Julius Chuka Odom is a household name in Imo State politics. He served as commissioner, both in Abia and Imo States, before he was appointed in 2007 as Minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing & Urban Development.
He was later appointed as Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, in November 2008.
In this interview with some journalists in Abuja, Odom opened up on the impeachment move against the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Sir Jude Agbaso, over contract scam. He also spoke briefly on the corruption malaise, bedevilling the country. Excerpts: The ongoing impeachment saga in Imo State I’m not suggesting that what is happening in Imo is a written script. I cannot be bothered either way.
The drama in the state is opening up a dangerous development, which I think all lovers of the state and democracy must be concerned about. I watched on television, the chairman of Imo State House of Assembly ad-hoc committee that is charged with the investigation of the misappropriation of funds of a particular contract awarded by the state government. Everyone should be concerned. The investigation of the deputy governor arose after a visit to a construction site where it was realised that the contract had been abandoned.
That was what led to the investigation of the deputy governor. In the course of the investigation, they discovered that the contractor, a man they describe as Mr. Joseph Dina, said he abandoned the road because he was asked by the deputy governor to pay the sum of N450 million into two separate accounts. He said he couldn’t continue with the project as a result of that. It was on account of this that the House of Assembly set up a panel to investigate it. I don’t have anything against the impeachment as long as it is a constitutional matter.
I’m more concerned that someone appeared before a House and confessed committing a crime. He admitted that he offered a bribe. He said he was given account numbers. The members allowed him to walk out free. One can argue that they’re not law enforcement agents. The House of Assembly ad-hoc committee shook hands with him and allowed him to walk away. Even the law enforcement agents allowed him to walk away.
How come this country has been reduced to a laughing stock? Why do law enforcements agents spend millions, investigating those who’ve not admitted to collecting bribes? Due process and the House It’s either these people think we are morons or they simply don’t care about us. There are two issues involved in this matter. The first is the investigation of the deputy governor. The second is the contractor, who admitted to committing a crime. He chose to tell the whole world about this in the House of Assembly. He walked out free.
The accused is now saying he never received any money or even aware of the said money. I expect him to have been invited or investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after he openly called on them to investigate him. Can Nigeria continue to make fun of itself before the civilised world? Where else in the world can someone make such allegations and still walk away free? They should turn around and grab this man, who made this confession, by handing him over to the police.
Allegations of witch-hunting the deputy governor Since this revelation has been made, why are law enforcement agencies finding it hard to trace this account? Are we waiting for the deputy governor to be impeached before they’ll commence investigation? What stops this investigation from focusing on where this allegation originated from. It’s not rocket science for the banks to come out with documents and let the whole world know who made the deposits and to whose accounts. It is important for us at this point not to fold out hands.
The public and civil organisations must rise up and take it up. This is the first time somebody is openly coming out to admit that he gave bribe. If someone did that, he should be arrested and jailed. The taker of the bribe should be impeached and jailed too if found guilty. Corruption exists everywhere. The difference is that, when it happens in other climes, the law takes its course immediately. The reason this is possible is because the institutions are stronger than the individuals. The only way we can strengthen the institutions is to empower them. We are not interested in the outcome of the whole saga.
If the man is guilty, let him be impeached. If he’s free, let him be exonerated. The House had a self-confessed criminal before it. He was allowed to walk out and travelled out free. My interest in this case actually arose when I realised that the contractor actually came before the House and admitted openly. Judging by the documents in the public domain, should we be concerned with the impeachment or the other way round?
There have been other cases of alleged corrupt practices reported in Imo State since Rochas Okorocha assumed office. If anti-corruption agencies couldn’t prosecute anyone over those alleged corrupt practices, what’s the assurance that they’ll take interest in this case? The differences here is that you used the word, alleged. There is a major difference. There have been allegations and if the law enforcement agencies decide not to investigate, I don’t want to be drawn into that type of discussion.
I’m a politician and I’m from Imo State. There’s no way my statement will not be interpreted that I’m either in this camp or in the other. There’s no way I can do it and get away with it. I know the danger in it. The moment I start thinking about the politics in it, what I’m concerned about will be lost. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my views on what is going on but I want to subjugate that view to something of greater importance.
To answer your question, yes, there have been allegations but I’m not part of the law enforcement apparatus. If they decide to investigate, it’s up to them. If they decide not, it’s also up to them.