The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC on Tuesday filed corruption charges against former Minister of Niger Delta during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Godsday Orubebe at the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court.
Orubebe is to be arraigned along with Oludare Lawrence Alaba, Ephraim Towelde Zaki and Gitto construction limited on a five count charge bordering on corruption, diversion of funds and perjury in connection with alleged illegal diversion of nearly N2 billion naira meant for for the dualisation of Section IV of the East West Road.
The former minister is alleged to have circumvented a Federal Executive Council, FEC, approval for the dualisation of the Eket – Oron Road, part of the East West Road which runs from Edo to Bayelsa states, by instructing the contractor, Gitto Construction, to rehabilitate it instead.
Apart from this ministerial directive which ensured that the contractor merely rehabilitated the existing road instead of dualising it, thereby conferring undue advantage on the construction firm, Orubebe also allegedly in cahoots with Alaba and Zaki ensured that the money meant for compensation for residents whose properties were marked for demolition was diverted and instead paid to Gitto.
The sum of N2,320,686,826.00 (Two billion, three hundred and twenty million, six hundred and eighty six thousand, eight hundred and twenty six naira) had been approved for payment of compensation to owners of properties that were to be demolished to make way for the dualisation of the road but rather than make the payment, the minister caused the money to be diverted and paid to the contractor in addition to the N37 billion paid for the road construction.
Orubebe is also accused of making false statements to the ICPC claiming that the decision to rehabilitate the road rather than dualise it was taken after he had left office as the Minister of Niger Delta.
Documents on the case obtained exclusively by the icirnigeria.org from the court indicate that contract for the construction of Section IV of the 50 kilometre East – West Road from Eket to Oron was first approved by the federal government in September 2006. Approval was given for the award of the contract by the Federal Executive Council on September 13, 2006 and the contract awarded on September 28, 2006 for N26 billion, with a 42 month completion date.
However, in June 2011, FEC approved a variation in the cost of the contract to N37 billion with 26 months extended completion date granted. In addition, N2.3 billion was approved for compensation to residents whose houses would be affected by the dualisation project.
In November 2011, Orubebe orchestrated a stakeholders meeting where it was decided that the road would not be dualised but merely rehabilitated, contrary to the FEC approval and the contract agreement. This would mean that the contractor would only rehabilitate the single lane road for which it had already received over N30 billion to dualise.
After that meeting, acting on the minister’s instruction, Alaba, an assistant director in the ministry, in flagrant disobedience of the FEC approval and the letters of the contract wrote to Gitto Construction directing it to rehabilitate the road instead of dualising it.
No cost variations were done and the contractor was not asked to return any money.
Worse still, the N2.3 billion approved for compensation for affected residents and released to the contractor for disbursement was not paid to them.
Court documents showed that of the amount only N75,303,147.70 was paid as compensation to some of the affected residents. Also, the sum of N203,083,273.84 was paid to the consultant who assessed claims of affected persons, leaving a balance of N1.9 billion.
It is alleged that Orubebe and other accused persons directed the contractor to divert the remaining N1.9 billion towards the completion of the contract, again unilaterally without recourse to the Federal Executive Council.
In April 2015, then Minister of Niger Delta, Stephen Oru convinced former President Jonathan to approve additional N14 billion for the construction of a bypass on the road to divert vehicular traffic for the city centre in Eket. Presidential approval was given and the money is believed to have been released, partly or fully, to the contractor but that bypass is yet to be constructed.
The case has not been assigned to any judge. However, it is likely to be handled by a vacation judge, the courts being on recess.
Orubebe is already being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, for false declaration of assets. His trial commenced in April.
Read the full charges against Orubebe below.
That you ELDER GODSDAY PETER ORUBEBE sometime in September 2015 or thereabout at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Abuja, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did make false statement to officers of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICIP), Messrs Eric Anona, Isiona Okolo and Bukar Galadima in the course of their official duty, when you informed them in writing respecting the contract for the dualisation of Eket Urban Road that the decision to rehabilitate instead of dualisation was taken when you had left office as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which information you knew was false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section25 (1)(a) and punishable under Section 25 (1) (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
That you, ELDER GODSDAY PETER ORUBEBE, sometime between 2010 and 2014 or thereabout, while being a Hon. Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, deployed to the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Court, used your position as minister to confer an unfair advantage upon Gitto Costruzioni Generali (Nig.) Ltd by circumventing the approval of the Federal Executive Council respecting the contract for the dualization of the Eket-Oron Road when you took a decision to rehabilitate the road contrary to the award letter reference No. WR14522/Vol. 1/55 dated 28/09/2006 as approved by the Federal Executive Council and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000.
That you OLUDARE LAWRENCE ALABA (M) sometimes between 2010 and 2014 or thereabout, while being in the employment of the Federal Government of Nigeria, deployed to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, as Assistant Director, within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court, did direct the spending of the balance of the compensation money totaling the sum of (N1, 965,576,153.46) being meant to compensate owners of the Eket Urban Section of the East-West Road (Section IV) via a letter reference No EWR/S4/CN5883/COMP/vol.9/429 dated 23/01/2015 as part of the contract sum when you knew that the money was for compensation only and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(5) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000
That you, GITTO COSTRUZIONI GENERALI (NIG.) LTD, through Mr Ephraim Tewolde Zeri, Director Contracts, sometime between 2010 and 2014 or thereabouts within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, cheated the Federal Government of Nigeria of the sum N1,965,576,153.46 being balance of the compensation money of N2, 320,686,826.00 with the knowledge to cause wrongful loss to the Federal Government of Nigeria whose interest in the compensation money meant for owners of the properties marked for demolition in respect of the dualisation of the Eket Urban Section of the East-West Road (Section IV) you were bound by the contract for the dualisation of the Eket Urban Section of the East-West Road (Section IV) to protect, by returning the said balance to the Federal Government of Nigeria but failed to return same and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the section 323 of the Penal Code CAP 532 Laws of the Federal Capital Territory 2006.
That you ELDER GODSDAY PETER ORUBEBE (m), OLUDARE LAWRENCE ALABA (m), MR. EPHRAIM TEWOLDE ZERI< DIRECTOR CONTRACTS and GITTO COSTRUZIONI GENERALI (NIG.) LTD, sometimes between 2010 and 2014 or thereabout, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, agreed to deploy the balance of the compensation money of N1, 965,576,153.46 meant for owners of properties marked for demolition in respect of Eket Urban Section of the East-West Road (Section IV) into the contract for the dualisation of the Eket Urban Section of the East-West Road (Section IV) against the purpose for which the money was meant for and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 96 and punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code CAP 532 laws of the Federal Capital Territory 2006.