EFCC, Please Probe Udenwa too!


Joachim Ezeji



Rather than entertain the pessimistic believe that the current prosecution of some immediate past state governors over charges of corruption is a charade, I am buoyed. I say so because I subscribe 100% to the extermination of corruption.


However, I am puzzled that Imo State presently seems not to be under the much desired searchlight as we have in Enugu, Abia, Adamawa, Jigawa, Taraba and Plateau States. The immediate past governors of these states have been arraigned over corruption charges. I hope more states will get their turn soon including Imo.


The poor state of affairs of Imo state over the past ten years makes this urgent. The situation calls for sober reflection by all well meaning sons and daughters of the state. The abuse of governance by felons and mediocres in government has not helped matters. Imo great potentials have been debased and worsened.


I had followed the Col. Tanko Zubairu’s case with unmitigated fascination. Col. Tanko Zubairu was the very last military administrator that ruled Imo prior to the transition that ushered in the 1999 elected political leaders. It was Col. Tanko Zubairu, the military administrator that handed over to Chief Udenwa, the man Imo people elected.


 Zubairu shortly after handing over the reign of the state to Udenwa was summoned by the then Imo House of Assembly to appear before it and give account of his stewardship of the state. He not only refused to appear before the house but went to court to seal the chances of the house probing him. He had claimed that as a military administrator that he owned no civilian accountability.


The case stretched from the Imo State high Court in 1999 to the Supreme Court, and at the end of the entire case in 2007, the verdict from the apex court was that Col. Tanko Zubairu should subject himself to probe. He was ordered by the court to return and answer outstanding issues about his era in Imo State whenever invited.


Hon. Goodluck Opiah who is currently the speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly has indicated the willingness of the current Imo State Assembly to re-invite Col. Tanko for probe. This is coming 8 good years after Zubairu had left the reign of Imo.


In inviting Tanko for probe the Imo Assembly should also look in the direction of Chief Udenwa the immediate governor of the state. Besides many other benefits, this will make meaning of the planned probe of Tanko Zubairu.


I say so because events in the state within the last 8 years have been anything but salutary. Imo from all indices did not fare better in the hands of its own son compared to Zubairu, a non indigene. After all how much was the cumulative allocations and revenue that accrued to Imo State during Zubairu’s time compared to Udenwa’s?


It is always better to call a spade a spade irrespective of whose ox is gored. The era of Chief Udenwa (1999-2007), the longest in the lifespan of any government in this state was the most despised and hated by Imo citizens. Responsible for this was the high level of corruption and nepotism that combined to rob Imo people of the much desired dividend of democracy. To put it mildly, Udenwa’s eight years was just a waste.


However, the EFCC should come to Imo and probe the Udenwa era. I doubt the ability of the Imo House to effectively do that because of the way its members got ‘elected’. This should be devoid of prejudices of any kind, including the recent inferno destruction of sensitive documents in the Douglas house in June 2007.


I can remember that it was the EFCC boss Nuhu Ribadu who had used the platform of the National Assembly to drop a bombshell. He informed Nigerians that all but two state governors had stolen their states blind. Mr. Nuhu Ribadu must now move to arraign these governors with no further delay.


I can also remember that it was the fearless Senator Arthur Nzeribe who had moved a motion on the floor of the last senate calling for the probe of the Udenwa administration over the administration of Imo state local government funds.


Not to worry, that motion finally cost Senator Arthur Nzeribe a return ticket to the senate as Udenwa unleashed all his arsenals to stop Nzeribe from getting the PDP’s nod for re-election. But as fate would have it, Senator Nzeribe was not to be the only casualty. Chief Udenwa also became a casualty. His ambition to replace Osita Izunaso (the man who defeated Nzeribe) and go to the senate instead was thwarted by Nzeribe.


Senator Nzeribe had insisted in his letter to then President Obasanjo and the EFCC that Chief Udenwa was corrupt and was not fit for any high political office such as the senate. He had quoted Nuhu Ribadu’s statement on the floor of the senate copiously. He had insisted that Udenwa was one of those corrupt governors.


Many people are unhappy that the EFCC is still clay footed in moving forward with the Udenwa case. For multifarious reasons the case should proceed on full throttle. The man led a myopic government that pauperized Imo people. He also lacked the mental capacity to be visionary and make Imo prosperous for its entire people.


An NDDC statistics within the Udenwa era had revealed that Imo State was one of the poorest states in the Niger Delta. The state had 70% of its people going to bed on empty stomach daily, as well as lacking access to basic water and sanitation facilities.


These huge numbers of the poor are without job, and retired without entitlements. Even when they are on employment their take home pay was too weak to take them home. High level insecurity and social vices became rife. Peace of the grave yard then pervaded the state. The jumbo sums of state funds allocated to security all came to no avail in this regard.


In his 96 months reign in the state as ‘Onwa Imo’ and as the ‘Silent Achiever’, Chief Udenwa received well over N100 billion as statutory allocations from the federation account. This amount did not include revenues from VAT, the 13% oil revenue and those from the excess crude or internally generated revenue.


Today the open display of opulence and wealth we see in Imo come mainly from the political class especially all those who served in Udenwa’s cabinet or were elected officials under him. New buildings in New Owerri area particularly, are being rumored to belong to favored favorites of Chief Udenwa.            


A speaker during Udenwa’s time was said to have built a multi-million naira hotel in the control post area while still in government. Same applied to a few local council chairmen who built hotels. One was said to have built a hotel in the World Bank estate area.


Stretching from the old Nekede road to Concorde area is all affluence in the midst of poverty. Just behind the cenotaph in New Owerri along the Concorde road are new and expensive buildings all being linked to people that served Udenwa.


Certainly Imo people will have to be told who gave out the plots of Land and the beneficiaries and how they sourced the funds with which they developed them. Many of them lived in penury before they came into government. Who else but Chief Udenwa has to answer questions about these and many more?


He needs to tell Imo people how the funds pumped to kick start Songhai farms went down the drain. Same applied to the over N2billion sunk into the water sector yet the taps are dry. Other deals such as those linked with the ultra modern international market in Orlu, the teaching hospital, the state secretariat buildings as well of those of the Imo Concorde hotel and the local government council roads needs to be fully investigated. Glossing over all these will amount to monumental injustice against the Imo people.


Imo State deserves a better deal and cannot continue to be run this way. There is every need to enthrone good governance. One way of achieving that is by a quarantine of the future from the past. Past and serving leaders must therefore be made accountable. This is necessary if the future is to be safeguarded. There is every need for Udenwa to purge himself. Perhaps he could use the EFCC probe to showcase his innocence or otherwise.


I am happy that Chief Edwin Clark and his group are insisting that Chief James Ibori be probed. Leaders of Edo State are also insisting on the probe of Lucky Igbinadion. Same for leaders of Taraba and a few other states where the leaders are courageous to stand on the path of justice. Why not Imo State? I invite Imo leaders to raise a voice in this regard.


I earnestly invite the EFCC to visit Imo State and continue from where it had stopped earlier on the probe of Imo State finances. I propose a thorough scan of Imo’s budgetary expenses and other resources 1999-2007.


It is another way of proving that there are no sacred cows in the corruption fight in Nigeria. The ball is now in the court of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu to prove that the current grand standing of the commission is not a charade after all.