The dispute between Enugu state governor, Sullivan Chime and the state House of Assembly which led to the attempt to impeach the former has assumed a new turn. A former national official of the PDP has petitioned the EFCC demanding the investigation of Chime for fraud. MAURICE OKAFOR in Enugu reports
A former National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who also served as Enugu state commissioner for youths and sports during the past administration led by Dr. ChimarokeNnamani; Hon Ray Nnaji, has accused Enugu state governor, Sullivan Chime and the state chairman of PDP,Chief IkejeAsogwa of gross embezzlement of the state’s resources. Nnaji has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate these allegations in a bid to recover the stolen funds.
In his petition dated May 8, 2015and addressed to the Chairman of EFCC Ibrahim Larmode titled “Official Corruption,Embezzlement,Stealing, Forgery and Criminal Conversion Against Governor Sullivan Chime and Chief IkejeAsogwa…a Clarion Call For Serious Investigation”;Nnaji said he is being compelled as a patriotic Nigerian and a citizen of Enugu state to open up on the monumental corruption being perpetrated in the state by Chime and Asogwa.
Nnajisaid in the petition that “’The prevailing situation in Enugu state coupled with the overriding public interest and my profound interest in the welfare of the indigents of the state, I decided not to fold my arms and watch our state being milked dry by people who should protect and enhance the well being of the individual members of the state.”
Nnaji,who is a lawyer based in Enugu in his petition to EFCC accused Chime of misappropriating public funds worth over N12 billion belonging to the state and forgery of public document[Supplementary Appropriation Law,2012] to cover up. He alleged that Chime diverted the said sum into his private use without the approval of members of the Enugu state House of Assembly.
The PDP chieftain alleged that it was Asogwa and his cohorts that aided in the forgery, adding that there was no record of any public debate on the issue as obtains in the state House of Assembly.
Again, Nnaji stated that the cost of executing projects in the state was inflated through the state ‘Project developing and Implementation Unit. “The PDI became a conduit pipe through which the state funds are siphoned by governor Chime and his former chief of staff, Mrs. IfeomaNwobodo.The activities of this PDI were shrouded in secrecy and was used to execute over inflated projects whose values run into billions of naira without proper valuation, whereas in the budget, the total value of work to be executed by the PDI was not up to N500million in every given year, the letter alleges.
The petition accused Chime of secretly allocating former Polo Amusement Park to a South African Company to build Shoprite and other business consortium where Chime has a controlling share through proxy.
He said under the arrangement for the sale, the land was partitioned into more than 100 plots valued at over N40 million each, which ran into billions of naira.
“This above sum was converted into shares in the South African Company for Sullivan Chime using a proxy company.
“Consequently, Gov. Chime owns substantial shares or equities in the said South African Company to which former Polo Park in Enugu was allocated to.
“On the surface, it will appear it was a mere allocation but underneath, it was a dubious calculated sale of public property with private intention by the Governor,” Nnaji points out.
The former National Auditor of PDP further alleged that the contract for the construction of the new workers’ state secretariat in Enugu was over inflated from the initial estimate of N8billion to N13billion and presently to N21billion.
Nnaji appealed to the EFCC to give heed to his petition as a measure to curtail the flagrant and selfish acquisition of wealth by Chime and his cohorts, at the expense of the masses.
“Therefore, my fervent appeal to you is that you thoroughly investigate this serious rape of Enugu State by Governor Sullivan Chime with a view to visiting the culprits which include Chief IkejeAsogwa and their cohorts with the full weight of the law.
“It is my strong belief and hope that if the necessary actions are taken concerning this petition, it will help to checkmate flagrant corruption and disdain with which accountability over public funds is treated by public officers, especially in Enugu state.
“Moreover, it will curb impunity and act as a deterrent to other public office holders with propensity for stealing public funds with impunity.
“We also believe that your taking up this onerous challenge to thoroughly investigate this matter will help dispel the erroneous impression that your commission can only bark but will not bite when it is glaring that it should bite,” Nnaji urges EFCC.
Attempts to get any of the state government officials to comment on the series of allegations raised by Nnaji in his petition to EFCC could not yield positive results.
However, the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr.ChukwudiAchife, in a press statement mailed to the ‘Hallmark’ in Enugu, over the allegations by Speaker Eugene Odoh led 14 members of the state Assembly that Chime breached the law as it pertains the passage of the 2012 Supplementary Budget said, “those making the allegations were either ignorant of the law and the facts surrounding the matter or were merely blackmailing the government for ulterior reasons.”
Achife contended that there was nothing unconstitutional about virement more so when the House had on its own, approved the adjustments made by the executive in that year’s budget.
He stressed that the 2012 Appropriation Bill was signed into law; the government saw reason to reallocate within the budget and duly applied by way of a Supplementary Bill to the House for approval.
According to Achife, the supplementary bill which neither added nor removed any money to the original budget sum of N76. 4 billion was promptly approved by the House, adding that the executive also reflected the supplementary Bill in the 2013 budget which the House passed without question.
He said “It is certainly shocking that honorable members could so brazenly claim that a supplementary bill that they had passed was forged, even when the bill is a public document that anyone can access. It must be emphasized that not one kobo was added or removed from the original budget; the supplementary budget was basically an application to reallocate funds within the original budget as had been passed by the House. How it becomes unconstitutional certainly defies reason and the law”.
Hallmark reports that the petition to the EFCC is coming on the heels of the move to impeach Chime by a faction of the state House of Assembly. The impeachment plot later led to the break-up of the Assembly into two factions with two speakers. Although, Chime as incumbent governor is covered by immunity, however the stage has been set for his investigation at the end of his second term in May 29, this year.