Last month, anti-graft agent, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested a former governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji. His alleged crime is N500bn fraud.
It was reported that Orji was intercepted at the Nnamdi International Airport, Abuja, and driven to the headquarters of the EFCC in Abuja where he was quizzed alongside his son, Chinedu, the current speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, who turned himself in this afternoon upon learning of the arrest of his father.
Orji, a current senator, and his sons, Chinedu and Ogbonna, have for months been under EFCC investigation for alleged misappropriation of public funds and money laundering.
The ex-governor is alleged to have received N500 Million monthly as a security vote for eight years as governor of Abia between 2007 and 2015.
Other allegations against him concerned alleged mismanagement of N2billion Ecological Fund and mismanagement of Sure-P funds.
The EFCC had in February 2020 interrogated Orji and his son over allegations that they diverted N521 billion public funds.
Huge numbers behind the Orjis’ crime
The investigation followed a petition dated March 17, 2017, filed by a group, Fight Corruption: Save Nigeria Group.
The petitioners had accused Orji of diverting ”N383 billion revenue from the Federation Account, N55 billion Excess Crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P revenue, N1.8 billion ecological funds, N10.5 billion loan, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan, and N55 billion ASOPADEC money while in office.”
According to the petition, the N500 million the former governor allegedly withdrew monthly was “not part of the security funds expended on the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army, DSS, Navy anti-Kidnapping Squad, anti-robbery Squad, purchase of Security equipment and vehicles for the security agencies.”
The petitioner also accused Orji’s son, Chinedum Orji, who is currently the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, of owning about 100 accounts in different banks.
It added that the accounts which run both as corporate and Individual received ”so much deposit in cash without evidence of job or services rendered.”
His investigations come months after the EFCC secured the conviction of his former boss and predecessor, Orji Kalu, on December 5. Orji Kalu was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment after being found guilty on 39 counts of fraud to the tune of N7.65 billion.
EFCC confiscating Orji’s property
In 2020, the anti-graft agency says it has traced some property suspected to be from proceeds of fraud to former Abia governor, Sen. Theodore Orji.
The then spokesperson of the commission, Dele Oyewale said the property which was sealed in Umuahia, the state capital was traced to the former governor in the course of ongoing investigations of Orji’s alleged financial malfeasance.
Recall that the property sealed by the EFCC included, the Abia Mall which accommodates ShopRite and other business entities, Benac Hotels opposite Broadcasting Corporation of Abia.
Also sealed was a housing estate situated at the former Umuahia Main Market.
“Our investigations show that the property belongs to Theodore Orji and as part of the investigations, we have to seal them. That is exactly what we have done,” he said.
Oyewale said that investigations into the alleged financial fraud perpetrated by the former governor were ongoing, adding that the suspect would be charged to court in due time.
“We cannot give a time frame within which to charge him to court because our investigations are always thorough and very diligent,” he said.
The EFCC spokesperson said that the commission usually collaborated with and relies on information from relevant agencies during its investigations.
“The sealed property is proof of the ongoing investigations and the probe will determine if more will be sealed,” Oyewale said.
Court throws out a suit to compel EFCC to prosecute him
Before Theodore Orji’s arrest in August 2021, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has struck out an exparte application filed by former 2nd Vice-President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Monday Ubani seeking to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to prosecute Ex Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji and his son Chinedum.
Ubani had applied in January through his Counsel Mr. Nkem Okoro, an Abuja-based Human Rights Lawyer, seeking leave of court for an order of mandamus compelling the EFCC to commence the prosecution of Orji and his son having concluded investigations into the fraud heist allegedly perpetrated by them.
In an affidavit attached to the application, Ubani compiled series of newspaper publications of statements made by EFCC revealing the alleged massive fraud and properties seized from the ex-governor and his son in relation to the fraud.
Ubani argued that the refusal of the EFCC to prosecute Orji and his son despite mounting evidence of massive looting of Abia State monies is a serious defect injustice that can only be remedied if the leave for order of mandamus sought is granted expeditiously.
But in a ruling delivered on February 22, Justice I.E Ekwo struck out the application on the grounds that the newspaper exhibits placed before the court by the applicant were of no probative value.
He said: “The applicant has sufficient and requisite locus standi to apply for leave for an Order of Mandamus. There has been a demand for the performance of the public duty on the respondent in line with its mandate by way of the petition but the demand contained in the said petition was not carried out and there was no such correspondence from the respondent stating reasons for not carrying out the provisions of the Act. This case is worthy of the intervention of this court by granting of this application as prayed.