Posted by By Anayo Okoli on
AWKA — EMBATTLED Gov. Chris Ngige of Anambra State alleged, weekend, that he indeed signed, although under duress, a cheque of N3 billion....
AWKA — EMBATTLED Gov. Chris Ngige of Anambra State alleged, weekend, that he indeed signed, although under duress, a cheque of N3 billion for his erstwhile political godfather, Chief Chris Uba, and another letter authorising Uba’s company to be paid N870 million over a period of 87 months in respect of contracts he is executing for government.
Gov. Ngige who recounted his ordeal in the hands of Chief Uba and a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Chuma Nzeribe, since his inauguration last May, said the duo held him hostage on several occasions, threatening his life with a view to signing the cheque and the letter. Besides, he said the duo had practically hijacked the running of the affairs of the state. At some point, he said, they retired 52 civil servants and redeployed permanent secretaries without his knowledge.
He said the moves to remove him even commenced before the election when he was asked (by the duo) to step aside as the party’s candidate so that Uba would pick another candidate whose loyalty was not in doubt. He said even after he was declared winner by INEC, Uba also asked him to resign.
"They said I must show loyalty or I must resign as governor-elect. They gave me a paper to sign and I threw it at them. Chuma (Nzeribe) said he would kill me, that he traded-off his brother, Mbadinuju, much less myself (Ngige). They put me in a toilet and forced me to read and sign the paper.
"I kept quiet in the interest of peace because I knew that if I did something, I would rock the boat of Anambra State. They did not stop at that, they came next time and asked me that I should give them N3 billion. They said I would not leave the room until I signed a cheque, but I refused to sign the cheque because I didn’t have such money and they said, if you can’t sign, give us cheque of N1.5 billion in two places.
"Just before the inauguration, Uba came to my hotel room with Odunze (Okey). They said that if I didn’t bring the money I would not be alive to be sworn-in, that I had to assure them of my loyalty. I told them I didn’t have the money. It was like armed robbers have come and held me hostage. I brought out my cheque, and wrote N1.5 billion in two places, making N3 billion. I asked if I should pay them with Anambra State money. They said that I should not put date and after about six to eight months give them the go ahead to cash.
"They looked at it, Uba took it from me. I did it because I wanted to be alive. I got sworn-in, they came again that I had to pay N870 million for the construction work he (Uba) was doing. That Mbadinuju did not pay him some months. That the N3 billion was for election, that the other one was gratitude money. They arranged with my Accountant-General that I had signed, that they be paid N10 million for 87 months.
"I objected that I would not sign the papers. He said we see, you are a very stubborn man but we will know who is more stubborn. He refused all my entreaties, it was N870 million or nothing. The pressure became too much, and I said I would sign on the condition that work would resume at the site. But the whole thing smacks of blackmail and intimidation. I did not sign any agreement, oral or written. I did not choose my secretary to government, but he brought this man and I did not object. My permanent secretary, Government House, Udedibia was redeployed without permission (ordered his return immediately), without my approval. He also sacked 52 other workers who he claimed were Mbadinuju’s spies. Next, local government chairmen were announced on the radio, I, as the governor, learnt of it over the radio.
"When I inquired, they (the LG chairmen) said they paid money ranging between N5 million and N7 million (allegedly) to Nzeribe who said he was collecting for Uba. When I came in as governor, I stopped some cheques in favour of some companies, including Nzeribe’s N48 million which he said was a parting gift from Mbadinuju."
On his deputy, Dr. Okey Ude, Governor Ngige accused him of conspiracy but said he would still work with him unless if constitutionally removed.
"One thing is clear, he participated actively in the coup. From the on-set he refused to move into his office and moved into the governor’s office premises. He has been monitoring all my movements and activities. He never took over from the former deputy, Chinedu Emeka. They have already made up their minds to remove me," he said.
Ngige also quarreled with Chief Bode George, the leader of the PDP team, for describing the incident as "a flash in the pan" and wondered why a former governor could belittle such an incident.