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Abuse of Office: Chijioke Edeoga in Govt Magazine Ownership Privatization Scandal

By Mainstream Investigative Journalism

Enugu State Labour Party (LP) factional governorship candidate, Mr. Chijioke Edeoga is embroiled in corruption scandal running into N2BN over extortion of local government chairmen and his use of government-owned news magazine to raise a media team to oil his governorship project, only to convert the ownership to himself, Magnus Ugwueze reports…

Appointment as Enugu State Commissioner

A major corruption scandal is brewing in Enugu State over the alleged conversion of a government-owned monthly news magazine to private ownership by the Labour Party governorship candidate in the state, Mr Chijioke Edeoga.

Mr Edeoga who was the Enugu State Commissioner for Local Government between 2015 and 2019 was later appointed as Commissioner for Environment from 2019 until his resignation in March this year to contest for the PDP governorship ticket for the 2023 general elections.

It is alleged that Mr Edeoga, a veteran journalist who was the Chairman of the House Committee on Information when he represented the Enugu East/Isi Uzo Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003, had for years used the magazine as a conduit pipe to siphon and stash away humongous state resources ahead of his governorship ambition. However, the present administration under Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi appeared unaware of the elaborate financial sleaze which Edeoga and his hirelings perpetrated by chicanery.

A few months after Edeoga resigned his position as Commissioner for Environment to vie for the PDP governorship ticket, only to defect to the Labour Party following his defeat, the miasma of corruption in the ministry then under his watch is unravelling. It is alleged that Edeoga grossly abused his office and corruptly enriched himself and his cronies by floating a magazine titled Enugu LGAs’ News Magazine, a monthly publication on governance initiatives in the 17 local government areas of the state.

State Magazine Established in 2015

It was gathered from insiders in the Ministry of Local Government that upon his appointment as the Honourable Commissioner in 2015, Mr. Edeoga conceived the idea of establishing the magazine supposedly as part of his innovative thinking in the ministry, aimed at promoting accountability in the councils while serving as an official medium for showcasing their governance strides. The magazine was therefore conceived from the beginning as an official publication of the ministry.

Accordingly, it was State-owned and State-financed, with the seventeen (17) local governments releasing compulsory monthly subventions of N1.5 Million each supposedly to the Ministry of Local Government headed by Edeoga to keep the magazine afloat. It was however revealed that the subventions had no statutory backing and were as a result delivered in cash, often in Ghana-must-go bags.
Mr Edeoga was said to have manipulatively advertised his much touted maternal relationship with the governor to subtly intimidate the council chairmen and enforce their compliance. Both Edeoga and the governor’s mothers were cousins who hailed from the same kindred in Obollo Eke in Udenu Local Government Area of the State, it was gathered.

The local governments had no choice than grudgingly part with millions of naira from their coffers since Edeoga claimed to be acting at the behest and interest of the Ugwuanyi administration. The brazen extortion allegedly ran into more than N2 Billion in his 48 months as the Honourable Commissioner for Local Government and another 34 or so months as the Commissioner for Environment.

Further investigations revealed that ‘Enugu LGAs’ News Magazine’ was presented to subscribers and the reading members of the public as State-owned. On its official Facebook page, Enugu LGAs’ News, Twitter handle @Enugulganews and website,, the magazine is boldly advertised, even at the time of filing this report on Wednesday (November 7, 2022), as a “State Magazine, established in 2015 to encourage robust citizen participation in the governance process, to show proper accountability and transparency”.

Secret Conversion to Private Ownership

Following his redeployment as the Honourable Commissioner for Environment in 2019, Edeoga did the unthinkable when he secretly transferred the ownership of the magazine from the state government to an existing company. This was to maintain his tight grip on the magazine and its editorial policies, while sustaining his swindling of the government and raking in of profits.

The change in ownership was however discovered by officials of the Ministry of Local Government to their dismay and disbelief after Edeoga vacated the office of Honourable Commissioner for Local Government without disclosing or relinquishing the assets and personnel of the magazine in his handover notes to the Permanent Secretary in the ministry who eventually handed over to his successor, Chief Peter Okonkwo. Unbeknown to them, the ownership of the magazine had been usurped by a private limited liability company, Rivers and Time Communication Limited.

