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Exclusive: Inside multi-billion naira ‘fraud’, contract racketeering in PTI

...accused Professor Sunny Iyuke of N5.8 billion fraud

AUDU Oshiokhamele, Chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Effurun branch, has accused Professor Sunny Iyuke, the Chief Executive of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) of a N5.8 billion fraud.

According to him, the sum was allegedly withdrawn from the institute’s coffer for three years without due process under Iyuke’s leadership.

This includes other allegations such as contract racketeering and salary payments into about 500 accounts of ghost workers in the organisation.

In a petition signed by Audu Oshiokhamele on 14th February, and acknowledged by the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, in Abuja, the Union claimed that Iyuke arbitrarily moved the money as virement from the PTI’s personnel cost with supports of Aliyu Mafindi, PTI’s Director of Finance and Account.

“We wish to bring to the attention of the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources on the uncanny prevailing atmosphere at the Petroleum Training Institute arising from recent petitions from our Association and many other petitioners bothering on gross mismanagement and mal-administration by prof. Sunny Iyuke led management,” the document reads.

According to the 41 pages document obtained by this centre, Mafindi allegedly used his accounts to launder the funds from the institute’s accounts through transfer from the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) – to Remita which allowed the funds to be easily manipulated.

However, findings by The ICIR revealed that three hundred and thirty-seven million Naira (N337M) was discovered to have been removed from institute’s personnel cost from 2017 to 2019, using over 500 names of staff in a pay voucher number (PV no.) 78313 of which the fund was claimed to have been credited to dead, retired and existing staff.

The ICIR reached out to Mafindi to have his side on the allegation. Unfortunately, he declined on the provision that he is a public servant and can not talk to the press.

In fact, in a letter dated 12th March 2020 and in response to Oshiokhamele’s petition, the Human Resources Management Department of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources directed Iyuke to make formal representation at the office of the Permanent Secretary of the ministry within 72 hours of the receipt of the letter on the allegations bothering around financial fraud/ Contract racketeering.

Before Audu’s petition, one Oladapo Adeyemi had already forwarded a petition to Mamman-Ahmadu, the Director-General of Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and  Ahmad Rufai Shakur who is the acting Director of Petroleum Resources and Chairman governing council of PTI,  Calling for “Probe into Mal-administration, Mis-management and Contract racketeering by Professor Sunny Esayegbemu Iyuke”, dated October 14, 2019.

In the petition, the accuser alleged Sunny Iyuke’s led administration of several financial manipulations, recruitment racketeering, and crass violation of public procurement laws.

During the institution’s 2018 junior staff employment exercise, Olayemi alleged that Sunny unilaterally employed Idibie Andrew and Ayomanor Ogheneyerovwo into the services of the institutes without the prerequisite entry qualifications.

This alleged recruitment racketeering is faulted in provisions of the Public Service Rule ( PSR) sections 020205 and 1603011

Adeyemi’s petition also accused Sunny of unparalleled mismanagement of the volume of funds appropriated to the institute for capital projects from 2016 till 2019 October which he alleged that the procurement practices of goods and services have fallen short of criteria established by BPP.

The petition also poised a similar claim made by PENGASSAN in her petition over financial misappropriation. He explained that additional works of 81.8 million Naira was “approved anticipatorily for an anticipatorily approved contract of over 125million naira for the renovation of Guest chalet at the Conference Center Complex awarded to One Creations limited”.

The approved 81.8million naira is an excess and in violation of 10 per cent allowable as defined by BPP laws. By percentile increase, 81.8 million naira is 654.4per cent increment to 12.5million.

However, The ICIR‘s check through the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)’s portal revealed that One Creation Limited is not a registered company nor has any online presence. Further investigation then showed the company’s correct name as Due Creations Limited, against the misleading name written in the petition.

Adeyemi Also added that Additional works of 21million naira approved for a contract worth 41.6million naira for the renovation of the Administrative block extension awarded to Kajet limited. By percentile increase, 21 million Naira is over 500% increment to 4.106 million Naira if following the law of 10% allowable.

His allegations also contained the review of the initial contract sum from 50 Million Naira to 75 Million Naira for the maintenance of the PTI’s library awarded to Sunny Iyuke’s inlaw – Eucalyptus Nig. Ltd.

Section 64 of the procurement act states that the award of all contracts should be notified to the Bureau of Public Procurement and published in two national dailies.

Adeyemi disclosed that the violation has been a rife order in PTI under Sunny’s administration, adding that the institute does not have a procurement journal nor did it publish contract awards in the national dailies as provided by the law.

The ICIR contacted Etanabene Benedict, the procurement development director of the institute over the contract racketeering allegations. He refuted all the claims poised by the accusers over the contracts under his watch

“You see those PENGASSAN people, they lack knowledge, and they have been alleging the principal/ Chief executive before now. The 10 per cent allowable is for capital projects. These projects we spent over the 10 per cent are from our internally generated revenue (IGR)”, Benedict argued.

However, on December 13th, 2019, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) acted upon the recipient of Adeyemi’s call for probe into Sunny’s financial misappropriation of the PTI’s treasury.

The bureau asked PTI to forward copies of advertisement that carries all publications, copies of the signed attendance register for both technical and financial bids, copies of the technical bids submitted by all bidders( both qualified and disqualified).

The bureau also asked Iyuke to submit financial and technical evaluation reports duly signed by the Evaluation Committee ( hard and soft copies), minutes of the meeting of the Tenders  Board approving the awards of the contracts (editable soft and hard copies) and the letters of contracts awarded by PTI from 2016 till 2019.

In her response to Adeyemi’s call for a probe, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Petitions called for a full investigation into the activities of the institute, invited Sunny Iyuke and the key management staff of PTI to a closed-door meeting on 2nd of March 2020 to discuss the modalities of improving significantly the revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria

However, further independent investigation by The ICIR unveiled the petitioner with the name ‘Oladapo Adeyemi’ does not exist in the institute’s staff list. It might be a pseudonym to draw public attention to the alleged financial misappropriation rocking the institute.

The ICIR also contacted the embattled principal, Sunny Iyuke on the 20th of May, 2020 to have his side of the story. He first told this reporter to call back that he was with a staff at a police checkpoint somewhere in Lagos.

Two hours later, this reporter tried to call Iyuke again, his line responded “busy”. For over 4 days with at least 5 trials a day, the response from line remains the same. On an alternative route, this reporter used another number to reach him, the number went through and he picked. 

Iyuke told this reporter to “Kindly reach out to my public affairs? Please reach out to Mr Brown. I don’t want to comment on this issue”

The ICIR reached out to Brown Ukanifimoni, the public relations officer of PTI. He also declined to comment on the ground that “the issue is still with EFCC and ICPC, why not let us cross our hands and wait for their response and know who is exactly corrupt?”

“They have been writing petitions against now. We have attended several meetings with EFCC and ICPC before now, let’s just wait for their response”

This reporter also reached put to Idibie Andrew and Ayomanor Ogheneyerovwo. While the former did not hear this reporter as claimed for 4 different phone call attempts and SMS, the latter did not pick up to even talk to the journalist.

All efforts also sought by The ICIR to get the comment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) proved abortive as phone calls, Whatsapp messages and SMS sent to Rasheedat Okoduwa, ICPC spokesperson, proved abortive.

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