Beyond probing Okorocha, others in Imo

By Valentine Amanze

Never in the history of Imo State that the citizens recorded the high level of looting of government treasury and property than the immediate past administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
The Okorocha-led All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership was a disaster; in fact a wasted eight years of darkness for a man, who boasted to perform beyond Chief Sam Mbakwe’s legacies.
What is so disheartening was the massive looting of the state treasury as being investigated by the Nigeria’s crime-fighting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Recently, EFCC seized some properties allegedly traced to Okorocha in Imo. They include schools, a hotel, hospital, estate, supermarket and residential buildings.

While the host communities of the state capital, Owerri, complained about the forceful annexation of their land and destruction of their properties especially at the Shell Camp by the Okorocha regime, many thought it was the ranting of political opponents until the latest discovery of warehouses where the former governor and his cronies allegedly stored most of the state’s looted properties.
How would one explain the looting of chairs, foams, spoons, fans, roofing materials etc from the Government House. It is all greed and madness. It is appalling that in our society people now steal what they need and what they don’t.
On the misuse of the state funds, Okorocha was said to have awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion to Zigreat International Company Limited between November 15, 2013, and November 3, 2017.
The contracts were awarded to the company in violation of the Public Procurement Act.

TheCable had reported that in 2010, the administration of Ikedi Ohakim, a former governor, modelled the Procurement Act of the state after that of the Federal Government.

The Act says, “To bid for contracts, a company needs to present three years tax clearance, audited accounts, evidence of work experience as the main contractor executing or having executed a minimum of four (4) projects of similar complexity, evidence of possession of relevant machinery and equipment and scanned copies of certificates of technical/professional staff of the company.”

But Zigreat International Company Limited, which had no functional website, got its first contract from Okorocha’s government three months after it registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The former government in Imo had awarded a N700 million contract to it for the construction of a tower.

It is however curious that all the contracts awarded by Okorocha’s government were signed by Paschal Obi, then principal secretary to the governor. Obi is now the member representing Ideato North and Ideato South in the House of Representatives.
The first contract, construction of “Akachi”, an Igbo term, which translates as “The Hand of God”, in Owerri, the state capital, was awarded for N700 million.
In a letter dated November 15, 2013, his administration told Zigreat that 25 percent of N700 million would be made available as mobilisation fee.
“I am directed to refer to your quotation of the above contract and to convey His Excellency’s approval that your company, Zigreat Intl. Coy. Ltd, undertakes the contract for the Construction of Akachi (Hand of God) at a total contract sum of N700,000,000.00 (Seven hundred million naira) only,” the letter read.
Building of office blocks for Ministry of Sports wasn’t completed before Okorocha left office yet N690 million was awarded for the project.

“In line with Government Policy on contracts, you are requested to indicate acceptance in writing without delay. You should report to the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Government House, Owerri for details and signing of Contract Agreement, please.”
But how would one explain this: At the Sam Mbakwe International Airport, Owerri on Tuesday, January 25, 2017, Okorocha had claimed that “Imo Air,” a supposed new airline in the Nigerian aviation industry was the property of the state government.

The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 with the registration number 5N-SRI, Okorocha claimed was acquired by the state government to provide air services to the indigenes of the state.

Okorocha at the airport said that the aircraft was one of the five airplanes the state government recently acquired, adding that four others would be delivered to the state before the end of 2018. However he never disclosed how much the state government invested in the project which later became a hoax - the aircraft being the property of Dana Air.
While Okorocha nolonger enjoys immunity which led to impunity of his administration, he should not distract the ongoing government in the state with his allegation of witch-hunt.
Governor Emeka Ihedioha gave him the opportunity to make a proper and an official handover to the new government he bungled it. His recent attack on the state government’s ongoing land deals in the state must not stop the project.
Other areas the state government must scrutinize include the health sector and others.
It was alleged that the ex-governor approved N683 million for the construction of Community Health Hospital in Ogboko, his hometown in Ideato. Till date, the hospital is in a derelict state.

Also awarded was over N689 million contract for the office blocks of the Ministry of Happiness headed by Ogechi Ololo, Okorocha’s sister.
N5.9 billion was awarded for the construction of police headquarters, phase 1, Owerri and N4.3 billion for the construction of police headquarters, phase 2, Owerri.

Although N3.7 billion was approved for this project in 2017, Imo State University of Agriculture and Environment in Aboh/Ngo Okpala, was still under construction when Okorocha left office.
While the objective of the probe panel is to recover the state’s looted funds, the recommendations of the various committees must be adhered to by the state government. But one thing noteworthy is that the present administration in the state has set a standard that will continue after its tenure. It is nolonger going to be business as usual again. And any one indicted by the panels must be made public through the media and dragged to the law court to deter others. Fear of God must be restored in governance, as I support the Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s courage to sanitise the state again.

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