For sometime now, Imo State has been in the news over the 458 million bribery scam involving the former Imo State Deputy Governor Sir Jude Agbaso and one of the contractors handling a road project in the state called JPROS International Company Nigeria Limited. The saga finally led to impeachment of Sir Agbaso by the Imo State House of Assembly.
The former number two citizen of Imo State has described his recent impeachment as not only man’s show of wickedness against man but an open rape to injustice, fairness and rule of law. In an interview with our correspondent recently, Sir Agbaso among other things is of the view that his impeachment was planned and executed by his former boss Governor Rochas Okorocha. Below is the excerpt.
On the allegation of collecting 458 million bribe from the Lebanese road contractor, Mr. Joseph Dina of JPROS International Nigeria Company Limited
Joseph Dina was specially sponsored to falsely confess that he gave me bribe. If not, how could a Lebanese who had had series of graft cases with EFCC since 2009 boldly come out in the open to confess that he used up to 46% of fully paid contract sum from Imo people’s money to give me bribe. It is unbelievable. On the other hand, how could I collect such an amount from a man I never did any favour for and was not in a position to do any favour for? The Governor brought the contractor. He paid him an initial 200 million naira from his office, the Permanent Secretary of my former ministry the Ministry of Works only sent a request to the governor for formal approval of the road construction contract, the governor instead of sending the approval to the ministry, directed and full payment was made directly to the company for a job not yet done up to 20% without the knowledge of the Ministry of Works’. That was why the contractor was over paid because the Governor did not take my ministry into confidence in the payment. I only got to know about the payment 4 months later and when I called the contractor, he continued avoiding me.
Mr. Dina’s allegation that he gave the said bribery in consideration for Sir Agbaso’s promise to give his company 15 kilometer road construction in the local government
I did not have the powers to award contracts in Okorocha’s Government. Moreover, I was not in charge of local government roads. Moreover, under Okorocha’s administration, about 52 million naira was what is being paid for a kilometer of the local government road construction and contractors complain that they hardly do good work with the price not to talk of making profit at the end of the day. Be that as it may, simple arithmetic has it that at the cost of 52 million naira per kilometer, the total sum one can get for 15 kilometers is about 780 million naira. How then can a contractor give me 458 million naira bribe for a job of 780 million naira?
On the allegation that the former Deputy Governor sent account details of two companies from his MTN phone line to the contractor’s GSM line wherein the contractor claimed he paid in the bribery sum
I applied and got my call logs from the time the contractor claimed we had the alleged illicit communication. It was February 2012 to July 2012. As I speak to you there is no such in the call log. Incidentally, the call logs are part of the exhibits I am prosecuting the case against my indictment and impeachment in court and I have also made some copies available to the press. Joseph Dina promised before the Simeon Iwunze-Led State House Committee to get his own call log but never did. Till today, nobody apart from me is interested to verify that because the only agenda was to levy false allegation against me and get rid of me, that’s all.
On the bank account of the two companies the contractor said he paid the 458 million naira into
I went to Corporate Affairs Commission and got a certified copy of the list of the directors of the two companies. The names of the directors suggest that they are from the northern part of Nigeria. The three directors of Three Bothers Concepts Nig Ltd are Lawal Abdullahi, Umar Abubakar and Yakubu Abdullahi. That of IHSAN Bureau De Change Limited are Abdullahi Tasiu Maikano, Inuwa Sabo, Haruna Said and Musa Sule’. I am not in any way related to the companies. I am not among the directors and shareholders of the company and I am not in any way linked to them. None of my friends, relations, associates etc. is linked to the companies or to those related to the banks.
Acceptance of a Blue Label drink from the contractor
I never requested for any drink from the contractor. The contractor came to me and told me that he returned from abroad trip and gave me a Blue Label whisky as a gift. I accepted the drink because it is common in African culture to accept such. There were no stings attached to it.
