…Job awarded for N140m in 2008 re-awarded for N80m in 2011
Police officers from anti-fraud unit of Nigeria Police Force, from the AIG’s office zone 5, Benin; on Monday stormed the Head-office of the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, DESOPADEC, over N420million contract scam, alleged forgery and breach of MoU involving Mr. Asupa Forteta, newly appointed Delta State commissioner for youth development.
Documents made available to ADVOCATE revealed how, Mr. Asupa Forteta allegedly fraudulently forged contract papers in connivance with Barr. Andy Osawota a former secretary, DESOPADEC, who is from the community and got contract of three road projects at Orogun, in Ughelli North Local Government Area, worth N420m in one day.
DESOPADEC’s former secretary, in trying to outwit the interventionist agency and fleece Deltans of millions of naira, allegedly backdated a contract paper to 2008 for the award of three road projects not more than 350meters each and inflated the cost of the project, by 300percent higher than its approved contract sum in 2011.
ADVOCATE gathered that the policemen quizzed some DESOPADEC staff and management to unearth why the three projects with different job specifications and length should cost the same amount, and even higher than the cost approved in 2011.
According to the leader of the team, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, because the matter is still under investigation, he hinted that from their finding Mr. Asupa got these three jobs with different companies names and addresses.
He added that the three roads are: Hospital road, 355mteres for N140m, Ossai street, beside the father’s house of the present commissioner represent the area in DESOPADEC board, which is about 345meters for N140m and Umukor street which about 450miters for N140m, querying if the agency actually evaluated these projects before they were awarded to Mr. Asupa.
However same contract for Umukor Street, (Umukoro Street) was coincidentally advertised for tendering in 2011 following which another contractor tendered for the job and same was awarded to the contractor on January 25th, 2011.
As at the time of filling this report, ADVOCATE gathered police officers made attempt to speak to Mr Asaba and Mr. Origho, over their role in the contract scam before reporting back to the AIG, zone 5, Benin, Edo state, but could not reach them, nevertheless, they have move to Asaba to see both of them.
Investigations made by our correspondent reveal that documents for the contract which is the construction of Umukoro Street and drainage, Orogun in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, were signed by two different signatories, different contract sums and two different dates of contract award.
According to documents made available to ADVOCATE, Mr. Andy Osawota was said to have purportedly signed the contract award letter to Asupa Forteta using the proxy of Deate Ventures for a contract sum of N140million on behalf of the commission in December 22nd, 2008, while the secretary of the commission’s tender board, Mr. Akwenuke Moses, signed another letter of award for Hotel De Harmony Nig., Ltd. whose managing director is one Mr. Emmanuel Ogobene on January 25th, 2011 for N50million and quantified for N80million.
When contacted on why he signed another contract letter for a different contractor when his commission had done same 4years earlier, Mr. Akwenuke said: “As at when we (DESOPADEC) signed those documents, we were not aware of any existing letter of award as regards that contract.
“Besides, prior to the award of that contract in 2011, the contract was official advertised for tendering to the general public, somebody tendered for the job, our engineers appraised the papers viz-a-viz the specifications, and the contract was awarded in 2011.
“Following the award of the job to the contractor, the man went to site; it was while at site that one Mr. Asupa Forteta who is the current Delta State Commissioner for Youths emerged with claims that a former secretary on the commission’s board, Andy Osawota awarded the same job to him in 2008.
“Also, at that time, there was a law in the commission that gives a specific time if you do not mobilise to site after which the contract would be revoked. The interim management board agreed that all contracts that were awarded at that time, and those not started cannot be carried over; hence all of such contracts are voided.
“The matter was however, brought before Patrick Arigho, and Asupa being who he is, the matter was amicably settled with the new contractor. I do not know how Origho settled them; that is all I know about the matter.
Though Mr. Akwenuke hinted that Mr. Forteta is the brain behind Deate Ventures, findings from the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, as well as the income tax clearance certificate of the company, shows that one Dennis Okei of sector C 201/2 DSC Township with the same passport photograph of Asupa acts as the managing director of the company.
