A cross section of Imolites have called on the Imo State Governor,Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and the House of Assembly, to institute a high powered judicial enquiry into the “missing Imo bailout fund” and the different tranches of the paris club debt relief refunds, part of which a section of the media alleged was stolen by a domestic cook attached to the former Chief of Staff to the Governor, Uche Nwosu.
As if toeing the same line with the Comrade Lambert Ojukwu led Imo Independent Newspaper Publishers Association (INPA), which earlier incurred the wrath of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, for making a similar call in a widely circulated by urging the then Governor to render actual accounts of how he spent the monies, concerned Imolites, have jointly and individually canvassed for an immediate probe, into how much was given to Imo state as bailout and paris club debt relief refunds and how the monies were spent.
The latest call for probe especially into how the sum of “N26.8 billion Imo bailout fund” meant specifically for the payment of arrears of salary, pension and severance allowances of political appointees came from Olu Owerri, led by Chief Martins Opara.
Olu Owerri had through its National President,Opara said that Imo people would want to know what truly happened to the fund considering the fact that the two anti craft agencies,ICPC and EFCC aknowleged that more than N2 Billion was diverted from the initial money.He suggested that the government of the day should work with the agencies to recover the money.
Similarly, Orluzurumee Youth Assembly, led by Engr Christian Okolie condemned the level of intimidation melted out to journalists who mustered the courage to expose the theft in Uche Nwosu’s house,stating that Imo people know that the money was indeed misused and need explanation to that effect.He called on the governor to impress pensioners and all those whose money it was by setting up a probe panel,recover the money and put it to good use.
Rising from a collaborative meeting recently, the leaders of the aforementioned organizations explained that instituting a probe into how the funds were allegedly squandered will put to rest the vexatious issue of treasury looting and embezzlement of public funds.
According to the organizations, “no effort should be spared in unraveling the mystery surrounding the various funds received but misappropriated by past governor and his cabals”.
Speaking specifically on the N26.8 billion bailout fund and other relief funds recieved by Imo State, including the last trench of the Bailout fund , the President of Owerri Young Patriots, Prince Chidi Obi, advised the Governor, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, to take a bold step by setting up a probe panel that will unearth the management of the huge fund.He stated that Imo people will be angry should he look the other way.
It would be recalled that Watchdog Newspaper like Trumpeta Newspaper had on the 3rd of November, 2015, published on it’s front page that the family of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, was in disarray following the invasion of Uche Nwosu’s safe where about N5 billion of money suspected to be part of the bailout fund, was allegedly put away in hard currency, by his foreign cook, Henry, who successfully eloped with the money.
When the burglary was discovered, a report made secretly to then Imo State Police Commissioner, Taiwo Lakanu, led to the arrest and detention of all domestic staff, police orderly and mai-guards deployed to Uche Nwosu’s Akachanwa Owerri mansion for more than three weeks without arraigning them for what CP described as “mutiny”.
After mounting pressure and intimidating the Publishers, Uche Nwosu on the 10th of December, 2015, caused the State Police Command to arrest the Watchdog Newspaper Publisher, Precious Nwadike and three other staff of the media outfit who were detained at the police headquarters before charges were preferred against them for criminal defamation.
For a total of four years, the litigation is still subsisting at both the Magistrate and High Courts of Owerri judicial division, thus taking a toll on the capacity of Watchdog Newspaper to deliver on it’s objectives of information dissemination.
While the case lasted in court, anti graft agencies, ICPC and EFCC in responses to the hues and cries, commenced investigations into the allegations of “missing Imo bailout funds”.
It was against the many calls on the Governor especially by Owerri based Publishers, to account for the fund that ICPC and EFCC confirmed that the money was grossly misappropriated.
About N6 billion of the N26.8 billion were traced to several bank accounts that had no official links with payment of workers salary and pension. Infact N2 billion was revealed to have found it’s way into the Domestic Affairs Department of Government House,Owerri, where the Governors sister, Ogechi Ololo was SA, and called the shots.
The Governor on his own admitted on one occasion, that he used the bailout fund to repay loans, his successors secured from banks for the purpose of payment of salaries of workers.
After thorough investigations, it was discovered that alas! no such repayment of loans was made to any bank, instead the money was traced to some domiciliary accounts in some banks, where EFCC only recently seized about N8 billion out of the money.
It was only at the point of recovering the alleged stolen bailout fund that Okorocha admitted that the money belonged to the Imo State Government and was saved for payment of workers salaries and pensions.
According to EFCC, N2.5 billion out of the N8 billion was later released to Okorocha to enable him pay workers salaries for February 2019, while the other part thereof, about N5 billion to be released to Governor Emeka Ihedioha, for which workers received full salaries in four years.