As an official of the information department of the ministry who pleaded for anonymity because he was not permitted to speak on the matter told our reporter, “everything about the magazine disappeared once Edeoga left the ministry, only for the magazine to reappear later as privately owned.” It soon emerged that Edeoga, who is a lawyer, had tied all the legal loose ends to seal and mask his personal ownership of the magazine, and all entreaties from Okonkwo were rebuffed by him.

Family Business

Mainstream Investigations conducted a search at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) where it was established that Rivers and Time Communication Limited has the registration certificate number 324176. Determined to lift the veil on the true owners of the company, Mainstream Investigations’ legal department applied for further search, relying on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The result showed unambiguously that Rivers and Time Communication Limited was incorporated on November 7, 1997, with Chijioke Edeoga and his younger brother, Eugene Edeoga, as the two Directors, with share capitals of 500,000 each. Tellingly, Chijioke Edeoga was at that time of the incorporation the Executive Chairman of Isi Uzo Local Government Area.
The certified true copy of the incorporation instruments from the CAC showed the registered address of the company as No. 17A Onoh Crescent, GRA, Enugu. However, the registered office address and operational headquarters of the magazine as printed on the various editions since the takeover is No. 21, Prof Ofili Ugwudioha Street, off Ibusa Road, Independence Layout, Enugu. Enquires from the magazine’s official phone number, 08033112748, confirmed that the property, a double-wings opulent mansion, belongs to Edeoga. Further findings at the Ministry of Lands and Housing revealed that No. 17A Onoh Crescent, GRA, Enugu was acquired by Edeoga in August 1997 while he was the Executive Chairman of Isi Uzo LGA. Interestingly, No. 21, Prof Ofili Ugwudioha Street, off Ibusa Road, Independence Layout, Enugu was also acquired in 2018 while he was the Commissioner for Local Government, raising suspicions that the latter property is one of the proceeds of the magazine heist.

Promotion of political ambition

Our reporter examined copies of the magazine indicating that Commissioner Edeoga used the contents to ingratiate himself to the governor while pandering to strategic political interests and party stalwarts in the State, all to secure their support for the governorship race. Some of the lead stories emblazoned on the front page read – “Why is this man (Ugwuanyi) so popular?” (May 2019), “Governor Ugwuanyi Behind our Success Stories – GM, Enugu Housing Corporation” (October 2019), “Ugwuanyi: Governor of the Year 2019” (January 2020), “Celebrating Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi @ 56” (March 2020), “Governor Ugwuanyi Wears Humility Like a Robe – Jim Nwobodo” (September 2020), etc. At the same time, he was allegedly amassing funds ahead of the primary election of the ruling party in the State.

A former local government chairman who volunteered information on the condition of anonymity told this investigative tabloid: “For years, Edeoga carefully cultivated the image of the closest Commissioner to the governor. His aides peddled similar stories of his intimacy with the governor and even some fellow Commissioners sucked up to him. He is a practiced power monger, schemer and manipulator. He is also very vindictive and ruthless. Everyone knew him as the governor’s cousin and right hand man; a kind of governor-in-waiting. He exploited his reputed closeness to the governor to intimidate and blackmail us to do his bidding. It was always fund this or that. If Edeoga told you that the governor directed that this or that must be done and done urgently, it was naturally accepted as true. It was only after his woeful defeat in the governorship primary that we all realized we were all swindled. It was a pure 419!”, he lamented.

Conflict of Interest and Reckless Corruption

More findings showed that Mr. Edeoga, while serving as the Commissioner for Local Government, superintended over the management, running and production of the magazine as private a business but under the guise of a government-owned magazine. This was in deviance to enabling laws, more so, the Code of Conduct for public servants. Going through the management board, editorial and reportorial staff of Enugu LGAs’ News Magazine as regularly published on its masthead, Mr Edeoga is listed as the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the board, meaning that instructions and communication directly flowed from him. Observers described this as a brazen act of impunity and throwing caution to the wind.

Findings confirmed that the old patterns and sources of funding remained largely the same after his redeployment, as the new Commissioner for Environment allegedly employed a combination of arm-twisting, deception, manipulation, intimidation and blackmail to sustain the illegal monthly subventions from the local governments. In addition, Mr. Edeoga introduced the monthly special focus on each of the local governments, while fellow Commissioners, Council Chairmen, Chief Executives of government parastatals, targeted government contractors and friends of the government were hoodwinked to place all manner of adverts and special features in the magazine, raking in huge profits.

