The Judicial Panel of Enquiry set up by Governor Alex Otti of Abia State to probe the administration of his predecessor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Tuesday began sitting in Umuahia.
This is as the panel denied any service of injunction by Ikpeazu.
Former governor Ikpeazu weeks ago purportedly procured an injunction from an Abuja High Court, restraining the State Government from probing him or officials that served under his administration.
Recall that Otti had on June 27, inaugurated the Judicial Panel of Enquiry on the Recovery of Government Properties, Funds and Related Matters.
The Governor had also during his inaugural speech promised to recover every money and property of the state stolen by public office holders.
He mandated the panel to recover every looted property of the state from 2015 to May 2023.
In her speech at the inaugural sitting of the Panel, the Chairman, Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe (rtd), vowed that the panel would in strict adherence to its terms of reference, go after proven looters.
Noting that the job of the panel included “both investigatory and advisory”, Justice Duruoha-Igwe, said the panel would offer appropriate advice to Government after its investigations.
The Chairman also explained that the panel was not set up for witch hunt of anybody, promising to be fair to all.
“It is important to mention that this Panel of Enquiry, though quasi-judicial in nature, is not a court properly so called,” she said, adding that the panel was neither engaging in inquisition nor witch-hunt of anybody.
“Nobody is on trial, rather, we are here to find out what happened to the funds and properties(movable and immovable) of Abia State between May 2015 and May 2023.
”We shall exercise all the powers with regard to obtaining evidence and conduct of the proceedings”.
In a remark, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ikechukwu Uwanna, decried the high level of looting during the immediate-past administration in the state.
He said that Government would punish anyone involved in the looting spree that occured during the period under investigation.
The Attorney General, urged the panel to be thorough and firm in conducting the investigation, insisting that public servants must be held accountable for their actions.
He urged members of the public to volunteer any information that could help the panel recover looted funds in the state.
“The work is for all of us,” he said, adding that the panel should stick to the deadline and complete its assignment so that the government can face other issues.
Speaking also, the Chairman of Umuahia branch of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Mr Jasper Ejiomofor, decried massive looting witnessed in the state in the past.
He commended Otti for the courage to investigate the activities of his predecessor but wished the probe were not limited to 2015.
The NBA boss claimed that some of the looting that put Abia on the reverse gear occurred before the last administration.
According to him, “NBA will be happy and Abia people will be happy if the period for the investigation were extended backwards.