I’m a victim of Okorocha’s one term agreement – Agbaso
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & UJU MBANUSI
The embattled deputy governor of Imo State, Mr. Jude Agbaso in an interview responds to the allegation that he obtained a N458 million bribe from a road contractor in the state. He asserts that the allegation was cooked up to muddle a one term agreement reached between Governor Rochas Okorocha and his elder brother, Martins Agbaso, the influential businessman and political broker who allegedly provided the structure for Okorocha’s 2011 election victory. Excerpts:
On the allegation that he collected N458 million bribe from a contractor?
That is not true. The contract in question that JPROS Nig Ltd is executing in Imo state, was approved by the Executive governor of Imo state, was really negotiated by the Executive governor of Imo state, my boss, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
While the approval was sought and given, I wasn’t even in the country. The approval was given, the principal secretary to my governor conveyed the directive of approval of the contract and payment of the sum of N1.5b to the commissioner for finance; who directed the accountant general to make payments.
I am not the commissioner who caused that payment to happen, I am not the Accountant-General who made the payment directly to the contractor, I am not the Accountant General, who paid on the verbal instruction of the governor to the contractor.
Also recall that before the payment of N1.3b was made to JPROS, that a payment of N200m had been made to the same contractor from the Government House. I did not approve the payment of the N200m, the payment of the N200m never came to the Ministry of Works; and did not receive my approval. My question, remains ‘for a man who has access to the governor, to the commissioner for finance, to the accountant general of the state, who paid him directly, why would he pay me N458m which represents roughly about 46% of the total contract sum’?.
Did you cajole the governor to approve the payment as implied by the commissioner for Information, Mr. Chinedu Offor?
I never went to the governor like he implied and cajoled him into signing on the dotted lines, for him to sign for the approval of the payments to JPROS. It’s laughable, it’s truly laughable.
On the gift of wine
There is the issue I heard today also, that Joseph Dina of JPROS gave me a bottle of blue label whiskey. JPROS had absconded from the site, he was sought after, the Ministry of Works called him on the phone repeatedly, and we were continually informed that he had travelled out of the country. When he came back to Imo state, he reported to the ministry, only to tell me that he had just came back from wherever he went to, and I said okay if you are back, go back to the site.
Probably to prove his point, he said he brought me a bottle of blue label whiskey and that he wanted to give it to me, I said okay, (but he said) he didn’t have it here, I said okay, he said he was going to come to my house later in the evening to give me the whiskey. I said fine, just go back to site.
He sought the address of my house, which everybody in Owerri, in Imo state knows and he came that evening, saw me with other people, and gave me the bottle of whiskey and left. By the time this had happened, he had gotten his contact approval, his money has been paid him by the various authorities. How does a bottle of whiskey tie into the N1.15b that he had been paid before then? How does a bottle of blue label whiskey tie into an over payment of N200m that I was not party to?
On text messages soliciting bribe
I never communicated through text messages, instructing this man, to pay any company, through any account number, any sum of money, to any bank and he told the committee in question that he was going to bring the text messages that I sent him, that he was going to send for his MTN call log and detail. And I also told the committee that I will also provide my MTN call log and detail, and the very next day, I applied through the director of SSS for my call log at the MTN, detailing SMS messages for the month of February in question and the month of June 2012.
The committee has now gone to town, to television houses, spreading these falsehood that they have judged me, that they have brought me to book. What is left, is for them to jail me; they have accused me, sat over my case, passed judgment, based on the hearsay of Joseph Dina of JPROS who merely said that he gave me money, and there is no single iota of truth that I did communicate with him through text messages detailing him to pay amounts of money into any accounts or to the companies he mentioned.
I also pointed out, that the companies are limited liability companies in Nigeria, that the Corporate Affairs Commission has information as to the promoters, the owners, the directors, of these companies, those information are accessible by members of the public but more importantly, by criminal investigation agencies.
Who introduced the contractor to you?
The contractor Joseph Dina of JPROS Limited I met him through the governor when he amassed his equipment at what used to be the former Imo Hotels.
The governor introduced him as the contractor who would be doing that road and as a matter of fact asked him to start right away and we then proceeded to formalise his contract. Before then I had never met him. I didn’t know the contractor, I couldn’t vow for his competence. What we heard was that the governor asked him to bring his equipment so that he could assess the equipment and then he brought the equipment at the site of the former Imo State Hotel.
What could have led to this faceoff?
To my knowledge there is a subsisting agreement between my elder brother, Chief Martin Agbaso and the executive governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha that he would run a single term tenure thereafter he would handover to people of Owerri zone extraction to run for governor in 2015 and every indication that is available to me has pointed in this direction.
The effort being made is to tarnish the brand of Agbaso, to preclude it from the forthcoming election in Imo State. That is my honest belief, that is my honest thinking and all the charades on top of it, all the posturing are mere dressings. The heart of the matter is the politics of 2015.
But were there indications to this faceoff?
I cannot tell you that there were indications because I have had a cordial relationship with my boss, the executive governor of Imo State. The work synergy between us had been very excellent. I will tell you that I was completely broadsided by these events.
Instances where you have heard that I called him “Oga come and clean up this mess, you started it” is the truth.