Non-appearance at the 7-Man Investigation Panel set up by the state Chief Judge
I intentionally decided to shun the panel because I am still challenging the impeachment process including the constitution, appointment and inauguration of the panel in a law court and I personally wrote a letter to the chairman of the panel on this but the panel discountenanced the letter. If I had gone to that panel, it would have jeopardized by my suit which is against the constitution of the panel. Even if I had gone there on merit, the panel would have still not taken my defence because it was specially detailed to sack me. The panel sat only once. Before the panel sitting, the members of the state legislature who were already on Easter vacation were summoned the same day the panel sat and they were anxiously waiting for the panel to submit its report. Heavy security men were detailed to both the place the panel sat and the state legislative complex. The same day the panel sat was the same day it submitted its report to the legislature, it was the same day I was impeached and it was the same day the new Deputy Governor was confirmed by the same legislature. It was like that because everything was a script well written, rehearsed and dramatized.
On the investigation by the 7 Man Panel set by the state Chief Judge conduct
This is the first case in Nigeria where a public officer is begging to be investigated over corruption and the investigators bluntly refused. The constitution stipulates that the panel has 3 months to investigate this matter but it chose to do it in one day. The panel did great disservice to Imo people. It only pre-occupied itself with my impeachment. Its chairman and members did not use their onerous call to serve in the panel to let the people know the whole truth of what happened to Imo people’s money. The Panel was only set to play a particular script and achieve the selfish, political and malicious desires of an individual or set of individuals. If the Panel was really an investigative panel that wanted to be unbiased, I think that the time they invited me was pre-mature. I did not need to appear because the panel already had materials of allegations against me to investigate. As an investigative panel, it was the duty of the panel to verify the allegations against me. The contractor and the state legislature gave enough particulars of allegations against me that needed verification. My accusers alleged before the panel that I sent details of bank accounts of Three Brothers Concept Ltd. and IHSAN BDC Ltd. through GSM text message to him to pay in the said bribe sum. As a supposed unbiased and thorough panel, it needed to confirm from MTN through my call log and that of Joseph Dina. It was also alleged that I directed JPROS to pay a total sum of =N=458 Million bribe into two companies’ accounts with GTB and UBA respectively for me. JPROS also gave details of the companies’ bank accounts. It was necessary to get at the directors of the companies and details of the companies to see if I am in any way linked to the said companies. Also with the help of security agencies and the banks, transactions in the said accounts should have been properly investigated and possibly get at the signatories of the said accounts to see if the said sums were paid in accordingly. If the money was paid in and withdrawn, who withdrew it? It is a trite law in Nigeria that ‘he who alleges should prove’. The criminal justice of our country presumes an accused innocent until the innocence is proved otherwise. But in my own case, my accusers were not ready to prove me guilty but only wanted satisfy the selfish will of the governor. The Governor in his usual way hoodwinked some simpleton minded people, the state legislature, the Chief Judge and the panel to impeach him unlawfully.
Why the former Deputy Governor did not resign over the allegation
I could not have resigned over a frame up by few selfish individuals. I know that I am innocent. If I had resigned, it would have looked like I am guilty of taking the bribe. However, I would have resigned if I had conducted myself in a manner unbecoming of a Deputy Governor. I would have resigned if it was the opinion of the people I held their mandate. But here is a situation where a group of persons who want to enshrine a dynasty in Douglas House wanted to sacrifice me for no just cause. I think it is better that they unlawfully impeached me the way they did so that I will have more grounds to reclaim my position from the courts in future.
