By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Pro-democracy groups, the South-East Democratic Coalition (SEDC) and the Abia Progressives Forum (APF) yesterday in Enugu called on anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to immediately arrest and prosecute former governor of Abia state, Senator Theodore Orji over alleged squandering of Abia state funds running into billions of naira between 2011 to 2016.
Also to be arrested and prosecuted are his wife, Odochi and son, Chinedum Orji who they accused of being part of the sleaze which had left the state with debt burden running into tens of billions.
In a joint statement signed by the SEDC Coordinator, Dr Maduka Okebanama and Secretary, Barrister Eunice Oke as well as the APF, President, Hon. Ndu Ahaiwe and Secretary, Okey Adibe which was made available to newsmen the groups expressed surprise that despite several petitions forwarded to the anti-corruption agencies by different organisations, Orji and his family members were still walking free while also using the opportunity of their “freedom” to engage in more fraudulent activities.
They therefore called on the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to prevail on the anti-graft agencies to do the needful, noting that the former governor who is now a senator and his son, presently the Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly have been boasting around that nobody could arrest them for any reason.
The groups alleged that while about 85 per cent of the said funds was squandered while Orji functioned as the governor of the state, the remaining was siphoned under the watch of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
“It’s rather unfortunate that today, workers in Abia state are being owned arrears of salaries. Roads in Umuahia and Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state have all collapsed. Health care delivery is at a decrepit level, standard of education is at the lowest ebb and hunger pervades the entire state yet this family is swimming in monumental affluence at the expense of the people of the state,” they noted.
Giving further details on how the said funds were allegedly siphoned, the groups said the immediate past administration of former governor Orji had refused to give account of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state for the eight years he was in office. It also alleged that even out of office, the former governor and his family were still in firm control of the state’s IGR in the past 14 months of Okezie’s administration.
The former governor was also accused of taking loans indiscriminately while he was in office, superintended over funds meant for the 17 local government councils through the State/Local Government Joint Account system. The groups noted that the former governor was yet to give account of the ecological funds sent to the state as well as the Small and Medium Enterprise Funds endorsed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“Something needs to be done urgently to rescue the state from the hands of this set of people who are determined to destroy the state. At the moment, Ikpeazu has flung the state coffers open to them to operate at will because he has nothing to lose having been removed from office. It is our hope that by the time they are arrested and possibly kept behind bars, those still holding sway in the state would be more careful,” the groups noted.