Uzodinma’s Govt Destroyed Imo Zoo To Sell Land To Cronies, Offered Me N320M Worth Of Land, N40M Cash As Bribe – Ex-Zoo GM

Uzodinma’s Govt Destroyed Imo Zoo To Sell Land To Cronies, Offered Me N320M Worth Of Land, N40M Cash As Bribe – Ex-Zoo GM

Governor Hope Uzodinma’s administration destroyed the Imo State Zoo and Wildlife Park in Owerri to sell the land to his cronies and political associates.

It was gathered that the multi-million-naira facility in the state capital was destroyed by the administration of Uzodinma despite court judgments barring him from taking any action on the facility.

Giving insight into the destruction of the facility, the former General Manager of the Wildlife Conservation Agency – Imo State Zoo and Wildlife Park, Mr Francis Abioye told SaharaReporters in an exclusive interview that his life and those of his family members were being threatened because he refused to accept bribes the governor offered him to support its destruction.

Abioye regretted that federal government agencies that were established to protect the environment such as the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and Federal Ministry of Environment did nothing to prevent the destruction of the zoo and wildlife park.

He insisted that the destruction of the zoo had no approval letters and no budget and planning from any professional ministerial department before it was destroyed with the hope that once they succeeded, the land would be shared with cronies.

He said, “Because of my blunt refusal to compromise the ethics of service to protect the public assets from being plundered by the politicians, Governor Uzodinma sent assassins to take out my life.

“The unlawful persecution meted out to me and my family and the subsequent destruction and looting of public assets under me would not have been possible without the connivance of Imo State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Barde who has been using Imo State’s police machinery to carry out the unlawful desires of the political actors in the state where the governor has made the perfect the enemy of the good.”

Explaining how the governor had promised that his government would complete the upgrade of the facilities to international standards, Abioye said little did he know that his interest was only in the value of the land.

“The Zoological Park Garden is in the city capital and their eyes are on the value of the land; they are not interested in the development of the place,” he said.

The location, he noted made it a perfect attraction for the governor and his political appointees to convert and appropriate to themselves to the detriment of the good people of the state.

Abioye noted that successive governments in the state had invested heavily in the facility to the extent that hundreds of millions of naira had been spent on building modern enclosures for animals so that they would no longer be in cages but regretted that all of them had been destroyed.

“He became more promising that he was going to restore the master plan, he was going to update it to international standard but the only thing he did is that he began to turn his policies, telling me that we should cooperate so that they would destroy the place and convert it to private estates for politicians and their political allies.

“Because if he sells the land, the price is over N30 billion, that is their interest and they were not thinking of the long-term value of the company. You know that place is a sensitive ecosystem that serves as watersheds which wall off gully erosion that threatens the whole of the metropolis. The place serves as a carbon sink that absorbs all the pollution – pollution is always concentrated in the city’s capital.

“So they are not looking at the climate change mitigation, the research and education purposes? That place is the only conservation area where the youths and children unborn in Imo State come for their ecotourism education. That is also the place where students we are training in the high institution and non-professionals in the state come and do their industrial attachment and some of them will be employed there. Now ending that place is ending the story of conservation in Imo State.”

“These are the things I told them as a professional,” Abioye explained, adding that the government insisted on the destruction. “They offered me a very big bribe which I rejected and so, it was because I rejected the bribe – this thing was going on for almost one and half years.”

When asked to name the amount of money he was offered as a bribe, he said, “They offered me four plots of land that will be my cut and a plot of land there is N80 million.

“Then they offered me N40 million cash. So, the rejection of all those inducements frustrated them and my refusal to cooperate with the committee. The governor in his office now said I should be part of the committee to give the justification for the destruction of that place and converting it into housing estates.

“Since I spoke with him (Governor) and I convinced him and he didn’t want to agree, so I refused to cooperate with the committee. When I couldn’t cooperate with the committee, he asked me to proceed on leave and it is on another meeting now.

