|Sir Jude Agbaso; Imo State Deputy Governor|
By Emperor N. Iwuala
In exercise of its over- sight function, the Imo State House of Assembly Special Ad-Hoc Committee investigating the remote causes of stoppage/abandonment of work on some roads in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe municipalities in the state discovered slow pace of work on the Warehouse Orlu Road Junction-Aba Road which traverses Odunze and Amigbo streets and Old Nekede Road in Owerri Municipality.
When confronted by this Special Committee, the Lebanese Managing Director of JPROS International Nig. Ltd. which is the company handling the project, Mr. Joseph Dina, alleged that the slow pace of work was because of lack of fund. When queried further, Mr. Dina alleged that he gave the state Deputy Governor Sir Jude Agbaso who doubled as the state’s Commissioner for Works before now, the sum of 458 Million Naira from the contract sum alleging that it was a consideration for Sir Agbaso’s alleged promise to give his company more contracts in future.
The committee report which has been submitted to the Imo State House of Assembly is summarized as follows:
1.Shortly after Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration was inaugurated, the State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha had an informal understanding with JPROS International Nigeria Limited to start construction work on the Warehouse Orlu Road Junction-Aba Road which traverses Odunze and Amigbo streets and Old Nekede Road in Owerri Municipality.
2.Work commenced accordingly and the Governor promised Mr. JPROSS he would pay this company complete contract sum for the road construction when fund would be provided.
3.In February 2012, the state Ministry of Works re-negotiated downwards the contract sum from the initial One Billion, Three Hundred and Twelve Million and Six thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy Four Naira (=N=1,312,106,874.00) to One Billion, One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (=N1,150,0000,000.00).
4.The state Ministry of Works headed by the Deputy Governor as the ministry’s commissioner, through a letter written by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, wrote to the Governor seeking the Governor’s approval to award the contract of the construction of said road by JPROS.
5.The Governor approved the said contract and without recourse to Ministry of Works, the state Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant-General paid 100% of the contract sum directly to JPROS. It was also discovered that the contractor was even over-paid the contractor sum for work which is yet to go mid-way.
6.Recently, it was noticed that pace of work on the road slowed down and when confronted by the Special Committee of the state House, JPROS alleged that the slow pace of work was because of lack of fund. When queried further, Mr. Dina alleged that he gave Sir Agbaso the sum of 458 Million Naira from the contract sum alleging that it was a consideration for Sir Agbaso’s alleged promise to give his company more contracts in future. As a proof, Mr. Dina presented a text message from his mobile line wherein he alleged the Deputy Governor sent to him (Mr. Dina) from the Deputy Governor’s MTN line 08033444421 directing him to pay the above amount into.
7.Mr. Dina also claimed that on the receipt of the contract money in February 2012, that he consequently paid the sum of Three Hundred and Twenty Five Million Naira (=N=325,000,000.00) into a Guarantee Trust Bank account of Three Brothers Concept Ltd. from JPROS Diamond Bank Account No. 0015810435. He tendered Cheque No. 30794835 which he claimed he did the payment with. He also claimed to have paid another One Hundred and Thirty Three Million (=N=133,000,000.00) in June 2012 to IHSAN BDC Ltd. bank account No. 105334698 with UBA Plc. drawn from another JPROS’s Diamond Bank Plc account no. 0015810435.
Based on the above, the Imo House of Assembly decided to commence impeachment proceedings against the Deputy Governor.
1.The Contractor alleged before the House Committee that the Deputy Governor sent details of the above stated bank accounts of Three Brothers Concept Ltd. and IHSAN BDC Ltd. through GSM text message to him to pay in the bribe sum. Why did the House Committee believe this without confirming the call log of the duo from the GSM providers to ascertain the truth or otherwise of the claim?
2.The Contractor also alleged before the said House Committee to have given the said =N=458 Million bribe to the Imo Deputy Governor. It also gave details of the companies’ bank accounts wherein JPROSS claimed to have paid in the bribe sum. Why did the House Committee refuse to investigate if such companies exist in the records of the Corporate Affairs Commission being registrar of companies in Nigeria so as to ascertain the registered directors and signatories to the said accounts and bring the companies to query?
3.The contractor also gave details of the banks wherein the said bribe was paid into. Why was the House committee not interested to check at the quoted banks and probably conduct investigation on the said bank accounts to ascertain whether the contractor’s claim is right?
4.It is a fact that Governor personally brought JPROSS to do the road construction and not the Deputy Governor.
5.The House Committee report states that the application for the approval of the controversial contract was made by the state Ministry of Works under the supervision of the state Deputy Governor and that the Governor personally approved the contract and in writing, directed the approval to Ministry of Works accordingly. Was it then proper for the Governor to orally, direct the state Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General’s Office as admitted by the Commissioner for Finance before the said House Committee to pay up to 100% and even more to the company for a job that was not yet done without recourse to the Ministry of Works that originated the contract? Is this not against the provisions of the Procurement (Due Process) Act which stipulates guidelines for the handling government contracts.
6.Was it not wrong for the Governor, state Ministry of Finance and Accountant General’s (AG) office to fund JPROS when the Ministry of Works only asked for approval of the contract from the Governor?
7.Was it not improper for the Governor, the Ministry of Finance and AG’s Office to have funded the contractor directly without recourse to the supervising ministry, the Ministry of Works that originated the memo for the contract?
8.Was it proper for the Governor, Ministry of Finance and A.G’s Office to make 100% payment and even overpaid JPROS on a project that has not been executed up to 50%?
9.What favour did Imo Deputy Governor do to JBROSS that warranted the bribe when it was the Governor that brought the company for the Job, awarded the contract and paid the company 100% without recourse to the Ministry of Works under Deputy Governor?
10.What is the rationale behind a company that has gotten more than 100% of a job sum that is not completed to use up to 45% of the entire contract sum to bribe in anticipation of a future contract that was not yet in view as the contractor claimed before the House Committee?
11.In the House Committee’s recommendations, why was the Deputy Governor found guilty but the Governor, the Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General’s Office who paid public fund above 1 billion naira directly to a company without application for payment by Ministry of Works exonerated?
12.Why has the Imo State Government refused to involve a relevant anti-graft commission to help in investigating this matter till date?
1.The committee did not finish its investigation and did not establish reasonable suspicion of bribe on the side of the Deputy Governor.
2.The Committee was misconceived when it excluded the Governor, Commissioner for Finance and Accountant-General from indictment.
3.It was premature for the Imo House of Assembly to pass Vote of No Confidence on the Deputy Governor based on an unfounded allegation of its Committee.
4.It is premature for the Imo House of Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against the Deputy Governor based on a bias and unfounded allegation.
5.The whole saga raises a lot of questions on neutrality, fairness and sense of justice of the Imo State House of Assembly.
The Way Forward:
1.Suspension of the impeachment proceedings against the Deputy Governor.
2.Setting up of an independent panel of inquiry made of notable persons of integrity and unquestionable character to review the entire contract saga so as to unearth the truth.
3.Invitation of relevant anti-graft commission to investigate the matter and prosecute suspects where necessary.
(Iwuala can be reached on: 08037247295, firstname.lastname@example.org)