- Obaseki indicted himself, says APC chairman’s loyalist
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the construction of the Edo Specialist Hospital and supply of equipment for the hospital has indicted the administration of the former Governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole for breach of the state’s Public Procurement Law. But a strong ally of the National Chairman of APC and Commissioner for Education under Oshiomhole’s administration, Hon. Washington Osifo said that Governor Godwin Obaseki merely indicted himself as the Chairman of the Economic Team and Chief Economic Adviser to Oshiomhole’s government.
Chairman of the Commission, Justice James Oyomire (rtd), who presented the commission’s findings to Obaseki, at Government House, in Benin City, yesterday, said the award of the contract for the construction of the hospital was fraught with breaches of the state’s procurement laws.
He said the procurement law clearly states that any contractor working on a government project should not receive more than 25 per cent upfront payment upon contract award, which Oshiomhole’s administration allegedly contravened.
Justice Oyomire said “the immediate past administration paid 75 per cent of the contract sum upfront for the project to Vamed Engineering.”
He said part of the commission’s eight-point recommendation includes that the Ministry of Justice should institute civil and criminal actions against those found culpable in the breach of the law.
The recommendations, according to him, also include the strengthening of the state’s public procurement agency and ensuring strict adherence to the provision of the agency’s law on award of contract.
Obaseki, while receiving the report, assured that anyone found culpable, no matter how highly-placed, will be called to account for their action.
According to him, “We have been putting the right measures in place and if there are resources of government that need to be returned back, we will not hesitate to ask for it.
In a swift reaction, Osifo who is the member-elect representing Uhunmwode state constituency in the state House of Assembly, and one of those yet to be sworn in, revealed that during Oshiomhole’ government, there was no contract – whether to construct or purchase item that Obaseki as Chief Economic Adviser did not approve.
According to him, the commission of inquiry merely did the governor’s bidding by focusing on a particular area when it came up with an indictment on the breach of Public Procurement Law, adding that there is a clear difference between projects and purchase of items.
He said in purchasing of items, the Executive Council can use its discretion to do something, insisting that if the Executive Council is indicted, it means Obaseki is also indicted because he was part of the decision making body of that administration.
Besides, he said very senior members of Obaseki’s government were members of that executive council and members the state Tender’s Board when the approval of 75 per cent upfront payment of the hospital equipment was made.
Osifo noted that by law, a governor can limit himself to an approval of not more than N99million, saying “anything more than that usually comes to the Executive Council approval.”
He said all Obaseki is doing was borne out of malice because he has in the past tried using the state lawmakers to hunt Oshiomhole, which failed when they told him to pay the balance 25 per cent so that the hospital can begin to function.
“Having failed in that bid, he now resorted to using a Commission of Inquiry who merely focused their attention on 75 per cent upfront payment without knowing the difference between contracts for infrastructure and purchase of items. Equipment are something you buy off and not the same as project execution like building or road construction,” Osifo stressed.