“With his political appointees, I told him, ‘Your Excellence, if you grant me leave like this, it will mean there is punitive measure but if you feel that I have committed any offence, set up a panel, give them the terms of reference and if they find me guilty, I am going to pay back to the state.

“I am going to apologize openly and I am going to resign. He told me he was not ready for all those things; he wanted me to just go on leave and that if I didn’t go on leave it would be a crime, but I said no. He said I should just go on leave and that that was what he wanted. He said even if I spent two years on leave, he would be paying my salary.”

“Do you know for over one year now I have been on indefinite leave, he has been paying my salary but he has destroyed the whole place such that there is nothing that I will meet again if I resume,” he lamented. “That is the level of impunity and he has destroyed the whole of that place.”

“You may have heard about the massive evacuation of the animals in that place, that was the process of the destruction. Then, apart from the animals in the cage, there are also animals in the institute conservation that are naturally in the endemic area of massive forest – they destroyed the forest and allowed the animals to be hunted, and most of the animals escaped into farms of the people causing a conservative problem now.

“Before the government embarked on this political misadventure the Federal High Court gave judgment restraining the government from the facility. He took the case to the Appeal Court and the appellate court upheld the lower court decision. Do you know that when the Appeal Court delivered its judgment; it was a week before the election, he entered there with bulldozers and started destroying the place?

“Thereafter, he took the matter to the Supreme Court and the apex court has not started sitting on the matter; he has started taking action. Have you seen the scenario now? There were things I analysed on the radio and he was not comfortable because I was telling the people what was happening. That was not a government activity, that was a fraudulent activity by some politicians that was going on at the facility. Because government activity comes with approval in writing and it comes with budget.

“Everything they are doing in that place has no budget and did not emanate from the professional ministerial department. It just emanated from cabals and the politicians have no right to destroy public assets of that type of magnitude.

“That is the only surviving conservation heritage in the entire South-East Nigeria. So they have destroyed the place, intending to share the land among themselves. So, coming to expose them will not be acceptable to them. It was for that reason they clamped down on Imo-based journalist, Nonso Nkwa after they succeeded in intimidating all other journalists.”

Linking the case to the abduction of his wife from a church in 2022, Abioye said, “When they came to assassinate me, I was not there. The gunmen were meant to kill me but God in his wisdom took me away from the state.

“After hunting for me for three weeks and they couldn’t get me, they were now instructed to kidnap my wife and there’s no way they can get her other than in church. So that was why they went to the church.”

He alleged that even though the kidnappers confessed, the state police commissioner released them without filing any charges in court against them.

He said, “So they arrested most of these boys and the governor mounted pressure on the police to release those kidnappers and the police released them without court trial so that they would not expose who sent them. That is what we are telling the citizens of Nigeria so that they can understand the impunity and impudence that is happening in Imo State.”

He accused the police commissioner of aiding criminal activities in the state.

He said, “You know if a politician is corrupt and the security operatives are not compromising it will be minimal but Imo State now has turned to a killing zone. One of the most dangerous things to do in Imo State now as a public servant is for you to be honest.

“Once you are honest, you will become the enemy of the state and they will just point at you. The next thing you will hear is that unknown gunmen have come to kill the person or kidnapped the person. So, the level of insecurity and oppression, and political assassination that is going on in Imo State is orchestrated because of the compromise of the current police commissioner. I’m accusing him because he released the suspects who attempted to assassinate me and kidnapped my wife; they have confessed.

“He released them without a court trial. When I called him, he asked – I even have those things on record – who told me that he had released them. He told me to meet the IPO. So that is the type of corrupt person we have there and that is what made Imo State now a killing field. If you are following the trend of governmentalization of criminality.”

“They have destroyed all the animal enclosures that hundreds of millions of naira were spent to build,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, efforts made by Journalists to get the reaction of the state government on the allegations were unsuccessful as the Secretary to the State Government Mr Cosmas Iwu, did not answer his calls.

Also, the information commissioner, Declan Emelumba did not answer his calls or reply to a text message sent to him.

Source: #SaharaReporters

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