Barr Chris Ezem, the Secretary to the Abia State Government (SSG), may be on his way to prison following his refusal to honour invitations by the Abia State House of Assembly to explain what he knows about Abia Paris Club Refund.
Ezem may be amongst the prime casualties over the squabbles on the allegations and counter allegations over the hiring of two consultants to handle the Abia Paris Club Refund by the immediate past administration of Abia State.
The total amount that accrued to the state was N22billion and according to the immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku, two consultants Muritzawalton Nigeria limited and Ziplon Nigeria Limited were hired between 2011 and 2014 by the past administration “for the purposes of recovery and reconciliation of our Paris Club Refund figures and subsequent payment by the federal government”
The consultants, he alleged, were to be paid 20 percent and 30 percent respectively totaling 50 percent. Oriaku said he refused to pay the 50 percent commission when he was the Commissioner for Finance, prompting petitions being written against him on the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), while one of the consultants reportedly went to court in Abuja..
However, based on the petitions, the anti craft commission invited him as well as others in its Enugu office and drilled him for days over the matter. On his release from the custody of the commission, the former Finance Commissioner in series of interviews explained why he rejected the payment and accused some unnamed persons of masterminding his travails.
Irked by his alleged vituperations and loquacity of Obinna Oriaku, two Abia citizens, Anthony Aniobi and Lekweuwa Ndubueze through their lawyer, Messrs Ndukwe Iheanyi petitioned the Abia State House of Assembly, asking the House to call the former Finance Commissioner to order and also to investigate his allegations.
According to their lawyer, his clients were embarrassed by the Oriaku’s loquacity and therefore needed some clarifications.
Against this backdrop, the Speaker of the 24-man Assembly, Rt Hon Chinedum Orji instituted a four-man Ad-hoc Committee led by Hon Emeka Okoroafor (APC Isuikwuato) to look into the matter.
Shockingly, despite the invitation of the dramatis personae, including those whose office could shade more lights on the matter, such as the SSG, Ezem has blatantly refused to appear before the committee.
His predecessors: Prof Mkpa Agu Mkpa and Dr Eme Okoro have all appeared before the committee. Those that also put up an appearance during its sittings included the Commissioner for Finance, Dr Aham Uko, Accountant General of the State, Kelechi Imeorie, his predecessor, Gabriel Onyendilefu etc. Nonetheless, Obinna Oriaku, the man who raised the dust, wrote to the committee, informing it of his decision not to appear before it “because the case is court”.
Meanwhile, the refusals, by Chris Ezem to appear before the Ad-hoc committee, have left the House with no other option than to declare him (Chris Ezem) wanted and perhaps subsequently issue a warrant of arrest against him after the holidays.
Our Reporter explained that Okoroafor who is chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, sees Chris Ezem’s refusal to appear before it including that of Sampson Orji as an affront, not only on the committee, but the entire Abia State House of Assembly.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.