Delta state Governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, his sister, Ivana Shenton, Secretary to the State Government, (SSG), Festus Ovie Agas, Commissioner for Special Duties, Government House, Asaba, Henry Sakpra, a former Zenith Bank manager, Osadebe Osakwe and others have been indicted in a N13.6 billion fraud scandal related to a new secretariat complex being built by the state.
Information available to this website indicated that the governor awarded the contract for the new central secretariat complex to North China Construction Company Nigeria Limited (NCCG) which allegedly has the governor’s sister, Ivana Shenton and former Zenith Bank manager, Osadebe Osakwe as ‘frontiers.’
Checks by SaharaReporters revealed that North China Construction Nigeria Limited was registered two years before the emergence of Okowa as a governor with Corporate Affairs Commission registration number, RC 1113315, and is being managed by Osadebe Osakwe, the former Zenith Bank manager who is also a strong ally of the Delta governor.
It was alleged that Osakwe spent a fortune in making sure Okowa emerged governor of Delta state in 2015 general elections.
One of the aides to Henry Sakpra, the state’s commissioner for special duties, whose office was tasked with the job of supervising the multibillion-naira contract, said due process was not followed in the bidding and award of the contract.
"North China Construction Nigeria Limited that the contract was awarded to has N20 million as share capital. This is a Nigeria registered company claiming to be a Chinese company been used by the governor and cannot boast of any major contract that it has done anywhere," the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He described the contract as ‘a conduit pipe being used by Governor Okowa to drain the state’s treasury ahead of his second term bid.
This, according to him, was why the ministry of housing was not allowed to supervise the contract.
The aide further revealed that at every month, the company receives between N102, 000, 000 and N245, 836, 289.64 from the Internally Generated Revenue, (IGR) of the state, through a designated account with the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue as part payments for funding of the project.
“There was no competitive bidding for the project. The project was designed specifically to siphon money by the governor for his re-election. That is why it was shrouded in secrecy. There was no advertisement for qualified bidders, what the governor and his cronies did was to assemble names of some unregistered companies as bidders and thereafter, selected NCCG as the preferred bidder.
"Okowa government is nothing but a big fraud. Do you know that my boss, Mr. Henry Sakpra, the Commissioner for Special Duties, Government House, who is supervising the project was recently paid N20 million by the so called Chinese company as the cost of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with the company's Sterling Bank cheque, and sincerely speaking the amount shouldn't be up to N4 million but was paid N20 million," the aide disclosed.
Also speaking to SaharaReporters in confidence, a former principal officer and member of the state House of Assembly, lamented what he described as the ‘corrupt manner governor Okowa is running the affairs of the state.’
He noted that the House of Assembly has been approving the governor’s indiscriminate requests for loans to the detriment of the people.
"You will recall that before the commencement of the project, Governor Okowa sought the House approval for N13.6 billion as running cost for the project. The authorization included the considered approved decision by the Exco directing that the project be financed by way of borrowing the sum of N8 billion, money equivalent to $18.5million.
"And the government is expected to guarantee the loan of N8 billion to be obtained by the fraudulent company they claimed to be a Chinese company, North China Construction Nigeria Limited from the United Bank of Africa (UBA) and to issue irrevocable Standing Payment Orders (ISPOs). At this point we knew something was amiss. The governor singlehandedly awarded the contract to himself, he is the man behind the mask. All contracts are awarded to his cronies, kinsmen and relatives.
"As a former principal officer in the House, I can tell you authoritatively that governor Okowa's government is built on corruption and fraud. As I will always say, there is nothing the House can do. The speaker and members are Okowa's puppies. Can you believe it that before his election, Okowa was awarded a contract of fencing the Delta state University, Anwai campus and he was fully paid, but till date, he never executed that project. Visit the institution and see things for yourself and ask the senior management staff," the former lawmaker said.
But rather than just complaining, some residents of the state have invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to look into the series of allegations of infractions against the Delta State governor in the award of the contract for the secretariat.
In a petition sighted by our correspondent, a group which described itself as ‘Concerned Deltans’ asked EFCC to investigate alleged fraudulent activities of Governor Okowa, Mr. Osadebe of North China Construction Company Nigeria Limited, one Fan Yong Sheng who is reported to be the fictitious Secretary of North China, Festus Ovie Agas, Secretary to the State Government, Henry Sakpra, Commissioner for Special Duties, Government House and Okowa’s sister, Ivana Shenton in the award of the contract for the new secretariat.
According to the petitioners, “The contract was grossly inflated and the financing was also fraudulent as documents submitted suggested that the State Government was obtaining N8 billion loan on behalf of NCCG. The registration of the company suggested that NCCG was incapable of handling contract of such magnitude since it only has N20, 000, 000 in shares capital.
"Also, let’s not forget that the company is a virgin company that was registered in 2013 and they have no record of any job executed in Nigeria or their supposed extension in Beijing, yet Delta State awarded them a contract worth N13.6 billion. The Chinese persons on the registration of the company with CAC, are Wu Guoqi, Zheng Gang, Yi Yugang, Chen Cangku and Lin Bob. Fang Yong Sheng the supposed Secretary is completely made up as no such person exists or controls any share of the company,", the petitioners alleged.
SaharaReporters reliably learned that the sum of N1.2 billion is the state’s government contribution for the project from the N8 billion.
The contractor was supposed to obtain the N8 billion loan, but Okowa ended up doing so because the company had no credibility to get such credit facility.
It was also learnt that Okowa had to release about N1.2 billion for the company to begin working to enable it to approach UBA later to receive the first tranche of the loan based on the level of work done.
Efforts to speak with some of the names linked to the alleged fraud proved abortive as at the time of filing in this story.
It was also revealed that Shenton is in charge of supply of diesel to run the earth moving equipment being used in the construction of the secretariat, while the governor’s other relatives are in charge of supply of other items.
But when confronted about his alleged fraudulent role in the award of contract for the N13.6 billion new state secretariat, Gov Okowa, who was visibly troubled and uncomfortable with the question denied the allegations.
He applauded the company is competent to handle the contract.
On his part, Mr. Festus Ovie Agas who was recently involved in a N350 million scam in the ongoing auction of unserviceable assets in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the state, denied involvement.