All may not have been heard of the story trailing the alleged stolen N26.8 billion Imo bailout fund, part of which was allegedly stashed away in the bedroom of the former Chief of Staff and son-in-law of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Uche Nwosu, before a domestic cook allegedly broke the safe and stole some of the funds before eloping into thin air.
The EFCC zonal head for South East, Usman Iman, had during a briefing recently announced how their operatives acting on tip-offs, blocked some bank accounts belonging to the state government, in the build-up to the 2019 general election.
Iman disclosed that their timely intervention saved Imo state well over N5 billion that would have been deployed for vote buying by the Okorocha’s administration in the build-up to the 2019 general elections.
The N5 billion which according to EFCC was blocked and now saved for Imo state according to Usman Iman, would be released to the incoming government of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, immediately after inauguration.
“The sad story about these monies was that they were the intervention funds; the bailout funds that the federal government released to states to pay salaries when they were having problems paying salaries. Imo state didn’t utilize 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”, Iman stated.
He however revealed that about N8 billion from the bailout fund initially meant for payment of workers’ salaries, were warehoused by the government in fixed deposit accounts for four years, only to begin frittering it on the eve of the election for phoney reasons, prompting the anti-graft to block the accounts.
Initially, what EFFC ordered blocked was a total sum of N7.9 billion. However, following pressure mounted subsequently, the Anti Crime Commission released the sum of N2.5 billion for payment of salaries to Imo workers. It was not confirmed for which months salary the N2.5 billion was released, at press time.
He also confirmed the alarm raised by some civil servants that Okorocha had within two days, withdrawn, N700 million in cash, “that is N200 million on the first day and N500 million on the second day”. When the alarm that Okorocha had moved out N700 million within two days from bank accounts was raised, he immediately denied it stating that Imo state does not have such money anywhere. It was for that reason Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, warned the affected banks against collaborating with Okorocha in looting Imo’s public funds and treasury.
When the alarm that Okorocha had moved out N700 million within two days from bank accounts was raised, he immediately denied it stating that Imo state does not have such money anywhere. It was for that reason Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, warned the affected banks against collaborating with Okorocha in looting Imo’s public funds and treasury.
The Initial attempt at sharing the entire N700 million to all the teachers, who attended Okorocha’s event in Owerri was also thwarted when EFCC stopped the sum of N75 million of the money from being moved out of the banks saying, “when we came in, we were able to save about seventy 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, that were blocked in the banks”.
It would be recalled that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), had on the 23rd of April, 2017 also revealed that Imo state had applied and received a bailout fund of N26.8 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which were domiciled in Fidelity Bank and Zenith bank. It was later discovered that some transfers of the bailout funds were made into certain Imo state accounts which were not related to salaries and emoluments of workers or pensioners.
These were as follows; N2 billion paid into a government house account, N2 billion paid into Imo state project account, N2 billion transferred into a certain micro finance bank. The sum of N21,17,810 million was paid as management fees to members of the bailout fund committee, with Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as Chairman. The other members of the committee were Mrs Stella Udogu, then Accountant General of Imo state and Dr. Paschal Obi, Principal Secretary to the Governor.
EFCC had earlier in their report revealed that N2 billion of the bailout fund was diverted to Domestic Affairs department of the office of the Governor, under his sister, Mrs Ogechi Ololo, who was suddenly promoted to Commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment.
Community Watchdog Newspaper in a front page publication of Novermber 3 2015 had reported that a Togolese cook attached to Uche Nwosu’s house in Owerri had run away with over #5Billion stashed in hard currency.
It took the then Commissioner of Police to evacuate the safe in what he termed mutiny that landed all domestic staff and security personnel deployed to the house in cell for 27 days, without prosecution in court.
Though, Uche Nwosu denied ever stealing or diverting part of the bailout fund for which he dragged Watchdog Newspaper to court, claiming malicious defamation of character, he however admitted that he was appointed Chairman of Imo bailout fund disbursement committee.
The confirmation by Usman Iman of EFCC, that the entire bailout fund was either diverted, mismanaged or outrightly stolen has therefore vindicated the public driven publication of watchdog Newspaper, that the money was stolen, and ofcourse re-stolen by a cook.
This is also coming on the heels of ICPC’s vindication of Community Watchdog Newspaper, when they confirmed that at least N6 billion of the money was diverted. It is yet to be ascertained whether the latest N8 billion kept away in the banks (Fidelity and Zenith) are part of ICPC’s discovery or fresh part thereof.