Kaduna road contractor left in the lurch for refusing to pay N40m bribe




When Wole Oyekanmi took over a contract under the
immediate past administration of Kaduna State to
conclude the Gonigora Road project in the state, little did
he know that he was getting into dangerous waters.
Three months after intensive work, his refusal to comply
with a huge bribery demand forced him out of site and
left him indebted to several contractors. Today, he is a
man torn between the devil and the deep blue sea and
urgently craves Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s intervention.
He shared his story with Gboyega Alaka.
WOLE OYEKANMI is at the moment a troubled man.
Creditors are after him and he can no longer move freely;
particularly in Kaduna, where until the twilight of the
immediate past administration of Governor Muktar
Ramalan Yero, he was a road contractor with the state
government. Oyekanmi, a Redeemed Christian Church of
God (RCCG) pastor in Lagos, also happened to feel at
home in Kaduna (until recently), where he says he
sometimes ministered “in some Redeemed churches.”
This perhaps was why he was well-positioned to take
over a 6.5km Gonigora Road construction project in April
2014. The project, which according to him was worth
N640 million, was originally awarded to a Chinese
company, Hussain&Brian Construction Company
Limited; but was up for grabs, when the original
contractor had cancer and was moving back to his
country.
Said Oyekanmi: “They had problems continuing with the
contract and I was approached. The Chinese company
wanted me to take over the contract, so I took my
engineers to them and assessed everything to ascertain
that the contract was real. But the Ministry of Works and
Transport insisted that they did not usually transfer
contracts, except I bought over the Chinese company,
which I did. I did a change with the CAC and gave them a
certified true copy of the certificate and other relevant
documents.”
Thereafter, Oyekanmi said he and his team moved to the
site and commenced work. The total contract was worth
N640million, but the first phase was a 1km stretch, for
which a mobilisation fee of N160million had been
released by the government. Of this sum, the Chinese
contractor had accessed N100million, leaving N60million
balance in the bank.
“The agreement was that we would access the balance,
once we delivered on the 1Km stretch. Things however
started going awry, when a senior government staff at
the time (name withheld) started demanding a
N40million bribe out of the N60million. Naturally, I told
him this was not possible because the implication was
that I would barely have anything left to execute the job.
But they insisted that that is how it was done in
government and I either complied or had them to contend
with. Rather than reason with me, the next thing was that
they started raising issues. They said they did not
recognise me as the contractor of the job. In response to
this, I produced all the documents of the transfer all over
again.
“Next, the senior government official (name withheld)
said ‘I learnt you are a pastor;’ to which I said yes. And
he asked ‘Then what are you doing in contract?’ I guess
he could not understand that being a pastor is not
necessarily a profession and we needed to earn a living.
He was also probably thinking I won’t play ball, being a
pastor; and was therefore trying to put me down.
Frustrated out of the site
“Anyway, we continued with the contract; a lot of people
supplied us with products, diesel, bitumen, this and that.
The Works Department came in from time to time to
carry out inspection to ascertain the level of works that
were been done, but curiously, they always disappeared
when it came to giving the valuation. This was a game in
the ministry then, and it was their systematic way of
frustrating us. Their ultimate goal, we saw, was to
frustrate us out of site, which they eventually achieved.
Were they physically chased out of the site?
“I am a Yoruba man. It is not until somebody comes with
a cutlass to chase you away. They used a lot of body
language, one of which was a refusal to give a report of
their evaluation of our work. They also refused to
acknowledge that we were working. They would say:
“What are you doing? You people are not doing
anything;” just because we were ‘not playing ball’ and in
order to frustrate us. They would see machines working,
works physically progressing; we were doing drainages,
working on the surface, compacting it; and yet they
insisted that we were not doing anything. As a matter of
fact, they actually came on a particular day to physically
chase our supervisor and workers off the site on the
pretext that they were doing evaluation. On that
particular day, I was out of the state, but I got the report.
