By Divine Nwaoguji-Nweke
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Thursday, confirmed it has seized N7.9bn belonging to Imo from the former governor of the State and Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Rochas Okorocha.
The Zonal Head of the commission, Usman Imam, made this known at the zonal office in Port Harcourt, Rivers.
Imam, who said Okorocha should be ready for his days in court, added that the commission returned over N5.7bn to various administrations in Imo to pay salaries and pensions of workers.
He said: “I started the Imo state case in Enugu and upon my deployment to this zone, the investigations of corruption allegations against the former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, was transferred from the Enugu zone to Port Harcourt for further investigations.
“Within the period, the commission succeeded in freezing about in different accounts. All the monies that were released to Imo State government were from the N7.9bn recovered from Okorocha. The monies were released in batches.
“N2.7bn was released in March for salaries. In the PDP government of Emeka Ihedioha, excess of N2.5bn upon series of writings and our insistence of monitoring it was released to pay salaries and pensions because they were monies recovered from the state so it has to go back to the state.
“Then the government of Emeka left and this government came, we had a remnant of the money in excess of N2bn. We were able to release N514milion just last month because excess of about N1.8bn is encumbered with a court process. Contractors went to court and targeted the funds. The process is lingering. They still have excess of N1.8bn that is not released”.
Apart from the money recovered, Imam said the senator’s assets identified in Imo and Abuja were seized by the commission.
He said the commission filed a court process for interim forfeiture of the assets confiscated from Okorocha.
He said: “The investigation has got to an advanced stage and we are expecting that in conclusion, we are going to arraign the former governor.
“It is in the course of investigations that we targeted his assets. Some are in Imo, Owerri and some are in Abuja. We marked these properties in Abuja and we have filed court processes for interim forfeiture of these assets. The target is to conclude the investigations and he will have his day in court”.
Imam explained that since he assumed the leadership of the zone in January, the commission has recovered N291.8million, 847,983 US Dollars, 390 pounds, 10,900 Euros, and 500 CFA.
He said the commission also froze over N1.1bn in the accounts of Bluekey Technologies allegedly operating a ponzi scheme and defrauding over 8,926 victims of over N4.4bn.
He said the EFFCC further secured interim forfeiture of 96 trucks, vessels, and barges while 226 drums of automotive gas oil and 1million litres of suspected crude oil were finally forfeited to the Federal Government.
Imam explained that the zone received 441 petitions, successfully investigated 262 with 159 awaiting legal advice and 20 others charged to court.
On the challenges of the commission, he said: “Fighting corruption comes with its peculiar challenges. The corrupt are not going to fold their hands while you retrieve what they had stolen. They would fight back.
“This has come in the form of sponsored media attacks. A blogger, one Dikeocha Chukwuebuka, who caused the zone serious blushes by posting fake pictures of purported overcrowded EFCC cell was arrested and currently under prosecution.
“Other challenges are non-cooperation,m and delayed response to this commission’s enquiries by some agencies; logistic challenge in investigating oil bunkering cases and inadequate office accommodation for staff”.
“In spite of the challenges, the zone remains committed to actualizing the mandate of the commission, which is to eradicate corruption in Nigeria”.