The attention of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has been drawn to the demonstration by some women drawn from some Local Government Areas in Imo State alleging that “EFCC and ICPC had been sent after their son the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha” as reported in the Vanguard Newspaper of Wednesday 23rd October, 2013.
As of practice, ICPC does not go to Press with ongoing investigations so as not prejudice public opinion except when it exercises its ‘right to reply’ as in this instant matter. In a way we thank the “Suspects” for running behind their mother’s skirts for protection as this is a well-respected ancient traditional practice. Now we can tell their mothers, and the general public, what ICPC is doing in Imo State.
ICPC has been investigating two petitions dated 17th December 2012 and 26th March 2013 respectively received in the Commission.
The first petition is an allegation of financial impropriety levelled against the former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Hon. Jude Agbaso, who was impeached by the Imo State House of Assembly on 13th February, 2013. Preliminary investigations by the operatives of ICPC indicated that the State Government awarded a contract to JPROS International Nigeria Limited for the construction of three roads within Owerri Municipality at a cost of N1.15billion.
The sum of N300million was released to the contractor before the regularisation of the said road contracts. Further investigation revealed that the contractor has so far received a total of N1.45 billion. The contractor was alleged to have abandoned the project after executing works valued at slightly over N300 million.
ICPC findings at the Corporate Affairs Commission shows that based on the records of incorporation Prince Akanno, a government official is linked to JPROS International Nigeria Ltd. Prince Akanno is a serving director of JPROS whose directorship was said to have been registered on 20th June, 2012.
Prince Akanno, is the Special Assistant to the Governor and also Chairman, Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of Road Projects in Imo State. In a bid to frustrate further investigation, Prince Akanno instituted a civil suit challenging the authority of the Commission and the Investigation team led by Mr. Chukwura to summon him to clarify issues.
The second petition was sent to the Commission by the Association for Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Imo State Chapter, alleging misappropriation and diversion of N73billion funds belonging to the 27 local government councils of the State for which three years statutory allocation to the Local Governments were used as collateral.
The petition further alleged that “the Speaker of the House and his men were beneficiaries of these contracts in order to prevent them from carrying out their oversight functions on the projects”.
Several letters of invitation were sent to twelve functionaries in the State but only five of them honoured the invitation and they are: the Clerk, Imo State House of Assembly; the Branch Manager of Zenith Bank Plc.; Branch Manager of Guarantee Trust Bank Plc; Accountant-General of the State and Commissioner for Finance.
Seven others are yet to show up. They are the Secretary to the State Government; the Principal Secretary to the State Governor; the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources; the State Commissioner for Works; the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and the Commissioner for Local Government. The Branch Manager of Diamond Bank Plc, Owerri is also yet to show up.
Instead of honouring the invitation of the Commission, the suspects have dragged ICPC and its investigators to court, seeking the enforcement of their fundamental human rights. In all, two different cases have been filed against ICPC in Imo State. The cases are domiciled in Courts 4 and 6 of the State High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State Capital.
The Commission is aware of its independence and orchestrated demonstrations, blackmail of being used by external parties or persons, brazen impunity, smear campaigns, etc. will not stop it from executing its mandate. It is only the courts, not ICPC, that can declare suspects or accused persons guilty.
Accordingly, ICPC will continue to treat all invited persons as being innocent and with respect because some petitions could be borne out of malice or ignorance of facts. ICPC is also aware that some Principals might not be aware of what their subordinates are doing and claiming to work on their behest.
The Commission hereby warns that anyone who refuses to honour its invitation face arrest and prosecution in line with section 25 of the ICPC Act 2000.