BY OKONKWO EZE
ONITSHA—The Director of a construction firm, Chrisbech Nigeria Limited, Mr. Dominic Emeka Okika, has accused officials of Awka North local government area of Anambra State of defrauding him of N1.5 million, which was the balance of an executed N8 million contract.
The state government had, through the local council, awarded his firm contract for construction of a mini bridge/double cell culvert at Ugbenu for N8 million, and was paid N3.6 million mobilisation fee.
Okika alleged that during the first instalmental payment of the contract sum, the local government town planning enigneer/ head of department of works gave him a voucher of N6 million to sign, released only N3.6 million to him and then took N2.4 million, with an explanation that N1 million would be given to the state commissioner for local government.
He also said the council official spoke of sharing the remaining N1.4 million among himself, his staff and traditional ruler of Ugbenu, a community in the local government area.
He alleged further that midway into the job, the local government authorities did a variation which led to the increase of the contract sum from N8 million to N9.5 million, which did not reflect his own contract.
Okika said he was compelled to sign the variation, alleging further that although he was given the N.5 million he signed for, the payment was N1.5 million short of the amount due him.
Addressing newsmen yesterday in Onitsha, Okika, in company of his counsel, Obiora Muojeke, complained that he decided not to object to all the deductions and variations made by the local government because he was hoping to get more contracts from them should he execute that one successfully.
He said his main concern now was how to pay the labourers and artisans as well as dealers who supplied materials for the project, stressing they had been piling pressures on him daily to pay them their money.
Okika said the only way he could pay his creditors was to have his N1.5 million balance paid by the local government authorities.
On the reason for holding on to the N1.5 million by the LG, he said the town engineer directed him to a lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, UNIZIK, Awka, to sort out their differences as it was the lecturer who pleaded with them not to release the money.
He, however, admitted that the said lecturer introduced him to the state government for contract awards and agreed that he (lecturer) would have a share of any contract awarded to the company.
But Okika insisted that this particular contract was not awarded directly to his company by the state government but to the local government whose officials took a large chunk of the contract sum.
Okika also admitted that he promised to give the lecturer N1 million for this contract, payable in four instalments of N250,000 each but lamented that out of impatience, the lecturer, suspecting that he would no longer give him anything, wrote a petition to the State Security Services, SSS, accusing him of plotting to kidnap him.
He said based on the lecturer’s petition to the SSS, he was arrested and taken to the state SSS headquarters, Awka, where he was brutalized and injured, adding that he was equally forced to write two post-dated cheques of N2 million and N1.5 million respectively in the name of the lecturer’s wife before the SSS could release him on bail.
He said the two United Bank for Africa, UBA, cheques which he wrote under duress at the SSS detention room, were dated August 30, 2013 and November 30, 2013, respectively, though his counsel wrote to the bank asking it not to honour the cheques.
In his reaction, the State Director of SSS, Mr. Alex Okiyi, who confirmed the arrest of Okika to newsmen in his office, said they were investigating a case of attempted kidnap reported against him by the lecturer in Psychology Department of UNIZIK, Awka.
When newsmen contacted the lecturer on phone to hear his own version of the story, he asked how journalists got his phone number and switched off immediately.
Chairman of Awka North local government transition committee, Mrs. Joy Onweluzor, and the town planning engineer, Mr. E. O. Okoro, declined comments when contacted on phone.
However, the state Commissioner for Local Government, Mrs. Azuka Enemuo, confirmed that a contract was awarded to a contractor and executed in line with Governor Peter Obi’s transformation agenda, but claimed not to know what transpired among the contractor, the lecturer and the local government officials.
She, however, promised to step into the matter should it linger.
The Vice Chancellor of UNIZIK, Prof. Boniface Egboka, told newsmen in a telephone chat that he had never received any petition from the contractor to that effect.