Posted by Aruga Joe Omokaro, Anolu Vincent | 22 May 2019 | 1,094 times
Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said on Tuesday that the court action of outgoing governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, would not deter the anti-graft agency from investigating or arresting him after May 29.
Last week, Governor Okorocha dragged the anti-graft agency to the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking protection of his fundamental rights.
The EFCC boss confirmed to Daily Independent on phone that “the governor has taken us to court before Justice Taiwo; we are to appear in court tomorrow (today)”.
Asked if Okorocha’s court action would prevent the commission from investigating or arresting him after May 29, Magu replied: “That is what he (Okorocha) is trying to do, but he can’t stop us.”
Daily Independent investigations revealed that the anti-graft agency was investigating the controversial governor over alleged financial misappropriation and money laundering.
One of the issues under investigation was the money meant for oil producing communities that was allegedly misappropriated.
Another ongoing investigation concerns a gigantic estate in Imo State said to have been built with government’s money but allegedly converted to his wife’s personal estate.
Some properties in London are believed to also be under investigation.
Magu, who just returned from the United Kingdom (UK), confirmed to a Lagos-based television station in the UK, on Monday, that he was in the UK to meet with investigators assisting the Federal Government in solving cases of money laundering and financial crimes.
Asked if an investigation of the governor was ongoing, Magu replied: “Definitely. Of course, we are doing a couple of checks and investigations here and there.”
He also said the commission had to get to a certain level before it could disclose any information about any ongoing investigation, and explained that this was necessary to prevent any action that could jeopardise or interfere with the process of the inquiry.
Last Friday, the EFCC’s Zonal Head for South-East, Usman Imam, told journalists in Enugu State that the anti-graft agency had frozen N5 billion funds belonging to the Imo State government because Okorocha spent so much money in a suspicious manner during the last general elections.
The EFCC further stated that the N8 billion Paris Club debt refunded to the state for the payment of salaries was allegedly mismanaged by Okorocha.
Imam said but for the commission’s timely intervention, over N5 billion would have allegedly been deployed in vote-buying by Okorocha’s administration.
He said: “About N7.9 billion is what has been blocked, although with pressure, subsequently, about N2.5 billion was released for salaries.
“On the whole, we have over N5 billion of those funds blocked; we are following up to see what actually happened.
“Honestly, what we discovered was that within two days, N700 million was withdrawn in cash; N200 million on the first day and N500 million on the second day, and all these monies were disbursed in a manner that was honestly unpalatable.”
On money laundering, the EFCC earlier arrested Governor Okorocha’s Accountant-General, Uzoho Casmir, for allegedly helping the governor to launder N1.05 billion for the last governorship and state Assembly elections.
Okorocha, who is a suspended member of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), supported his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance, against the governorship candidate of the APC, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
An alleged EFCC classified report reads in part: “The EFCC Enugu Zonal Office, Thursday, March 8, 2019, arrested the Acting Accountant General of Imo State, Mr. Uzoho Casmir, on suspicion of laundering the sum of N1.050 billion through a new generation bank for the governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha.
“Uzoho’s arrest followed intelligence report that the governor intended to use the money for vote buying in favour of a particular candidate in tomorrow’s gubernatorial election.
“Intelligence further revealed that Mr. Casmir withdrew the amount in three tranches between Tuesday and Thursday this week in the following order: N200 million on Tuesday, N500 million on Wednesday and N350 million on Thursday.
“Meanwhile, the EFCC has blocked the traced accounts, while the arrested accountant general has been providing useful information to the commission.
“Mr. Casmir was, before his appointment, a Director of Finance in Okorocha’s government and was in 2016 fingered in N2 billion bailout fund scam, which was then given to the state by the Federal Government for the payment of salary arrears of civil servants.”
Meanwhile, Governor Okorocha has said that he would not join issues with the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, noting that the commission was still on its investigation and had not made any allegation against him.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, in a statement made available to newsmen on Tuesday, the governor argued that for holding his own press conference on Okorocha on Friday, May 17, 2019 in Enugu and the chairman of the commission himself holding his own press conference also on Okorocha, on Monday, May 20, 2019 and only two days after, raised genuine concern.
This, he said, had added fillip to the governor’s earlier worry that those behind the drama over his certificate of return had not gone to sleep but had continued to spread their dragnets or tentacles.
“If you ask us, we won’t join issues with the EFCC as an institution and with Alhaji Magu as an individual.
“Investigating individuals, governments, institutions, etc is part of the commission’s own rules of engagement and nobody should prevent them or begrudge them for doing that. We only pray that the commission should not allow undue infiltration.”
Onwuemeodo noted that both Alhaji Magu and Mr. Imam never accused the governor of mismanagement or diversion, stressing that looking at the contents of their press conferences, they confirmed that the commission was in custody of the money.
He stated that out of the N8 billion they quoted, they also confirmed that N7.9 billion was what they blocked.
“Then, what is Owelle’s case? And the governor is not owing salaries,” he said.
He added: “Mr. Imam also threw a kite which could not fly when he told his audience that if not for their timely intervention over N5 billion would have allegedly been deployed in vote-buying by Okorocha’s administration.
“How he arrived at that conclusion is what he never said. In other words, he believed what the petitioners wrote. Since investigation is still on, perhaps, at the end of it, the truth will become clearer, especially when the incident happened long before the 2019 elections.
“And one could not have bought votes in the vacuum. Ultimately, vote-buying must be on the election day and perhaps, at the polling units where the voters were expected to be.”
In his suit, Okorocha listed as respondents the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Department of State Services (DSS), the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
He accused the said adversaries of instigating EFCC and other agencies against him and members of his family.
The governor also blamed the said political adversaries for INEC’s failure to issue him with a certificate of return after being declared the winner of the last election in Imo West Senatorial District.
“Not satisfied with the withholding of the applicant’s certificate of return, those powerful forces have commenced fresh spate of attacks against the applicant on the baseless allegation that he embezzled the funds belonging to Imo State government.” (INDEPENDENT)
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