July 20, 2024

EFCC Receives Petition to Investigate Alleged Monumental Fraud in the Edo State Government

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Copy of a Petition addressed to EFCC by Concerned Edo CSOs

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By Reporter

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has formally acknowledged receipt of a petition calling for the investigation of Mr. Asue Ighodalo in his capacity as the head of the law firm, Banwo and Ighodalo.

The petition, submitted by two nongovernmental organizations based in Benin City – Okpamakhin Community Initiative (OCI) and the National Coalition Against Land Grabbing and Deforestation (CALD), is in connection with alleged monumental infrastructural and financial fraud, involving the outgoing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Edo State Government led by Governor Godwin Obaseki.

An acknowledged copy of the petition by EFCC

The petitioners alleged that the law firm of Banwo and Ighodalo is “at the centre of all the contractual and financial transactions in Edo State, under the guise of rendering advisory legal services in the execution of contracts awarded by the Edo State Government, including the preparation of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on behalf of the Edo State Government for the past seven and a half years of the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki.”

The petition focuses on three major contracts awarded by the Edo State Government: the construction of a shopping mall in Benin City (along Sapele Road), the Edo State Radisson Hotel situated at the Golf Course Road, G.R.A, Benin City, Edo State, and the Edo State Modular Refinery, Ologbo.

The petitioners want the EFCC to determine whether due process and financial prudence were followed in the execution of the contract awarded to A&K Construction Company for the construction of the Benin Shopping Mall for the sum of N5,004,653,544.82 (Five Billion, Four Million, Six Hundred and Fifty-Three Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty-Four Naira, Eighty-Two Kobo) on November 3, 2021, out of which the contractor was paid 70% mobilization in December 2021.

In addition, they want the anti-corruption agency to determine whether due process and financial prudence were followed in the payment of the sum of N10,750,000.00 (Ten Million, Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) for legal and advisory services to the law firm of Banwo & Ighodalo.

They claim this contract became suspicious when it was reviewed to the sum of N6,149,398,870.44, with an additional N330,987,574.95 (Three Hundred and Thirty Million, Nine Hundred and Eighty-Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Seventy-Four Naira, Ninety-Five Kobo) on May 23, 2023.

They question why the contract for the mall “more or less” became an open shop, with the Edo State Government spending such a colossal amount in the process.

The second item the petitioners want the EFCC to investigate is the contract awarded for the construction of the proposed Edo State Radisson Hotel situated at the Golf Course Road, G.R.A, Benin City, Edo State.

They claim that, on August 30, 2023, Governor Godwin Obaseki announced the award of the contract for the renovation/redesign of the Radisson Hotel in Benin City for the total sum of N19,600,000,000.00 (Nineteen Billion, Six Hundred Million Naira).

The governor then awarded the same contract to Pallonji Nigeria Limited with an address at No. 73 Floor Eleganza Biro Plaza, Plot 634, Adeyemo Alakija Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, for the sum of N15,397,368,002.49 (Fifteen Billion, Three Hundred and Ninety-Seven Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Eight Thousand, Two Naira and Forty-Nine Kobo).

They allege that this same contract was suddenly varied above the sum of N23,000,000,000.00 (Twenty-Three Billion Naira Only), even though the hotel is yet to be completed.

They question why the Edo State Government would go on to further award the same contract for the same hotel to other companies, thereby undermining the essence of the contract already awarded to Pallonji Nigeria Limited in respect of the same project.

The companies that received the subdivided contracts for the same hotel project are Mar & Movintegrated Services of No. 108 Opebi Road, Maryland, 101233 Ikeja, Lagos, which was awarded the contract for the installation and commissioning of MEP/HVAC (Mechanical Works Equipment) for the sum of N2,087,434,990.28 (Two Billion, Eighty-Seven Million, Four Hundred and Thirty-Four Thousand, Nine Hundred and Ninety Naira and Twenty-Eight Kobo).

The other company is 21st Century Evolution Systems, located at Floor 5, No. 1 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, which was awarded the contract for the installation of kitchen and laundry equipment for the sum of N1,500,000,000.00 (One Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira).

The third company is Ace Facades Limited of No. 373, Agege Motor Road, Challenge Bus Stop, Mushin, Lagos State, which was awarded the contract for the installation of aluminum glazing works and Alucobond cladding for the sum of N703,000,000.00 (Seven Hundred and Three Million Naira). All these additional contracts were awarded in June 2023.

For a hotel that was already 85% completed, the petitioners wonder why the Edo State Government would spend such a colossal amount for its completion if it is not “a monumental fraud carried out by Governor Godwin Obaseki through the active connivance of Osarodion Ogie, Esq., Asue Ighodalo, Esq., the Accountant General of Edo State, and the Commissioner of Finance, Mrs. Adaze Aguele-Kalu.”

On this basis, the petitioners asked the EFCC to invite the Accountant General of Edo State and the Commissioner of Finance, who are more or less the accounting officers of the Edo State Government, to provide the needed documentation regarding this contract.

Regarding Mr. Asue Ighodalo, Esq., the petitioners informed the EFCC that acting through the law firm of Banwo & Ighodalo, he and his partner were awarded the sum of N1,500,000,000.00 (One Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira) for advisory legal services/the drafting and preparation of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for the Edo State Government.

They also want the EFCC “to unravel the stake of IDIA Development Company Limited and the Edo State Government with a view to determining the ownership of the Radisson Hotel, wherein the financial burden for its completion is on the Edo State Government.”

Regarding the Edo State Modular Refinery, the petitioners recall that Edo State established and located it in Ikpba-Okha L.G.A. of Edo State and expended the sum of N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) for the project’s takeoff with direct funding from the Edo State Government.

However, after spending an undisclosed amount of money on the completion of the refinery project, it has been transformed into a private company with 100% ownership by Mr. Michael Osime, who is the chairman of AIPCC Energy and a close ally of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

At the inception of the project, the petitioners informed the EFCC that Mr. Michael Osime, who is the chairman of ICMG Security Limited, accompanied Governor Obaseki to China on January 18, 2018, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a 5,500 bpv modular refinery between the Edo State Government and Sinopec of China at Sinopec Headquarters.

They assert that Mr. Michael Osime’s AIPCC Energy was never a partner to the Edo State Government but merely acted as financial advisors. On this note, the petitioners say the EFCC should unveil the true owner of the Edo State Modular Refinery, which was set up with the state’s funds, as it cannot be a private company at the expense of the people of Edo State.

Lastly, the petitioners are asking the EFCC to place one Mr. Ugo under close surveillance to prevent anything that will impede the organization’s access to the financial records of the outgoing administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki at the expiration of its tenure.

They claim this is necessary because the Edo State Government introduced what Governor Godwin Obaseki called Electronic Government (E. Gov.), with Mr. Ugo in charge of the server, and he has been mandated to disable the server if and when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) loses the September 21, 2024, State Governorship election.

Martin Omo-Ighekare, a notary, filed the petition before the EFCC on behalf of the petitioners.

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