The Imo state government has responded to the call by a human rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, demanding the probe of Governor Rochas Okorocha over the statues erected in honour of two African leaders, Jacob Zuma and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
In the petition signed by the Executive Director of the group, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP called on the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC to collaborate with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for a joint investigation of ‘incompatibility and/or apparent and conflict of interest’.
The group expressed concerns that Governor Rochas ”may have spent over ‘N1 billion’ of public funds to build the statues.”
In a statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, on Tuesday, the government said the state agreed with SERAP’s call for probe.
“First, we want to solemnly subscribe to SERAP’s call for probe. We welcome the call. Our only concern is that SERAP contradicted itself by also passing judgements. It would have stopped at the call for probe to show they meant well. But they went ahead to pass judgements and thereby jeopardising what should have been their innocent call for probe,” the statement read.
He cited two issues raised by the group; first the cost of building the statues which SERAP said “might cost N1 billion”, second, the governor’s inability to pay teachers’ salaries and entitlement of pensioners’.
“SERAP also said the statues might have cost N1 billion. Then, how would SERAP address the issue of cost again if at the end of the probes, the amount is either far higher or far below what they quoted?” he said.
With the widespread criticisms over the cost of the statues, Mr. Onwuemeodo said the group should have waited for the probe to end before suggesting that the funds used were for the public.
“Again, what if at the end of the probe, it is discovered that the statues were not funded from government’s purse, when SERAP had already talked about ‘apparent misuse of public resources’?” he added.
Mr. Onwuemeodo said Imo state was up to date in the payment of salaries.
“Our concern too is that people deliberately tell unfounded lies. A week ago, all the newspapers had reports on states owing salaries and the chairman of the Imo State branch of NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpa said the “State government is up to date in the payment of workers’ salary” (see Nation newspaper, Sunday November 5, 2017, pg13). In other words, the state does not owe workers including teachers. On the issue of pension, the government cleared all the arrears in December 2016 and has begun to pay monthly. These pieces of information have been there in public domain”, the statement said.
The unveiling of the statues built in honour of the two African leaders has continued to generate widespread criticisms from Nigerians, especially on social media.
Just recently, self-appointed representatives of various tribes in Nigeria took to twitter to disown Gov. Rochas.