Following The Realm News’ exclusive story on alleged moves by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to hijack Abia local government fund against directives by the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), a high-ranking government source has revealed details of the ongoing “illegality” within the administration.
Our source said:
“The thing is that on that Tuesday, we were handed cheques. In the meeting, we had the Heads of Service, the Treasures and the Work Heads. We were promised N100k each.
“Mr Chris Ezem, the current secretary to the government, was supposed to address us, but he was not on ground to do that. So he appointed somebody to stand in for him.
“The person, who represented Chris Ezem, told us in the meeting that good a thing the governor has packaged N100,000 for each of us. He then handed cheques to us to sign. He told us to leave the money column open. Probably, he will be the one to fill any amount on the open space.
“As expected people started signing blindly without opening the cheques. Each cheque is attached to some papers. So one of us, when handed the cheque (which is basically for projects), insisted on flipping through the pages of the papers attached to the cheque to know what he is signing for. And then what he saw was N68 million which was supposed to be taken from the coffers of his own local government area (LGA).
“He said he couldn’t sign the cheque. That if he did, he would be indicted by NFIU. So they forced him to sign it. Instead, he declined, stood up and walked away in anger.
“Immediately that happened, few other people reached out to the guy whom they had already handed over their signed cheques to and started tearing the cheque leaflets.
“I know that subsequently, there were meetings where the state government was trying to superimpose an idea on LG staff, especially, senior management in an addendum to the N20 million security votes.
“We were made to sign a memorandum of understanding that the state government is helping us execute some projects. Hence the LGs will be assisting in the financing of the projects. The projects are in the tune of hundreds of millions.
“These monies will be pulled or withdrawn every month. Some LGs got a bill of N600 million and others N500 million.
“These monies will be withdrawn every month in the tune of N50 million, N60 million, N70 million and N100 million as the case may be.
“I don’t know the stage this one is. This is because some Treasurers said they were not comfortable with it. Their reason being if anything happens and NFIU comes, they (treasurers) will be the ones to be held if they cannot give an account of the said projects.”
To bring government closer to the people, curb corruption and promote accountability, NFIU now pays LG funds directly to local government heads. The money used to come through state governors.
Sources told The Realm News that the Governor Ikpeazu administration, in the past, used to under remit funds to LG heads who are forced to sign that they received the actual amount. NFIU’s new mode of operation was designed to curb that kind of corruption.
The latest development indicates that the state government is actively working to dance around NFUI’s directive.
Efforts to speak with Governor Ikpeazu about this story proved abortive. We called his chief press secretary Onyebuchi Ememanka who neither answered nor returned our call. We also messaged him and had not received a reply as at the time of filing this report.