCC and other agencies from harassing, intimidating and arresting him and his family members.