Progress to unravel the truth
When we discovered that the Imo House of Assembly and the 7-Man Investigation Panel were not ready to investigate this matter, we took it upon ourselves to do so. My family engaged professional, forensic, and foreign investigators and security agencies and the revelations are terrible. The Alleged bribe money has been traced to Dubai and Lebanon. An aide of Governor Rochas Okorocha Prince MacDonald-Akano who is the Governor’s Special Adviser and Chairman of the Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of Road Projects in Imo State was made a shareholder in JPROS International Nigeria Ltd. on June 20, 2012 and allotted two (2) million shares of the company’s 10 million shares. Akano also wrote and consented to be a director of the company two days later, on June 22, 2012. The alleged 458 bribery sum was actually sent by Mr. Dina to his company accounts overseas. Mr. Dina first paid N325, 000,000 into the Three Brother’s Concept Ltd GTB account. The money was used to raise the sum of $1,930,000, which was subsequently transferred through Dubai, on February 21, 2012, to Mr. Dina’s account No. LB5001400002302300179018010 with the Kaslik Branch of BLOM Bank SAL in Lebanon. The purpose of the transfer, as stated in the transfer document, was “to import construction equipment”. Mr. Dina similarly paid the second tranche of N133,000,000 into the IHSAN BDC LTD’s account No. 1015334698 with the UBA. Again, the money was used to raise $800,000 and transferred to Mr. Dina’s Account, No. AE360200000036374395130 with HSBC Middle East Ltd at Dubai Internet City, Sheik Zayed Rd, Dubai. So, while Mr. Dina was accusing me of demanding and receiving a bribe of N458 million, the said money had been converted by the same man and his associates in Lebanon. Directors of who are also the only shareholders of JPROS Nigeria Ltd, are: Joseph Dina, Aline Dina, Jean Samir Aoun and Prince MacDonald-Akano. Isn’t it fascinating to discover that a Director and a major Shareholder; indeed, the second highest shareholder in the company involved in this ugly defamation of character and wicked attempt to destroy the my good name and image of family is a member of Governor Okorocha’s inner circle? Akano stood quietly and loyally beside Mr. Dina, as Dina blackmailed and slandered me his Deputy Governor in my own state where I am a Deputy Governor, knowing well that his company, JPROS, was the guilty party in the matter. It was also found out that Prince Akano suddenly applied and became a director and a major shareholder in JPROS. Is not clear that the plan was to impeach me with 2015 in mind, using Mr. Dina of JPROS and Prince Akano as the hatchet men?
1. During my impeachment, how come the Imo House of Assembly, the Governor, the Panel etc did not insist on establishing the ownership of the accounts supplied by JPROS, the companies involved their directors and shareholders? What were they trying to cover?
2. Why did Governor Okorocha pay in the contract sum to JPROS account the same period Prince Akano became a director in the company?
3. Isn’t it fascinating to discover that a director and a major Shareholder; indeed, the second highest shareholder in the company involved in this ugly scandal Prince Akano, stood quietly and loyally beside Mr. Dina, as Dina deceived the whole world accused me falsely and made away with Imo people’s money?
4. Is it not an evil for Akano aide to Gov. Okorocha to abate a Lebanese to blackmail and slander me knowing full well that his company, JPROS, was the guilty party in the matter?
5. Is it not possible that Governor Okorocha who illegally approved this payment and even overpaid the contract sum straight to JPROS, connived with Akano to have the N458 Million Naira laundered abroad?
6. Is it not an evil that since these revelations were made, Prince Akano has not denied them and has been avoiding government functions?
7. Since these revelations came to lime light, what has the Imo House of Assembly done and why is Governor Okorocha who claims to be fighting corruption remained mute and is still retaining Akano in his cabinet?
8. At the inception of his administration, Governor Okorocha told the whole world that he had ceded the state legislative quarters to Concorde Hotel Owerri and named it Concorde Extension. Later, he renamed the place Luxury Apartment and leased it to the same Prince Akano for 25 years. Why is it that Akano and Rochas are always in the middle of scams in relation to property and money that belong to Imo people?
On the rumour that the former Deputy Governor is hiding from anti-graft agencies after impeachment
I am not hiding. I have no intention to move to anywhere. Most of my business outfits are in Owerri. We even invited the EFCC because the Imo State Government doesn’t want any anti-graft agencies to come into the matter. I think the reason is because involving anti-graft agency will expose the governor’s shoddy deals in the whole saga the more. However, I will be happy to appear before them because that will even help to vindicate me the more and possibly bring the real culprits to book.
On the way forward
I thank Imo people for giving me the opportunity to serve them as a Deputy Governor. I promise to remain calm, law-abiding and prayerful hoping that one day the whole truth will completely come out. For now, I will retire to my private business as my business has suffered greatly since I went into public service. I will also pursue the suits against my impeachment in the law courts hoping that one day, I will get justice.