After four months of extensive work involving 10 consulting firms, the financial advisory committee commissioned by Emeka Ihedioha, ousted governor of Imo State, has come up with some claims against nine banks.
The eight-man committee was set up to ascertain and document the locations of and balances on all bank accounts operated by Imo State government, its ministries, department and agencies’ (MDAs) from 2011 to May 29, 2019.
On December 3, 2019, formal demands for the refund of the sums owed the state and arising from various infractions committed by the banks were issued by the Accountant General. By the demand notices, the affected banks were required to refund the claims made against them within 30 days or show cause for why they should not do so.
In a letter addressed to the governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, dated February 6, 2020, signed by Emeka Opara-Ndudu, a former local government chairman in the state, and Abraham Nwankwo, a former director-general of the Debt Management Office (DMO), the eight-man committee claimed that based on a joint report of the consortium of consultants, nine banks owe the state a total sum of N112.8 billion.
This sum comes from N74.6 billion, the sum of the principal amount involved in such infractions and attendant penalties. Added to this is the sum of N38.2 billion to be claimed, which covers the principal sum and attendant penalties arising from the aggregation of debit entries to the state account without proper narration and for which no proper explanation was presented to the Committee.
“When our Committee had its last meeting on January 14, 2020, a number of measures were being considered to ensure that these claims pursued,” the letter stated. “Incidentally, these options required the approval of the Governor and had to be aborted following the change in guard on that fateful day.”
One of the banks was liable to refund N73.2 billion of the primary amount and the entire secondary amount of N38.2 billion.
“The pursuit of these claims and recovery of the outstanding claims require political will and leadership which can be provided by you. We therefore urge you to do all within your powers to ensure that the expected outcomes from the work of our Committee are realised for the benefit of our State and its citizens. It would be a grave and historical insult, assault and financial rape of the people of Imo State if the recovery of these claims from the affected banks is not vigorously pursued under whatever excuse,” the letter detailed.
Probably unconnected to the financial advisory committee’s report, Hope Uzodinma, Imo State governor, ordered all financial institutions in custody of the state funds not to honour any pay-out draft from the government accounts until further notice.
Uzodinma had given the order in a letter by Cosmos Iwu, the director-general of his campaign organisation, hours after the Supreme Court declared him the duly elected governor of the state on January 14.
“Following the Supreme Court judgment of 14 January 2020, I am directed by his excellency, Senator Hope Uzodinma, to take this as your authority/instruction to place a post no debit order on all accounts of the Imo state government maintained in your various institutions,” Iwu said.
“You are in this letter directed to comply and await further instructions from the office of his Excellency, the executive governor of Imo state.”
Located in the South East of Nigeria Imo State’s gross domestic product (GDP) is $14.212 billion and $3.527 per capita. The State is rich in natural resources, such as zinc, natural gas, crude oil, lead, limestone, fine sand and white clay. There are over 163 oil wells in the state. The main petroleum companies in the region are Agip, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corporation and Addax Petroleum.