By Kelechi Okpaleke
PREAMBLE: THE DRAMA
The entire Nigeria must have watched with utter amazement as Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state on Monday January 14, 2013 engaged himself in a television theatrics that threw overboard every gubernatorial ethics the world over. That day, in a live television show on the African Independent Television (AIT), Governor Okorocha, purporting to reveal to the good people of Imo State “financial infractions” of the Ikedi Ohakim administration, reeled out figures to justify his latest claim that Governor Ohakim embezzled the sum of N62 Billion in the four years he was in office.
It is clear that what provoked Okorocha’s latest smear campaign is the fact that his Commissioner for Finance and Accountant-General were arrested, detained and later granted administrative bail by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to explain certain illegal financial transactions by Okorocha. In pursuit of revenge, he decided to tar Ohakim. But as usual he is deceiving the world with cooked up figures. Thus every legitimate transaction of government was suspect in the eye of Okorocha and therefore “believed to be recoverable”. In so doing, Okorocha simply exhibited his little understanding of governance, administration or banking transactions. This ignorance was first exhibited when, on assumption of powers as “Executive Governor-elect”, he started dishing out instructions to banks in Imo state.
The document Okorocha was brandishing is the same fiction he distributed to the media a month ago and which no responsible medium could publish because of its libelous nature. It is therefore out of frustration that he resorted to live television. It is the same petition he has been hawking at the EFCC and for which all the parties mentioned had gone to offer explanations! His ranting and subtle blackmail of the EFCC, the banks and the CBN is unjustified because his accusation is spurious.
The entire document was nothing but an embodiment of lies. The information contained therein lacks the slightest details to enable even the least discerning fellow to make a meaning out of them. They are figures reeled out by His Excellency, Governor Rochas Okorocha, in order to smear Chief Ikedi Ohakim.
THE MATHEMATICAL FALLACIES
In an apparent display of poor grasp of public accounting and governance, including total disdain for law and due process, the Governor committed several mathematical blunders. This is how we knew.
1) In paragraph 29, the Governor claimed that the sum of N23,309,973,192.76 was “embezzled” by Ohakim between October 10, 2009 and 19 May 2011. The truth, however, is that this amount represented various funds transfers from JAAC Account for which full transaction details are awaited from Keystone Bank by the auditors in their own admission.
2) Another N13.5 billion was listed in paragraph 30 as another sum “embezzled” by the governor. Again, this amount represented various transfer of funds for which full transaction details are awaited from the UBA by the auditors as admitted by them.
3) In paragraph 23 of the dubious document, Governor Okorocha claimed that the sum of N6,514,550.00 transferred from Skye Bank to Zenith Bank at various dates were without records and therefore concluded that Ohakim “embezzled” the said sum. He was either being economic with the truth or his so-called auditors are lazy and incompetent. Otherwise, they would have discovered that the amount represented monthly remittances of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by the Board of Internal Revenue from Skye Bank Plc to the State’s operating account with Zenith Bank. The records are there in the two banks.
4) In paragraph 8, another sum of N2.1 billion was also listed as having been taken away by Governor Ohakim. Again, if Governor Okorochas’s so-called auditors knew their onions, they would have discovered that this amount represented discharge of legitimate contractual obligations to MCC for projects duly executed.
5) In paragraph 4, the sum of N3,385,729,888.00 was listed as having been “embezzled” by Governor Ohakim. This amount, however, represents payment to Messrs Brickred Consult Limited in discharge of legitimate obligations of the 27 local government areas of the state to their past councilors under contract. Under a debt buyback arrangement/agreement, Brickred Consult raised a facility to pay the arrears of salaries and entitlements of democratically elected councilors who served between 1997 and 2007, amounting to about N6 billion, with the Imo state government as guarantor/surety and the 27 councils undertaking to repay Brickred in 48 monthly installments. Up till today, the company is yet to be fully paid by the State and local governments.
6) In paragraph 28, he posted another sum of N10,676,891,730.00 withdrawn from Joint State and local government project account as part of the money “embezzled” by Ohakim between 1/8/2008 and 30/9/2009. Again, nothing can be further from the truth. The amount represented various withdrawals from the Joint state and local government project account to finance various projects undertaken in partnership between the state government and the 27 local governments. In line with the integrated development thrust of the Ohakim administration, projects that cut across LGAs were jointly financed by the state and the LGAs, such as Imo Road Maintenance Agency (IROMA), the 150 kilometre Imo Free Way and the Integrated Health Centres in all the 27 LGAs. Hence the cooperation between the State and the Local Governments.
