Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, said today he is not in any form of in trouble with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the diversion of the sum of N400 million allocated to the PDP in the state to compromise last year’s Presidential poll.
The governor made the clarification in reaction to reports at the weekend suggesting that he used his firms, Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort Ltd and Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd.to divert the N400 million bribe allocated to PDP in Ebonyi State and thereafter used the money to build hotels. Umami, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Emma Anya, contended that he had nothing to do with the two companies, having relinquished his interests in them before becoming Ebonyi governor.
He did not however attach the documents showing how he gave up his shares in the two companies and when that was done and if that information had been made known to the EFCC currently probing the matter. In the statement entitled “Umahi not in trouble and will never be”, the governor made it clear that the information being bandied about by the EFCC and the media against him was nothing new but a rehash of what he called ‘stale’ news, which had already been used. Anya said, “I am therefore at a loss on what they stood to gain by these publications.
“I state here once again that Governor Umahi established his business empire, including Osborn La Palm Royal Resort long before he became the deputy governor. “He had before serving as the state’s deputy governor relinquished his interests in the companies he founded as required by law. “I also use this medium to let the writers and newspapers know that the governor cannot be in trouble over the poll cash because as a sitting governor, he enjoys immunity from prosecution.
“He cannot be in trouble since the money in question was neither used by him nor any of the mentioned companies. The EFFC knows this. It should therefore know where to beam its searchlight. For those whose desire is to see His Excellency drown; I have a message for them: You will be shocked to your bone marrow. “To Umahi’s associates, admirers and all other Ebonyians who are highly pleased with the unexpected transformation of the state, I say expect more. His Excellency remains undaunted in his avowal to make the state Nigeria’s best, economically and structurally,” Anya boasted.
But EFCC said at the weekend it had already arrested and questioned many suspects, including bank officials, who had made statements linking the governor and his companies. EFCC sources said, “This case involving some chieftains of the PDP in Ebonyi State and some companies emanated from the alleged N23.2 billion disbursed by the erstwhile Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke during the 2015 Presidential election out of which N400 million was traced to Ebonyi State.
“In the State, Kelechi Igwe (incumbent Deputy Governor), Fidelis Nwanwko and Ambassador Frank N. Ogbuewu collected the money to prosecute the 2015 general election. “The duo of Fidelis Nwankwo and Ambassador Frank N. Ogbuewu were invited and they disclosed that they collected the N400 million from Fidelity Bank and handed it over to Access Bank on the directive of the then Deputy Governor who is now the incumbent Governor, Engr. David Umahi. “The Operations Manager of Access Bank Abakaliki was invited and he revealed that the money was paid into the accounts of Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort Ltd and Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd. domiciled in Abakaliki.
“The statement of the accounts of the companies that were analysed disclosed that the sum of three N300 million was paid into the account of Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort Ltd and N100 million into the account of Brass Engineering & Construction Nig. Ltd and subsequently withdrawn by Chinyere Egwuche. “The movement of the fund from one account to another and the subsequent cash withdrawal of N300million in tranches of N50million are clear features of money laundering.
“The above companies were discovered to have been incorporated by the incumbent Governor of Eonyi State in 1993 and 2011 respectively. “Consequently, letters of invitation were written to the Managing Directors of the companies where the money was paid but the letters were returned undelivered as the addressees refused to collect them. “Thereafter, Austin Umahi, Maxwell Umahi, Chinyere Egwuche and Mabel Dikibo were arrested.
Investigation revealed that Chinyere Egwuchu and Mabel Dikibo were the signatories to the account of the companies. “It was also discovered that one of the suspects, Chinyere withdrew the N300million paid into the account of Osborn La-Palm which, according to her was used to further construction of Osborn La-Palm hotels in Abakaliki, Uburu and Port Harcourt, while the N100million paid into the account of Brass Engineering and Construction Nigeria Limited was transferred to a certain David Umahi Faith Foundation. They volunteered statement and were released on bail to reliable sureties.
“In furtherance of this investigation, the property belonging to the companies were identified and the Commission’s stickers “Under Investigation” were placed on them. However, legal machineries are being set in motion to seal the companies in case the suspects refused to wholly refund the monies that were fraudulently collected by them.” In the meantime, the sum of N90million has been refunded.
Investigation is still in progress,” a top EFCC operative said.