By Hon. Nze Ray Emeana
The Imo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, has applauded His Excellency, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha CON, for approaching the Imo State High Court with a view to seeking redress on the ongoing investigation or “probe” of the purported N19.63 billion missing Local Government funds.
In the first place, it is important to note that the Interim Audit Report of the Auditor General of LGAs in Imo State covered the period from 1st January, 2019 to December 31, 2019.
The Interim Report reviewed expenditures of the 27 Local Governments of Imo State within this period and queried various officers, and MDAs to explain various expenditures totaling, 19.63 billion Naira.
It is instructive to note that H.E. Rochas Okorocha was the Imo State Governor from January 1, 2019 to May 28, 2019. Whereas, H.E. Rt . Hon Emeka Ihedioha was the Imo State Governor from May 29, 2019 to December 31st 2019 that the Interim Audit Report covered.
It should be noted that of the N19.63 billion LGA expenditures in question, approximately N16 billion was expended between January 1 to May 28 2019, during the administration of Rochas Okorocha. It was only the sum of approximately N3.7 billion that was spent by the 27 LGAs between May 29, 2019 to December 31,2019 during the administration of Governor Ihedioha.
So, effectively it is the expenditure of N3.7 billion that the LGAs during the administration of Gov Ihedioha should explain and account for, not N19.63 billion as is being claimed and bandied about everywhere, by the current Commissioner of Information acting on behalf of Governor Hope Uzodinma of APC. The remaining sum of approximately N16 billion should be accounted for by the regime of Former Governor Rochas Okorocha.
It was therefore surprising and smelt of a kangaroo proceedings for the Imo State House Of Assembly to purport to invite officials of government during Gov Ihedioha’s period of service to come to the House of Assembly to explain the whereabouts of the so called missing N19.63 billion. Indeed, the debate of the motion to investigate the interim audit report at the House of Assembly showed extreme bias and a clear premeditated case of witch-hunt, without any pretense to impartiality and objectivity.
The matter was referred to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Assembly, that had no single member of the PDP as a Committee member. The Minority Caucus of the PDP in the State House Of Assembly petitioned the Speaker to reconstitute the Committee and not only include PDP members but to make a PDP member Chairman as has been the precedent, convention and procedures in the Imo House of Assembly , some time in the past, in the National Assembly since 1999, in most of the State Houses of Assembly in the Federation and indeed most of the Commonwealth. This is to ensure fairness and transparency. Mr Speaker refused.
It was also clear that the condition precedent for the House of Assembly to assume jurisdiction to investigate the Interim Auditor’s Report had not been met.
Under these circumstances it became imperative for His Excellency, to seek the intervention of the Court following obvious breaches in the processes and procedures of the purported probe.
His Excellency, Ihedioha, would want the Court to determine whether the procedure for investigation is consistent with sections 128, 129 and even 125 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Imo State Local Government Administration Law, Section 129 (1), that contained the procedures for the auditing of Public Accounts of Local Governments.
It is also imperative for the Court to clarify whether the composition of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Imo State House of Assembly for the investigation is in line with the relevant extant laws, parliamentary rules, conventions and procedures. And whether fair hearing would be afforded His Excellency.
From the foregoing, it is evident and incontrovertible that Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha has no intention of stopping or evading any investigation or “probe” of the N19.63 billion Auditors Interim Report by the Imo Legislature. Rather, he is out to establish that the rule of law , due process and FairPlay are applied in the entire process.
We note that the current regime, having failed to convict Rt. Hon. Ihedioha in the media trial it has been waging, now wants to exploit the option of the legislature to achieve their sinister plan of establishing an infraction where there is none. Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha has nothing to fear, is not afraid of accounting for his stewardship to the people of Imo State that elected him. But he will not sit idly by and condone deliberate twisting of facts in a kangaroo trial with a meditated and predetermined outcome.
Let the facts and truth prevail!
*Hon. Emeana is the Secretary, PDP Imo State.