NOW THE BIG LIE
The above figures when added together come up to N59,487,144,810.76 representing over 96 per cent of the N62 billion Governor Okorocha claims his predecessor embezzled. What this boils down to is that the governor, as we earlier noted, merely added figures which his so-called auditors did not take the pains to ascertain their sources and veracity and came up with N62 billion. Further critical review will show that no money is missing contrary to the claim by Governor Okorocha.
What a bizarre way of auditing the finances of a state. And governor Okorocha wants Nigerians to believe him? Clearly the people of the state deserve something better. In their narration, the so-called auditors admitted that they were awaiting transactions details from the banks concerned. The big question, therefore, is: Why did Governor Okorocha go public before those details were obtained from the banks?
Governor Okorocha, in less than twenty four hours before his television show, announced the setting up of three judicial panels to probe the Ohakim administration. The three panels are headed, according to the government, by two serving Judges and a former Chief Judge of the state. Now, is it not ridiculous that just in the next breath, the governor revealed a so-called report that indicted the very fellow the panels is supposed to investigate? What then will the panels be probing if the Okorocha administration already has before it evidence indicting Ohakim? The only answer is that the Governor is merely asking the panels to rubber stamp the report he read on television; and which vain- glorious exercise no self respecting judge will agree to undertake under the golden rule of fair hearing.
Of course, this is also not the first time the governor is reeling out figures which he claimed were funds misappropriated by Ohakim. When he first took over office, Okorocha accused Ohakim of embezzling N100 Billion bond money. When he was asked to show evidence, he reduced the figure to N40 Billion. Prodded further, he brought it down to N18 Billion. Now it has risen again to N62 Billion.
MONEY LEFT BEHIND BY OHAKIM
In a live television session that cost the state no less than N20 Million, Governor Okorocha failed to address the repeated claim by Governor Ohakim that he left at least N23 Billion Naira in the state and local government joint accounts before leaving office.
Last time, the government admitted, after several months of denial that N13.3 Billion was left out of the N18.5 Billion Bond proceeds. But when challenged to show evidence that the money is still intact, mum became the word from the highly loquacious functionaries of the Okorocha administration. Chief Ohakim insists that the money has since been frittered away and challenges the governor to prove otherwise. In a clime where other governors are claiming to have met empty treasuries, Governor Ohakim handed over to Governor Okorocha the followings:
a) N13.3 Billion bond proceeds.
b) N3 Billion in SUBEB Account.
c) N1 Billion in ETF Account.
d) N500 Million in MDG Account.
e) Over N5 billion in both JAAC account and Joint LG project account, Imo Youth Empowerment Account (IYEP), RAMP and Traditional Rulers Account.
A COLLAPSING EMPIRE
As usual, Imo people know why their governor is once more throwing gubernatorial caution to the winds.
It is no longer a secret that Governor Okorocha is confronted with an imminent collapse of his administration. It is no longer a secret that the state government under His Excellency, Chief Rochas Okorocha, now finds itself in a big financial quagmire owing to unprecedented imprudence and obtuse sense of public administration. The banks are fast closing on, on the administration, due to bizarre financial exposures that run into billions of Naira. Evidently, the governor is once again looking for an excuse as to why his administration is no longer able to meet up with minor obligations; needless to mention outrageous promises of freebies.
Civil Servants are crying for their salaries. Students are kicking against the grand deceit and fraud called “free education”. Contractors are agitating to be paid for contracts executed but for which there were no records in the first place. Traders in Owerri are demonstrating against heaps of refuse that herald an imminent epidemic in the state capital.
As we earlier noted, what prompted Governor Okorocha to spring up like a wounded lion was the recent arrest of two key functionaries of his administration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over fraud said to be to the tune of N45 Billion. This is in addition to the importation of contraband goods, including school uniforms and furniture for which the relevant law enforcement agencies should ask questions. Meanwhile, the question Imo people have been asking is: Which company imported the school uniforms? This is amidst speculations that the contract for the importation was awarded to the governor’s relations. Is that not an abuse of office?
Rather than muster the needed composure to handle the matter, Governor Okorocha began to rain abuses on federal government officials for sending EFCC officials after him and his appointees instead of Ohakim. He accused well meaning citizens of the state for being behind the arrest. In fact, his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in a statement asserted that the arrest of the Imo officials meant that the federal government has failed in its war against corruption! That statement must have embarrassed Imo citizens the more. Evidently, there are signs that Okorocha’s empire is collapsing. At the television show, he as usual, boasted about his achievements in less than two years. But the people know that 80 percent of his so-called achievements are for his personal aggrandizement. For example, the governor makes a song and dance of building a “befitting” office for the first lady and a state of the art VIP guest house for his personal cronies from outside the state. Should these be priorities for an administration that claims to have come to rescue the masses of the people?
