The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said that it froze N5 billion funds belonging to the Imo State Government to halt Governor Rochas Okorocha from spending it to buy vote in the just concluded general elections in Nigeria.
The EFCC’s Zonal Head for South-East, Usman Imam, in a chat with journalists, said that the Commission’s timely intervention saved the state over N5 billion that would have been deployed in vote buying by the Okorocha’s administration during the last elections.
The EFCC director said about N8 billion from the Paris Club Refund bailout meant for payment of workers’ salaries was kept by the government, only to begin spending it frivolously on the eve of the elections.
“About N7.9 billion is what had been blocked, although with pressure, subsequently, about N2.5 billion was released for salaries. On the whole, we have over N5 billion of those funds blocked; we are following up to see what actually happened.
“Honestly, what we discovered was that within two days, N700m was withdrawn in cash; N200m on the first day and N500m on the second day and all these monies were disbursed in a manner that was honestly unpalatable.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 N500m 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.”
Usman Imam described it as unfortunate the funds in question that were meant for the payment of salaries and pensions have remained unpaid.
“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 N5bn 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.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC has arrested the Accountant-General of Imo State, Uzoho Casmir, for allegedly helping Okorocha, to launder N1.05 billion for the governorship and assembly elections.
Okorocha, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), supported his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, of the Action Alliance (AC) against the governorship candidate of the APC, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
The act earned Okorocha a suspension from the party last week.