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‘Okupe, Benue govt in court over N600m contract fund’

By Henry Umoru &  Peter Duru
MAKURDI—As the appointment of Dr. Doyin Okupe as Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs continues to raise dust, Vanguard has reliably gathered that the aide allegedly has a pending case of about N600 million contract money with the Benue State Government at Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

But the national leadership of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, faulted Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, on the appointment of Dr. Doyin Okupe as Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, stressing that President Goodluck Jonathan was at liberty to appoint anyone into positions without permission from anybody.

Vanguard’s investigations at the Benue State Ministry of Works and Transport revealed that the presidential aide had in 2004 through his company, Messrs Value Trust Investments Ltd., allegedly secured a contract valued N2.303 billion for the construction of 230km of rural roads across the state.

Contract breakdown

According to a source, the contract terms specified that the contract was to span 18 months, while the sum of N619 million, representing 30 percent of the total contract sum, was paid to the firm as initial mobilisation fee.

Dr. Doyin Okupe

He explained that upon the receipt of the fee, the contractor moved to site, while more money was said to have been released to him as the work progressed.

The source said: “The total amount that was paid to him amounted to N886.8m as at July 17, 2006. But at that point the contract was abandoned and all entreaties to ensure that they returned to site proved abortive.

“Supervisors of the job had no option but to value the execution of the contract and it was discovered that the total value of work done at the time was N195.7 million. When it became obvious that the contractor was not ready to continue with the work, efforts were intensified to recover tax payers’ money from him.

“But at the end of the day, what was recovered was only N55.2 million, which was an advanced payment guarantee that was lodged into a bank.

EFCC, court

“The contract was awarded by the George Akume administration, and whatever transpired between key actors of that government and the contractor I cannot tell because so many stories were told at the time.

“But the fact is that the contractor was long ago dragged to EFCC by the current administration, so the anti-graft agency could help the state government recover tax payers’ money. But till date, we have not heard anything on the issue.”

Some of the rural roads earmarked for construction then were Uniagric-Gbamjiba, Ayatti-Zai and Aliade-Barike Ito roads.

PDP clears Okupe, faults ACN’s call for sack

The national leadership of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, faulted Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, on the appointment of Dr. Doyin Okupe as Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, stressing that President Goodluck Jonathan was at liberty to appoint anyone into positions without permission from anybody.

PDP, in a statement by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Binta Garba, yesterday, in Abuja, noted that Okupe has no case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The statement said: “We wish to make it abundantly clear that President Jonathan, under the Presidential System we currently operate, is at liberty to appoint any deserving Nigerian to any position at anytime without recourse to anyone, least of all a self-serving opposition group.

“In the last one week, we have noticed the vitriolic attacks on the person of Okupe, who was recently appointed by the President as his Senior Special Assistant (Public Affairs), a position most reasonable Nigerians agree he is capable of handling effectively.

“We have noted the copious references by ACN through its spokesman, Mr. Lai Mohammed, to the purported unwholesome acts in the execution of some projects in Benue and Imo states several years ago.

“It is our opinion that issues of contracts are basically civil issues between contracting parties and certainly most contract documents contain clauses for dispute resolutions.

“Moreover, EFCC through its spokesman, had said Okupe is not currently under any criminal investigation by the Commission as claimed by ACN.

“He has neither been charged nor indicted by any court of law, panel, or committee in the country till date. The call by ACN for Okupe’s removal is therefore, not only baseless, unwarranted, but equally malicious.”

 


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