By Daniel Chibuike
The Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the Recovery of Government Properties and Funds, led by Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe (Rted), has entertained and cross-examined more cases brought before it by petitioners.
In the petition JP/REC/52/2023, a case filed by Samuel Expo against the Commissioner for Lands and Housing, the immediate past Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, and the former Chairman of Obingwa LGA, Mrs. Uloma Nwogu, Eze Adolphus Abakwe, and the traditional prime minister of Itungwa autonomous community, Samuel Ekpo, it was alleged that 300 hectares of land donated to Itungwa/Itukpa community primary school in Obingwa were being used for unauthorised structures.
The petition recalled how the former Executive Chairman of Obingwa allegedly informed them that the immediate past Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, intended to use part of the land for an automobile engineering workshop.
The panel also cross-examined a petition filed by Prince Goodwin Egbesie against the Commissioner for Petroleum and Mineral Resources, which raised concerns about illegal high-level fraud, illegal sand dredging, and impersonation in Ahuwa Oboro, Ikwuano LGA.
The petition alleged damage to farmlands and roads due to illegal sand dredging.
In another case, the panel cross-examined a petition filed by a spokesperson of the Abia State Ministry of Trade and Investment, Onyebuchi Nwankpa, against the GM of Methodological Complex Nig Ltd, Mr. Henry Nwaejike, which alleged the looting of government properties in a warehouse situated in Aba and the alleged non-remittance of funds into the government purse.
Also, over 70 disengaged lecturers and staff of Abia State Polytechnic Aba presented a petition regarding their dismissal between May 2015 and May 2023..
The lecturers claimed they were not notified of their termination until a month after rendering services.
But the Bursar of Abia Poly, Mr. Friday Omenihu, said that letters of disengagement were issued to the disengaged workers.
He told the panel that senior staff among the sacked workers received three months’ salaries, while junior staff were paid one month’s salary by the institution.
He listed the revenues received so far to be 5 billion, 117 million as subventions and 830 million, 405 thousand naira as bailout funds.
The bursar further stated that Abia Poly had cumulative IGR funds of 7 billion, 423 million, 260 thousand, and 850 Kobo between May 2015 and May 2023.
Mr Omenihu blamed a paucity of funds in the school for the disengagement of the workers from service.
But another staff of the Polytechnic, Mr Prince Okechukwu, defended the sacking of the Abia Poly staff, alleging that the petitioners did not meet the requirements for employment.
The Chairman of the Judicial Panel, Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe (Retd), directed the Registrar of Abia Poly, Mrs Kelly Ahunanya, to make the school’s nominal roll between May 2015 and May 2023 available to the panel and adjourned the matter to November 16, 2023.
In another case, the Ppanel cross-examined a petition marked JP/REC/51/2023 filed by Mr Chidozie Ohiaogu against the director in charge of the local government services commission.
In the petition, Chidozie Ohiaogu challenged his sack from service since 2015.
But the respondent, Emenike Oji, said that the disengagement of 4,000 persons, including the petitioner, in the said year, was carried out by the previous administration in Abia State, and the disengagement message was conveyed by the former administration through a radio announcement.
Since it began sitting, the Abia State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Recovery of Government Properties and Funds has been busy receiving and addressing various petitions brought by aggrieved individuals and other concerned citizens.
The Judicial Panel was established by Governor Alex Otti in June with the mandate to receive and examine complaints and memoranda from individuals and corporate entities regarding the alleged looting or conversion of government properties, funds, and related matters.
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