As Commissioner for Information in Abia State my hands are tied with regard to the spurious allegation of looting of N525bn by Senator T.A. Orji (Ochendo) and his family. The administration I serve has a policy of non interference with ongoing investigations by statutory bodies empowered to investigate allegations of crime with emphasis on corruption. We have zero tolerance for corruption but believe that whoever is invited by relevant agencies of the State to explain his actions or inactions should do so without expecting help or defense from us. If they need any document from us we will offer that, if within our custody.
That is the singular reason I refused to respond to enquiries from those of you in the media and my social media contacts who wanted to know the truth about the syndicated media publications as well as propaganda materials like the attached being shared by otherwise reputable organizations and individuals.
Permit me to respond to some of the issues in my personal capacity as John Okiyi Kalu, citizen of Abia State of Nigeria only. My views here strictly represents what I verifiably know as a citizen and not the position of Abia State Government or any group for that matter. I am doing this to satisfy my conscience that I did not keep quiet and allowed falsehood to prevail when I could have spoken up to correct some things. It does not matter how you feel about an individual we should all seek and state the truth we know at all times. If one person in the Jewish crowd had raised his voice to say Jesus Christ of Nazareth was not guilty as charged he probably would not have been crucified. To date I still wonder why all those who worked with Jesus, healed by him and shared meals with him were nowhere to be found when Pilate asked that question: who should I release for you between Barabas the armed robber and Jesus of Nazareth.
Thankfully, I am not a Jew.
(1) The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has the statutory power to investigate allegations of corruption and I personally have total confidence in their ability to do impartial justice to matters brought before them.
(2) The publications you all read and internalized as product of EFCC investigation are merely the contents of a petition written by a group in Abia State. EFCC has been investigating that petition since 2015 and have not made public its findings on the matter and is yet to approach the courts over it. I believe that political actors in Abia State funded the syndication of the media publications that passed off the petition as outcome of EFCC investigation to deceive gullible individuals. The same people paid a media house to make the false claim that passports were seized. Please feel free to visit the official website of EFCC and see if the so called report is there. As per those media houses and individuals involved, let God be the judge. But if I were those involved I will sue for libel.
(3) The original petitioners withdrew from the petition long ago and apologized to Senator Orji after finding out they were misled into writing the petition in 2015 in a bid to stop his inauguration as Senator of the Federal Republic. The so called 2017 petition is simply the rechristening of the original petition using new names as petitioners.
(4) Even the partisan actors involved in the recent “anti-corruption protest“ stated that they were protesting to EFCC to ensure investigation of the re-christened petition. Kindly check this newspaper report to verify: “Ogbonna said that the reason behind the protest in Abuja and Abia was to ask the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the fraud allegation against Abia ex-Governor Theodore Orji and his son who is currently the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly.”
They knew the report was not from EFCC but chose to mislead you.
(1) Our 1999 constitution presumes every accused person innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. That is the basis for allowing accused persons, those undergoing EFCC investigations and court trials, to contest and occupy public offices until proven guilty by a competent court. It is note worthy that all through the trial of our former Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the current Abia State Government never released any statement to stampede the court or EFCC, and even after the court ruling we said nothing because we believe the senator still has the right to appeal. Those running state affairs must always be responsible in handling situations and not pander to mob mentality.
(2) In my personal capacity as a citizen, I am shocked that people believe that it is possible for someone or group of persons to steal all the money made by a state without as much as paying salaries or running government at all. There is abundance of evidence that the Senator T A Orji administration paid salaries and executed projects in Abia state. Even those sponsoring protests against him used their banking connections to support his administration pay salaries and execute projects known to me, including road construction, construction of classroom blocks, a new state secretariat, international conference center, Umuahia etc. Sadly they are now sponsoring people to say he looted all the money made by the state under him. Politics sef….let it be known that the defunct Diamond Bank Plc managed the state’s FAAC and Salary Accounts under Ochendo’s administration. Those involved may wish to tell the world if he paid salary or looted all N525b as alleged.
(3) Merely reviewing this material tagged “money allegedly diverted by ex-Governor Theodore Orji”, as attached to this post, will confirm the fact that all this media noise is about 2023 politics in Abia State with a potpourri of politicians involved. I know for a fact that the Ochendo administration never received Paris Club Refunds. It was the Buhari administration that made the refunds and Ochendo was not Governor under Buhari. To make assurance double sure, I contacted the last Commissioner for Finance under Ochendo, Dr Philip Nto, and he said this: “Through out my period as Honorable commissioner for finance under Senator TA Orji we never received any Paris Club Refund.”
