July 20, 2015 – Governor Theodore Orji Accused Of Stealing N474 Billion From Abia State, Save Abia Group Petitions EFCC
A group which says it is a voluntary association of concerned Abia citizens, Save Abia Initiative for Change (SAIC), has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), detailing how the erstwhile governor, Chief Theodore Orji, his wife, Mercy Odochi, their son, Chinedum (a.k.a Ikuku) and few of their cronies allegedly squandered N474 billion of Abia State funds between 2011 and this year.
In the petition marked SAIC/PET/001/15, and dated July 3, 2015, addressed to the Chairman of EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde and titled, “How ex-governor T.A Orji squandered N474 billion of Abia State Government funds leaving an external debt of $35.9m (N8 billion)” and signed by 20 persons, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Sun, Orji was alleged to have frittered away Abia’s N474 billion into his pocket, that of his immediate family and few of his close pals who he used as conduit.
In the petition, SAIC said from 2011 to 2014, the Orji family especially Chindum, (said to be richer than any state in the country despite the fact he was doing nothing before his father became governor), created different avenues to siphon public funds into their private accounts with impunity.
According to the petitioners, the former governor’s alleged major source of loot were through loans from banks/refunds, funds siphoned through banks without purpose, illegal expenditures not backed by law and fraudulent practices in Abia State Pensions Board. Others were allegedly through excess crude oil, using ASOPADEC as conduit, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), federal allocations including SURE-P, internal debt, ecological funds and CBN, SME funds.
Giving a breakdown of the alleged looting by Orji, SAIC said of the N474 billion, N10.5 billion was a loan obtained in 2012 by the state government with the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in collaboration with the 17 local governments.
Details of the loan, it said, were that each of the councils in the state subscribed for N500 million, bringing the total amount to N8.5 billion. Out of the N500 million loan obtained by each Council, their Transition Committee (TC) Chairmen were given N60 million each to be spent as follows, N40 million for the development of their secretariats while N20 million was for the perimeter fencing of two schools in the local government areas at N10 million each.
Furthermore, from the N40 million meant for the development of the councils’ secretariats, N7 million was paid back to the source being the cost of their official monetized vehicles and that of their deputies even when they were supposed to have paid from their salaries.
The state, according to SAIC, collected N2.3 billion as Sure-P funds from January 2102 to May 2015 and alleged that these funds were given out to one Dr. (Mrs) Uruakpa, Mrs Akpunku Chief (Mrs) Orji and Chinedum Orji (for the youth), but they spent less than 40 per cent of the amount and embezzle the rest.
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Small and Medium Enterprise funds of N2 billion and close to N1 billion ecological funds were also alleged to have been fraudulently misappropriated.
SAIC alleged that with the looted funds, Orji acquired Season Farms Ltd., measuring 100 hectares at Ndi Oji Abam; acquired for himself Abia Palm at Ohambele for N10 billion.