By Usman Shuaibu
The Imo Professionals Group, an association of professionals from different sectors from Imo State, has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate if there is any business link between Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State and Chika Augustine Odionyenma, a Nigerian who was recently indicted for alleged fraud in the United Stated of American by FBI.
In a statement by Barrister Julius Chinedu and Dr. Amaka Nwosu, the President and the Director, Media Relations of the group respectively, the professionals said they are seriously concerned because in the last few days, several media stories — over possible political deals between the Imo State Governor and Mr. Odionyenma have dominated the media, especially the social media.
Mr. Odionyenma, who is popularly known by his Igbo pseudo name as ‘’Nwakanwa’’ or ‘’Tony Chika’’, is among the 78 Nigerians whose names were released on August 23, 2019 for their alleged involvement in cyber fraud in the USA.
The group added, ‘’We have seen picture pictures, in which our governor posed with the FBI-indicted Nigerian and the letter he personally signed — appointing the alleged fraudster to serve as a member of the Sub-Committee on Logistics of his May 29 Inauguration Planning and Handover Committee, communicate thousands of words.
‘’And the questions we are asking are: Is it true that Mr. Odionyenma was one of the multi-millionaires who bankrolled Governor Ihedioha’s governorship campaign between 2018 and 2019, as reported by the media?
‘’Is it correct that the FBI’s indicted businessman was one of the highest donors to Governor Ihedioha’s campaign purse within the above mentioned period? Is it also true that Mr. Odionyenma’s rapport with Governor Ihedioha predates the 2019 general election period?’’
The professionals further stated that as people in support of the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, they are seriously concerned about the media reports, linking Governor Ihedioha to a widely reported cyber fraudster.
The group said that its members are however, consoled by the fact that the anti-graft agency, EFCC, had commenced investigation into the matter, saying ‘’those who used the proceeds of financial crimes for elections lack the legitimacy to exercise authorities in our nation.’’
Following the indictment of 77 Nigerians by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States, EFCC recently placed all its offices in the country on red alert in a bid to track down collaborators of the internet scam in Nigeria.
The anti-graft agency had said weekend that it had commenced investigations into the matter and would storm hideouts of cyber criminals in the country.
US authorities while filling court papers on the matter, announced an indictment charging 80 people, mostly Nigerians, with stealing at least $46 million through various schemes that targeted businesses, the elderly and anyone susceptible to a romance scam.
The Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, had stated weekend that the agency collaborated with the FBI on two operations, notably “operation wire-wire” in 2018 and “operation rewire” which is ongoing and aimed at containing cybercrime in Nigeria and other countries, notably Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada and the US.
“We walked with FBI in Lagos. We carried out operation wire wire and the FBI mentioned in their press statement that we are one of the agencies working with them and it was successful”, he said.
Also speaking during a visit to the EFCC recently, the Chairman of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had said the arrested Nigerians remained innocent until proven guilty.
“We stressed that these Nigerians are not guilty. They are innocent until proven guilty. It is a court indictment and they will go on trial. We are providing consular services for them and then we really need to affirm that they are all Nigerians.
“It is a very embarrassing situation to have 80 people and 77 are allegedly Nigerians. When things like this happen, they dent the image of the country.
“However, that is not who we are as a people. A few people who committed a crime should not tarnish the image of a country of 200 million people we keep emphasising that we are not going to accept the stereotype but we need to see that we are doing something about cybercrime’’, she had stated.