Meanwhile, he abandoned projects which the Ohakim administration designed with a view to creating jobs for the youths when completed. Take the Wonder lake Resort and Conference Centre at Oguta for which the Ohakim regime left N13.3 billion. Governor Okorocha abandoned the project which was expected to create over 20,000 jobs, and has failed to account for that money. In Imo state today, it is not a secret that that money has been frittered away amid agitations by the people of Oguta local government area and indeed the entire state for the continuation of that project.
Governor Okorocha laid the foundation for his highly treacherous claims against the administration of Ikedi Ohakim by asserting that the latter executed only four projects. This is another big lie. Chief Ohakim may be compelled in due course to publish his hand over documents to Governor Okorocha for Nigerians to see.
It is interesting to note that after listing the four projects, Governor Okorocha went ahead to acknowledge the fact that the Imo Free Way project, which he has now abandoned, was on-going when he took over. Apart from Imo Free Way project which was designed to make Imo a one-city state and thus creating an enabling environment for accelerated economic growth, the Ohakim administration embarked upon and completed numerous projects in areas of roads, water schemes, electricity, healthcare services, etc. Among the roads constructed by Governor Ohakim is the one leading to Okorocha’s home town, Ogboko.
In the same Ideato South local government area where Okorocha comes from, the Ohakim administration did the Osina – Isiekenesi road which was first awarded in 1983 by the Mbakwe administration but on which nothing was done until 2007 when Ohakim came on board. Before the completion of that road, the people of that area had been completely cut off from the rest of the state. It is baffling that governor Okorocha would deliberately tell such blatant lies even when he was a personal beneficiary of Governor Ohakim’s visionary and highly creative style of administration.
It is perhaps only left to be mentioned in passing that the good people of Imo state have since seen the difference in the thrust of the two administrations, which is that whereas
Governor Ohakim was concerned with the need to create an economy for the state (as was evidenced by the mega job-creating projects that it was pursuing), Okorocha is merely interested in things for which the people would clap for him today.
To be sure, if Ikedi Ohakim’s pre-occupation was the mere re-roofing of buildings, for which the present administration is known, perhaps the story would have been different. Happily, the people have seen the difference between visionary leadership and deceitful populism.
In the document he read during the television show, Governor Okorocha claimed that the Ohakim administration borrowed N6.2 billion “during the gubernatorial election” and which, according to him, was “mostly spent as security votes”. This insinuation that the money was borrowed to finance Governor Ohakim’s election is deceitful. The governor should show evidence that that particular borrowing was not backed by law and that it was spent as security vote.
For the avoidance of doubt, there was not a single loan taken during Ohakim’s regime that was not covered by an appropriation law. The good people of Imo State are aware that the Okorocha regime has borrowed over N200 billion without going through due process.
A very interesting thing to note about the AIT live show was that Governor Okorocha, after reading the poorly articulated document, began to entertain the viewers with allusions to Chief Ohakim’s landed properties both in Nigeria and abroad. The question is: why didn’t he include those claims or disclosures in the documents he read earlier? The only answer is, of course, that they are false allegations which he cannot afford to document and lay claim to for obvious reasons.
The challenge before him is to show concrete evidence that those properties, either here or abroad, belong to Ohakim. What are their exact locations? Where are the title documents? Now that Governor Okorocha’s son-in-law is the State Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning and is in possession and custody of all title documents in the state, let him and His Excellency produce and publish documents evidencing ownership of the properties he alleged are owned by Ikedi Ohakim in Imo State.
For the avoidance of doubt, His Excellency, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim owns only one three-bed room bungalow in Owerri and which he acquired in 1993.
Then the most laughable and ungubernatorial. Governor Okorocha accused Ohakim of buying houses for his (Ohakim’s) “girl friends” abroad. Was that really coming from a governor or one of the street fellows in Owerri? Is that the language of a governor? Is that the language of Owelle? Is that the language of a fellow who desires to rule Nigeria?
The document under reference began on a faulty note by claiming that the Ohakim administration received a total of N438.7 Billion during his four years. This is another big lie because every knowledgeable citizen is aware that the annual revenue receipt of the state stood at an average of N35 Billion. This gives about N120 Billion in four years. Therefore, the burden of proof lies on Governor Okorocha to tell Nigerians where he got his own figures from. Happily, information on funds that accrue to state governments are in the public domain.
For purposes of clarity, Ikedi Ohakim denies in its entirety that he embezzled any money not to talk of N62 billion while in office. As has been seen above, the figure is a mathematical fallacy that was arrived at by adding up ordinary voucher figures. Surely, the people of Imo State deserve something better than such a reckless exercise that merely puts an insult on their collective intelligence.
The good people of Imo should completely ignore the documents and the television show and demand from their governor better maturity and decorum in handling the affairs of the state.