That was the climax and we had no choice but to vacate
the scene. Don’t forget, we had not been given any
amount of the N60million and had been soldiering on,
hoping to conclude the first phase and access the
money. So it was really a big blow because we had
almost completed works on the first phase and had
become indebted to so many parties.”
Oyekanmi said his team worked on the site for three
months and were supplied materials based on the
agreement that once we were paid, they would be paid as
well. We gave our suppliers post-dated cheques on the
understanding that we would be able to access the
N60million, once work was completed. The suppliers
even went to the bank to confirm that the money was
there before they commenced supplies. The bank
manager was kind enough to oblige them. Three
different people supplied us three tankers of diesel, one
contractor constructed the drainage, one did the casting
of the drainage and another supplied bitumen. In all, six
groups were involved. It was when the work came to an
abrupt end that they started agitating for their money.
They said it was not their business if the contract was
revoked and that since they had supplied materials or
played their parts, they just wanted their money.
Chased by suppliers and creditors
Asked what the situation is at the moment, a visibly
shaken Oyekanmi said “The situation at the moment is
that our suppliers, sub-contractors and other creditors
have come after me. Recently, two of the guys, who
supplied us diesel, came to Lagos with two policemen to
arrest and take me to Kaduna. First, they took me to
Meiran Police Station, where I was detained over-night;
and the next day, I was taken to Kaduna by road. We
spent 18 hours on the road. Thereafter, the police
commenced investigations into the matter. Initially, I was
made to believe that the money had been transferred into
the Treasury Single Account (TSA) but when we got to
the bank with the police, we saw that the money was still
in the account. The IPO then went to the ministry to
confirm the position of things and it was confirmed that I
have not benefitted ten kobo from the contract. The
story about town however, was that I abandoned the job.
While I was in detention in Kaduna, two of the guys that
supplied us diesel from Kano came to the Police Station
with five policemen and demanded that I be released to
them. They said they wanted to take me to Kano, so they
could deal with me appropriately.”
A lawyer’s intervention
Asked what his lawyer did at this point, Oyekanmi said
“The Deputy Commissioner of Police thankfully said he
was not ready to transfer me officially to Kano. He
however said he would not be able to stop them from
arresting me on the road, once I was released. You see,
up north, it’s a different ball-game. When my wife called
our lawyer, he came and said the only thing he could do
was to go to court and get an order to restrain them from
arresting me. But he requested for a fee of N200,000,
which we said we could not afford. As a result, he left in
annoyance, saying we should call him when we’re
ready.”
Why I’m involving the press
The matter is now a case of life and death. I can no
longer move freely. Threats of arrest and kidnap hang
over my head and I think it is high time we brought the
matter to the notice of the Governor, Malam Nasir El-
rufai. It is important that he knew that such money exists
in a bank somewhere. There are no evidences that his
government is aware yet. I am using this opportunity to
call on the amiable governor, to look into the matter and
hopefully review the contract; so that the money could be
released, and I could pay all the people I’m owing and
get them off my back. For instance, I am supposed to be
in Kaduna today (Wednesday August 24) for a meeting
with some parties in my lawyer’s chamber, but we could
not go. We held a meeting in my lawyer’s office (in
Kaduna) last Wednesday (August 17), where he proposed
out-of-court settlement, which the Deputy Commissioner
of Police consented to. But during this same meeting,
two people (from Kano) staged a walk-out, insisting that
they were not interested in any out-of-court settlement
other than instant payment. We however reached an
agreement with the other parties on how to raise money
to pay them. There are some people who are owing me,
from whom I hope to raise some money. In fact, the first
tanker of diesel that was delivered was diverted and sold
by a member of my staff who took the delivery because I
was not on site. Of course when I discovered, I got him
arrested along with the buyer. That case is still at the
Force Headquarters in Kaduna. Those people wrote an
undertaking that they would refund the money,
N1.8million. So, the police agreed that they would go and
re-arrest them and get the money back. We also agreed
to go round to Oyo and Abuja to collect money from
other people that are owing me to further offset the debt.
