Orubebe to face corruption charges over N53.3bn East-West Road

The federal government has filed corruption charges against Godsday Orubebe, former minister of Niger Delta affairs.

The government, through the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), filed the charges against the former minister at a federal capital territory (FCT) high court, Abuja.

Orubebe is to be arraigned alongside Oludare Lawrence Alaba, Ephraim Towelde Zaki and Gitto Construction Limited on a five-count charge of corruption, perjury, and diversion of about N2bn meant for the dualisation of Section IV of the East-West Road.

Count one of the charge reads: “That you, Elder Godsday Peter Orubebe,  sometime in September 2015 or thereabout at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Abuja, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did make false statement to officers of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICIP), Messrs Eric Anona, Isiona Okolo and Bukar Galadima in the course of their official duty, when you informed them in writing respecting the contract for the dualisation of Eket Urban Road that the decision to rehabilitate  instead of dualisation was taken when you had left office as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which information you knew was false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 25 (1)(a) and punishable under Section 25 (1) (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.”

Count two reads: “That you, Elder Godsday Peter Orubebe, sometime between 2010 and 2014 or thereabout, while being a Hon. Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, deployed to the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Court, used your position as minister to confer an unfair advantage upon Gitto Costruzioni Generali (Nig.) Ltd by circumventing the approval of the Federal Executive Council respecting the contract for the dualization of the Eket-Oron Road when you took a decision to rehabilitate the road contrary to the award letter reference No. WR14522/Vol. 1/55 dated 28/09/2006 as approved by the Federal Executive Council and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000.”

Court documents obtained the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) indicate that contract for the construction of Section IV of the 50 kilometre East-West Road from Eket to Oron was first approved by the federal government in September 2006.

Approval was given for the award of the contract by the federal executive council on September 13, 2006, and the contract was awarded on September 28, 2006, for N26 billion, with a 42-month completion date.

However, in June 2011, FEC approved a variation in the cost of the contract to N37 billion with 26 months extended completion date granted. In addition, N2.3 billion was approved for compensation to residents whose houses would be affected by the dualisation project.

In November 2011, Orubebe orchestrated a stakeholders meeting where it was decided that the road would not be dualised but merely rehabilitated, contrary to the FEC approval and the contract agreement. This meant that the contractor would only rehabilitate the single lane road for which it had already received over N30 billion to dualise.

After that meeting, acting on the minister’s instruction, Alaba, an assistant director in the ministry, wrote to Gitto Construction directing it to rehabilitate the road instead of dualising it — disobeying the FEC approval and the letters of the contract.

No cost variations were done and the contractor was not asked to return any money.

In addition, the N2.3 billion approved for compensation for affected residents and released to the contractor for disbursement was not paid to them.

Court documents showed that of the amount only N75,303,147.70 was paid as compensation to some of the affected residents. Also, the sum of N203,083,273.84 was paid to the consultant who assessed claims of affected persons, leaving a balance of N1.9 billion.

It is alleged that Orubebe and other accused persons directed the contractor to divert the remaining N1.9 billion towards the completion of the contract, again unilaterally without recourse to the FEC.

In April 2015, Stephen Oru, then minister of Niger Delta affairs, convinced former President Jonathan to approve additional N14 billion for the construction of a bypass on the road to divert vehicular traffic for the city centre in Eket. Presidential approval was given and the money is believed to have been released, partly or fully, to the contractor but that bypass is yet to be constructed.

The case has not been assigned to any judge. However, it is likely to be handled by a vacation judge, the courts being on recess.

Orubebe is already being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for false declaration of assets. His trial commenced in April.

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