Erstwhile governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion has disputed allegations that he looted the state dry during his eight year tenure in office and had to cut a deal with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), to return huge sums of money he illegally acquired.
According to him, the allegation are false because after an extensive probe by the anti-graft agency into all his accounts, nothing incriminating was found to warrant the return of the billions he was alleged to have looted.
He said, “I did not return any money. They found N3.2 million in my account. Let me explain that aspect. When I left office in 2007, you know Obasanjo was using EFCC to harass people. He said all governors were thieves but the greater allocations of government goes to the centre. All the 36 states were given about 48 percent while he took about 52 percent. So, all his ministers were not thieves and himself was not a thief but every other person was a thief”.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja at the weekend, Igbinedion stressed that he had nothing to worry over the EFCC investigation because they are just doing their job.
“If they challenge you, you answer their question. I have nothing to fear. I was outside the country when they said I was declared wanted. I came back. If I had any fear, I would have been running, but I had the confidence that there was nothing to fear,” he said.
The former governor disclosed that Edo was “so broke” at the time he had to run to his father, Sir Gabriel Igbinedion and Chief Tony Anenih to borrow money from them to enable him pay salaries and keep government afloat.
“For the first time, two people that I owe a lot of gratitude to in Edo State that made my tenure successful are my father and Chief Tony Anenih”, he said, adding that “In the darkest of days when the state was broke and could not pay salaries, I would run to these two people and they would borrow me money. It was documented and we have it there. When the banks could not trust us, I went to them. My father just felt I have got to do what I have to do. There were days the pensioners would cry to him or block the road to government house. We had to run to them just to keep the government running. We were owing backlogs of salaries when we came in and the pensioners were looking like skeletons”.
The former governor also recounted his battles with the anti-corruption czar, Nuhu Ribadu, saying after his tenure ended in 2007, he went to the then EFCC boss to inform him of his decision to travel abroad.
“I gave him my number. I asked him if it was okay for me to go and he said yes. So, I went with my wife. I needed to wine after leaving office. On that day, I arrived Nigeria, the next day I went to EFCC by myself, not that I was arrested. They said I was to appear in Lagos. After all the arguments, I told them they were wasting my time. I asked them what they needed me to do so I could be freed and they said we should find a win-win situation for all sides.
“They said our lawyers should sit down, draft something and save our faces. Considering that I knew where I was going, I needed to put all these behind me and face my business. They searched all my accounts and found nothing. After a while, they went to the Code of Conduct Tribunal and said I refused to disclose the amount in my account of N3.2 million. That was what I was charged for and asked to forfeit the money. They dropped all the charges and I do not know where they got these billions they are talking about”, he said.