Against the backdrop of the recent local media report that Mr. Victor Anueyiagu, the Imo State Coordinator of Nigeria Erosion Management Project (NEWMAP), a World bank collaborative project was sacked by Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, Dr Ikechukwu Njoku said it was his Ministry that suspended him based on complaints and alleged financial misappropriations.
Njoku who is the State Commissioner for Environment stated this in a press release issued by the Ministry and endorsed by his SA Media and Public Affairs, Mr Bright Eluagu dated 9th September 2020 and made available to news men in Owerri while describing the publication by the local tabloid as falsehood.
According to him “in the publication of the News Break Newspapers of Friday, 28th August edition, we read with dismay the story where it alleged that Governor Hope Uzodimma suspended the Imo State Project Coordinator of Nigeria Erosion Management Project, NEWMAP, one Mr Victor Anueyiagu, adding that the alleged suspension of Victor halted the on-going world bank assisted projects in the state, especially in tackling erosion menace in the state.
It is very unfortunate that Newsbreak Newspaper failed to uphold the ethics of professionalism by either speaking to the SA on Media and Public Affairs to the Commissioner for Environment or the Commissioner for Environment himself in order to get the true picture of what actually led to the suspension of the Mr Victor”.
While we believe that objectivity must be the watchword of every media practitioner especially, when it concerns sensitive issue such as the one in discourse, it is necessary for us to make the following clarifications on why Mr Victor Anueyiagu was suspended.
For the purpose of emphasis, Mr Victor Anueyiagu was not sacked or suspended by Governor Hope Uzodimma but rather was suspended by the Imo State Commissioner for Environment, based on weighty allegation of misappropriation of funds under his watch as Imo State Project Coordinator of NEWMAP ” he pointed out.
The Commissioner further said that it is a known fact that Mr Victor had earlier faced suspension during the administration of former Governor Rochas Okorocha for alleged embezzlement and diversion of funds meant for the execution of various NEWMAP projects in the state.
Njoku also informed that though he was later recalled by the then government after he allegedly pledged to turn a new leaf. But rather than turning a new leaf, he accused him of continuation in his usual style of doing business.
He passionately observed that the investigations by security agencies to whom the petition was written is still ongoing and that the security agencies after their first phase of investigation, advised that he the accused should be suspended pending the completion of the investigation.
According to him “it has also been observed that some consultants working with the Project Coordinator have been misinforming the public for their selfish interest”.
He pointed out that Mr Victor Anueyiagu has been the State Project Coordinator for about seven years now with no single World Bank Project completed for commissioning or any nearing completion lamenting that other states involved in the same World Bank Project at same time with Imo State, have commissioned several number of projects.
Njoku stated that some states of the Federation have equally changed their State Project Coordinators severally and achieved results and went further to asked “What then is the problem if Victor Anuejiagu is suspended?. Is he, the only Engineer that can ever manage NEWMAP? Would NEWMAP not exist if Mr Victor leaves the Project for greener pastures?” .
The Commissioner further revealed that reports indicate that Mr Victor Anueyiagu is a staff of the Ministry of Environment, same Ministry that controls and monitors the activities of NEWMAP, an indication that the Ministry of Environment can at any time discipline him through proper and normal civil service rules including recalling him to the Ministry.
Njoku however reiterated that the Ministry served him a query which he replied informing that his reply was found unsatisfactory and based on advise from the security agencies, he was suspended and directed to handover to the most senior officer in that office.
He observed that from the investigations, he did not see how the Governor was involved in the query issue as his suspension complied with the civil service procedure while advising interested parties on the need to allow those investigating the allegation to complete their job.
The Commissioner insisted that he has strong believe that the shared prosperity government of Senator Uzodimma has come to change the narrative of governance, as government and governance are no longer business as usual.
Arguing that the NEWMAP project hinges heavily on the Project Engineer, not on the Project Coordinator who is there, for administrative purpose noting that in most states, the Project Coordinators are not engineers but rather they come from different career backgrounds.
He also said that it is a factual truth that NEWMAP funds are loans from World- Bank, used to facilitate some projects in the state, which will be repaid in due course, hence, the state government could not have akimbo its hands and watch a loan it will definitely repay be allegedly squandered or embezzled without questioning same.
Lamenting that from available findings, it was gathered that in the last seven years, despite billions of Naira that came through NEWMAP, no single project was executed in the state, a situation that placed Imo State and its environ, the worst hit in erosion and other threats to environmental survival.
He further appealed to all those faning embers of discord or trying to preempt the outcome of the investigation to channel their efforts into a more meaningful venture, as no amount of false publication or sponsored propaganda by agents of retrogression, will deter or halt the on-going investigation, which is already yielding fruit.