Abia Looters Face Anxious Moments as Probe Panel Beams Searchlights

What Happened to Abia Funds, Properties under Okezie Ikpeazu Govt.?

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Looters of the collective patrimony of Abia State are in for a season of uneasiness as the Judicial Panel of Enquiry set up by Governor Alex Otti to probe the immediate past administration commenced its sitting Tuesday, August 15, 2023.

Otti had on June 27, 2023 set up the six-member Judicial Panel of Enquiry on the Recovery of Government Properties, Funds and Related Matters and gave it the task of recovering looted government properties and funds.

Speaking at the inaugural sitting of the Panel, the chairman, Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe (rtd), underscored the importance of its assignment, saying that it is “both investigatory and advisory”.

“It is important to mention that this Panel of Enquiry, though quasi-judicial in nature, is not a court properly so called,” she said, adding that the panel was neither engaging in inquisition nor witch-hunt of anybody.

“Nobody is on trial, rather, we are here to find out what happened to the funds and properties(movable and immovable) of Abia State between May 2015 and May 2023,” the Panel chairman said.

While pledging that the Panel would live up to expectation, the Chairman emphasised that it would conduct its investigations in the open and “property advise the governor”.

Panel Chair: We’ll be open, fair and firm in our investigations.

 

Though the Judicial Panel is not a court in the real sense of it, the chairman stated that members “shall exercise all the powers with regard to obtaining evidence and conduct of the proceedings”.

According to her, the exercise of this power is in line with the provisions of Section 8 of the Commission of Inquiry Law Vol. 1, Cap 69, Laws of Abia State of Nigeria, 2005.

The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ikechukwu Uwanna, who was on hand to witness the inaugural sitting of the Panel, said that a high level of looting had occured in the state hence the need to halt the ugly trend and sanction those responsible.

He encouraged the Judicial Panel to do a diligent job and serve justice to those found culpable in the pervasive rape of Abia.

The AG enjoined Abia public to cooperate wih the Panel and provide it with credible information and evidence to enable it do a thorough job.

“The work is for all of us,” he said, adding that the panel should stick to the deadline and complete its assignment so that the government can face other issues.

In his remarks, the Chairman of Umuahia branch of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Jasper Ejiomofor, commended Governor Otti for setting up the Panel, noting that Abia had been massively “decimated”.

But he faulted the time period under investigation, saying that it should not be limited to the immediate past administration but should be rolled back to cover the period starting from 2003.

According to Ejimofor, most of the ravages that kept Abia on backward motion occurred before the last administration. He said that if the period covered by the investigation was extended backwards, “NBA will be happy and Abia people will be happy”.

Other members of the Panel include Prof Ursula Akanwa, Prof Ogwo Ekeoma Ogwo, Rev Fr. Alex Okonkwo, Dr Chukwuemeka Okwuonu, and Engr. Justina Eboh.

The panel was given 90 days to complete its assignment.

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