Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe
By Ndubuisi Francis
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe, has described the alleged N29 billion fraud in his ministry as baseless, reckless and unfounded, threatening to sue the Executive Secretary of a civil society organisation - Anti Corruption Network, Hon. Dino Melaye, who made the allegation.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja Tuesday, Orubebe, who provided documents to back his claims, said having built a reputation anchored on integrity over the years, it was regrettable that someone like Melaye who was a federal lawmaker could embark on a flight of fantasy to drag his name in the mud.
He noted that the contracts in question for which the alleged fraud was committed were there for all to see, adding that it was laughable that Melaye, who, by virtue of being a former lawmaker did not know that the Public Procurement Act forbids a minister from awarding contracts to the tune of billions.
Orubebe said the canalisation/river training of Foupolo-Bolou Ndoro Creek in Burutu, Delta State, was awarded to First Marine & Engineering Services Ltd., on February 2, 2011 at a cost of N2.3 billion with a 15 per cent mobilisation (N355million) paid, adding that so far, the project has attained 40 per cent completion.
He said the contractor is currently being owed N661,692.409 a situation, that warranted the contractor’s bankers - First Bank, to hold a meeting with him last week where he assured them that adequate provision had been made to pay next year as adequate budgetary provision has been made in the 2013 budget.
The minister stated that only N10 million was provided for the project in this year’s budget even as he disclosed that other projects cited in the alleged fraud were the canalisation at Odoubou, Ogbabagbene, Burutu, in the state as well as the land reclamation/shoreline protection project at Ogbabagbene, also in Burutu.
The two projects were awarded at the cost of N1.2 billion and N2.4 billion respectively with N188 million and N364 million paid to each of the contractors as mobilisation fee while outstanding payments of over N299 million and N364 million are being owed the respective contractors.
Orubebe said it was highly wicked, and recklessness of the “highest order” for Melaye to go to the House of Representatives “making ordinary noise” over alleged fraud to the tune of N29 billion when the ministry is the one owing the contractors due to paucity of funds.
He called on all stakeholders desirous of establishing the truth to go to the communities where the projects are sited to verify, adding that he had already instructed his lawyers to sue Melaye.