N106bn contract fraud: Uzodinma struggling for acceptance – Okorocha mocks gov
Former Imo State Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha has rejected the N106 billion fraud indictment by the Justice Benjamin Iheaka-led panel probing contracts awarded during his eight years tenure.
This is just as he derisively described incumbent Governor Hope Uzodinma, who set up the panel, as struggling for acceptance almost nine months on seat.
The Herald recalls that the panel in its report Iheaka submitted to Uzodinma at the Government House, Owerri on Tuesday, directed Okorocha to refund the monies, claiming they were fraudulently expended on fictitious contracts.
According to the report, there was a flagrant disregard for due process and the Public Procurement Act in the award of the contracts.
The report also stated that there was evidence of non-existing companies that were used to siphon state funds.
But reacting in a statement through his spokesman, Sam Onwuemeodo, the ex-governor dismissed the panel’s claims as false and dared it to make details of its findings public.
Okorocha, who represents Imo West in the Ninth Senate, also challenged Uzodinma to explain how about N119billion of federation account fund meant for the state was expended.
“In his independence day speech the governor said that he inherited systematic fraudulent system from Ihedioha. Two days after, he said that Okorocha should refund N106 billion. We challenge the government in Imo, led by Senator Hope Uzodinma to publish the Iheaka report verbatim so that Imo people in particular and Nigerians in general, could read the report and see how the panel arrived at N106 billion, which they said that Senator Okorocha should refund,” the statement read in part.
The ex-governor said he demanded the public publication of the report because he refused to believe that the chairman of the panel, a judge, could go ahead to submit a report on a matter that was pending at a Federal High Court in which the presiding judge had ordered for the maintenance of the status quo.
“No serious panel would have made such recommendation. It could only take a ‘Ben Johnson’ panel to do that. And let the government publish the list of contractors who handled contracts under Okorocha, state the contracts they did, how much they were paid respectively, how they were paid and what they should have been paid, in the estimation of the panel members.
“Governor Uzodimma should explain what he has done with the N119 billion he has collected from the federation account and N6.4 billion ISOPADEC fund vis-à-vis the IGR,” Okotocha stated.