BY K. C. OKPALEKE
We must all remember that a judicial panel of enquiry’s job as the title says is to inquire into allegations, and conduct investigation into the allegations, then submit a report. When the two sitting state judges and the retired judge were named to chairman these three panels, they actually believed that they will be allowed to avail the state their investigatory talents and skills horned over the years on the bench.
That in my opinion may have been the reason why they accepted the appointment. But less than 24 hours to their appointments, they were bushwhacked by the governor with his Live TV drama on AIT Television. I would not be surprised if these jurists request to opt out of the panel now that they have been made to understand that they are only required to rubberstamp the so-called report by the Executive Council Committee set by its Chairman, Governor Okorocha.
But even if they are being dragged, while shouting and screaming to be let out of these panels because their purpose became tainted by Okorocha’s TV drama, nobody will hear of it and the governor will not even hearken to their request. Could anyone imagine the faith of the members of these panels, if they were to exercise their independent objective conclusions in light of the tongue lashing today directed at EFCC by the governor at any chance he gets, and EFCC is a Federal graft agency, not appointed by governor.
This entirely puts Ikedi Ohakim and members of his administration in a quagmire. If they avail themselves of the constitutional judicial remedy of fair hearing under section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they would have played into Okorocha’s hand by giving him meat for another round of political propaganda rabble rousing on a network media of his choice. Okorocha has so staged the entire scenario in such a way that Ohakim will have no choice but seek judicial injunctive restraint on the panel based on section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is this choice or allows himself to be embarrassed and humiliated by the panel.
Either way, Okorocha would have gotten everything he wanted from his propaganda machinery, in these rounds of bash Ohakim. However, the mistake made by Governor Okorocha in this his elaborate booby-trap was not counting on the fact that Ohakim, members of his administration, and the reputable private businesses or companies that did businesses with Imo State during the stewardship of Governor Ikedi Ohakim, will this time respond the way they did.
It is important here to recall that Cypress Konsults a very reputable indigenous consulting firm’s reputation was intentionally soiled by Okorocha and his Executive Council Committee headed by the Deputy Governor Sir Jude Agbaso in the said report. The report insinuated that jobs performed by Cypress Konsults were deliberately inflated by the governor thereby using Cypress Konsults as a conduit to siphon Imo treasury.
The same report insinuated that Brick Red, a firm whose business is debt buy back, was also used by the Ohakim’s administration as a conduit to transfer money away from Imo treasury. Neither the Governor, nor his Executive Council correctly predicted the reaction of these companies before the trumped up report was written. Both companies immediately booked appearance at the Saturday Sunrise Programme on Channels Television.
It was during the course of this programme that Engr. Victor Konyeha, the CEO of Cypress Konsults revealed to the world that Governor Okorocha retained his services and gave him jobs in excess of one hundred (N100 Billion) Naira which included the design of a nineteen story hotel. Engr. Victor Konyeha further revealed that the design was one of a kind and he had completed all the design work but Okorocha was yet to pay him a penny. After the TV programme, I spoke to Engr. Victor Konyeha and he told me that the two members of Okorocha’s cabinet that appeared on the program told him that he should not take the matters too personally.
That he should call the governor so that the governor can make arrangements to pay him some part of his money. With regards to Brick-Red, Dan Okehi the CEO, was present at the channels television Saturday Sunrise program. Mr. Okehi told the Nigerian public how he got involved with the debt buyback program with Imo State. He informed the viewers that he was in the state when the former Councillors and Chairman were demonstrating against the government for non payment of their allowances and severance. You may recall that by 2007/2008 over 3,000 persons that had served as elected Chairmen and councillors stating from 1998 took to demonstration for the non-payment, by government, of their severance allowances.
The state government simply did not have about six billion naira to settle these bills. Brick-Red entered into personal contracts with all the councilors and their chairmen to pay them a reduced Lump sum as full and complete payment of all their allowance while she (Brick Red) is paid back by the Government in about 24 monthly installments. Once the agreement was reached. Brick Red borrowed or obtained a facility from the then Intercontinental Bank from which she paid each and every former councilor and chairman directly into the accounts of each.
The twenty four monthly installments were yet to be completely paid, when Okorocha’s administration came in and stopped the remaining payment prompting Brick Red to default on the Intercontinental Bank loan facility. The Okorocha’s government then felt that by blackmailing Brick Red through this trumped-up report, she will cow brick Red and never pay the remaining indebtedness to the company. This matter is in court currently. After the presentation by Dan Okehi on the Sunrise TV program the only question from the Imo Commissioner for Economic planning was that he could not understand the logic of obtaining a loan facility by Brick Red and keeping it in the bank.
The question had absolutely nothing to do with the Kangaroo indictment in the Executive Council Committee report against Brick Red that was at issue. With regards to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Soronadi, he was totally lost in the entire TV programm on this report. He kept stating that the report was an accusatory document until one of the presenters of Sunrise Saturday pointed out to him that an accusatory document does not conclude by using the language embezzled. After this exchange with one of the presenters, the Imo State Attorney-General kept quiet throughout the remaining minutes of the programme.
The show completely made a joke of the earlier drama of Imo State Governor on his live AIT Television broadcast, Monday January 14th 2013. When Governor Ikedi responded through his media aide, Dr. Ethelbert Okere, he challenged Okorocha and his cohorts to name the Five Star Hotel in South Africa that he is claimed to own and all the properties locally and internationally that Imo people are daily inundated with, that he owns.? For the first time since Governor Okorocha and his cohorts started saying that Ikedi has hotels and properties all over the world, Governor Ikedi Ohakim came out and challenged them to substantiate any of these claims with empirical evidence especially now that Okorocha’s son in-law is the Commissioner for Lands.
Governor Ohakim stated that he owns only two houses in the entire Imo State. A three bedroom bungalow in Pre-Fab built way back in 1992, and his Okohia country home built in 1986. Governor Ohakim went further and detailed all the projects completed during his four year administration of Imo State, too numerous to list here. He ended by revealing to the public that he left over N22billion naira to Governor Okorocha. This revelation that Governor Ohakim actually left N22 billion to Okorocha has become another source of worry to the Okorocha’s administration.
Okorocha’s perfectly planned propaganda attack on Ohakim systematically crumbled like a deck of cards. Imo people now know that apart from the 13.3 billion of the bond proceeds, Governor Ohakim also left N3 billion in Imo SUBEB account, N5 billion in JAAC account, N500 million in Agric Loan account, N500 million in MDG account, and NIB in ETF account. When these various accounts are totaled, it exceed N22 billion.
The governors primary goal was to use these orchestrated and convoluted means to smear Ohakim so much so that Ohakim becomes a total parried. Now that he has failed woefully in his goal, he would try anything and everything including using the judicial panels to achieve this failed goal. This is the more reason why Governor Ikedi Ohakim must avail himself the constitutional right protection of fair hearing by applying for remedy of injunctive relief, which will restrain the sitting of these panels.
This is the only way out, because the recent revelations as a result of this trumped up report have shown the public the machinations of Governor Okorocha. This being the case, the propaganda booby-traps set for Ohakim if he should avail himself of the judicial remedy of injunction under section 36; fair hearing provision of the constitution has been destroyed. Concluded Okpalaeke writes from Owerri