₦106b: Imo govt apologises to Udenwa, Ohakim, says only Okorocha was indicted by panel - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

₦106b: Imo govt apologises to Udenwa, Ohakim, says only Okorocha was indicted by panel

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By Eugene Dike

Contrary to reports in some newspapers, the Justice Benjamin Iheaka Panel of Inquiry which investigated the award of contracts in Imo State is specific on the administration of former Governor Rochas Okorocha.

Recall that the Panel submitted its report to Governor Hope Uzodimma on Monday, October 5, indicting the Okorocha regime and saying it uncovered fraudulent contracts worth ₦106 billion which the regime should be made to refund.
The investigation covers the award of contracts during the period of Okorocha’s administration from 2011 to 2019 and not 2006 to 2019 as erroneously reported by some newspapers.

Consequently, the report by a local newspaper, Nigerian Watchdog, that former Governors Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim are to refund ₦106 billion together with Okorocha should be ignored as the probe period did not extend to their regimes.

The mix-up arising from the duration of the probe — 2011-2019 and not 2006-2019 — is highly regretted.

The earlier statement, which had quoted the report as covering the period between 2006 and 2019, also quoted him as saying: “There were monumental fraud that were orchestrated by the contractors in the period under review with strong collusion with some civil servants who helped in the fraud which was evidenced in over-pricing of the value of the contracts executed in the State.”

The report said that there were flagrant disregard for due process and the rules of Bureau for Public Procurement Act in the Imo State which was exhibited in “outrageous contract pricing and shady contract executions as well as payment for non-performing contracts.”

Justice Iheaka also said there were pieces of evidence of non-existing and phoney companies that were used to siphon State Government funds to the tune of ₦106 billion.

The Chairman, therefore, appealed to the Governor not to sweep their report and recommendations under the carpet, but to do whatever is in his power to ensure that those indicted are made to return the monies.

The Commission, however, identified some civil servants who were honest, dedicated and resisted every pressure by the contract scammers to use their offices to defraud the State Government during the period under review.

Receiving the report, Uzodimma assured that all those indicted and identified in the report as having played a role in frittering away public funds through criminal ways will be made to return them.

He said the opportunity will be given to them to return the monies as the state is in dire need of funds to deal with pressing developmental issues in the face of dwindling resources.

The Governor assured that in few days government will set-up a Review Committee that will look at the documents submitted by the Commission and produce a Whitepaper that will give Government the actual direction to follow in implementing the report in full.
He said the mood in the state indicates that the people are anxious to know what government will do with the report and others before it.

He therefore and assured the Chairman and his members that much as Government will not witch-hunt anyone unnecessarily, it will definitely not shy away from implementing to the letter, the recommendations on those who willfully fleeced the state of her scarce resources to serve as a deterrent to future criminals.

He commended the members for taking time to do a thorough job considering the intricacies of their assignment which warranted their visiting project sites and asking difficult questions and said Government will surely show appreciation for their sacrifices.

Present at the submission were the Chief of Staff, Government House, Barr. Nnamdi Anyaehie, some members of the expanded executive council, and other government appointees.

All members of the Commission, including the Secretary, Dame Comfort Obi were in attendance.