Enugu Labour Party Raises the Alarm over Govt’s N100bn Partnership Deal

 ‘Partnership on cassava to Bioethanol production with FG yielding results’ 

Gideon Arinze in Enugu

The Labour Party (LP) has lashed out at the Enugu State Government  for signing  a N100 billion partnership agreement with Pragmatic Palms Limited, a company which was registered on May 6, 2024 to resuscitate moribund Enugu State United Palm Products Limited (UPPL).

The party noted that while it was acceptable to revive moribund state government-owned projects, tax payers money must be transparently used and accounted for.

The  state government  had in a statement, noted that the partnership will see Pragmatic Palms Limited resuscitate the moribund Enugu State United Palm Products Limited (UPPL), one of the agricultural and agro-industrialisation initiatives of the late premier of the defunct Eastern Region, Dr. M. I. Okpara, which had remained  fallow for many years.

According to the statement, the partnership was also in line with the objectives of the Governor Peter Mbah Administration to revive and convert Enugu State’s dormant assets to productive assets, as part of plans to grow the state’s economy exponentially from $4.4 billion to $30 billion per annum.

However, reacting to the development via a statement signed by its Chairman, Casmir Uchenna Agbo and Publicity Secretary, Onuora Odo, LP questioned the propriety of the transaction, noting  that it was suspicious for a company to be granted such an opportunity only four days after it was incorporated.

THISDAY  visited the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission and found that Pragmatic Palms Limited, a subsidiary of Diamond Stripes Limited, was truly registered on May 6, 2024, with its office located at 5 Kokoma Close, Wuse 11, Abuja FCT.

LP therefore,  has accused the state government of planning to use the newly registered company as a conduit to siphon the resources of the state, as according to it, there was no indication that the company has the track record and capacity to manage the enterprise.

“We are raising this alarm because the entire project smells of large-scale fraud and as a responsible and responsive political party, we owe it to the people of the state, the duty of drawing their attention to what we see as economic rape and corrupt tendencies,” the party said.

The party asked the state governor to tell the people of the state when discussions on this partnership began and how he concluded and signed the deal within four days of incorporating the company. 

“It is important to also draw the attention of the people of Enugu State, the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the anti corruption agencies to what looks like a grand plan to divert the resources of Enugu State through what looks like a conduit,” the LP alleged..

The party noted that it was worrisome that although Pragmatic Palms Limited was mentioned in the press release as a subsidiary of Diamond Stripes Limited, there was no indication that Diamond Stripes is a shareholder in Pragmatic Palms Limited. 

“The only shareholder that was returned in the search is a certain George Nwangwu, who curiously owns the entire one million shares of the company,” the party said, while calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate the transaction with a view to “saving the people of Enugu State from what looks like a bogus transaction designed to facilitate the diversion of money belonging to the people.”

Meanwhile,  the Enugu State government has said that its partnership with the federal government on cassava to Bioethanol production was yielding the desired results.

The government also noted that it was intensifying cassava cultivation in the state to boost the economy, while helping to address unemployment and insecurity.  

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Agro-Industrialization, Patrick Ubru, made this known while conducting a federal government’s delegation on an inspection tour of cassava-bioethanol projects in Aninri, Isi-Uzo, and Udi local government areas of the state at the  weekend.

The tour comprised officials of the Federal Ministry of Budget, Economic and National Planning, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, and Prof Ken Ife, the promoter of Biosources and Technology Ltd, a private sector investor in cassava-bioethanol production in the state,

During the tour, Ubru informed the delegation that the government was cultivating over one thousand hectares of cassava farms in the three council areas last year for the pilot phase of the cassava-bioethanol project.

“Prior to the clearing of the large expanses of land in the said local government areas, hoodlums and kidnappers had been using the forests as their operational bases and hideouts while terrorising the people,” he said. 

He disclosed that the state was set to commence the construction of over 20 kilometres of access roads to farmlands at Okpanku, adding that it had also made a 50 percent payment for the construction of a 22 kilometre road from Ikem in Isi Uzo council area to the border with Benue State. 

Ubru said that the state government was partnering with the federal government to also establish a military base in Isi Uzo, adding it was also in the process of establishing the Agro Rangers, a security outfit that would ensure safety in the farmlands.

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