The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has deployed a team of operatives in Imo State as part of the ongoing probe of former Governor Ikedi Ohakim for alleged mismanagement of N18.5billion out of the N40bilion bond secured in June, 2007.
The team is also probing Governor Rochas Okorocha over alleged abuse of the Joint state and Local Government Account. The details of the allegations against Okorocha have not been made available.
The EFCC has so far quizzed three former commissioners and two special advisers in the Ohakim administration.
According to a top EFCC source, the operatives have been in Imo State since Monday, looking into the records of the past and present administration. It was learnt that out of the bond sum, N201m was spent on Christmas Rice in 2007 by the Ohakim administration. The investigation weighs heavily on Ohakim’s administration because of the inability of some state officials to account for N18.5billion out of the N40billion bond applied for the state under the ex-governor.
The source said: “The EFCC stormed Owerri as investigation into the case of conspiracy, abuse of office, misappropriation of funds and money laundering against Former Governor Ohakim.
“The operatives of the anti- graft agency have been poring through files and had by yesterday quizzed some ranking officers of the Ohakim administration and carted away vital documents.
“Among those quizzed are former permanent secretaries of the ministries of finance and Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs as well as a former Chairman of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (IMOPADEC).
“Apart from these officials, other officials of the Ohakim administration have been quizzed in the last few months by the anti-graft agency and released on administrative bail.
“Some of those earlier quizzed are former Commissioner of Finance, George Irechukwu; former Special Adviser to Ohakim on Project Monitoring and Implementation; Ben Ekwueme; former Commissioner for Works, Ralph Nwosu Obioha; and former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ogaziechi Kezie.
“They are being probed for their alleged roles in the mismanagement of the N18.5billion secured out of the N40bilion bond applied for by the Imo State Government in June 2009. The bond was supposedly secured to finance the following projects: (1) Rehabilitation of 37 water scheme at a cost of N1.3bilion; (2) Construction of 16 critical roads at a cost of N3.7billion; and (3) Cconstruction of Phase 1 of the Imo Wonder Lake Resort and Conference Centre, Oguta at a cost of N12.5billion.
“From preliminary findings, we have a strong lead that the proceeds of the bond were misappropriated as the Ohakim administration and the lead Issuing House (UBA Capital) never bothered to file the mandatory quarterly report on utilization of the bond proceeds to SEC. This prompted the capital market regulator to slam a fine of N1.2million on the state. The fine was paid by the Okorocha administration.
“The Ohakim Government in July 2007 had secured a loan of N10billion from UBA as a bridging facility prior to floating the bond but did not disclose this information to SEC. “From this money, N1.6billion was diverted and misappropriated through mundane expenditure such as the N201m paid for Christmas Rice in 2007, N50m for SSG as logistics for festival, N500m for purchase of Zenith Bank shares, N55m as DTA to Permanent Secretary Governor’s Office, N50m as professional fees to Nwoko
“Some of the water projects listed for execution with the Bond proceed had been funded and executed under the State’s Millennium Development Goals, MDG
“The Ohakim administration also allegedly withdrew N6.7billion from the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) Escrow Account without the approval of members of the Committee
“Above all, in March 2011, barely two months before his exit from Government House Owerri, Ohakim took another loan of N6billion from UBA Plc Mbari Branch Owerri and disbursed it within four weeks.
“Records available to the EFCC have shown that the disbursement was supervised by the ex- governor’s brother and Chief of Staff, Emmanuel Ohakim.
“Some of the suspects have made useful statements and volunteered document that will assist the ongoing investigation.
“Governor Okorocha, Ohakim’s successor, is equally being probed by the EFCC over allegation bordering on abuse of the Joint state and local government account.”