Wike Orders Trial of Amaechi, Cole Over $50m Fraud
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State yesterday ordered the prosecution of the immediate past governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi and the 2023 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Tonye Cole, over their alleged involvement “in the illegal sale of a number of state government’s assets and disappearance of $50 million from the state’s account without proof of where it was deployed.”
Wike gave the order after swearing-in three new commissioners at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The Rivers State Governor had in 2015 set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the activities of the Amaechi administration and the panel thereafter indicted Amaechi, Cole and some others for corruption.
Wike directed the state’s new Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zaccheus Adangor, to commence prosecution of the two men and the others immediately.
However, analysts are of the view that the drive to prosecute Amaechi and Cole is aimed at making the APC governorship candidate unelectable.
“Once Cole is put on trial, and obviously will be convicted, his drive to become Rivers State governor ends,” said the analysts.
Yesterday, Wike told his new Attorney General: “You’re at a critical period where people want to know what the state is going to do with the Judiciary Panel of Inquiry after the Supreme Court judgement on it. Luckily, you came at the right time when we had preferred criminal charges against the former governor (Amaechi), Sahara Energy’s Tonye Cole and the rest of them.
“So, you are coming at the right time to take over the matter and to make sure it is prosecuted diligently. I don’t want to hear excuses. Let the people see what happened to our money. The world will see how $50 million from our account was moved to a company without nothing to show whether there was a business.”
The governor had last month stated that he may file charges against the former Minister of Transportation, following the Supreme Court judgment that dismissed Amaechi’s appeal to frustrate investigation into activities of his administration.
Wike, who spoke during a media parley in Abuja, said the judgement had vindicated the Rivers State Government.
Back then, he promised to meet with leaders of Rivers State to decide on whether to commence criminal prosecution of Amaechi and Cole, over the alleged sales of some valued state assets and diversion of state funds.
The governor said those whose fate would also be decided included the state’s former Commissioner for Transport, George Tolofari.
He explained that on his assumption of office in 2015, the state government set up Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the activities of the Amaechi’s administration.
Wike said: “The judicial panel was mandated to investigate the sale of the 150 Mega Watts gas turbine in Omoku, Afam 360 MW Gas Turbine, Trans-Amadi 136 MW Gas Turbine and the 75 MW Gas turbine in Eleme; Monorail Project; the sale of Olympia hotel; and non-execution of the contract for the construction of Justice Karibi-Whyte hospital after the Amaechi administration paid $39.2m to the contractor.”
Meanwhile, Wike yesterday stated that the attempt by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest the state’s PDP governorship candidate, Siminalaye
Fubara, would not be accepted, saying that the state government would not hesitate to charge the anti-craft agency for contempt.
Wike also directed Adangor to write a strong worded protest letter to the EFCC over the alleged harassment of Fubara.
According to him, the protest letter is predicated on the recent attempted arrest by officers of EFCC on Fubara, who he noted before his emergence as the PDP governorship candidate, had served as the Accountant General of Rivers State.
Wike said the era of impunity and flagrant disobedience to the rule of law is gone and his administration will not accept such action by EFCC.
He explained that before now, the Rivers State government had gotten a subsisting court judgment against the EFCC that it cannot investigate the state finances or its officers.
According to him, there is also another judgment against EFCC by the PDP governorship candidate to enforce his fundamental rights, which has not been set aside.
Analysts are also of the view that the opposition APC in Rivers State are in retaliation, going after Fubara with EFCC, to also make him unelectable.