The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, in an interview with journalists, said the allegation of N2.1 billion fraud levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was a vendetta for speaking out against the commission. Damilola Oyedele was there and brings the excerpts:
The EFCC is probing you and your brother, Augustine, for a N2.1 billion equipment supply contract fraud allegedly perpetuated by your company, Bilderberg Enterprises Ltd, in 2010 to the Delta State Government. Is this true?
This is the first time I hear about this probe. That is why we have always said that EFCC needs to be overhauled. We keep on saying that it can be anyone. Yesterday, it was the Senate President and Dino Melaye. Dino and Saraki have been cleared, now it is me. Why? Because I spoke up against EFCC, the power to confirm EFCC Acting Chairman has been exercised by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria like it is done all over the world. We are watching Americans, appointments are going on now. Nominees of the President of the US are being rejected. Heaven did not fall. And because the other day, I spoke about Professor Itse Sagay, that is why you are hearing all this type of thing. You didn’t hear it before. But as a Nigerian, I will speak out. My friend Dino will say, “you speak the truth you die, you lie you die.” I am the wrong person to be taken on because I will keep on speaking the truth. My people sent me here to speak on their behalf.
What exactly happened?
Now let me talk on the issues that they have raised. They said there was a contract of N1.5 billion for supply of equipment to Ministry of Works and Ministry of Environment. The question I ask is, who is complaining after seven years? Is it the Delta State Government or is it by a crooked petition by some individuals to malign me?
I was a director in Bilderberg Enterprises Limited before I became a Senator, but I was not a government functionary. I was not working in government at the time. I am not in a position to award contract, but I must eat. And so, I have my own companies. Delta State Government advertised the contract, the company in which I have interest tendered for that contract and was awarded the contract after due process was followed by the Tenders Board of the Delta State Government. The records are there. When the contract was awarded to us, we brought the equipment from China. What I hear now is that the equipment were used equipment. The manufacturers of this equipment are alive. The serial numbers of these equipment are there. EFCC can contact the manufacturers in China with the serial number of the equipment to find out whether the equipment was second-hand or fairly used. Because the company did not buy any of the equipment from the open market. The company paid directly to the manufacturers of these goods in China and the manufacturer manufactured and shipped the goods to Nigeria. So, if you want to know whether the equipment is fairly used or not, go to the manufacturer, find out the dates it was manufactured, find out with the serial number, when it was shipped to Nigeria, when the Delta State Government took possession of it. Sino-trucks has an office in Lagos, SCNG has an office in Kaduna. Sanya supplied one of the equipments and they have an office here in Abuja. Let Sanya contact their head office and find out whether the equipment was used. The manufacturers were also the shippers of the equipment.
I have called the manufacturers in China and they said nobody has asked them any question, nobody has written to them but what they want to do is to malign my name. We did not only sell to Delta State Government, we sold to individuals.
We have in our possession report from the Ministry of Works certifying the equipment as brand new. We have documents in our possession of engineers from the Ministry of Housing, Environment, Direct Labour Agency, Auditor-General of Delta State certifying that the equipment is brand new. They did not obtain these certificates from Delta State Government, all they want to do is malign me in the newspaper.
So you are implying that you have not been invited by the EFCC, but only read about this in the newspapers?
This is what we have been talking about, you prosecute people in the press and run them down before you go to court. They have already found me and my brother guilty before charging us to court, even before interrogating us. Why is EFCC as reported in newspapers, coming up against me now over contracts diligently and transparently executed seven years ago by the company that I was a director in, and resigned my position from, if not for misplaced vendatta that cannot in any way silence me or compromise my principled stance over some salient national issues before the Senate? The Delta State Government that awarded the contract is not complaining nor any notable stakeholders in the state. So what interest is EFCC serving over the matter when nobody from the state had raised any issue bordering on corruption as far as the contract is concerned or the 12-storey building bought in Lagos which was not undervalued as being alleged?
Even the other issue reportedly raised by EFCC as regards multiple bank accounts by my brother is ridiculous because there is no law in the land that limits the number of bank accounts any individual in the society should have.
No doubt, with what I’ve read in the papers against me from EFCC, Magu is at it again but unfortunately for him, this cannot silence me or force me to back out of the Senate’s collective decision against his confirmation. Let me add that as a lawyer of 27 years, Magu and his cohorts shall definitely meet me in court.
What will the Senate do about this, coming after it suspended the confirmation of 27 RECs and ministerial nominees?
I speak for myself. I leave it for the Nigerian people to judge. I have given you the companies. You are free to go and contact them. I have nothing to hide. We have nothing to hide in the company. We do business and we stand by the business and we have nothing to hide while I was there. Although I am no longer a director in that company.
Did you declare the property in your asset declaration form?
If I did not declare those things in assets declaration, that is the job of the Code of Conduct Bureau. That’s not EFCC’s matter. Let CCB go and look at my asset declaration form and find out whether I declared those things or not. How does that concern EFCC? If I have made a declaration in asset declaration form, there is a body that is supposed to investigate what I have declared. They will invite me and I will explain to them the position.
Won’t this development make you mellow down a little politically, especially in your opposition to the president’s request for confirmation of certain persons?
For me, I don’t have a problem because we will go to court. You cannot stop me from saying what I believe in. What I believe in, I will say. I maintained what I said on the floor of the hallowed chamber as a lawyer that if the power of confirmation resides here and that power of confirmation or rejection has been exercised, the appointing authority should do the needful. That’s what I said and that’s what I’m supposed to say. Nobody will say when they were questioning Ibrahim Magu, you heard me ask Magu question. I didn’t ask Magu question. But if the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes a decision on a matter, it is binding on the whole members of the Senate. I am a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is an institution that I must protect. I will leave here tomorrow. I was not born a senator. I am a teacher, lawyer and businessman before I became a senator. And so, Senators come and go, but the institution of the Senate must be defended.
No doubt, with what I’ve read in the papers against me from EFCC, Magu is at it again but unfortunately for him, this cannot silence me or force me to back out of the Senate’s collective decision against his confirmation.