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Amidst N26bn ICPC probe, Okorocha goes on road show for image laundry

Governor Rochas Okorocha on Friday rallied scores of senior journalists, especially of Igbo descent, to Owerri on a tour of the state. The event comes against a backdrop of allegations of mismanagement of N26bn bail-out fund granted the state government by the Buhari administration in April.

The bail-out funds totaling N338bn was a federal government initiative to assist 27 states which were unable to pay salaries of workers. Imo state was one of such states. Civil servants in the state as at May1, 2016 were last paid 70 percent of their salaries in January, pensioners cannot even remember when they were last paid.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had in a widely-publicized report noted that, “Imo State applied for and received bailout funds of N26, 806, 430, 000.00 from the Central Bank of Nigeria which were domiciled with two commercial banks namely Fidelity and Zenith banks.

“In the course of analysis, it was discovered that some transfers were made into certain Imo State Government accounts which are not related to salaries and emoluments as follows: N2bn paid into a Government Account; N2bn into an Imo State Project account; N2bn transferred into microfinance bank; and a management fee of N21, 017, 810.00 was paid into an unspecified account.”

The report was signed by Mustapha Hussain on behalf of the Commissioner, Public Enlightenment.

The media goons, Ripples Nigeria learnt, will undertake a visit to most parts of the state where the Okorocha administration has tangible developmental strides to showcase.

A top government official in the Ministry of Information, while confirming the special invitation extended to media men from outside the state, disclosed Saturday that the gathering had become necessary to clear doubts surrounding the progress made by the administration since its five-year stint in governance.

Said he, “What the governor has done is to bring our illustrious sons and daughters home to see things for themselves. They say seeing is believing”.

Read also: EFCC ropes in more ex-ministers over Diezani election bribe scam

The state-wide excursions began on Saturday but not without an interesting side-kick. Perhaps, to draw attention to the rising menace of herdsmen in the country, the media were awash with stories of how, in the company of journalists, governor Okorocha’s convoy was held up for about half an hour at Amakohia Orlu Road in Owerri, the state capital on Saturday, by cows and herdsmen.

The governor later took the media chiefs on a tour of the magnificent new government house which is nearing completion (see pictures).

Reacting to the organised tour, a senior member of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state described the event as ‘deja vue’, wondering if the entire exercise was not intended to divert attention of workers from the wide-spread corruption in the state.

“Nobody is impressed. It is evident Okorocha has something to hide. This panicky measure won’t help him. We are happy that it is even an APC regime that is exposing him.

“Remember, the ICPC report came less than a month after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arrested the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Dr. Pascal Obi and two others, Uzoho Casmir and Iheoma Kenneth, director of finance and treasurer respectively.

“I trust that the senior journalists from Lagos and elsewhere will present a fair report on the true state of things, especially Imo workers who the governor has deprived their share of the bail-out fund”, he said.

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