Where is Imo’s N458 million? – Comfort Obi

Since after my write-up in The Source edition, Vol 32, No 34, dated April 1, entitled:Imo: Let Justice Prevail, the political ante in Imo state has been raised dangerously. Imo has lost its innocence. Sir Jude Agbaso, Deputy Governor, was impeached on Thursday, March 28 thus, becoming a first. His replacement, Eze Madumere, Governor Okorocha’s CoS has been sworn-in. So, end of the drama? Not true. It is just beginning.

The Agbasos are not likely to allow this stain on the family name which, as is unfolding, is grossly unwarranted to stick. They may not care very much, for now, about the office of the Deputy Governor, but they care about the untidy manner one of theirs was humiliated out of office. 
This drama of the absurd started when the Imo state House of Assembly set up a Committee to investigate why work, on some road projects, stopped.

When Joseph Dina, a Lebanese, and boss of JPROS appeared before it, he alleged that Agbaso took a bribe to the tune of N458 million out of N1.5billion paid to him for a road contract. He gave details of bank account numbers sent to him by Agbaso to pay in. His gain: LG road contracts. When Agbaso appeared before the Committee, he vehemently disowned the account numbers, the companies, and/or any text message to contractor Dina. He backed his claims with verifiable facts. He did not introduce Dina to the state. The governor did. The contract was given to Dina by Okorocha who also paid the contractor through the Accountant-General, not through the Ministry of Works which Agbaso was manning. He couldn’t have promised Dina LG road contracts as it is public knowledge that it was not his beat. He asked the Committee to trace the whereabouts of the money, the owner(s) of the bank accounts, and the final beneficiary of the N480 million using forensic experts. He also asked the DSS to get hold of his MTN call logs to confirm whether he made such calls. He put his travails at the feet of high-wire politics. – The governor’s agreement with his elder brother, Martin Agbaso, to do only a term in office and make way for Owerri zone, (Agbaso’s zone) in 2015. No longer comfortable with that agreement, this bribery story, he said, was concocted to renege it. But the sh.t seems ready now to hit the roof.

At a press conference in Lagos, on Thursday, March 28, Agbaso senior made astonishing revelations. The money, he revealed, has been traced by forensic experts, retained by the family, to banks in Dubai and Lebanon. That’s not the scandal. It is these: The accounts to which the money was traced belong to the contracting firm, JPROS. Contractor Dina paid the sum of N325 million into the GTB Account of Three Brother’s Concept Ltd and used same to raise the sum of 1,930,000 US Dollars (One Million, Nine Hundred and Thirty Dollars).

It was transferred to Dina, through Dubai, on February 21, 2012. The account number it was transferred to was Liz 550014000023 02300179018010 domiciled with Kaslike branch of Blom Bank Sal, Lebanon. The second payment of N133,000,000 (One hundred and thirty three million Naira) was paid into the IHSAN BDG Ltd’s Account No: 101533498 domiciled with UBA by Contractor Dina. This amount was used to raise US $800,000 (Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars) and transferred to Dina’s Account No: AE60200003 6374395130 with HSBC Middle East Ltd, Dubai Internet City, Sheik Zayed Rd Dubai. He also revealed the shareholders and Directors of the company. The impeached Deputy Governor was not one of them.

Question: How could he then have given the account numbers for the bribe money to be paid into them? But more astonishing is the revelation that MacDonald Akano, Governor Okorocha’s Special Assistant, and Chairman, Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of Road Projects, is a Director of JPROS. With two million shares, Akano is the second highest shareholder.

Then this: Akano was appointed a director the same period (June) when the whole contract sum of N1.5 billion was paid to JPROS. I don’t know what to make of this, but since these revelations, no denial or reaction has come from any quarter.

The questions Imo people should ask are these: Was Governor Okorocha aware that Akano, his Special Assistant, and Chairman Projects (Road) Monitoring, is a director of JPROS? Was he aware of Akano’s relationship with JPROS before he brought JPROS to Imo state? How come Akano was appointed a JPROS Director the same period the company was paid the sum of N1.5 billion? Since these revelations, what has been the governor’s reaction? Shock? Disbelief?

In his shoes, I would have suspended Akano from office until his innocence is proven. And where really is Contractor Dina? Who abducted him as is being told us now? Kidnappers, the EFCC, or the ICPC? Whoever, Dina should talk to the Police, EFCC, and/or ICPC. It is important he does, so as to explain how the money he allegedly gave Agbaso ended in his (Dina’s) company accounts in Lebanon and Dubai. Are the members of the IMHA who impeached Agbaso aware of these new facts as presented by Agbaso senior? If not, what have they done now that the facts are public? How come the House did not insist on establishing the ownership of the accounts, the companies involved, their directors, and shareholders before finding Agbaso guilty? In deed, what is the role of the IMHA in this scandal? How much do the members know?

Suddenly, what I am hearing, even from a couple of top government officials is: We know that Agbaso had nothing to do with the bribery scandal, but we are indifferent to his impeachment because he is not a good mixer, he is not generous with money, he ate alone.

Questions: Are they enough reasons to implicate him in a false bribery scandal? Are they enough to want to destroy a young man who has his future before him? If the facts presented by Agbaso senior are anything to go by, are those who impeached him proud of themselves?

My submission: These allegations and counter allegations spell doom for Imo state. The only solution: Security agents – Police, DSS and the anti-corruption agencies – EFCC, ICPC – should quickly descend on the state and unravel the mystery of the “stolen” N480,000,000 (four hundred and eight million naira) Let the culprits face the full wrath of the law. That is the least Imo citizens expect.

Comfort Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Source Magazine

Beloved Imolites, what sayeth thee?



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