· Commissioner rejects allegations, says it’s sheer blackmail
Concerned Imo Citizens has alleged that African Export–Import Bank, (AfrEximBank) has suspended its N50 billion investment in the state due to the inability of the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma to stem rising insecurity.
In a swift reaction, however, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Declan Emelumba dismissed all the allegations as baseless and mere blackmails.
In a statement it issued yesterday, the group cited several instances of criminalities, which it said could have been prevented had the state government been proactive.
The group said at the inception of the Uzodinma administration, his Attorney General, Mr C. O. C. Akaolisa released some hardened criminals some of whom were already convicted for armed robberies, kidnapping and other vices.
The group said: “Since the release of these criminals there has been a sharp rise in criminalities like armed robberies, kidnapping, killing of law enforcement officers and prominent citizens of the state.
It claimed that due to the rising insecurity in the state AfrEximBank had suspended its N50 Billion investment in Imo State..
The group listed instances of insecurity in Imo State to include the killing of two brothers by unknown assailants who made away with their vehicle near the vicinity of Imo State University, the kidnapping of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Valentine Ezeagu while attending the funeral of his father as well as the killing of two policemen at Orlu.
The group also alleged that there had been unprecedented rise in illegal oil bunkering in the oil producing communities in Egbema and Oguta.
It stated that the anti-oil bunkering committee set up by the state government is itself profiting from the illegal business.
“Besides the huge revenue losses to the government, there are monumental environmental hazards associated with the illegal bunkering activities perpetrated by this notorious Imo State Anti-oil Bunkering Committee”, it added.
It accused the governor of spending local government allocations without recourse to extant law on local government funds administration.
It said: “There has never been JAAC (Joint Account Allocation Committee) for the administration of Local Government funds as required by law, instead the Local government Directors of Administration are coaxed to sign away the monthly allocations to the governor’s pleasure.
“This can be verified. So all allocations that accrued the 27 LGAs for this one year was spent solely by the governor without any visible evidence of projects executed.
“At present, the Local Government workers are owed 3 Months salary arrears despite the fact FAAC have not failed at any time to remit funds due to the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State.”
On insecurity, the commissioner said that the state’s Attorney General has “no power to release anybody from prison. So he couldn’t have released anybody.
“What happened was that in the wake of Covid-19 in early 2020 there came the need for the decongestion of the prisons. So the governor using his prerogative of mercy authorised the release of some inmates who satisfy some conditions including staying long in detention as awaiting trial without conviction.
“The chief judge of the state in accordance with His Excellency directive released the affected inmates. The Paulinus Onyinye Nwanochie you mentioned happened to have been on awaiting trial for too long so he benefited from the release. That is the simple truth and it has nothing to do with the Attorney General
“Now the claim that the release of this one man has escalated crime in the state cannot stand any logic because when he was in detention for many years, crime did not disappear in the state. So I am yet to see any empirical relationship between him and crime in the state.”
He said the allegation that African Export–Import Bank, has suspended its N50 billion investment in the state due to insecurity was sheer blackmail.
“It has no iota of truth whatsoever. What investment are we talking about here and what was the specific security threat that made them withdraw?” He asked.
Reacting to instances of insecurity, the commissioner said: “All these are usual security challenges that are not peculiar to this administration.
“If anything it has abated under the watch of this administration because we have done more to fortify the security architecture than any previous administration.”
He said the government had provided over 100 state of the art patrol vans for security operatives.
“So the reality is that crime is abating, not escalating, in the state”, he added. He also dismissed the claim that illegal oil bunkering was the rise, saying this is total fabrication.
According to him, the incidence of oil bunkering is reducing in the state.
The commissioner said the Uzodinma’s administration had not tampered with Local Government Funds.
Emelumba also said that the state government enjoyed cordial relationship with international agencies working in the state.
On non-payment of workers salaries and pension, the commissioner said: “The government is not owing any salary or pension.”