The usually 36 to 40 page publication, it was learnt, had 1,500 copies printed per edition, with 50 copies distributed to each of the 17 council areas, while the rest were circulated to the ministries, departments and agencies of the state. Some copies were also strategically kept at the VIP Lounge of the Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu.

By this action, Edeoga had not only put himself in an untenable position where his personal interest conflicted with his public duties and responsibilities, he was also engaged in large scale malfeasance. Indeed, pressurizing and arm-twisting local governments and individuals for subscription in the name of the government while the monies were going into private pockets was a criminal act and an act of reckless corruption, a senior lawyer, Osita Eze, Esq, told Mainstream Investigations. “The Nigerian Constitution is unambiguous when it provides that public officers shall not engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade except farming”, he stressed.

To establish the scope of rip-off involved, Mainstream Investigations visited the printing house at Obiagu Road in Enugu where Enugu LGAs’ News was printed, presenting a copy of the magazine as the sample of work for print. It was learnt from the manager that 1,500 copies of the magazine were usually printed at the cost of between N1.8 and N1.9 Million per edition, though it would cost more now, given the spiraling costs of imported materials. Further checks revealed that with total production cost of less than N2 Million per edition, Edeoga and his cohorts must have pocked more than a conservative N23 Million per edition, excluding the pages regularly sold for adverts and special features. Thus he must have creamed off nearly N2 Billion over the 48 months he held sway at the Ministry of Local Government and another 34?months at the Ministry of Environment.

Assembling Media Team for Governorship Ambition

Most disturbing to many observers is the shocking discovery that under the guise of recruiting an editorial and reportorial crew to staff the Enugu LGAs’ News Magazine, Mr. Edeoga surreptitiously assembled a crack team of fellow veteran media professionals, spin doctors, propagandists, essayists, ghostwriters, hatchet men and raucous social media foot soldiers to drive his governorship campaign. As it has turned out, all the writers recruited by Edeoga into the editorial board are the same media goons now on rampage against his perceived political opponents. Their names can be found in the many publications of the magazine. They include Dr. Don Eze (the Managing Editor), Malachie Ochie, Emma Ikwueze, Chris Chime, Egbuna Akpa, Reuben Onyishi, Ifeanyi Ogenyi, Francis Edeh, Shepherd Iyioku, and so on. Many of them, including the famous Dr. Reuben Onyishi, popularly known as “the pen magician”, were reportedly misinformed into joining the team, employing the subterfuge that Edeoga was the governor’s anointed successor, a story they had no reason to doubt, given the governor’s constant open display of fondness for him.

However, most members of the editorial board were brought together to act primarily as attack dogs since 2019 when Mr. Edeoga covertly launched his bid for the governorship seat ahead of 2023 in the belief that Governor Ugwuanyi would succumb to the agitations orchestrated by some political elites from the Nsukka cultural zone to prolong their occupancy of the Lion Building by another eight years via Edeoga, who though from Isi Uzo Local Government Area in the Enugu East Senatorial Zone to which the governorship slot was zoned by the PDP, is also a son-in-law and hanger-on of the Nwodo political family of Ukehe in Igboetiti Local Government Area in the Nsukka zone, who are his in-laws.

Despite warnings by many well-meaning Nsukka seasoned politicians that such a move could backfire, Edeoga and his editorial crew plunged ahead, believing that with the Nsukka populace brainwashed with inciting falsehoods and disinformation, the governor would be blackmailed and stampeded to do their bidding.

Smear Campaign against Opponents

Another of their strategy was to malign and smear the names and reputations of top contenders in the governorship race, while burnishing the image of Mr Edeoga as untainted, unblemished, immaculate and sparkling clean. In fact, many keen observers of the gubernatorial race told our reporter that over 90% of the smear campaigns on social media emanated from the Edeoga camp, with Edeoga himself, or his various aliases, identified as the principal hit man that took no prisoners.

In his incisive and shockingly detailed analysis of the governorship race which trended on social media a few days before the May 25, 2022 PDP governorship primary, the public affairs analyst, Godwin Udeh highlighted the role of Edeoga’s media handlers in the most caustic, toxic, virulent and malevolent attacks on political leaders perceived as impediments to their principal’s ambition.

