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EXCLUSIVE: Bank documents expose how Governor Ikpeazu wired billions to cybercafe, political associates

Okezie Ikpeazu’s business and political associates, including those facing corruption charges, are laughing all the way to the bank in Abia State.

• November 16, 2020
Governor Ikpeazu and Enyinnaya Nwafor
Governor Ikpeazu and Enyinnaya Nwafor

Mushroom companies linked to business and political allies of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu have been receiving billions from state-run bank accounts for as-yet-unknown contracts, Peoples Gazette can report based on a trove of financial records our reporters recently analysed.

Mr. Ikpeazu has often lamented Abia’s inability to generate enough revenues towards social and capital development of residents, yet the governor approved billions to his political underlings without securing relative service delivery, bank documents said.

Between 2016 and 2017, an estimated N3.4 billion went to three companies owned by Enyinnaya Nwafor, a close friend of Mr. Ikpeazu’s, from state bank accounts.

Mr. Nwafor, son of a departed former deputy governor, has used Tunnel End Investment Co. Ltd, Rock-Waters Integrated Services Ltd, Tetra-Lock Business Solutions Ltd to receive contracts in Abia under Mr. Ikpeazu.

Mr. Nwafor remained closely associated with Mr. Ikpeazu despite being under EFCC investigation, and his junior brother, Chimaeze, is a personal assistant to the governor. Both of them have been identified to the Gazette as critical to the governor’s questionable manoeuvre of public funds.

Governor Ikpeazu (Credit: BBC)

Delhope Resources Ltd, a registered Internet cafe, received contracts worth N412 million from Mr. Ikpeazu’s administration. It belonged to his business associate Innocent Adiele.

The Gazette highlighted the suspicious transactions to seek comments from Mr. Ikpeazu’s administration officials, including the information commissioner John Okiyi, but did not receive clarifications in time for this report.

Messrs. Nwafor and Adiele also did not return multiple requests seeking comments from the Gazette for this story. But Mr. Nwafor had previously denied all allegations of corruption.

Mr. Ikpeazu has also said he has been running Abia, in Nigeria’s Southeast, as prudently as he could, dismissing criticism of corruption and incompetence as unfounded and politically-motivated.

Vulnerable accounts

Out of N105 billion debits from the Abia accounts reviewed by the Gazette for 2016 and 2017, at least N3.8 billion went to Tunnel End, Rock-Waters, Tetra-Lock and Delhope. The Gazette learnt that several companies linked to Mr. Ikpeazu’s associates received funds between 2016 and 2017, but their CAC filings could not be immediately obtained.

Further analysis of Abia’s finances under Mr. Ikpeazu showed three bank accounts were specifically targeted for questionable withdrawals in favour of businesses linked to the governor’s friends.

The state’s excess crude accounts, local revenue accounts and foreign loan interest accounts all saw massive withdrawals in favour of Tunnel End, Rock-Waters, Tetra-lock, and Delhope between 2016 and 2017. Other companies run by Mr. Ikpeazu’s associates that also received suspicious payment are still being identified.

On January 13, 2016 Tunnel End Investment received a payment of N176 million from the state’s excess crude oil account 1014381352 with Zenith Bank.

On January 26 of the same year, it received N100 million from the same account while on January 27, it received N275 million in two tranches of N250 million and N25 million with another N200 million paid to the company on May 1, 2016.

On February 8, 2017, a sum of N150 million was paid to Tunnel End from the state’s foreign loan interest account while five days later, the company received a payment of N993 million from the same account and N47.85 million was paid from the ministry of agriculture account on February 21, 2017.

For Rock-Waters, N176 million was paid on January 13, 2016 while N200 million and N10 million were paid on January 18, 2016 with an additional N100 million paid on January 21, 2016. All from the excess crude oil account and sent to firms linked to a man under corruption probe.

The company also received N50 million on October 26, 2016 while N30 million was paid on November 23, 2016 and N47 million on December 15, 2016. All from the consolidated IGR account.

Similarly, the company was paid N496.2 million on February 13, 2017 while N50 million was paid on April 18, 2017. All from the state’s foreign loan interest account.

Tetra-Lock was paid the sum of N149.6 million on January 13, 2016; while N40 million and N47 million were paid on November 13 and December 15, 2016, respectively.

Delhope got a payment of N100 million on January 6, 2016 and N92.4 million on January 15 of the same year while N150 million was credited to the company on October 26, 2016. On February 16, 2017 the company also received the sum of N70 million from the state’s foreign loan interest account.

Lost priority

Abia has long been amongst the states with poor leadership ranking, especially since 1999 when Orji Kalu handed over to his associate Theodore Orji who then handed over to another associate Mr. Ikpeazu.

Roads, sanitation and other basic needs that required urgent attention have suffered regression, which residents said would have been mitigated had Mr. Ikpeazu and his predecessors not conducted the state business in secrecy.

Mr. Ikpeazu said his administration has been repairing roads to take the state away from its status as the dirtiest in the country, but critics said this did not go far enough.

“The governor has clearly lost the priority when it comes to governance,” anti-corruption campaign Anayo Emeka said in a statement to the Gazette on Monday.

Ms. Emeka, based in the capital Umuahia, said Mr. Ikpeazu has awarded a lot of contracts that could not withstand basic scrutiny since 2015.

“They awarded contracts for billions of naira but when you get to the site of the contract you will find out that the job there cannot be more than N50 million or N100 million,” she said.

Most of the transfers obtained by the Gazette were conducted during Mr. Ikpeazu’s first time between 2015 and 2019, but the activist said the governor’s second term, which began mid-last year, had left the state worse off.

“You have only exposed what happened during his first term,” Ms. Emeka said. “You will find out that his second term is very bad for the state.”

Download three separate documents of Abia’s bank statements for 2016 and 2017 herehere and here.

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