When a journalist contacted Asupa for clarifications, he threatened to whisk our reporter and his family to an unknown destination saying, “You and your family would be taken away and locked up in one place.”
Questioning the correspondent on the rationale for the report, (in his words) he said: “Have you gone to the commission to meet the commissioner in charge of Urhobo North local government area to find out what is the position of things?
“Is it you that they send to come and pull my glory? Can you pull my glory? Are you God? If you are a journalist, go and look for better things to write on. Oh, you want to reap from where you did not sow abi? If I give you money for false allegation, what would that money profit you?
“I have the text message you sent me when you are threatening me, I would share this text message you sent me to all agencies, I would sent it to Shola Adebayo, Dennis Otu and Ben. You want to reap from where you did not sow abi? Oh, you are the litigant journalist dat he went to recruit to fight me abi?
“That man went to fraudulently acquire job already awarded to someone else, an ongoing job. Do they re-award an ongoing job? The commission awarded a job in 2008, another man went about claiming that the job was awarded to him and the man came to me begging that I should give him money else he would deprive me from working, I asked him, how would you deprive from working? I am from Delta State and can work anywhere.
“Let me just tell you, if you are doing investigative journalism, you doesn’t no how to go about it, you litigant journalist.”
When contacted, Mr. Ogobene of Hotel De Harmony while giving clarifications on the contract award, said he was stopped from embarking on the contract after having mobilized to site, adding that Mr. Forteta stormed the site with claims that he too was awarded the same contract at almost 300% higher than his (Ogobene) contract sum.
He said: “To resolve the matter, I and Deate Ventures represented by Mr. Asupa Forteta, enter into an agreement witnessed by one Paul Okogu for both parties where it was agreed that we would execute the contract together and share the profit based on a 50-50 percentage ration.”
The memorandum of understanding for the agreement dated August 28th, 2012 and signed by both Chief Ogobene and Mr. Forteta, states that the contract shall be executed under the name of Deate Ventures.
The MoU which was registered at the High Court of Justice, Ughelli, also states that, “The agreement will be forwarded to the DESOPADEC chairman, secretary, director of legal service, director of finance and director infrastructure and waters and commissioner representing the area on the board for their necessary action accordingly.
Ogobene however, accused Mr. Forteta of breaching all agreement reached in the MoU.
Acknowledging the MoU by both parties, counsel to Forteta, E.K Agbroko while responding to a breach of MoU letter addressed to the managing director of Harmony De Harmony dated September 3rd, 2015, agreed that a MoU was signed.
He said: “In a bid to amicable resolve the impasse that arose over the purported award of the contract to Harmony De Harmony when same has been awarded to our client by DESOPADEC, our client decided to enter an agreement with Harmony De Harmony as represented by Chief Emmanuel Ogobene for a joint sponsorship and execution of the contract.
Accusing Ogobene of collecting a loan of N3milllion as counterpart funding for the contract from one Sunny Ajamufua of the commission’s finance department and diverting the said amount, Forteta blamed Ogobene for breaching the MoU adding that he was compelled to pay back the said amount.
When contacted, Mr. Ajamufua denied borrowing Ogobene any money saying, “Where would I get such money from? Am I CBN? Though am aware of the MoU both contractors signed, since I know both parties, we tried to see how we could make peace between both of them, but it’s obvious that didn’t work.”
Further investigations also revealed that the tax clearance for Deate Ventures was issued on Sunday April 13th, 2008 (Nigerian non-working day). Also, contrary to payment of tax receipts before issuance for certificates, a gross case of criminality was discovered in the certificate and receipt for Deate Ventures as she got her certificate before tax payment.
Meanwhile, when this correspondent visited the sites of these projects, it was shocking to note that contrary to claims by both contractors that they were respectively stopped from working at the site, there is no sign to show that construction work ever commenced on the road.
According to residence of the area, the only sign of work down on the road (Umukoro Street) was in 2011 when a contractor graded the road while they anticipated commencement of construction work is yet to commence 5years after.
Attempts to reach Osawota and Mr. Pius Ovbidje, commissioner representing the area on the DESOPADEC board as at the time of this report were fruitless.