To quote Udeh at length, he wrote: “Edeoga has pursued his campaign with surprising divisiveness, brutality, belligerence and acerbity quite at odds with the popular reputation of Governor Ugwuanyi as a warm, gracious and compassionate leader, a bridge builder and pacifist. His media operatives portray him as the only saint amongst the motley crowd of aspirants numbering about 20, while demonizing and savaging others as corrupt and unworthy, either for allegedly being immersed in all kinds of debauchery or perennial guests of anti-graft agencies. None of the frontrunners has been spared calumnious diatribes and tags of corruption from the Edeoga camp, including the respected former minister, Prof. Barth Nnaji, former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Prof Ike Ekweremadu, Edeoga’s own kinsman who is a former Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, Prof. Hillary Odo-Edeoga, aviation mogul, Chief Evarest Nnaji, retired federal Permanent Secretary, Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa, oil magnate, Barr. Peter Mbah; and for reportedly backing Mbah, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. While other aspirants are conducting clean campaigns devoid of invectives, Edeoga and his hatchet men are more adept at bullying, pillorying and seeking to hound rivals out of the race”.

Lending credence to the above revelations only last week was Engr. Chinedu Adonu, a former social media operative of Edeoga, who in a piece that went viral last week, stated inter-alia:
“Chijioke would sponsor dirty calumniations against every perceived opponent in the race. He attacked Peter Mbah, Chinyeaka Oha, Barth Nnaji, Odengene, Ifeanyi Ossai, Vita Abba, members of Odinma Nsukka and even his own townsman, Prof Hilary Edeoga. He hijacked a media team raised for the governor and used it to do his hatchet job. He intimidated members of the team with the false impression that he would be the next governor of the state and anyone who dared him would be dealt with. Edeoga did not pay them a dime. He was alleged to have collected N2 million naira every month from the governor for the team but paid them anything that pleased him. Some months, he would pocket the money and tell them that the governor did not pay anything for the month. He had continued with such braggadocio, childish arrogance and impunity all through the time until 25th May, 2022 when he was trounced, exposed and disgraced at the Enugu State PDP governorship primary election held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Ogui Road, Enugu, where he scored paltry 9 votes.”

How Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, a seasoned high ranking politician, allowed his campaign to be hijacked by a ragtag of politically naive and irascible media operators who have derailed his campaign remains a puzzle to keen political watchers. A former chairman of Nsukka local government area who pleaded not to be named in this report said that for Edeoga to succeed in his chosen path of destructive campaign steeped in clannishness and ethnic irredentism is to send the wrong message that all that is required to win the governorship race is to assemble and unleash media attack dogs on better qualified candidates instead of building political bridges round the state and marketing one’s candidacy to the electorate.

Breach of Public Trust

Meanwhile, our investigative team put calls across to legal practitioners in the state on the position of the law regarding the funding of the magazine by the councils, with many of them expressing shock at the flagrant abuse of power perpetrated by Edeoga, pointing out that he is himself a lawyer and should know better.

Quoting Auchter, Katz and Graham of the US Department of Justice on what abuse of power is, one of the legal practitioners stated that abuse of power is the misuse of a position of power to take unjust advantage of individuals, organizations, or governments. Abuse of power by public officers under which Edeoga’s commissionership falls is described as a public or political corruption. Thus political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. This isn’t far from the view shared by the Transparency International on corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

Another senior legal practitioner who berated Mr. Edeoga for breach of public trust and code of conduct for public officers, argued that the Labour Party governorship candidate has contravened the provisions of section 1 Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule and Section 209 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provide that a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.

Notwithstanding, it is believed in political circles that Governor Ugwuanyi, despite the frenzied smear campaign targeted at his administration since Edeoga’s humbling defeat, may be unwilling to order a probe into the allegations of corruption and abuse of office trailing his former protégé, given his usually conciliatory disposition to even his most bitter traducers.

The question now begging for answer is; will Mr Edeoga ever face justice for his barefaced knavery and financial malfeasance involving extortion, diversion of public resources to corruptly enrich himself, and the conversion of a government owned publication for his personal political pursuits? The law is blind and cannot see, but justice can see and see very well. Will the anti-graft agencies in Nigeria, such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), etcetera, set the wheel of justice in motion? Time shall tell.

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