Monday, November 20, 2023



By - freepressnews correspondent.

Chief T.A. Orji informed the police investigators that he had received instructions from Chief (Dr.) Orji Uzor Kalu, the governor at the time, to write to the police requesting that Chief Eze Chikamnayo be detained for his illicit acquisition of approximately N35 million in funds from Hallmark Bank under the guise of the Abia State Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism. The letter, dated January 30, 2001, with the reference GH/PL/S. 119/298. On February 2, 2001, T.A. Orji gave his testimony to Corporal Victor Ahanonu of service number 1420X3 at the police department.

The festival’s tourism subcommittee was chaired by Chike Tasie, the ministry’s deputy director of tourism. He informed the police that he was instructed to gather N100,000.00 from each of the state’s 17 council areas. He claimed to have collected N900,000.00 from nine council areas, and he placed N700,000.00 into the festival account while Chikamnayo took N200,000.00 and put it in his pocket. Tasie was taken aback upon learning that Chikamnayo had utilized his identity to launder N75,000.00 and N400,000.00, which were purportedly intended as payments for coverages on Aso Radio and Cool FM Lagos. Tasie claimed to the police that he had no knowledge of the N400,000.00 and N75,000.00 checks that Chikamnayo had personally picked up from Chika Iheonuekwu.

The finance committee/project account of the festival was visited by Chika Iheonuekwu, the internal auditor of the information, tourism, and culture ministry, on February 6, 2001. He informed the police that all funds received from private citizens and corporate entities were spent with Chikamnayo’s approval, with him writing the checks and the permanent secretary and director of finance signing them.

In a statement dated February 16, 2001, Iheonunekwu said that, in his capacity as the festival’s chairman of the finance committee, he made 33 deposits into the festival’s account between November 2, 2000, and December 8, 2000, totaling N11,115,000.00. Iheonuekwu gave Chikamnayo a total of 24 checks on November 6, 2000 alone, on the grounds that Chikamnayo had already made significant financial commitments on Uwguabia 2000 using his own account. Iheonunekwu further informed the police that Chikamnayo personally received and cashed the N75,000.00 and N400,000.00 checks made out to Chika Tasie.

Iheonuekwu claims that Chikamnayo, the previous commissioner, issued all of the contracts for the manufacture of souvenirs during the festival on his own and that no one else knew who the contractors were. Iheonuekwu disclosed that Chikamnayo handled all of the contract work through Cornelius Anyabueke, his personal assistant. He recalled that he had written two checks, one for N1,000,000.00 intended for Oguguo Ogbonna and another for N650,000.00 that Chikamnayo said he had given to Charles Awa for the rental of laptops and stationery line of equipment for the event.

Ada Ijiomah, the ministry’s director of finance, informed the police on February 9, 2001, that she was the festival’s chairperson of the Welfare and Entertainment subcommittee. She claimed that without her knowledge or approval, Chikamnayo had transferred the N4 million from the state governor into his personal account before she opened the festival’s account at Hallmark Bank on October 26, 2000. According to her, “the Hon. Commissioner made the majority of the preliminary preparations for the festival, including the appointment of subcommittees, assignment of duties, awarding of contracts, and supplies for jobs and materials required.” He distributed these tasks and assignments by himself, and he used checks written on his own account, into which he had deposited the N4 million ministry check, to pay for the jobs, either in full or in part. I had no knowledge of the contractors or suppliers that were assigned these projects, and I had no bearing whatsoever on the selection of any vendor or supply for the event.”

Chikamnayo, however, disclaimed any knowledge of the Ugwuabia financial matters. Chikamnayo claimed that “the allegation 6f stealing of the sum of nN35m leveled against me is false” in the statement he gave to the police on February 2, 2001. “Because I was never signatory to any government account throughout the period of my stewardship and could not have withdrawn any money,” he says in response to the bogus accusation.

According to Chikamnayo, the financial personnel of the Ministry of Information, Tourism, and Culture were appropriately managing the Ugwuabia project Account, which was a legitimate government account. He said that the project accountant is an auditor. He said, “I was not involved in their financial activities once the project account was opened, so they are all in a better position to know the regulations and follow them. I just made sure the funds given from the governor’s office in my name were protected for the event.”

Chikamnayo claimed that everything was politically motivated in his supplementary testimony to the police on April 24, 2001. “I would like to add to my previous statement that, while performing official responsibilities, I was engaged in a horrific car accident on January 5, 2001. In reality, the government provided the home ambulance that transported me to the orthopedic hospital in Enugu, and the Federal Medical Center paid my fees for the x-ray and other first procedures. It’s interesting—and somewhat embarrassing—that the same government, well knowing of my complete incapacity—I fractured my shoulder blades and pubic bone—declared me wanted when I was living in Umuahia and without first receiving a police invitation. This confirms my suspicion that the entire situation is politically orchestrated to malign and damage my reputation. I was declared sought, and the police handled the announcement,” Chikamnayo remarked.

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