Ifeanyi Okowa*How ex-gov, bank chief defrauded A’Ibom, by group
Delta State government has vehemently denied a report in an online medium, which attempted to link Governor Ifeanyi Okowa with a purported investigation of a South-South governor by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegation of financial impropriety.
In a statement in Asaba, Information commissioner Mr. Patrick Ukah, explained that the original story in one of the national dailies of Saturday, January 28, 2017, which quoted sources from the anti-corruption agency only reported that a serving governor from the South-South region allegedly diverted $10 million from the bailout fund for his state without mentioning anybody’s name.
Ukah said that the government was, however, appalled by the effort of the online story entitled, “Girlfriend Defrauds Governor of $10 million,” to link Okowa with the allegation, insisting that the publication can only be part of an unrelenting campaign of calumny and ceaseless peddling of pernicious propaganda against the person and office of the governor.
He said that the administration has severally in the past given account of how the bailout fund the state got from the federal government was used.He emphasized: “Okowa is a responsible family man and a well respected public figure. His preoccupation has been and continues to be how to deliver on his promised agenda to the good people of Delta State since he came to office. And he has received applause and commendations from far and near for being so focused and unrelenting in the pursuit of his vision for the state.
“He will not be distracted by any form of organised and orchestrated blackmail from any quarters. And God willing, he will continue to deliver on his promises.”
He warned that if those who are bent on carrying out devious and dubious campaign of calumny against the governor refuse to stop this infamous trade of theirs, the government reserves the right to take any action deemed appropriate to seek redress.
The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) had harped on the allegation that Okowa diverted $10 million bailout funds released by the federal government, claiming that the money was hijacked by ‘his America-based mistress.’
APC has been quoted as saying that an online/social media channel affirmed that the governor was the alleged culprit. It also claimed that the alleged mistress, an actress that purportedly hails from the Ika-speaking area of the state and based in Texas (USA), was used to allegedly launder the $10m into slush accounts in order to avoid detection by security agencies.
A statement by the Acting Publicity Secretary of the party, Leonard Obibi, alleged that Okowa had been nervous and furious having discovered that he had been duped and defrauded by the said mistress and that “the diversion of the looted $10million by the mistress created an uproar that triggered the ongoing investigation of the deal between the “love birds.”
President Mohammadu Buhari had reportedly directed that the bailout funds and the London-Paris club loan refunds to all states be monitored, as these “monies” are principally meant to relieve the burden of outstanding debt to workers and pensioners.
The APC hoped that it was not true that Okowa was the one involved; but, if it was established that he was implicated, “it is most cruel, manipulative and disgraceful…criminal and morally unjust.”
But in a swift reaction, the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, at a media briefing, the Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Michael Ifeanyi Osuoza told journalists in Asaba that the APC allegations were not only baseless, but deliberate attempts to impugn the integrity of the governor. He dismissed the APC’s claims as the dream of a party filled with “renegades” and failed politicians.
Osuoza argued that neither the media report nor the EFCC identified Okowa as the inducted “governor from one of the oil-producing states in Nigeria.” He insisted that “the APC is shamelessly dragging Okowa into what is at best a speculative story, and at worst, the job of paid hirelings in a desperate bid to gain relevance.”
He explained that no state receives dollars from the Federal Government, neither as FAAC allocation or bail-out funds, wondering where the APC got its “unfounded and tendentious” information, as well as how such huge amount of money was transferred across the country’s border, given the stringent foreign exchange regulations currently in place in Nigeria.
His words: “Can such a huge amount of money be transferred into the United States without triggering the red flag at both the Financial Intelligence Units in Nigeria and the United States of America, because they receive, analyze and distribute financial intelligence gathered from Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on per seconds basis? Can the ailing APC do Deltans a favour by giving us the details of the account that the $10 million was diverted to since it claimed that the money has been traced to a particular bank account?
“Even as they torture their feeble minds to grapple with these very simple but critical posers, we wish to assure the divided and divisive APC in Delta State that their cheap attempt to cast aspersion on the solid reputation of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has failed woefully, as it is already common knowledge that he is a man of unassailable integrity and great moral rectitude. Governor Okowa will not be distracted by the antics of these disgruntled politicians.
“He remains irrevocably focused on his stated vision of bringing prosperity to all Deltans as evident in the fruits of his job creation programme, infrastructural renewal and agricultural reforms.
“Deltans know better than to believe the APC, a party that has become synonymous with lies and vile propaganda and has not fulfilled one electoral promise since it gained power at the center.”
The PDP also faulted the APC for trying to establish an ethnic link between Okowa and the said Georgina Onuoha, claiming that the lady had “told the world that she is from Ihitte/Uboma Local Government Area of Imo State.”
Meanwhile, an anti-graft pressure group, Outrage Against Corruption (OAC) has claimed that “after enormous painstaking investigation and support for government’s ongoing investigation into how public officials pillaged and looted the resources of the country,” it “has finally unearthed the monumental looting of billions of Naira belonging to Akwa Ibom State.”
In a statement by its president and secretary, Oladipo Douglas and Ukpong Enang Asuquo, the group said: “ Our investigation at OAC revealed that the plot to steal over N2.7 billion of Akwa Ibom State money even in US dollars equivalent was well planned and executed. The conspiracy involving a former governor of the state and a first generation bank spanned a period of over seven years.
“OAC’s investigation revealed that a former chieftain of the bank connived with the ex-governor to place N5,079,034,378.09 and $22,692,276.08 in bonds and deposits, and rolling them over severally over the seven years period.”
OAC vowed to stop at nothing, including petitioning the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and related Offences Commission (ICPC), to further unearth the “fraudulent and corrupt transactions” with the state’s funds deposited with the bank.