Benue State Government has dragged Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan, on Public Affairs, before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for the recovery of over N635.7 million owed the state government for a contract not executed.
Benue State Commissioner for Works and Transport, Mr. Benjamin Ashaver, told journalists in Makurdi, yesterday, that necessary petitions had been sent to the anti-graft agency. He said the move became necessary to help the state recover the funds.
It will be recalled that Governor Gabriel Suswam, weekend, had hinted that he was not properly briefed on the matter by his predecessor, former Governor George Akume, hence his inability to dabble into the issue. He said this left him in the dark as to what actually transpired at the time.
However, the Commissioner for Works and Transport, yesterday, insisted that the current administration was now bent on recovering the balance of N635.7million from the failed contract.
Ashaver explained that Akume awarded the contract to Okupe’s company, Value Trust Investment Limited for the construction of 230-kilometer rural roads on April 21, 2004 at N2.3 billion.
He said: “The government at that time made a 30 percent advance payment of N691 million to the contractor to commence work and by July 17, 2006, the total amount paid to the contractor stood at N886.8 million.”
He said although the project was expected to be completed within 18 months from the date of award, the contractor failed to meet the target, adding that the amount of work done was later valued at N195.7 million before the contractor abandoned the site.
Ashaver said: “Due to non-performance, the contractors have been reported to EFCC for the recovery of balance on the advance payment of N635.7 million due to Benue State Government.”
Former Governor of Benue State and Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, has insisted that he presented a formal hand over note to Governor Gabriel Suswam contrary to the claims of his successor.
Senator Akume’s reaction is coming against the backdrop of claims by his successor, weekend, that he received no hand-over note from the immediate past governor to assist him recover over N600 million owed the state by Value Trust Investment Ltd. for a failed contract.
Special Assistant to Senate Minority leader, Mrs. Becky Orpin, who spoke with journalists in a telephone conversation, yesterday, claimed that all the liabilities and assets of the state government was duly handed-over by her boss to the present governor.
She said: “If there were no hand-over notes, how then did he start running the government at that time?”
Meanwhile, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, has again asked President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately sack Dr. Doyin Okupe as his Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, especially in the wake of the disclosure by the Benue State Government that Value Trust Investments Limited owed it N635.7 million.
In a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the Presidency will only further hurt its image if Dr. Okupe remains in his position as the President’s spokesman as more damaging revelations will soon follow.
What the Presidency and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, must appreciate, according to ACN, is the fact that the appointment of a Presidential aide is a projection of the President’s purpose, personal philosophy and sense of direction.