Swears in members of investigative panel
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Governor Alex Otti of Abia State, has said it would amount to insensitivity and recklessness on his part if he failed to probe his predecessor in office based on the mountain of complaints from members of the public urging him to dig into the activities of the past administration.
Otti who stated this Tuesday while swearing in members of the judicial panel on recovery of looted Government funds and property, explained that the aim of the probe was not to witch hunt anybody but to recover state funds and assets illegally converted into private use by corrupt Government officials.
“It is for the foregoing that we come to the conclusion that it would amount to being insensitive and reckless, and also encouraging bad behaviour if our administration did not listen to the yearnings of those who elected us by looking into their complaints.
“Government decided to set up this judicial panel of inquiry to ensure the recovery of government funds and property that had been taken away.”
He explained that his desire was to focus on governance but could not pretend not to be aware of the clamour to investigate the administration of his predecessor.
“Ordinarily, the desire of this administration would have been to focus on the business of governance and delivery of democracy dividends without resorting to any form of inquiry into the past,” Otti said.
“Unfortunately, however, since assumption of office, we have been inundated with complaints of unimaginable and large scale maleficence by very highly-placed members of the past administration and their patrons.”
“Since assumption of office, we received a lot of complaints bordering on the looting of Government property.
“We have also experienced unbridled looting and misuse of government property and resources.
“As at now, so many Ministries, Agencies the Departments (MDAs), find it very difficult to perform their daily duties,” Otti lamented.
Otti disclosed that “even public schools were not spared” in the looting spree of the past administration “as part of their lands have been converted to private use.”
Speaking further, Otti said: ” Let me reveal that this administration experienced very hostile handover situation which made it very difficult for us to hit the ground running on May 29 as we had anticipated.
“We assumed office blindly and had to start from ground zero. We are now discovering that the reason for the lack of cooperation might have risen from wide spread mischief by some of those who were given custody of our collective assets and welfare.”
The terms of reference of the committee according to the Governor include: “To receive and examine complaints and memoranda from individuals and corporate entities on the looting and conversion of government property, funds and related matters, and where necessary, make recommendations for remedial measures or any other measures appreciate; to examine and ascertain whether government movable and immovable assets and funds or parts thereof, have been acquired or converted to private use, and identify the persons responsible, and make recommendations for recovering them as well as appropriate sanctions.”
Others include: “To ascertain the extent of allocation and revocation of land in Abia State from May 2015 to May 2023, and determine the appropriateness of such allocations or revocations or otherwise; to review the award and revocation of contracts from May 2015 to May 2023, and ascertain if they were in conformity with extant laws.”
The panel was also charged to investigate any other matters incidental or related to the terms of reference and make appropriate recommendations.
Otti urged the panel to discharge its assignment expeditiously, and not to disappoint the people who have high expectations from them, adding that he has confidence in the members considering their antecedents.
The governor solicited from members of the public, credible information that could be of help to the panel.
Meanwhile, Otti cautioned all his aides to keep their distance from corruption as they would also face probe by his successor.
“Setting up of this panel is a pointer that in a few years time, we will be leaving office and those that will succeed us may also investigate our records. Therefore, discharge your duties in such a manner you will not be found wanting.”
In her post-inauguration speech, Chairman of the five-man panel, retired Justice Ikwuoma Duruoha-Igwe, thanked the Governor for giving them the opportunity to serve, and promised to be fair, thorough and upright in the discharge of their duty.
Other members of the panel include former Vice Chancellor of the Abia State University, Professor Ogwo E Ogwo; Prof Ursula Ngozi Akanwa, Mazi Ugochukwu Okoroafor and Rev Father Barr Alex Okonkwo.
Otti had during speech after receiving certificate of return, directed all those with funds or assets looted from the state to voluntarily return same as his administration would recover every dime illegally taken from the state.