Alleged Diversion of Funds: Court Fixes Oct 23 To Hear Suit Against Oshiomhole

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Adams Oshiomhole
Adams Oshiomhole

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court Tuesday fixed October 23 to hear a suit seeking to invoke an order of mandamus to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, for allegedly diverting public funds to his personal use.

Justice Anwuli Chikere directed that relevant processes in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2018, which was lodged before the court by Edo State based cleric, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, should be served on both EFCC and Oshiomhole, within the next five days.

The court made the order after it heard an ex-parte motion moved by counsel to the Applicant, Dr. West Idahosa, urging it to declare that the anti-graft agency hadl a statutory duty to investigate different petitions that contained allegations of financial recklessness against the former governor of Edo State.

Specifically, the Applicant alleged that Oshiomhole who was sued as the 2nd Respondent, while in office as Edo state governor, acquired properties in United States of America, South Africa and Dubai worth billions of U.S. dollars and far in excess of his legitimate income.

He alleged before the court that the ex-governor built a sprawling mansion worth more than N10 billion in his home town, Iyamho, while in office.

The Applicant said: “The said building was constructed by Verissimo, a South African Architectural outfit. The said house of the 2nd Respondent has swimming pools, water fountains, multiple theatres for cinema and live performances, huge event halls, bridges, manmade lake and lodges of different sizes, among others.

“The said cost of building the mansion is well outside the 2nd Respondent’s legitimate income. The 2nd Respondent’s lifestyle and extent of the said property were not justified by his source of income.”

The applicant told the court that he had on November 4, 2016, sent a petition to the EFCC, detailing some corrupt practices he said the ex-governor was involved in.

He maintained that EFCC’s refusal to act on petitions containing “weighty allegations” against Oshiomhole ran contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which enjoined the State to abolish corrupt practices.

EFCC was cited as the 1st defendant in the matter.

Highlighting some of the allegations, the Applicant told the court that Oshiomhole, “bought a property along Okoro-Otun Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City, owned by Edo State government, while serving as governor of Edo State in an insider deal without due process and in abuse of his oath of office.”

He said the property acquired by the 2nd Respondent was originally given to University of Benin as a gift by Edo State government.

“The 2nd Respondent, while a dispute was pending in Court between University of Benin and Edo State Government, forcibly acquired the property for his personal use.  The 2nd Respondent has since erected a structure with an underground apartment, roof-top swimming pool, another giant structure worth more than N500,000,000 (five hundred million naira) which is far beyond his legitimate income.

”At the time of the sale, the open market price of that magnitude of property and in such high-brow location was about N100 million.

“This transaction took place while the 2nd Respondent was governor of Edo State and he bought the said property for just N23 million.

“The 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the highly inflated contract and payment within a relatively short time for the construction of a 168 room-hostel in Edo State University, Iyamho for the sum of N1.88 billion. The average cost per room translates to N10 million for each hostel room.

“This contract was awarded to the firm of A & K Construction Limited without compliance with due process. Similarly, the 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the highly inflated contract of building the Teaching Hospital of the said University for the sum of N12.2 billion naira without compliance with due process.

“The 2nd Respondent authorized and approved the diversion of N1.2 billion naira approved for the construction of a new accident and emergency ward complex and renovation of existing structures in the Central Hospital, Benin City for the payment of additional 10% advance payment to A & K Construction Limited for the construction of the Teaching Hospital of the University of Science and Technology, Uzairue (also known as Edo State University, Iyamho) without compliance with due process and against public interest.

“The 2nd Respondent borrowed N25 billion from the capital market through the issuance of bonds. He purportedly paid the first N6 billion to Hitech Construction on March 2, 2011 and listed several roads as part of Phase One of the Storm Water Project to include Adolor College road, Textile Mill road,  and a host of others.

‘’These roads are largely abandoned with little or no work done by Hitech Construction Company.  The gullies created as a result of initial work have become major sources of flooding in Benin – City. More than six persons have been killed by this artificial flood.

“The 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the construction of the 7.2 kilometer Ogba/Airport Road, Benin – City to Servetek Construction Company Limited for construction of drainage structures and dualization from Ring Road to Ogba River Bridge for an industry record setting sum of N4.4 billion which translates to N611 million naira per kilometer without compliance with due process.

“Following disputes with the Company on how the money was to be shared amongst stakeholders, the Company refused to work further and the contract was terminated. It was re-awarded to Setraco Nigeria Limited for over N12 billion, on the pretext that 17 access roads were to be constructed along the main Airport Road. It was later discovered that these access roads were re-awarded as stand-alone contracts with new cost tag. The contracts were awarded without compliance with due process.

“The 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the construction of the Emergency / Accident Unit of the Central Hospital, Benin – City, to an Italian Company for the sum of N2.7 billion naira and later reviewed same upwards to over N3 billion.  The constructed building subsequently collapsed killing the owner of the Company, Dr. Stefano De La Roca and confidant of the 2nd Respondent.

“The contract was thereafter re-awarded to another company, SCL without penalizing the previous Company for the poor work done and thereby causing serious financial loss to Edo State.  The said SCL is also one of the Companies that constructed the Lord of the Manor Proto-type mansion and adjoining premises of the 2nd Respondents at Iyamho in Edo State.

“In 2012, the 2nd Respondent initiated and authorized the approach to the World Bank to secure a loan of $225 million dollars under the First Edo State Growth and Employment Support Credit project with identification number “P123353.”  The World Bank paid Edo State Government $75 million U.S. dollars as initial payment and another $75million U.S. dollars as second installment, despite massive protest by Edo people.

“The said second installment which was domiciled in Access Bank was largely transferred to private off shore accounts and round tripped to the detriment of Edo State.

“The 2nd Respondent authorized and approved the counterpart fund scheme between Edo State Government and Bank of Industry with each party providing N250 million each. This agreement was reached in December, 2009. From the enquiries made by Applicant, only N41.6 million was disbursed. The balance sum was diverted for personal gain and to the detriment of Edo State residents”, the Applicant added.

Justice Chiekere ordered the Applicant to put all the Defendants on notice to enable them respond before the adjourned date.