© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
We saved Imo State N5 billion this election period… EFCC
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it saved Imo State about N5 billion that would have been used by the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, to influence election results.
According to the head of EFCC’s South East Zonal Office, Usman Imam, the money was part of the N8 billion Paris Club Refund paid to Imo State by the federal government to assist it in the payment of workers’ salaries.
Imam, during a chat with journalists, said Okorocha had deliberately refused to use the funds for what they were intended only to start distributing cash a few days to the election.
He said the EFCC had initially prevented the governor from accessing the entire N8 billion, but following persistent pressure, the commission allowed N2 billion to be withdrawn for salaries to be paid.
“About N7.9 billion is what had been blocked, although with pressure, subsequently, about N2.5 billion was released for salaries,” Imam narrated to newsmen. “On the whole, we have over N5bn 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“Honestly, what we discovered was that within two days, N700 million was withdrawn in cash; N200m on the first day and N500 million on the second day and all these monies were disbursed in a manner that was honestly unpalatable.
“Distribution to school teachers; I don’t know, schools that you were not funding and you woke up on the eve of the election and withdrew N500 million cash and start distributing N1000 each or so to teachers. Whatever that means, I don’t know.
“When we came in, we were able to save about seventy something million of the funds that we discovered were not disbursed, we also blocked it. People are still answering questions as to who asked them to move those monies, monies that were blocked at the banks.
“The sad story about this was that these monies were the intervention funds; the bailout funds that the Federal Government released to states to pay salaries when they were having problems paying salaries.
“They didn’t utilise that money to pay the salaries; they warehoused it and kept it until the election period, they started attempting to draw down the money.
“Whatever happens, we have saved over N5 billion of that money, as we talk, two weeks to handover. Probably, the next government would have that money to use it better.
“There are a lot of other general investigations going on in Imo right now.”
The Acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had confirmed that Okorocha is being investigated, but he would not give more details, saying that more information would be given at the appropriate time.