The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun an investigation into alleged diversion of over N551 billion by the former governor of Abia State, Mr. Theodore Orji and his sons, Chinedum and Ogbonna.
The agency said the investigation was sequel to a petition by ‘Fight Corruption: Save Nigeria Group’ which alleged that Orji diverted various sums of money that accrued to the state government while he held sway as governor for eight years.
According to the petition, the funds included N383 billion revenue from federal accounts, N55 billion excess crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure P funds and N1.8 billion ecological funds.
Other monies allegedly diverted were N10.5 billion loan from First Bank Plc through the ministry of chieftaincy and local government affairs, N4 billion loan from Diamond Bank, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan for farmers and N55 billion ASOPADEC funds.
The petition alleged that the Orji-led administration received the funds, though there were no commensurate projects on ground to match the received funds.
As chief of staff to the former governor, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu (who has been jailed for corruption), Orji authorised taking N500 million monthly purported to be security vote, which was allegedly diverted.
He was alleged to have continued withdrawing the N500 million cash monthly from June 2007 to May 2015 when he became governor.
“The N500 million is not part of the security funds expended on the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army, DSS, Navy anti-Kidnapping Squad, anti- robbery Squad, purchase of security equipment and vehicles for the security agencies,” the petition said.
The EFCC later extended the investigation to his family members to ascertain the link and culpability of the ex-governor’s first son, Chinendum, who is currently the speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly.
EFCC also said it had discovered about 100 accounts in different banks, with over 80 percent of the accounts still very active.
The accounts, which were both corporate and individual, received so much deposit in cash without evidence of job or services rendered.
The EFCC investigation revealed that Fotoworld Industry Limited, with GTB account number 2022025805 was traced to Chinedum.
“The company received deposit of $20, 849, 044.21. The same company with another account number 2022025764 in First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) received a cumulative deposit of N362, 573, 056.50.
“Fotoworld has several other accounts with FBN. The accounts and deposits are: 2026144229, $84, 000 cash deposit between 2014 and 2015; between 2012 and 2015, account number 2022025764 housed N342, 573, 056.50; Account number 2022025939 between November 2012 and July 2015 received a deposit of 1, 689, 320.89 Pounds Sterling.”
The EFCC probe showed that the GTB account 0039060117 of the same company housed N88, 300, 000 billion between February 2009 and July 2014.
Fotoworld Industry Limited, with GTB account number 2022025805, also traced to Chinedum, received deposit of $20, 849, 044.21.
The same company with account number 2022025764 in First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) received a cumulative deposit of N362, 573, 056.50.
The same company, Fotoworld, has several other accounts with FBN. The accounts and deposits are: 2026144229 with $84, 000 cash deposit between 2014 and 2015; between 2012 and 2015, account number 2022025764 with the same bank housed N342, 573, 056.50; Account number 2022025939 with the same bank, between November 2012 and July 2015 received a deposit of 1, 689, 320.89 Pounds Sterling.
The investigation also showed that Exact Construction Limited, traced to Chinedum, is believed to have no record of any construction work in the country; also received humongous deposits in Keystone Bank where account was opened.
Between October 2008 and February 2015, the company account number 005374800 had deposits of N1, 188, 924, 190.41. Another deposit of N636, 372, 642.85 into Exact Construction Limited, Keystone Bank account number 1001538949.
The GTB account 0039060117 of the same company housed N88, 300, 000 between February 2009 and July 2014. The FBN account number 2008232908 also received lodgement of N599, 771, 424.25 between January 2011 and June 2016; account number 200823298 had N731, 135, 357.04 between 2007 and 2016.
“Fotofast Industry Limited is another company registered by the first family to siphon the resources of the state. Several accounts were opened in FBN by the company.
“The sum of N20, 861, 165.95 entered into the FBN account number 2014629152 between 2011 and 2017. Between 2011 and 2016, another N223, 929, 515.37 was lodged in Fotofast’s account number 2015559102 domiciled in FBN”, findings revealed.
As part of the investigation, the agency had seized the travel documents of Orji, Chinendum, and Ogbonna.
Their movement has been restricted to Nigeria to enable detectives conduct a comprehensive investigation.
“The multi-dimensional approach to the ongoing investigation necessitated that we should restrict the movement of ex-Governor Orji and his sons to Nigeria. They have a lot to clarify.
“So, in granting them administrative bail, we seized their passports in the interim. They cannot move an inch outside this country without the knowledge of this commission,” a source told The Nation
The source said detectives were already tracing some of the suspected assets of the ex-governor and his sons.
The source said apart from the main petition against the ex-governor, more whistle-blowers and informants had been volunteering information.
One of the whistle blowers alleged as follows: “The two boys bought three houses for N250 million each in Maitama District of Abuja.
“They threw away all the furniture and fittings in them and contracted a big construction firm based in Abuja (names withheld) to refurnish the houses.
“One of the staff of the construction company alleged that the boys replaced the bathroom fittings at the cost of N12 million per bathroom.
“Their garages are littered with top of the range automobiles. The EFCC investigators should look into these and other information already provided.”
Concerning about 145 accounts being investigated, the EFCC source said: “We are yet to freeze these accounts but all the affected banks are aware that we are vetting deposits and withdrawals in them.
“We have put measures in place in a manner that those being investigated cannot tamper with the lodgments in these accounts.”
Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade who confirmed receipt of the petition said the investigation “is ongoing.”
Additional report from ThisDay