Another former Commissioner of Finance who is now a House of Rep member, Hon Sam Onuigbo stated as follows:
“During my tenure as the Hon Commissioner for Finance (May, 2012 – May, 2013) under HE Sen T.A. Orji, we never received Paris Club Refund windfall. Similarly, we didn’t receive N55Bn Excess Crude Revenue or N55Bn ASOPADEC Fund.”
-Rt Hon Sam Onuigbo, former Commissioner for Finance, Abia State.
(1) Anchor borrowers program of CBN started in November 2015. How could senator Orji have stolen what he was not given, please? Yet, they claimed he stole Agriculture loan of N2bn without telling us who gave the loan.
(2) There is nothing like Excess Crude Revenue after you have listed “Revenue from federation accounts”. It is all data manipulation meant to deceive the gullible.
(3) On SURE-P, there was a legally constituted Board with members. They were responsible for the management of Sure-P funds and even today one can still see projects executed in Abia using that fund. Members of that Board are free to defend their tenure in office. But I have stumbled into official publications where the Board congratulated Senator Orji for the effective management of the funds as directed by them.
(4) ASOPADEC is a legally constituted agency of the state with Commissioners that managed its affairs under Ochendo. Let those people defend their tenure but I am aware that they were receiving about N100-N130m monthly during the Ochendo administration and if you sum up for the whole period they were in place it won’t amount to N55bn. Even then I know at least one project they executed in my village, yet, someone wants me to believe Senator Orji looted all the money given to ASOPADEC. I am not that gullible, please.
(5) I am aware that the publishers of the petition stated that they are in possession of more than 100 accounts used to divert government money by Speaker Orji but only listed about 34, mostly fictitious accounts with humongous FAKE balances. If I were the Speaker, I will simply sue the mentioned banks to give me the money listed as my own or go public to state the truth. For the avoidance of doubt, the Speaker told me he doesn’t even know about the origin or ownership of most of the accounts. The company belonging to him that was mentioned in that publication was founded in 2001, long before his father became Governor, and what the propagandists did was to add up all the transactions in that account from inception to the period the petition was written and declared all of them “looted money”. Only the purveyors of the petition can explain where they Invented other companies from and I think it is time for EFCC to prosecute people who give false information to the agency.
(6) In none of the circulating reports did I read or see evidence of Abia State money moving from State Government account, or contractor, to the published account numbers purportedly belonging to Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji. If you saw something like that or evidence of Engr. Chinedum Orji executing state contracts while his father was Governor, please bring my attention to it. Diversion of funds is proved by showing that money moved from government account to private account without proper accounting or legal backing. It will also amount to conflict of interests for a company belonging to Senator Orji or his son to execute contracts with Abia State Government while he is serving as Governor.
(7) That an Abia opposition politician spent money to sponsor failed protests in Abuja and Umuahia speaks to my belief that this whole thing is about 2023 election and nothing more. In this same Abia State nobody has protested to demand the resignation of the senator representing Abia North who is currently in Kuje prison after court conviction. Obviously, reasonable persons will rather allow him to exploit all legal and constitutional windows available to him. Yet, someone is sponsoring protests to overheat the polity over a matter that is at best under investigation by EFCC. Better put, a politician is sponsoring protests to compel EFCC to start an investigation they obviously have been doing because he wants to govern Abia State at all cost.
(8) Where is the legal or constitutional precedence for people to resign based on mere accusations or a petition written against them? Do we have evidence of tampering with investigations from EFCC? Can those sponsoring the protests address the public to say they do not personally have open EFCC investigation files?
In all these, I am confident that EFCC will not allow itself to be stampeded by politicians in the course of doing their job. That organization is peopled by core professionals. If and when they conclude their investigations and think the issue should be further pushed, they will naturally approach the court to litigate their findings, if justifiable. Those engaged in sponsoring ill-advised protests, and the pawns they are using, should allow Abia State have peace and progress, otherwise I will only ask God to do unto them as they do to others.
-John Okiyi Kalu, a citizen of Abia State, wrote from Umuahia
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