EFCC investigates alleged sleaze in Enugu's N13.6b secretariat project

By The Citizen

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun a full-scale investigation into an alleged sleaze in the ongoing construction of new secretariat project in Enugu State.

Official figures released from Enugu government put the cost of the complex at the cost of N13.6 billion.

In November last year, Enugu zonal office of the EFCC had carried out preliminary investigation into the secretariat project, based on a petition by the Co-ordinator of Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) in Enugu State, Mr. Osita Okechukwu.

During the preliminary investigations, which took place while Governor Sullivan Chime was away on his prolonged vacation, the then Accountant-General, Eunice Ugwu, reportedly told EFCC investigators that the project would cost N8 billion and not N13.6 billion as claimed by the petitioner.

She also told the EFCC that the government only released money for the feasibility studies and demolition of old state secretariat building, adding that such was provided for in the 2012 budget.

Ugwu was removed as accountant-general soon after Chime returned to the country in February this year, and re-appointed as a Permanent Secretary in the Civil Service Commission.

It was further gathered that based on findings from the preliminary investigations, the Abuja office of the EFCC has taken over the case file and launched a full-scale probe.

A copy of the EFCC invitation letter extended to Okechukwu, through his lawyers, T.M. Eke and Associates of Magnolia Chambers in Enugu, urged the CPC co-ordinator to appear at the commission's Abuja office by 10.00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 2013.

The letter titled 'Investigation Activities: Re-Petition Against the Accountant-General of Enugu State', reads: 'You may recall that you wrote a petition dated September 18, 2012 on behalf of your client, Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), against the Accountant-General of Enugu State.

'In view of the above, you are kindly requested to inform your client to report for an interview with the undersigned through Mr. Chris Owobu on April 18, 2013 at No 5, Block C, Fomella Street, Off Adetokunbo Ademole Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja, by 1000hrs. Your co-operation in this regard is highly solicited please.'

When contacted, Okechukwu confirmed receipt of the invitation for an interview.

Earlier, while testifying at the zonal office in Enugu on November 16, the petitioner alleged that the construction of the new secretariat amounted to financial recklessness and misapplication of funds, and definitely carried a baggage of corruption.

He further submitted that Enugu, a state which suffers deficit in infrastructure and high rate of unemployment, was financially weak and ill-equipped to embark on the project, except through borrowing, going by the state's financial profile and revenue accruing to the treasury.

He also alleged that there was no provision made for the project in the 2012 budget, even for Environmental Impact Assessment, stressing that if no such provision was made in the budget, it then means that the project did not follow due process.