N1bn statues: SERAP submits petitions against Okorocha
A human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, says it has submitted a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission against the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha.
The group said it wants Okorocha probed for abuse of office on account of his erecting statues of the South African and Liberian presidents, Jacob Zuma and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, respectively, in his state.
SERAP said both statues might have cost N1bn, adding that it was concerned that they might have been funded with public funds.
The group particularly questioned the legality of Okorocha’s involvement in his Rochas Okorocha Foundation, while holding public office as Imo State Governor.
It’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the group’s petition, dated November 10, 2017, seeking Okorocha’s probe, was copied to the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
SERAP wondered whether spending N1bn to erect Zuma and Johnson-Sirleaf’s statues was in the public interest, especially at a time that Imo State owed its teachers and pensioners.
It maintained that Okorocha must be jointly probed by the three anti-graft agencies, “to minimise the risks of bad government by public officials.”
SERAP said, “The spending on statues and apparent misuse of public resources may have violated constitutional provisions and international standards on code of conduct for public officers.
“The initiatives cannot be justified under any circumstances whatsoever, especially at a time when Imo state is unable or unwilling to pay teachers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements.
“Inviting Zuma and Johnson-Sirleaf to attend the opening of his foundation and then ‘honouring’ them with statues suggests abuse of office and apparent conflict of interest situation, as such acts were undertaken by Governor Okorocha in the exercise of his public functions to presumably promote and advance the commercial and other interests of the foundation.
“SERAP believes that rather than serving the common interest of the public, spending over N1bn, possibly of public funds, on Zuma and Johnson-Sirleaf in the context of their participation in the opening of the Rochas Okorocha Foundation would seem to put Governor Okorocha in a conflict of interest situation.
“SERAP notes that the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party prohibit conflict of interests and set ethical standards for public officers. Indeed, both the constitution and the convention require public officers to abstain from all acts that may compromise the exercise of their public office and functions, or are inconsistent with their entrusted positions.”