Details have emerged regarding the diversion of N5.2 billion in public funds by Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the CEO of ULO Consultants Limited, Uche Okpunor.
The money was originally loaned out for the renovation of the Asaba International Airport because the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) recently downgraded the airport due to poor maintenance of runways and taxiways.
After the NCAA’s downgrade of the airport, Governor Okowa immediately submitted a request for a loan of N5 billion to the Delta State House Assembly. The funds were intended to be allocated to ULO Consultants Limited, the contracting firm handling the renovations of the airport.
SaharaReporters was informed that during the negotiation stages of the loan, Mr. Okpunor, a close ally of former Senate President David Mark, sold the contract to the Chinese firm China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
Speaking on the condition of anonymity a member of CCECC’s senior management staff explained to SaharaRerporters that the rehabilitation of the Asaba airport has been delayed due to the pilfering of billions of Naira by both the Governor and ULO Consultants.
According to the source the new contract was originally negotiated for N2.5 billion, less than half of the original amount issued out. The CCECC executive explained that they had learned that the other half “went into the Governor's tribunal case, possibly to buy judges, although we [CCECC] did not care.”
However, CCECC did not even receive the N2.5 billion immediately after the release of the funds Governor Okowa collected N500 million. Another N1.5 billion was pilfered by USO Consultants, leaving only N500 million for CCECC.
Because of this diversion of funds, the CCECC has refused to begin work on rehabilitating the Asaba International Airport. Speaking to SaharaReporters the CCECC senior manager said, “we will not go to site unless the full money is released to CCECC.”
ULO Consultants is known for abandoning contacts, it has yet to complete construction of Mariam Babandiga Way or section A of the Asaba-Ughelli dualisation. The company has also been accused of completing projects with substandard materials.
Mr. Okpunor has not returned the several calls and messages SaharaReporters has made to his mobile number. However, an anonymous staff member of ULO Consultants did confirm CCECC’s account of the deal.