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Ihedioha to court: halt ‘N19.63b’ fraud probe

By Joseph Jibueze

Former Imo State Governor Emeka Ihedioha has asked an Owerri High Court to stop the House of Assembly from probing him for allegedly mismanaging N19.63 billion council funds.

The state Auditor-General for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs had issued an interim audit report detailing how N19.63 billion fraudulently disappeared from the Local Government accounts between May and December 31, 2019.

Apparently worried that the House of Assembly may probe the allegation, Ihedioha applied for a perpetual injunction restraining it from investigating him.

In May 5 suit filed at the Owerri Judicial Division, the former governor, through an origination summons, is seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the House of Assembly from inviting him for an investigation into the alleged missing funds.

Imo State House of Assembly, the Speaker and Clerk are the defendants.

The suit is also seeking an order to set aside any summon or invitation to Ihedioha, by the House or its agents, to appear before it for probe.

Two days after the originating summons was filed, Ihedioha’s lawyer, S.A Anyalewechi, dispatched a letter to the Speaker, asking him to restrain the House and its agents from inviting his client for an investigation.

But, legal experts believe that by constitutional provisions and Supreme Court pronouncements, no court can restrain a House of Assembly from discharging its legislative duties.

The Assembly is expected to respond to the suit ahead of hearing.

The state government, on April 14, approved a request by the Auditor-General for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs to recover N19.63 billion allegedly misappropriated by the Ihedioha administration.

The money was allegedly taken from the State-Local Government Joint Accounts Allocation Committee (JAAC), through the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (BLGCA).

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba said the sum was discovered during a routine audit of the accounts and records of JAAC for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019.

Emelumba said the government’s action was in line with the New Imo Agenda of transparency in public service and financial discipline.

According to the Commissioner, the money was illegally withdrawn from JAAC account without any Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Stores Receipt Vouchers (SRV) or Stores Issue Vouchers (SIV).

According to him, the Ihedioha administration paid a ‘crony’ N1.215 billion for unsupplied construction equipment without any document.

“There was also an unconscionable mandatory withdrawal of N2.405 billion by the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (BLGCA). Others are payment of N9.378 billion to local government councils for an undisclosed purpose. A firm also received N245 million for no disclosed purpose.

“Other fictitious and fraudulent withdrawals include compulsory returns from councils to the BLGCA to the tune of N2.404 billion.  This was deducted from the allocated funds of the LGAs,” he added.

Ihedioha and those named in the report had denied the allegations.

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