– Former T.C Chairmen spill the beans

-Recount how they were coerced parting with council allocations

The Interim Management Committee (IMC) Chairmen appointed by Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha before he was sacked by the Supreme Court, will have an upheaval task in explaining how as much as Twenty Billion Naira (N20 billion) were allegedly fleeced through fictitious and dubious claims from the local government monthly allocations while in office.

Whereas the appointees and other prominent citizens and political aides to the then Governor praised him for the compliance with due process and ensuring direct monthly federal allocations to the 27 LGAs in Imo State, the money as reported to Watchdog Newspaper once in the bank accounts of the LGAs were unsuspectingly frittered by state government authorities led by Emeka Ihedioha who spoke eloquently on how he had improved the fortunes of the council areas by ensuring and allowing direct monthly federal allocations. 

The then Special Adviser (SA) to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and former Imo ALGON chairman and fellow member of the House of Representatives like Ihedioha, Hon Chief Mayor Chukwudi Eze, had told Imolites that after payment of salaries and deductions of administrative costs, each local government area in the state would have an excess of a minimum of Forty-Four Million Naira (N44 million) with which to play around and possibly invest in any capital project of their choice,monthly. 

Regrettably,after seven months in office,neither the excess cash of N44 million from each LGA, nor the anticipated capital projects worth the equivalent of that amount was seen anywhere in any or all the 27 LGAs of Imo State. Instead, the officially approved stadia projects and council secretariats in some of the LGAs scurrilously dragged for seven months and have still remained at the foundation or DPC levels despite the huge amounts claimed for them.

Apart from Hon Uche Ogbuagu, who as representative of Ikeduru LGA, in the Imo State House of Assembly who took up the matter of the reckless misappropriation of the councils funds by the Ihedioha appointed IMC Chairman in Ikeduru, only the people of Umuaka in Njaba LGA who once rejected Okorochas prefabricated classroom blocks, describing it as a death trap, had also confronted their former IMC, Hon Obodo Chia over the misuse or misappropriation of Njaba council funds. 

Addressing stakeholders at Umundugba to explain the reason for the capital flight at Njaba, Hon Obodo explained that government had compelled them to sign-off a certain amount of their monthly allocations, using some proxies and companies.

 He stated also that contrary to the widely held belief that the councils were allowed to manage the monthly allocations, only salary bills and administrative costs were released to them while they were allowed to generate internal revenue. “Even the payments for the stadium projects and council secretariats were handled by the then Governor Emeka Ihedioha, who also selected the contractors.Though when contacted on the statement credited to him(Obodo) he denied the allegation, saying that he was quoted out of contest.

At a press conference in Owerri recently, the State commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon Declan Emelumba, said the N19.63 billion misappropriated Funds was discovered during a routine Audit of the Accounts and Records of JAAC with the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs by the Local Government Auditor General for the fiscal year ended 31/12/2019.

The Commissioner said the Government’s action was in line with the New Imo Agenda to entrench a resilient and transparent Public Service and restore financial discipline, prudence meant and Rule of law premised on extant laws pertaining to the Custody, Management and Appropriation of Public Funds.

According to the Commissioner, JAAC was set up by law and disbursements of L.G.As funds is guided by Model Financial Memorandum and other extant laws on custody, and management and audit of the said entity. He regretted that the money was illegally withdrawn from J.A.A.C. account without any Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Stores Receipt Vouchers (SRV) or Stores Issue Vouchers (SIV) in accordance with extant laws.

The Commissioner declared “Some of the agents used by Ihedioha’s government to siphon the billions of Naira include; The Managing Director of Wall House Ltd., a crony of the sacked Governor, who was paid N1.215 billion for supply of construction equipment without any document, which of course he didn’t supply. There was also an unconscionable mandatory withdrawal of N2.405 billion by the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (BLGCA) under his former colleague in the Federal House of Representatives and SA, Hon Chief Mayor Chukwudi Eze in a fashion reminiscent of Udenwas ROMIX contraption.

Others are payment of N9.378 billion to Local Government councils for an undisclosed purpose. Also Anyama and Co group of Chartered Accountants at No 43 Wetheral Road Owerri, received N245 Million for no disclosed purpose. Other fictitious and fraudulent withdrawals include the compulsory returns or kick- backs from Local Government Councils to the BLGCA to the tune of N2.404 billion. 

Payment of N245 million to Raphael Anyama & Co. group Chartered Accountants Wetheral Road Owerri from Rural Roads Account without payment vouchers or approvals. Payments made through the banks without payment vouchers or evidence of expenditure sum up to the tune of N3.332 billion.

There was a curious phenomenon where N25Million was paid twice to the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Sir J.T.U Nwokonkwo of Onicha Uboma in December 2019 as security vote, whereas such funds are not paid from JAAC accounts but from state funds”.

He continued; “The state government is shocked and embarrassed that within just seven months; a government could perpetrate such quantum of fraud by an unconscionable abuse of public trust through the use of public funds for self serving purposes. Consequently the government has approved the request of the Auditor-General for Local Government to enforce his recovery order on the Permanent Secretary BLGCA and others indicted as agents used by the Ihedioha’s government to siphon the N19.63 billion, adding that Government has immediately ordered the reshuffling of DAGs and treasurers of LGAs, who often perfect the fraud for the armed robbery driven governors”,the release concluded.