Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, said it would resist any attempt to discredit Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu.
President-General of the group, Chief Nnia Nwodo, in a statement on Thursday, in Enugu, said it was preposterous for the Federal Government to be carrying out unwarranted inquisition into Ekweremadu’s life.
The group was reacting to ex parte application filed by the Federal Government seeking the forfeiture of 22 “undeclared” houses in Nigeria and abroad discovered to be owned by the Deputy Senate President.
Sahara Reporters had in an exclusive report, blew the lid on the ownership of the buildings by Ekweremadu.
The Okoi-Obon-Obla-led presidential panel had on March 21, 2018, filed an ex parte motion seeking an order of interim forfeiture of the 22 houses pending the conclusion of the investigation of the Deputy Senate President’s failure to declare the properties as part of his assets.
The panel, through its lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), had, in the ex parte motion, stated that “preliminary investigation by the applicant revealed that a prima facie case of a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers has been made out against the respondent (Ekweremadu).”
The panel said Ekweremadu acquired the houses between 2007 and 2015, but failed to declare in June 2007 and June 2015, including nine in Abuja, two in London, the United Kingdom, eight in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate and three in Florida, the United States.
Sahara Reporters had also in a report, revealed how the Deputy Senate President hurriedly sold off two of the houses in the UK to avoid them being seized by the Nigerian government.
But while defending him, Ohaneze said the allegation that Ekweremadu, the highest-ranking Igbo politician in the country, embezzled public funds without any prima facie case was inappropriate.
Nwodo stated that the idea of asking the Senator to defend himself instead of his accusers showing how he fraudulently enriched himself, amounted to turning the law upside down.
He observed that Ekweremadu was a revered Igbo son and had attracted a lot of development to his area without any previous accusation of embezzlement.
“Sen. Ekweremadu is a revered Igbo son whose public image is very high and who has attracted a lot of development to his area; he has never occupied any public office where he was accused of embezzlement.”
The president-general queried the system of investigation where one was tried for simply belonging to a political party “and is exonerated of an offense he committed for belonging to a political party or being in government’’.
He cited examples of former and serving military officers who had been let off the hook either through a plea bargain or for just changing from one political party to another.
He also said that a former governor of Enugu State whose property was under investigation was now dining with the Head of State after dumping his former party for the ruling party.
Nwodo warned that the apex Igbo group would no longer fold its arms while Igbo sons were being systematically singled out for persecution in a country they had contributed so much to build.
He observed that the cautionary statement by Ekweremadu had been and was still being echoed by many prominent Nigerians and wondered why his case would be different.
He said that it was such selective justice and marginalization of Ndigbo that fuelled agitations by their young ones for self-determination, adding that restructuring was a first step toward assuaging the situation.