A civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has described the prosecution of the erstwhile governor of Abia State, Mr. Theodore Orji, over the alleged gross mismanagement of the State’s resources, was long overdue.
HURIWA has therefore tasked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to stop the hide-and-seek gambit that is playing out between it and the now serving Senator of the Federal Republic, Mr. Orji, and his affiliates linked with the alleged theft of Abia State commonwealth and proceed to drag them to court once and for all for the sake of the suffering citizens of Abia State who have been deprived of good governance for over two decades and even now.
However, the rights group said the Abia State people must be the direct beneficiaries of the loots that have allegedly been retrieved or would be recovered from the former Abia State Governor Orji should the anti-corruption agency successfully obtains conviction.
The group also said that rather than the assets and resources reportedly taken away from Abia State to be returned to the Federal Government thereby depriving the people of the State of rightful resources, it is just and appropriate that everything taken away from Abia people should be returned to them.
HURIWA said it would amount to double jeopardy for the people of the State to suffer the loss of their stolen assets and resources cornered by politicians for the Federal Government confiscate them whenever final forfeiture orders are made by the courts.
HURIWA said: “Although the report making the rounds that Mr. Orji may be charged (to court) soon for alleged heist of multi-billion naira cash and resources belonging to Abia State during the periods he was the state governor, we in the organised civil rights body think that it is better late than never.
“But again we think the EFCC need not to have waited to secure the conviction of former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu for corrupt practices, before it now decided to open an investigation into an alleged diversion of N525bn by another ex-governor of the state, Theodore Orji, who has been out of office for almost five years and therefore has no executive constitutional immunity stopping his prosecution ever since after he left office as Abia State Governor and handed over to the incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who has just got re-elected for the second and final four year period.
“The petition is not new and so why wait till now? But again let us say that it is better late than never. The information in the public space indicates that a petition dated March 17, 2017, was filed by Fight Corruption: Save Nigeria Group, in which the former governor was accused of receiving and diverting various sums of monies meant for the state’s development.
“According to a report on the petition, the monies were N383bn revenue from Federation Accounts, N55 billion excess crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P, N1.8 billion Ecological Funds, N10.5 billion loan from First Bank of Nigeria through the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs, N4 billion loan from Diamond Bank, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan for farmers and N55 billion Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC).
“One would have expected that the EFCC could have swung into action to immediately recover whatever could be recovered and prosecute the accused persons rather than wait for a whole five years to allow the principal accused to amass more political weight as Senator.
“Again, the EFCC waited even when one of the persons listed still holds a powerful political office in Abia state and could influence the disappearance or otherwise of any incriminating body of evidence in the custody of the Abia State Government since both the person listed in this petition and the current Abia state governor work harmoniously.”
In the media statement signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said that “Nigerians and especially citizens of Abia State should be appreciative of the profound effort of the EFCC in digging out the massive and extensive body of evidence of the monumental heist of the resources of Abia State people allegedly stolen during the tenures of the immediate past government.”
HURIWA has also tasked the EFCC to begin the prosecution of the immediate past governor of Imo State, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, so as to recover all the resources allegedly stolen by his government that was in place for eight years but ended up destroying basic infrastructures of the state and unleashing mass hunger and poverty on the people.
“Imo State people must be vigilant so the newly installed Supreme Court’s returned Governor Hope Uzodinma who is of same political family with Okorocha does not undermine the investigations and prosecution of the former Governor by the EFCC.”