By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
A legal practitioner, Mr. Peter lyhiokhai, yesterday filed a motion for a stay of execution of the order granted by the Court of Appeal in Benin City, in respect of the N2.1bn Itsekiri development fund being managed by the Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC.
According to the lawyer, following the alleged failure to judiciously manage the fund for the development of Itsekiri communities, some Itsekiri leaders filed a suit at the High Court in Warri and obtained an order restraining Chevron, Keystone Bank and other concerned bodies from having any financial transaction with the Itsekiri Regional Development Council (IRDC).
He said: “the reason we filed a suit against IRDC, Chevron and Keystone Bank is in respect of the money which accrued to Itsekiri Regional Development Council. The IRDC was set up over the years to bring development to oil communities in Itsekiri nation. But the IRDC has been misusing the money of the oil rich communities. They earmarked projects for themselves, and those projects will not be executed. Many projects were abandoned and they siphoned the funds for the projects. They set up fake companies and put those projects under the name of these fake firms.
“At the end of the day, projects were not executed, and they squandered the money. We are in court because of all these funds that were looted. Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor is one of the claimants.
“In September 2017, we got an interim injunction to restrain Chevron from having any financial dealings with IRDC members. We were able to track down some money in their account worth N2.1 billion. Through a court order we restrained them from collecting the money. The court granted another interlocutory order on February 20, 2018, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
“Yet, Chevron still went ahead to start having financial dealings with IRDC members, by paying them money despite the court order. We equally commenced proceedings against them. The proceedings are ongoing in the High Court in Warri and we are expected to appear before the court on February 4, 2019, for the court to take a decision.
“We later gathered that the IRDC went and filed a motion in the Appeal Court. They claimed that they served us with the copy of that motion in the Appeal Court for a stay of execution. I am one of the lawyers in the case, I did not get any hearing notice, and my other colleagues said they did not get the hearing notice too. The court granted their reliefs in the Appeal Court, but my colleagues and I were not in court when they served the hearing notice.
“What they want to do now is to circumvent the court order of the High Court in Warri by aborting the proceedings and at the same time try to see if they can grab the N2.1 billion in the bank. We have filed a notice of an appeal to the Supreme Court in respect of the order granted on January 24, 2019, we have equally filed a motion for a stay of execution of the court order granted by the Appeal Court.”