By Okey Alozie
Former Imo State Universal Basic Education Board Chairman, Dr Mrs Uche Ejiogu has finally opened up on the alleged school building contract scam.
Uche Ejiogu who appeared before the judicial panel of inquiry sitting at High Court Owerri, on Monday revealed that she did not partake in the execution of the 91 school building project neither did she know the nature of the buildings or where the buildings where sited in Imo State.
Uche Ejiogu, the former member who represented Ihitte/Uboma State constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly who was poetic and dramatic during her presentation at the witness box on Monday maintained that the former Commissioner in charge of Finance (Deackon Chike Okafor) allegedly forced her to pay the sum of N3.2bn to a named firm White Label account which she complied to the directive.
She confessed that Deackon Okafor insisted that she will be sacked if she did not do as the former Governor directed.
In her words, “when I returned from Abuja, I went straight to the then governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to show him the N5.4bn that I came back with while I returned back to my office at IMSUBEB located along Porthacourt road Owerri, thereafter, Chike Okafor came for the money forcing me to process a mandate for the payment of N3.4bn to White Label, I went back to governor Okorocha who then told me to go ahead with them as company that will execute the job for the state.
“In my mind I believed Chike Okafor to be one of them and based on that, I complied to his demands”, Ejiogu submitted.
Ejiogu who once served as Commissioner for Education accepted that due process was not followed in the awarding of contract for the 91 schools also submitted that it was her Financial Director, Mr Augustine Duru that processed the mandate as 75% of the contract money was released without delay to please Chike Okafor.
Continuing, Ejiogu said she left N900m when she was redeployed in 2013, adding that the remaining part of the Action Plan fund of N5.4bn which she came back with from Abuja may have been use in the execution of other projects like the supply of Mats, School Desk and other materials as listed in the Action plan of IMSUBEB.
She further told the panel that governor Okorocha while at Ahiajioku Convention Centre then in one public functions held there directed that female party loyalists should be given the contract to supply the items mentioned above. She disclosed that based on Okorocha’s Directives. The female party loyalists were compensated with the contract as their name were listed and forwarded to IMSUBEB.
“Chike Okafor lied if he actually said that he was not part of the contract execution” Ejiogu also said.
She further submitted that it was Chike Okafor who introduced White Label company to her and the account number to pay in the N3.4bn.
The panel questioned her on Barr. Kennedy Ibe and she denied knowing him as at the time she was the chairman of IMSUBEB. More drama in the matter came up again when Uche Ejiogu and her Director of Finance could not agree on the actual amount paid to White Label company. While Uche Ejiogu insisted it was above N3bn, her Financial Director (Mr Duru) said it was below that amount.
She was asked to tell the panel if the buildings are upstairs or downstairs and she told the Court point clear that she did not witnessed any of the building, therefore there was no need to supervise what she did not see on ground.
Even the contract value, she revealed that she did not know anything about it. Uche Ejiogu who said further that she was mandated to push the money for the building of 91 schools disclosed that she never handled any one at this point her voice changed.
When the panel member were not hearing her clear, jokingly, one of them demanded that she should use her political campaign voice and everybody burst into laughter. There was confusion in the presentation but later it was traced that Ejiogu signed two mandates the same for the White Label which led to N3.4bn she earlier said she was sure to have been given to White Label.
When Mr Duru came up and was unable to pronounce some of the figures correctly, the chairman of the panel warned him to be very careful. The chairman of the panel explained that they want to ascertain the truth and not to victimize anybody at all, adding that those invited should be plain in their submission.
The panel demanded that the record of what consumed the N5.4BN Action Plan Fund that Ejiogu brought from Abuja should presented. The panel ask Mr Duru to provide the name of the PAYEE’S (Contractor), Bank and Account number from 2011 to 13 April 2018.
Duru was also asked to explain more on how he came up with the calculation of the value added tax (VAT). The panel asked Duru and Ejiogu to come back next week for further submissions.
It could be recalled that the past administration of Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha started with the probe panel and Senator Hope Uzodinma continued with it.
Chike Okafor, Kennedy and Paul Roche as we gathered have made their own submissions to the panel.