‘Public funds should be insulated from graft’
Lawyer and former National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ray Nnaji, told LAWRENCE NJOKU in this interview why he dragged Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Reasons for the decision INITIALLY I was not interested in what is happening, but what informed my decision in taking interest in the matter is when I heard Governor Sullivan Chime’s comment in the network news.
He is not the type that normally talks, so for him to say certain things, something must have happened. The House had given him Notice for impeachment but I said maybe it is a way to give the dog a bad name to hang it.
But from his comments made me go into further investigation, where he commented that the forgery allegation made by the people who wanted to impeach him was because he did not forge any document.
That what he did was to reallocate funds meant for certain projects in some sectors. Immediately he said that, I knew quite well that what he meant was virement.
And when you are talking about virement, the people that have right over appropriation law for virement are the lawmakers. An executive fiat cannot alter or remove anything from Appropriation Law that has been signed into operation. If he intends to do that he must definitely take it back to the House.
For him to have admitted that fact, I said it was a serious affair, which means that what these people are saying is the truth. I now made some investigations, coupled with the one I had earlier and came to the conclusion that I should file a petition to the EFCC. I have given EFCC two weeks within which to commence investigation into this matter.
I am even pleading with them to refer the matter to the zonal office so that witnesses can have access to it. We are not taking it lightly. I personally know that what the governor is doing is not the right thing and we cannot continue to keep quite.
EFCC should investigate and if they discover that what I am saying is correct, they should start prosecution. Nobody is above the law.
What is covering the governor now is the immunity clause in Section 308 of the Constitution, which he will lose after May 29. The impeachment process If you look at sections of the Constitution that deals with petition and taking into consideration the period the governor still have, it might not succeed at the end of the day because to remove a governor is a cumbersome exercise.
At the end of the day, we might not get to the end of the tunnel and that was why I took it up, so that it might not die. If by first week of June, Chime goes home, the thing will die down and he will be walking on the street as a free man.
That is why I took the matter up, knowing that this one will sustain. If the EFCC fails after two weeks, I will go to court to compel them to do it.
It will be EFCC and I will join him. The point is that I am not sure that the impeachment will succeed because of time frame and the intimidation the governor has brought into it. If he is clean, as he would want people to believe, why is he trying to stifle the process? He should let the people do their business.
I had earlier written him a letter that I was waiting for May 29 when section 308 will cease and then we will start. Allegations of misappropriation The issue is that of the supplementary budget of 2012.
When you stake money above the budgetary allocation, you have to go to the State Assembly for approval. But he has spent over N12 billion without supplementary budget and that is the problem we have now.
And he is forcing the lawmakers to give him retroactive signature for the passage of the bill. As at the time he was spending, he didn’t know he would overshoot the budget, and having done that, he is looking for way to have supplementary budget.
He had none and that was why he started reallocating funds from one area to another. Assuming without conceding the fact that it is true, such is an admission that he has actually forged a document because a document that has been signed into law can never be altered, if you want to alter it, you take it to the person that has the right of original production. You don’t do it by executive fiat.
Protecting public fund What I intend to achieve is for people in government to learn a lesson. The money they have is not their money; the money is given to them in trust on behalf of the people.
They should use public fund for the welfare of the people that own it and not for themselves. I was Local Government Chairman in 1997 and my account was audited because of the problem as at that time. That finally brought about the government of the PDP.
The level of acquisition that has gone on in the last days of this administration is unheard of. Public property is sold overnight without due process. I do not think that it will be in the interest of the state to watch while this level of corruption is going on. We want to insist that people cannot do anything and get out of it.
It is a lesson to the incoming government, that the fund he will see is not for him and that it is for the interest of the state. It is not a secret and he should know it is for the people of the state.
There are people who are vulnerable and cannot say anything even if Chime decides to sell the entire state, but we cannot continue to keep quite.