The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, has denied accusations of witch haunting officials of the Imo State government, including governor Rochas Okoracha, insisting that its operatives are in the state for routine investigations in line with the law.
The commission was reacting to a demonstration staged by some women drawn from several local government areas in Imo State, alleging that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and ICPC had been sent after their son, governor of the state.
The ICPC said it was investigating two petitions involving officials of the state government relating to corrupt practices.
The first petition is an allegation of financial impropriety levelled against the former deputy governor of Imo State, Jude Agbaso, who was impeached by the state House of Assembly on February 13, 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 and further investigation by the ICPC revealed that the contractor has so far received a total of N1.45 billion, but has abandoned the project after executing works valued at slightly over N300 million.
The ICPC said that records of the company’s incorporation at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, showed that JPROS International Nigeria Limited has Prince Akanno, a government official, as a serving director.
Akanno, is the special assistant to the governor of Imo State and also chairman, committee on monitoring and implementation of road projects in the state.
In a bid to frustrate further investigation, Akanno reportedly instituted a civil suit challenging the authority of the commission and the Investigation team led by one 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.
The association “the Speaker of the House and his men” benefitted from contracts executed with state funds in order to discourage them from carrying out their oversight functions on the projects.
Upon receiving the petition, the commission said it sent out several letters of invitation to twelve functionaries in the state but only five honoured the invitation.
Those who honoured the invitation include the Clerk of the state House of Assembly; the branch manager of Zenith Bank Plc, branch manager of Guarantee Trust Bank Plc, accountant-general and commissioner for finance.
The seven others yet to show up are the secretary to the government; the governor’s principal secretary; 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. The cases are domiciled in Courts 4 and 6 of the State High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State Capital,” the ICPC said.
The commission warned that anyone who refuses to honour its invitation would face arrest and prosecution in line with section 25 of the ICPC Act 2000.