NO fewer than 12 governors are being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission for massive fraud and misappropriation of public funds in their states, a SUNDAY PUNCHinvestigation has revealed.
Our correspondent learnt that the discreet investigations commenced after the anti-graft agencies received several petitions against the 12 governors.
While the EFCC is investigating eight governors, the ICPC is probing four.
It was gathered that most of the petitions were received after the said governors had celebrated their first year in office.
A senior official of the EFCC, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, told our correspondent that the number of the petitions against each of the governor was so huge that the agency could not ignore them.
The official added that though the commission did not have the powers to prosecute the governors because of the immunity they enjoy, it would continue with the probe.
According to the source, nearly all the governors were aware that there were petitions against them but they did not know that investigations had begun.
He said, “We won’t wait until they finish their tenure before we start our work. Moreover, we are not talking about one or two petitions against the governors, the petitions are in huge numbers and we have a duty to act. Of course, not all the allegations in the petition will be true but we have to find out first.
“Once they finish their tenure, we will be sending out invitations and making arrests. We have a minimum of two years to finish our investigations on them. When they finish ruling, we will be ready.”
When pressed by SUNDAY PUNCH to divulge the identity of the governors, the source refused. The official expressed fears that the governors could scuttle the investigations by bringing political pressure to bear on the agency and its investigators.
He, however, identified Governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State as being on the probe list.
“Both of them are aware of the investigations but others are not. If we give you their names, they will start intense lobbying and manoeuvrings which won’t aid our investigations,” the source added.
Last year, the sacked chairmen of the 27 local governments in Imo State had told the EFCC that Okorocha misappropriated funds from a N13.5bn bond raised by his predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim.
The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria also alleged that since June 2011, the Joint Accounts Committee in Imo State had not functioned and all statutory allocations due to the local governments totaling over N80bn had been misappropriated by Okorocha.
Following the ALGON petition, among others, operatives of the EFCC visited Imo in October and commenced probes into the operations of the state joint account with the local government as well as the financial records of the state under former Governor Ikedi Ohakim.
However, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chinedu Offor, had said, “The investigation of the state finances is a welcome development because the EFCC is finally making efforts to investigate and hopefully recover billions of Naira spent on phantom Internet-based projects.
“Okorocha was the first sitting governor to have called on the EFCC to set up a unit in every governor’s office to pre-empt and prevent corruption rather than launching investigations after the funds go missing. He runs the most transparent administration in the country and has nothing to hide.”
SUNDAY PUNCH further gathered that Uduaghan was being investigated for the “suspicious award of Asaba International Airport contracts and other projects.”
“The petitions against the Delta State governor and some of his officials queried the way they have been awarding contracts and questionable projects. We have gone to the state and invited some of the officials. They have told us what they know but we are not satisfied so we will keep at it,” the source added.
Confirming the petitions against the governors, the Head, Media and Publicity of the commission, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said, “We have petitions against some of the sitting governors and we are making some enquiries about the petitions. I cannot tell you the governors being investigated even though the public is aware of some. Yes, the governors enjoy immunity but it won’t deter us.”
Similarly, ICPC spokesman, Mr. Folu Olamiti, confirmed that the agency was probing four governors.
He said, “I can’t give you their names and I can’t tell you how far we have gone but we are investigating four governors. The governors enjoy immunity but the people they use to pilfer public funds don’t. We are interrogating their men and when we are done, we will charge them to court.”
.....TOYOSI OGUNSEYE/PUNCH, SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2013