Chuks Okafor, Port-Harcourt
At a time that most State governments are struggling to pay salaries and meet other financial responsibilities, as a result of the Covid-19 induced economic crisis, Imo State Government may actually be among the most fortunate, as they have been presented with some kind of financial bailout.
Speaking to journalists in the SouthSouth zonal head office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Port-Harcourt, Mr Usman Imam, revealed that about 6 billion Naira has so far been returned to the Imo State government out of about 7.9 billion Naira which the agency put lien on, following petitions by some concerned Imolites in the run-in to the 2019 general elections.
Individuals suspected to be of opposition political parties had petitioned the EFCC on the eve of the 2019 general elections, accusing the APC led administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha of trying to use funds found in some State government accounts to prosecute election logistics on behalf of his political Party, the All Progressives Congress. On receiving the petition, the EFCC put lien on targeted State government accounts, in what analysts believe was a political “strategy to starve the former governor and his political bloc of funds to prosecute the elections.”
However, investigations by this reporter reveal that the money was to be used to offset pension arrears owed in the State at the time. The pension verification and forensic auditing were already at concluding stages and Governor Okorocha had planned to defray the pension arrears as a kind of parting gift to the retirees.
Usman Imam, who was the Southeast zonal head of the EFCC before his redeployment to the SouthSouth office of the Commission, confirmed that the Okorocha administration was allowed to have access to about Two Billion Naira of the money which it used to offset important bills in the State, and ensured his successors started on a clean and healthy slate.
Contrary to reports on some dailies, the said 7.9 billion Naira was not found in Okorocha’s personal account, nor in any account belonging to any of his associates, but in State government accounts. What the EFCC did was to rather unfreeze some of the accounts to allow the government to have access to the monies, after it must have confirmed that the monies were to be rightly, prudently and transparently disbursed and deployed.