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Okorocha spent N8bn Paris Club Refund on the eve of elections—EFCC

More details are beginning to emerge on how the outgoing governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, feasted on the state’s N8bn share of the Paris Club Refund approved and paid in by the Federal Government some months ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Addressing media executives, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Zonal Head for South-East, Usman Imam disclosed that the timely intervention of his surveillance team saved the state over N5bn that would have been deployed in vote buying by the Okorocha’s administration during the last elections.
However, the anti-graft agency was quick to reveal that the state was not completely lucky as about N8bn from the Paris Club Refund bailout set aside for clearance of workers salary arrears and even pensioners was spent frivolously on the eve of the elections.
Iman averred that “About N7.9bn is what had been blocked, although with pressure, subsequently, about N2.5bn was released for salaries. On the whole, we have over N5bn 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“Honestly, what we discovered was that within two days, N700m was withdrawn in cash; N200m on the first day and N500m on the second day and all these monies were disbursed in a manner that was honestly unpalatable.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.
The EFCC chief further revealed that “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.”
However, whereas the EFCC currently stands on the fact that money meant for payment of workers’ salaries and pensioners may have gone with the 2019 general elections under Okorocha’s watch, the same governor recently announced that he has completed arrangements to clear all outstanding salary arrears and pensions before May 20, 2019.
Continuing, Iman decried that “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.”
Business Hilights recalls that the anti-graft agency had some months ago, arrested the Accountant-General of Imo State, Uzoho Casmir, for allegedly helping Okorocha, to launder N1.05bn for the governorship and assembly elections.
Analysts say the direction of the Paris Fund may not be unconnected with the open support for Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law’s guber ambition in Action Alliance party who also lost the election to the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.