“These were some of the things we were supposed to
meet today to reassess, but I got information that I
would be arrested once I showed up. We were told that
the people from Kano would be waiting outside the
lawyer’s office to arrest me the moment I alight from the
vehicle. I was therefore advised not to show up. It has
therefore has become difficult for me to even go round
to raise money or try to retrieve money owed me by
other people to pay up some of these debts.
Challenge of bureaucracy
Even before we left the site, there had been a letter
ordering us to vacate the site; so when we were
eventually chased out of the site, I made efforts to meet
with this senior government official. But every effort was
rebuffed. In fact there was a day I was at his office as
early as 9.30am, but would you believe that he did not
see me until he closed that day? When he was going and
saw me waiting at the reception, he asked: ‘You this man,
what is it? You’re here again?’”
Due to high level protocol, we have not been able to meet
anyone in the present administration of Governor El-
rufai. So it is still basically a police affair. This is why we
decided to put it in the papers, so that the governor can
see it and come to our aid. We want him to intervene, so
that we can move back on site and complete the work,
and more importantly access the money and pay all
those we’re owing, because I sincerely feel their pain.
“I was able to get in touch with an official in the present
administration when they came on, but the initial talk
was that we should allow them stabilise. When we went
back again, the case had begun to take the toga of
Yoruba/Hausa. The official promised to present my case
to the governor and I prepared an executive summary for
him, so he could understand the case in clearer
perspective, but the next thing is that he stopped picking
my calls.
A dent on my pastorhood
“Although I am not a pastor in Kaduna, I used to minister
in Redeemed Christian Church of God in Kaduna before
this problem came up. But this problem has now
affected my reputation. In fact, some of the
complainants now tell me that I have spoilt the pastor
title. At the meeting we had at the lawyer’s office; when
he told them to take things easy and that this man is a
pastor and cannot tell lies, they all screamed and
shouted back that he should not tell them about any
pastor stuff and that how could a pastor be owing them?
They said I am a liar and that I stole their money and ran
to Lagos.
“Even in my neighbourhood in Lagos, this whole matter
has affected my entire family reputation. When they
came to arrest me, they created a lot of scene and were
shouting at the top of their voices that this was the man
they had been looking for, who swindled them of their
money and ran to Lagos.
“It is unfortunate that I am going through all this
because I refused to give a bribe to a government
official. In fact, I was told that it was the man’s habit to
always demand huge kickbacks and that the Chinese
man had already settled. Looking back, it may even be
their endless demands that frustrated the Chinese and
caused him to pull out of the contract.”
Resort to court:
At a point, we had to resort to the court to make the
ministry do the needful and proper thing rather than
acting arbitrarily with impunity on the matter. We
engaged the service of a lawyer who charged us
N500,000.00 to file action and restrain the Ministry. The
case was charged to court in Dec 2014.
Prior to the prolonged strike action embarked upon by
the Kaduna State Judiciary Workers.
Unfortunately, however, the lawyer that we engaged
happened to be compromising with the Ministry of Works
people. He said I should make additional deposit of
#1.000,000.00 before he could proceed on the matter.
Our debt
We are indebted to the tune of N25 million. We engaged
the services of suppliers whom we still owe and this had
put us under intense pressure when it was said the
ministry had revoked the contract. Also we had some
suppliers of AGO which we used at site to power the
plant/equipment. We have some drums of Bitumen on
site and other materials.
Our Prayer
Our prayer is for the ministry to come clean, –
– Let them rescind their decision asking us to make a
refund
– do a more professional assessment of value of work
done by an independent firm of Engineers.
– Allow us to continue with the work, and to access the
balance in our account in Diamond Bank.
Produce evidence – Government official
When contacted on phone, the senior government official
(name withheld)told The Nation that he is no longer in
government and is therefore not in a position to attend to
Oyekanmi or help him retrieve any money. On allegations
that he frustrated the contractor and requested a huge
bribe from him, the official said “Before I would say
anything further, let him produce evidence that I
frustrated him or demanded a bribe from him.”

About Dunio Mabushi

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