Immediate past Deputy Governor of Imo State, Gerald Irona, who was removed from office alongside his boss (Emeka Ihedioha) by Nigerian Supreme Court on January 14, 2020, says, he is ready for probe over any of his actions while in office as number two citizen of the State.
He made this known while reacting to a call by one of the factions of the National Union of Local Government Employees-NULGE in Imo State, demanding his arrest and prosecution.
Irona made this known in a statement through his Communications Adviser, Walter Duru and made available to newsmen in Owerri southeast Nigeria, weekend.
The Statement reads in part:
“Our attention has been drawn to a sponsored Press Briefing by a faction of the National Union of Local Government Employees-NULGE in Imo State, where they called for the arrest and prosecution of the immediate past Deputy Governor of the State, Engr. Gerald Irona. Shortly after the call, former member of the House of Representatives and Special Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodinma on Oil and Gas, Hon. Goodluck Opiah added his voice.”
“We are not in doubt, as to the sponsors of the blackmail against Engr. Irona. The fact that NULGE, whose members- local government employees in Imo State have not been paid several months of salary arrears refused to say a word in solidarity with their suffering members, some of whom are dying of hunger and different ailments leaves much to be desired. It is also shameful that they have not seen anything wrong with the fact that five months into the present administration in the state, the Board of Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission- ISOPADEC is yet to be reconstituted. Six months of the Commission’s statutory allocation, as at today, amounting to billions of Naira cannot be accounted for. Hundreds of millions of Naira left in the Commission’s account with the United Bank for Africa and other commercial banks have developed wings. The One Hundred and Fourteen Million Naira (N114m) counterpart fund paid by Waltersmith Petroleum, as part of their commitment to the Awarra Court Area electrification project in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of the state has disappeared from the UBA account, where it was kept. Staff of ISOPADEC are presently being owed about four months arrears of salary and other entitlements. No one, including Hon. Goodluck Opiah and others that claim to be stakeholders has said a word. The same former Deputy Governor, Engr. Gerald Irona that staked his neck to ensure that ISOPADEC was sanitized, with the approval of his boss, the then Governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is the one they want to vilify. While he was Deputy Governor, he supervised the activities of ISOPADEC leadership. Staff were paid as and when due; ISOPADEC funds were used in working for the people. Today, Imo people can see the difference. Who can account for ISOPADEC funds at the moment?”
“By the way, it is insulting to reduce the former Deputy Governor of the state, Engr. Gerald Irona to mere head of a state parastatal in an attempt to score a cheap political goal. Let it be on record that Engr. Gerald Irona was not the head of ISOPADEC between May 29, 2019 and January 14, 2020, while he was Deputy Governor of the state. Those describing him as such are simply being mischievous. While Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha was at the helms of affairs in the state, civil/public servants were never owed. Today, the story is different. Imo people are not fools.”
“NULGE should rediscover itself and concentrate on its primary role of championing the cause, welfare and interest of all workers employed in local government areas, instead of doing hatchet jobs for politicians. Presently, local government employees in Imo are suffering, as they have not been paid for months. The fate of Pensioners at the local government level is hanging in the balance, just like their state counterparts, with street protests a daily occurrence. Many have died of starvation and sicknesses, as a result of lack of funds. Those should be the primary concern of NULGE and not politics.”
Continuing, Duru stressed that “for the avoidance of doubt, former Deputy Governor, Engr. Gerald Irona is ready for probe. He is not afraid of probe. He is ready to give account of his stewardship, anytime, any day.”
On transparency, he maintained that the administration of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha took steps to mainstream transparency in governance in Imo, through the implementation of relevant good governance initiatives.
According to him, “initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership, Open Contracting, among others must not be abandoned by the present administration, in the interest of the state.”
He however called on the APC-led administration in the state to focus on the business of governance, instead of witch-hunting perceived political enemies, adding that “by August 14, 2020, the present administration in the state will be seven months old and Imo people will be able to compare its performance with former Governor Ihedioha’s seven months in office.”